CM’s linking religion with the violence in Kashmir is problematic

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In her four months as J&K Chief Minister,  Mehbooba Mufti has cultivated a certain image about making statements that go beyond political correctness, otherwise considered so important for the state’s top executive functionary. In her speeches, the CM hasn’t even spared Pakistan, otherwise a long-held taboo for her party. She has often referred to the endemic militant and the sectarian violence in the neighbouring country and contrasted it negatively with India. Similarly, following Pampore attack which killed eight CRPF personnel and injured 22, the CM said the attack was Un-Islamic and blamed the militants who carried it out of “actually disrespecting their very religion”.  This has generated a contentious debate in Kashmir as to whether connecting a militant attack with religion was at all right. For, it draws a link that not only doesn’t exist but is also deeply problematic and simplifying of the state of affairs.  And in the process, we only play into or lend credence to the reigning opinion in the west which seamlessly traces the ongoing violence in the Muslim world to some imagined inherent flaw in Islam. 

But does this outlook hold up to an objective analysis? Is there really some problem with Islam which leads its adherents to violence? To answer this question we need to first explain if the attacks that have engendered this thinking took place in a vacuum. Was the only motivation for them the faith of their perpetrators? Were the attackers persuaded to hit the members of the other community, the government forces or institutions by virtue of being an adherent of Islam or were they driven by something beyond the religion – the prevailing ethnic, political and social issues and the festering grievances from them. The  point is not to find a rationale for the terror incidents, a cynical exercise to undertake, but to disentangle the religion from the debate. Islam cannot be the cause for terrorism anymore than Christianity, Hinduism or Judaism can be. The truth is that the turmoil in Muslim world springs from the causes other than exclusively religious in nature, though not excluding religion. Religion defines the identity of its adherents along with culture, language etc. It doesn’t engender the issues besetting the people.  The prevailing strife in Kashmir or the Mideast originates from the geo-political or the local political causes which the west has predominantly helped shape. Similarly, the  conflicts that have torn apart Muslim areas in other parts of the globe have their own distinctive political histories. Kashmir being one such conflict. And these are not the conflicts because the inhabitants subscribe to a particular religion.  So, it would be a fallacy if the violence arising from these conflicts, some of it distinctly terrorist in nature, is blamed on Islam. Mehbooba has thus waded into an intellectually problematic terrain.  The truth is that the Muslim violence around the world is essentially political in nature – as is most of the violence generally. And if the west and the countries in Asia are not acknowledging it, it  is because doing so points fingers at their own role in creating these conflicts and their attendant violence.

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