Animesh Roul Quoted in Economic Times report on 'Changing face of terror.'

It is no secret that the face of terror - the master mind - is the educated, sophisticated guy from your privileged neighbourhood. But there is a trend that increasingly portends a strong wave of political Islam in India: Even the cannon fodder is elite or middle class.

It is a grave issue, say experts. "The profile is changing. Poor Muslims are happier in their daily routine, leaving everything to Allah. The semi-educated folks have been easy prey for Jihadi movement earlier. Now we have seen people from better backgrounds are involved and trying to influence others," says Animesh Roul, co-founder of the New Delhi-based Society for the Study of Peace and Conflict.

Kafeel Ahmed, who drove a jeep into the Glasgow airport terminal on June 30, 2007, and set it ablaze, was an India-origin engineer and his brother Sabeel, who was allegedly involved in terror plots in London and Glasgow, a doctor of medicine. Peedical Abdul Shibli and Yahya Kamakutty of a Bangalore-based jihadi module were techies. Pune-based Mohammed Mansoor Asghar Peerbhoy, who headed the media cell of Indian Mujahideen, was a former Yahoo! employee. Most of them were from rich families.

A Delhi-based intelligence officer says Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's recent disclosure to state police chiefs and intelligence officers that many Indian states are communally troubled could be in the light of this grave issue. "Most Muslim organisations, justifiably or not, are trying out new methods to co-opt people into their fold. They are targeting the middle and the upper classes to carry out what until recently were done by their madrassa-bred brethren. The rich, educated ones used to be commanders of such units. Now they are becoming mere operatives, people who detonate bombs, become suicide bombers, etc." The officer did not wish to be named.

Many experts agree. "There are many over-ground Islamic groups (not necessarily radical) active in India (not just Jamaat Islami Hind, but like Popular Front of India) that are trying a different strategy, to focus to create a strong middle class who can fight for their rights... the question remains is there a really a difference between the moderate and radical Muslims," asks Roul.

According to Roul, the Assam riots and its effects elsewhere are something more serious than previous events. "Here, Muslims exerted their power and fought back rather in an overt way," notes Roul. The intelligence officer says "the so-called elite occupying the vanguard (position)" is a dangerous trend which may proliferate if India is to have a strong wave of political Islam. Roul says, "So far we have not seen very strong wave of political Islam in SouthAsia...though we have experienced in Bangladesh and Pakistan in small doses in the past. This could be stronger in the future, taking the cue from west Asian countries." He adds, "To note, Hizbut Tahirir and similar organisations are trying a strong foothold in Bangladesh and even India... Many groups are active with different strategy to fight their way up, not just resorting to terrorist attacks, but as mainstream pressure group resorting to all the over ground methods, like street protests, picketing etc, to raise mass sentiment as well as to show the world that they are doing it legitimately."

This creates a dilemma, say analysts. Roul says, "It would be difficult to differentiate which is good or bad. Even the days are not far that the majority Muslims will dump all so-called secular political parties and come under large conglomerate which can be a political voice of all Muslims of India and beyond."

Meanwhile, Popular Front chairman EM Abdul Rahiman argues that "Muslim terror stories are blown out of proportion. There is no common trend of educated Muslim youth joining terror groups. The vested interest groups wanted to create such an impression through vigorous propaganda in order to further distance them from fields such as education, technology and business and trade. When a shadow of suspicion remains on them, they can be conveniently pushed to more marginalisation."…

Economic Times, September 12, 2012