Home India News Reports of Kerala youths joining ISIS not confirmed, but Islamophobia on full...

Reports of Kerala youths joining ISIS not confirmed, but Islamophobia on full swing in Kerala

By Shafeeq Hudawi Twocircles.net

Thiruvanathapuram: The news that 15 youths from Kerala have gone missing has now been reported and analyzed extensively. What has conveniently been ignored, however, is that the Sangh Parivar has, like always, taken this as an opportunity to spread Islamophobia. But given that in India, a Muslim accused of terror is always considered guilty until proven innocent, this does not come as a shock. And all this, even though there is no official evidence from state police as well as the Intelligence Bureau which corroborates the fact that the missing youth have indeed joined ISIS.

A total of 15 persons, which include three women and two children, went missing from Kasargod and Palakkad from early July and are alleged to have joined Afghanistan and Syria.

The BJP state president Kummanam Rajashekharan, who demanded a probe by Central agencies, used the opportunity to take a jibe at the Muslim community by revisiting the ‘Love Jihad’ controversy, which rocked the state in 2012 following the statement of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy. The Chief Minister had said that over 2,500 women converted in the state since 2006. This led to media doing mass checks of the details of conversion in the two religious centres, Therbiyyathul Islam Sabha in Kozhikode and Maunathul Islam Sabha at Ponnani in Malappuram district, which are functioning under the Companies Act.

Despite no confirmation about the fleeing of the youngsters to Syria and Iraq, where ISIS has a hold, the media reports nevertheless started competing when it came to branding the missing youths as ISIS sympathisers. And most of them asserted that they had joined ISIS.

On July 11, a report by CPM mouthpiece Deshabhimani said that the missing persons might have gone to Dammaj in Yemen to lead a spiritual life there getting rid of the outer world. The newspaper quoted Central Intelligence and Research and Analysing Wing sources. But, mainstream newspapers like Mathrubhumi and Malayala Manorama, which gave no space for the news, were stern in their old stand saying these persons had joined ISIS.

But while speculations have always found due space in mainstream media masquerading as news, what was even more worrying was that even evidence pointing to the contrary were ignored.

The second voice message, sent by Rifaila, a young lady in the missing group, also found no place in any of the newspapers except Deshabhimani. The voice message denied the claimings of the report saying “we haven’t joined ISIS. Nothing has happened like the media there say about our missing,” the voice message said.

Media’s imagination touched its peak when some of them alleged that the two brothers in Palakkad, Besten Vincent and Bexston Vincent, who had converted to Islam, did so after they were drawn by the speeches of Zakir Naik.

The visual media including Asianet News spent a substantial time in attacking IUML for its support for Zakir Naik alleging the party had now become a protector of radicals and extremists.

But even as the BJP and Sangh tried to target the Muslim organizations in Kerala, CPM and Congress sought ti counter the issue.

Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader and former Education Minister M A Baby came down against the attempt to spread anti Islam sentiments. “While extremism should be opposed, that should not turn out to be fodder for Islamophobia. The reports should be viewed seriously. If the reports are true, there could be among them both extremists and the innocent who have fallen in their trap. There must be a serious probe into the issue,” he said.

“The Sangh Parivar is engaged in a bid to use these to foment Islamophobia. Progressive sections of society should be vigilant against such attempts,” he added.

Writer and social commentator Paul Zacharia also joined hands with Baby saying reports about youth leaving the State to join IS, which are as yet unconfirmed, are being used to create panic among the people.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Congress leaders A K Antony and V M Sudheeran were also strong in their messages against the attempts to foment Islamophobia.

“The government will prevent any attempt to cast a shadow over the entire Muslim community,” he said in Kerala Assembly while replying to a submission by opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala

“Terrorism has no religion. There are attempts to brand a religion by vested interests. They are creating an anti Muslim feeling. This will not be allowed,” he said.

VM Sudheeran and AK Antony also condemned the moves to target Muslims for political gaining through their statements.