Fight the fascists?

The PFI sees itself as a heroic resistance force, but the majority of Muslims in Kerala seem to believe that its militant, sectarian approach will only jeopardize the community’s hard-won gains.

Last Saturday, addressing a gigantic gathering of thousands of Popular Front of India (PFI) workers gathered on Kozhikode beach for the “Rally to Save the Republic” organized by the organization, the Secretary General of State of the Council of Imams of India, Afsal Qasimi, gave his own version of an event cited in the Hadith – once a person after stealing the sword of the Prophet Muhammad threatened him, “Who will save you from me” whereupon the Prophet took up the attacker’s sword and pointed it at him and asked the same question “Who will protect you from me”. Qasimi then told the audience that they should be ready to lay down their lives in the fight against the fascist Sangh Parivar forces.

The speech was condemned by many Muslim religious and political leaders, including those of Samastha and IUML, who called it provocative and a distortion of the true message of the Hadith. “The story of a villager stealing the sword of the Prophet who was resting under a tree and asking ‘Who will save you now’ is very famous. Seeing the bravery and spiritual power of the Prophet, the sword fell from the hands of the attacker, then the Prophet took it and asked, “Who will save you now. Following this, the enemy was shaken and pleaded before the Prophet saying that “You are the only saviour”. The Prophet Muhammad then granted him forgiveness and let him go. This is ancient history,” Kerala Sunni Student Federation (SKSSF) leader Sathar Panthalloor said in a Facebook post in response to Qasimi’s speech.

He added that the PFI Imam who stirs up extreme emotions and thoughts does not want this whole story. “He tells the story only to the point where it seems the Prophet has tried to retaliate because he only wants the spirit among the cadres to explode. What remains in the story is the story of the tolerance. But they don’t want that. Extremist groups have always adopted this style. Their only job is to dig into the corners of history to see if there are sounds of swords and clashes of weapons. Before and beyond that there would be a thousand lessons of patience, tolerance and compromise that these people don’t want,” Panthalloor said.

The incident sums up the debate over the aggressive political line that PFI has taken since its inception as an offshoot of the National Development Front (NDF) which was a product of the reactionary Islamist wave that had emerged in response to the demolition of Babri Masjid and how the mainstream Muslim organizations tried to oppose its ideology to gain traction. The creation of the PFI by merging the Karnataka Forum for Dignity and Manitha Neethi Pasarai (Tamil Nadu) helped extend its influence beyond the state. The strident stance taken by the organization on many emotional issues concerning the Muslim community has helped it draw many young people into its fold with the political rhetoric of victimization and discrimination.
The backdrop of the dominance of Hindutva forces in national politics helped the team spread its politics of resistance as well as its style of politics of shock and awe – whether in the form of volunteer marches by uniformed cadres and even alleged tit-for-tat retaliation – among sections of the community who considered the “moderate” stance of secular parties, including the IUML, was no match for confronting the forces of Hindutva. PFI, however, describes itself as an organization that works towards “the achievement of socio-economic, cultural and political empowerment of the poor and oppressed and the nation as a whole”.

In North India and other states where large sections of the Muslim community have historically been marginalized, PFI has been able to make inroads through several relief and volunteer initiatives, including the ‘School Chalo’ programme, free housing programs under its Rehab India Foundation, etc. Social commentator Prof. MN Karassery said that PFI had exhibited an extremist position which had its roots in the ideology of the banned SIMI which had espoused the slogan ‘Liberation of India through Islam’.

“We can see that in many cases PFI has tried to reinforce the sense of victimhood within the Muslim community by highlighting the threat of the Sangh Parivar. But as Gandhiji said, communalism interpenetrates and RSS and PFI have contributed to each other’s growth,” Karassery said, adding, however, that the team was unable to garner greater acceptance into the state’s Muslim community as a mainstream Muslim. religious groups cannot follow their ideology.

Majeed Swalahi, Secretary of Kerala Nadvathil Mujahidheen (KNM) said PFI’s claim of being a resistance movement against Sangh Parivar was not true as the militant stance they pursue has only served to provide a weapon to those who wanted to create communal polarization in society. “They didn’t strengthen the community, they only weakened it. If they take over, the capital accumulated by the community so far in the social, economic and educational fields will be lost. Wherever such an ideology has flourished, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, for example, the Muslim community has lost peace and tranquility. They still have the support of only a tiny minority of the community. The crowd in their program is just because it is a fully framed organization and they can easily gather their workers at will,” Swalahi added.
But PFI leaders have dismissed claims of militant leanings and said the organization has never espoused violence or communalism in its three decades of existence. “Our policy has been a policy of resistance and the message we have tried to spread over the past three decades is to resist the ideology of the RSS which is contrary to the spirit and the Constitution of the country and its diversity. Although we have been able to use strong words that others would not have used while ideologically resisting the RSS, we have never promoted violence as a means for this. Offense has never been our policy. There is only one organization in the country that has committed an offense and that is RSS. We did not speak against any religion or community,” said PFI state committee member PV Shuhaib.

He said the central government’s ongoing crackdown on the PFI is an attempt to suppress the group because the RSS sees it as an obstacle to its game plan to create a Hindutva nation. “The organization they want to eliminate first from the country is PFI because we have not compromised with this ideology. Even after carrying out raids in our 106 centers and arresting the majority of our national council members, they do not ‘were unable to make any allegations other than the terrorist financing and abetting charges they had brought against the organization in 2013 and 2017 and had been dismissed by various courts,” he said. he declares.

Asked why the organization has not been able to enter the mainstream even within the state’s Muslim community, he said it was “a result of the systematic exclusion against the PFI since its inception, stereotyping it as an extremist organization. Even Muslim organizations have taken a stance towards the organization based on such stereotypes.”



The opinions expressed above are those of the author.


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