A recent interaction with the author of this article with an important Indian army formation in
Lower Assam drew a rather sceptical and caustic picture of the radicalisation scenario in
Assam. Almost 99% of the officers present in the interface were of the belief that Islamist
radicalisation which is being tom-tommed is unfounded, and does not merit any substance.
Reports do not corroborate any of the aspects that have been stated in the media. The stance
was particularly surprising as it emanated from the ground.

But analysis holds its own. And, therefore, if the timeline of the Islamist threat is plotted then
the thread would be quite effortless. The simplest of explanations is the fact that the erstwhile
East Pakistan abuts Lower Assam so closely, and the manner in which the Islamist radicals,
thanks to the dispensation of Sheikh Hasina, are being persecuted in Bangladesh are making
them enter Assam. The easiest way or thoroughfare is the Lower Assam districts that the
Indian army is holding, and are consequently reluctant to accept as “Islamist corridor”.

The author was able to plot a perceptible timeline during the period of his advanced research
in the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA. The study unearthed a “progression
of wave” in the modus operandi of Islamist action which incidentally would never cease until
the end of time: the “transformative moment in Islam” is going to be never-ending. In fact,
the manner in which the United States led coalition has sought to de-territorialise ISIS from
the area that the latter had occupied in order to sustain the neo-caliphate has ascertained that
the “war against the infidels” would now not only be a ceaseless one but an accelerated
course of action. The partial ouster of ISIS from places such as Raqqa has not only
emboldened their resolve about the Islamist apocalyptic expectations about “black banners
that will come from the east” but—if the entrails are read with sophistication—about the
Islamist belief that the establishment of Nizam-e-Mustafa throughout the world is a certainty.
If Sun Tzu, Kautilya and Clausewitz were to have paraphrased their premises on “art of war”
then the master strategicians would have certainly emphasised on the importance of waves
after a period of lull.

There is also a need to bring in neuro-science in the discourse of radicalisation. If there it is
being invoked it is only in order to understand the growing phenomenon of radicalisation. A
hypothetical example clarifies the above statement. Is not the most appropriate manner to
state that no two discernments outside any sentient being can be said to possess exactly an
identical view? Therefore, the experience of subject “x”—despite the fact that she tastes,
ceteris paribus, the same flavour—would at least be minimally different from that of subject
“y”. The interpretation of no two occipital lobes which enclose the principal visual cortex can
be said to be unerringly indistinguishable: such are the vagaries of creation. If sapient
architecture is innately built on lines that have been described above and principally about
aspects that have a bearing on day to day existence, then it is no gainsaying that there would
quite obviously be not only misinterpretations in socio-political and religious thought but
confusion and belligerence as well. The article examines Islam in the context of the above
backdrop.

There are five key mazhabs or schools in Islam. The primary ones are a) Hanafi b) Shafei c)
Maliki d) Hanbali and e) Zafariya (which is chiefly Shia). The Muslims of India are
predominantly from the Hanafi sect of Islam. The sect adheres to the school of thought
propounded by Imam Abu Hanifa and is considered to be the most liberal of the four Islamic
schools of thought. Although there is virtually no difference between the doctrine or the
rituals between the four schools, the Hanbali sect who term themselves as Wahabi or Salafi in
Saudi Arabia is the school that advocates the literal interpretation of textual sources. It,
therefore, derives its canonical laws or Sharia primarily from the Quran, the Hadith which are
the sayings and customs of Prophet Muhammad and the views of the Prophet’s companions.
In other words, Sharia classifies every person’s performance in life into five categories.
These constitute ones that are a) obligatory b) recommended c) permitted d) discouraged and
e) forbidden. Accordingly, life derives its very existence from the significance and import in
light of “the clarity with which the path that has been taken to the watering place.” Sharia
epitomises this ineffaceable concept in Islam.

But as the article has sought to preamble there would be imperfections in the construal
mechanism for, instance of what may constitute as recommended by way of zakat or
charitable donation by a Muslim. The amount that is to be donated by way of zakat is
normally based on the value of every possession that a person has. It is as a rule 2.5 percent
of a Muslim’s total savings and wealth above a minimum amount known as nisab, but
interpreters of Islamic jurisprudence differ on both nisab and other aspects that pertain to
zakat, including, of course, how such a recommended practice is to be calculated. After all, it
is not as if there is an institution such as the Indian Government’s “Central Processing
Centre” in Bangalore which computes zakat. To that end, if there is no emergence of a clear
answer from the sacred texts of Islam, the Hanbali school does not accept legal discretion or
the customs of the quam as a sound basis for the derivation of Islamic law. This is in contrast
to the methodology which Islamic schools such as Hanafi and Maliki accept. The Hanbali
school, therefore, is the proponent of a strict traditionalist school of jurisprudence in Sunni
Islam. Indeed, it is the Hanbali school that is spearheading the radicalisation process in Islam.
The succinct description that the article has provided for the existence of the concept of
radicalisation that is inherent—as aforesaid—in the Hanbali school clearly reveals that it is
not only the chief sect that drives the actions and motivations of formations such as al-Qaeda
and ISIS (although there are member of other sects in both the groupings as well!), the fact of
the matter is that with the “entrance” of both al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) and
ISIS by way of the Waliyah-i-Hind (Guardianship of Hindustan) into India there is a
possibility that the atmospherics of the present would witness the radicalisation of an
important group of Muslims in India.

The phenomenon of radicalisation can be attributed to the growing influence of the Hanbali
school in the country by way of the resurgence of the Popular Front of India (PFI). Although
PFI—whose top leadership are primarily from Kerala—deny the allegation that the
organisation has any truck with the Hanbali school (another name for Wahabi and/or Salafi),
the fact of the matter is that they have been radicalising Indian Muslims towards the
conservative strain of Islam whatever be the denominations.

The Hifazat-e-Islam Bangladesh (HIB) and Islami Andolan Bangladesh (IOB) in the
erstwhile East Pakistan—Islamist formations that have re-emerged in current times—are
close associates of PFI. The HIB and IOB are working inside Bangladesh as over ground
activists of al-Qaeda and ISIS affiliated organisations such as Jama’atul Mujahideen
Bangladesh (JMB) and Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT). Bowing to immense pressure from
the Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime apparatus of Bangladesh, both JMB and
ABT have curtailed their activity for the present, propping up instead its surrogates by way of
HIB and IOB. The stratagem is simple. The methodology is to instil a sense of complacence
in the establishment that JMB and ABT has disappeared. The reality is that they have
activated “Op Confusion” in Bangladesh as well as rejuvenated Islamism in Bangladesh.
Indeed, A deliberate interlude or a tactical retreat is a time-tested stratagem of war. The
author is reminded of a book “A German General on the Eastern Front: The Letters and
Diaries of Gotthard Heinrici, 1941-1942” by Johannes Hurter. It makes interesting reading in
the contest of the article and, therefore, merits a passage at this juncture. The excerpt states,
“General Heinrici was a master of tactical retreat. The German general would attack the
Russians and craft a gain and halt when his attack ran out of steam. He would swiftly
construct a fake fortification on the freshly attained forward positions in order to create a
ruse. Heinrici would then instantly pullback his forces five to six miles to a pre determined
line of defence. The next morning the Russians would unleash an artillery barrage on the fake
German front line, and deploy numerous divisions after the cessation of the artillery barrage.
The ruse worked and the Russians on reaching the “fake front line”—with no one
there—would run out of steam. At the same time Heinrici would be closely surveying the
Russian artillery barrage and the send his army forward toward the exhausted Russians and
stage a counter attack, often attaining a victory. The general used this tactic repeatedly. The
Russians apparently never quite figured out how he succeeded in duping them.”
The point that is being made is that although ISIS has experienced territorial defeat it has
been able to confuse the enemy with its continual subterfuges, turning disadvantages into
advantages. Both al-Qaeda and ISIS have once again joined forces (they were always one and
the same despite what some short-sighted observers seem to have surmised!) and it is
incumbent upon the enemy to fathom their presence among a population that has become
even more resolute, the determination emanating a) from the spectacular successes that had
been achieved by the al-Qaeda and ISIS since 9/11 and b) the accentuated line that has been
drawn by way of “us and them” (read: Islam vs. The Rest as has been propounded by Samuel
Huntington in his “Clash of Civilization and the Remaking of World Order”). Incidentally, in
this regard the opposing forces are also responsible for accentuating the divide with certain
right-wing factions fanning deliberate fires of suspicion. A clear-eyed analysis would,
therefore, bring to the fore the simplicity with which the Islamists have been able to not only
rest, recuperate and turnover, but are readying themselves for the next onslaught.
Therefore, whereas there was exhibition of massive violent movement and radicalisation
between 1999 and 2005 which the author describes as the “First Wave”, the “Second Wave”
began with the “oath of allegiance” or Bay’ah by groups such as JMB and ABT to ISIS in the
wake of the formation of the neo-caliphate of Abu Bakr-al-Baghdadi. It was also the time to
undertake the hijrah in response to the “call from ar-raqqa”. The territorial setbacks
witnessed persistent “lone-wolf” attacks throughout the world including places such as
Orlando and Nice and observers of Islamist action in Bangladesh would recall the “hostage
situation” in Dhaka on 1 July 2016 and the machete killings and suicide bombings of the
years following the event. The new “call to arms” was to decimate the infidel wherever found

A recent interaction with the author of this article with an important Indian army formation in
Lower Assam drew a rather sceptical and caustic picture of the radicalisation scenario in
Assam. Almost 99% of the officers present in the interface were of the belief that Islamist
radicalisation which is being tom-tommed is unfounded, and does not merit any substance.
Reports do not corroborate any of the aspects that have been stated in the media. The stance
was particularly surprising as it emanated from the ground.


But analysis holds its own. And, therefore, if the timeline of the Islamist threat is plotted then
the thread would be quite effortless. The simplest of explanations is the fact that the erstwhile
East Pakistan abuts Lower Assam so closely, and the manner in which the Islamist radicals,
thanks to the dispensation of Sheikh Hasina, are being persecuted in Bangladesh are making
them enter Assam. The easiest way or thoroughfare is the Lower Assam districts that the
Indian army is holding, and are consequently reluctant to accept as “Islamist corridor”.
The author was able to plot a perceptible timeline during the period of his advanced research
in the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA. The study unearthed a “progression
of wave” in the modus operandi of Islamist action which incidentally would never cease until
the end of time: the “transformative moment in Islam” is going to be never-ending. In fact,
the manner in which the United States led coalition has sought to de-territorialise ISIS from
the area that the latter had occupied in order to sustain the neo-caliphate has ascertained that
the “war against the infidels” would now not only be a ceaseless one but an accelerated
course of action. The partial ouster of ISIS from places such as Raqqa has not only
emboldened their resolve about the Islamist apocalyptic expectations about “black banners
that will come from the east” but—if the entrails are read with sophistication—about the
Islamist belief that the establishment of Nizam-e-Mustafa throughout the world is a certainty.
If Sun Tzu, Kautilya and Clausewitz were to have paraphrased their premises on “art of war”
then the master strategicians would have certainly emphasised on the importance of waves
after a period of lull.


There is also a need to bring in neuro-science in the discourse of radicalisation. If there it is
being invoked it is only in order to understand the growing phenomenon of radicalisation. A
hypothetical example clarifies the above statement. Is not the most appropriate manner to
state that no two discernments outside any sentient being can be said to possess exactly an
identical view? Therefore, the experience of subject “x”—despite the fact that she tastes,
ceteris paribus, the same flavour—would at least be minimally different from that of subject
“y”. The interpretation of no two occipital lobes which enclose the principal visual cortex can
be said to be unerringly indistinguishable: such are the vagaries of creation. If sapient
architecture is innately built on lines that have been described above and principally about
aspects that have a bearing on day to day existence, then it is no gainsaying that there would
quite obviously be not only misinterpretations in socio-political and religious thought but
confusion and belligerence as well. The article examines Islam in the context of the above
backdrop.

There are five key mazhabs or schools in Islam. The primary ones are a) Hanafi b) Shafei c)
Maliki d) Hanbali and e) Zafariya (which is chiefly Shia). The Muslims of India are
predominantly from the Hanafi sect of Islam. The sect adheres to the school of thought
propounded by Imam Abu Hanifa and is considered to be the most liberal of the four Islamic
schools of thought. Although there is virtually no difference between the doctrine or the
rituals between the four schools, the Hanbali sect who term themselves as Wahabi or Salafi in
Saudi Arabia is the school that advocates the literal interpretation of textual sources. It,
therefore, derives its canonical laws or Sharia primarily from the Quran, the Hadith which are
the sayings and customs of Prophet Muhammad and the views of the Prophet’s companions.
In other words, Sharia classifies every person’s performance in life into five categories.
These constitute ones that are a) obligatory b) recommended c) permitted d) discouraged and
e) forbidden. Accordingly, life derives its very existence from the significance and import in
light of “the clarity with which the path that has been taken to the watering place.” Sharia
epitomises this ineffaceable concept in Islam.

But as the article has sought to preamble there would be imperfections in the construal
mechanism for, instance of what may constitute as recommended by way of zakat or
charitable donation by a Muslim. The amount that is to be donated by way of zakat is
normally based on the value of every possession that a person has. It is as a rule 2.5 percent
of a Muslim’s total savings and wealth above a minimum amount known as nisab, but
interpreters of Islamic jurisprudence differ on both nisab and other aspects that pertain to
zakat, including, of course, how such a recommended practice is to be calculated. After all, it
is not as if there is an institution such as the Indian Government’s “Central Processing
Centre” in Bangalore which computes zakat. To that end, if there is no emergence of a clear
answer from the sacred texts of Islam, the Hanbali school does not accept legal discretion or
the customs of the quam as a sound basis for the derivation of Islamic law. This is in contrast
to the methodology which Islamic schools such as Hanafi and Maliki accept. The Hanbali
school, therefore, is the proponent of a strict traditionalist school of jurisprudence in Sunni
Islam. Indeed, it is the Hanbali school that is spearheading the radicalisation process in Islam.
The succinct description that the article has provided for the existence of the concept of
radicalisation that is inherent—as aforesaid—in the Hanbali school clearly reveals that it is
not only the chief sect that drives the actions and motivations of formations such as al-Qaeda
and ISIS (although there are member of other sects in both the groupings as well!), the fact of
the matter is that with the “entrance” of both al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) and
ISIS by way of the Waliyah-i-Hind (Guardianship of Hindustan) into India there is a
possibility that the atmospherics of the present would witness the radicalisation of an
important group of Muslims in India.

The phenomenon of radicalisation can be attributed to the growing influence of the Hanbali
school in the country by way of the resurgence of the Popular Front of India (PFI). Although
PFI—whose top leadership are primarily from Kerala—deny the allegation that the
organisation has any truck with the Hanbali school (another name for Wahabi and/or Salafi),
the fact of the matter is that they have been radicalising Indian Muslims towards the
conservative strain of Islam whatever be the denominations.

The Hifazat-e-Islam Bangladesh (HIB) and Islami Andolan Bangladesh (IOB) in the
erstwhile East Pakistan—Islamist formations that have re-emerged in current times—are
close associates of PFI. The HIB and IOB are working inside Bangladesh as over ground
activists of al-Qaeda and ISIS affiliated organisations such as Jama’atul Mujahideen
Bangladesh (JMB) and Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT). Bowing to immense pressure from
the Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime apparatus of Bangladesh, both JMB and
ABT have curtailed their activity for the present, propping up instead its surrogates by way of
HIB and IOB. The stratagem is simple. The methodology is to instil a sense of complacence
in the establishment that JMB and ABT has disappeared. The reality is that they have
activated “Op Confusion” in Bangladesh as well as rejuvenated Islamism in Bangladesh.
Indeed, A deliberate interlude or a tactical retreat is a time-tested stratagem of war. The
author is reminded of a book “A German General on the Eastern Front: The Letters and
Diaries of Gotthard Heinrici, 1941-1942” by Johannes Hurter. It makes interesting reading in
the contest of the article and, therefore, merits a passage at this juncture. The excerpt states,
“General Heinrici was a master of tactical retreat. The German general would attack the
Russians and craft a gain and halt when his attack ran out of steam. He would swiftly
construct a fake fortification on the freshly attained forward positions in order to create a
ruse. Heinrici would then instantly pullback his forces five to six miles to a pre determined
line of defence. The next morning the Russians would unleash an artillery barrage on the fake
German front line, and deploy numerous divisions after the cessation of the artillery barrage.
The ruse worked and the Russians on reaching the “fake front line”—with no one
there—would run out of steam. At the same time Heinrici would be closely surveying the
Russian artillery barrage and the send his army forward toward the exhausted Russians and
stage a counter attack, often attaining a victory. The general used this tactic repeatedly. The
Russians apparently never quite figured out how he succeeded in duping them.”
The point that is being made is that although ISIS has experienced territorial defeat it has
been able to confuse the enemy with its continual subterfuges, turning disadvantages into
advantages. Both al-Qaeda and ISIS have once again joined forces (they were always one and
the same despite what some short-sighted observers seem to have surmised!) and it is
incumbent upon the enemy to fathom their presence among a population that has become
even more resolute, the determination emanating a) from the spectacular successes that had
been achieved by the al-Qaeda and ISIS since 9/11 and b) the accentuated line that has been
drawn by way of “us and them” (read: Islam vs. The Rest as has been propounded by Samuel
Huntington in his “Clash of Civilization and the Remaking of World Order”). Incidentally, in
this regard the opposing forces are also responsible for accentuating the divide with certain
right-wing factions fanning deliberate fires of suspicion. A clear-eyed analysis would,
therefore, bring to the fore the simplicity with which the Islamists have been able to not only
rest, recuperate and turnover, but are readying themselves for the next onslaught.
Therefore, whereas there was exhibition of massive violent movement and radicalisation
between 1999 and 2005 which the author describes as the “First Wave”, the “Second Wave”
began with the “oath of allegiance” or Bay’ah by groups such as JMB and ABT to ISIS in the
wake of the formation of the neo-caliphate of Abu Bakr-al-Baghdadi. It was also the time to
undertake the hijrah in response to the “call from ar-raqqa”. The territorial setbacks
witnessed persistent “lone-wolf” attacks throughout the world including places such as
Orlando and Nice and observers of Islamist action in Bangladesh would recall the “hostage
situation” in Dhaka on 1 July 2016 and the machete killings and suicide bombings of the
years following the event. The new “call to arms” was to decimate the infidel wherever found

as the hijrah was no longer an undemanding affair. However, relentless action by the
Bangladesh security forces against the Islamists have quietened the radicals momentarily and
the “battle” has been—temporarily—handed over to the good offices of HIB and IOB who
are keeping the movement alive by demanding aspects such as the enactment of “Blasphemy
Laws”, Non-erection of statues (primarily that of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman) which they state
is un-Islamic and on insistence that include making of “Islamic education mandatory from
primary to higher secondary levels cancelling the women policy and anti-religion education
policy” and “Freedom for all arrested ulema and madrassa students and withdrawal of all
cases filed against them, compensation for the victims, and bringing the assailants to justice”.
However, with the almost total territorial ouster of ISIS from the areas that it had occupied in
Iraq and Syria the strategy is about to witness a sea change. Egged on by al-Qaeda and ISIS
which is already inside India, its affiliates (including PFI) would throw open the gates of
radicalism and don a form that would be hitherto the most menacing. It would be a
combination of a) mass recruitment b) protests against acts, laws and ministration that a
combined grouping of radicals considers un-Islamic—bringing thereby into their fold fence-
sitters and moderates among the minority community and c) let loose sophisticated forms of
violence that most agencies would not be able to even imagine.

Guidebooks and couched aggression that steer the “warrior genes” inside both a deviant mind
and a radical are aplenty, and so are off the desktop explosive manuals that can showcase
how a lethal weapon is assembled with relative ease. Triacetone Triperoxide, an explosive
known as the “Mother of Satan” which was reportedly first used in the Paris bombings of 13
November 2015 and one which fits easily into a jacket—reports suggest—seems to have
emerged as the flavour of the times. Memories of Shakira, wife of Rashedur Rahman Sumon,
a hardcore pro-ISIS, Neo-JMB cadre blowing herself up with her infant in her lap on 26
December 2016 should be sufficient proof about the manner in which an “aping-exercise”
would be engendered by Indian counterparts in what the author presages as the dawn of the
“Third wave” of Radicalisation.

(Jaideep Saikia is an internationally acclaimed conflict analyst and author of several
bestselling books on security and strategy. He is also Asia’s sole Fellow, Irregular Warfare Initiative, West Point, USA)

Jaideep Saikia

Jaideep Saikia is an internationally renowned conflict analyst and author of several bestselling books on security and strategy