In the first part, we had highlighted the emergence of the Popular Front of India’s (PFI’s) name in the anti-CAA protests across the country. We had also traced the origins of the PFI and its political wing, the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), and how they have been perpetrating violence and religious bigotry for long. In this part, we shall put forth troubling aspects of their ideology and the uncomfortable links with Islamic terror organization ISIS that the body has never given proper clarity on.
Global Underpinning of PFI Ideology
The PFI rhetoric today is shrouded by the label of Islamophobia. Sample this from a 2017 speech delivered by E Abubacker, the National Chairman of the PFI, a copy of which is uploaded on their website.
Islamophobia is being purposefully created in this world. Islam and Muslims are being projected as ‘the other’. Alliances are being formed accordingly. A post-truth axis comprised of American evangelists, Israeli Zionists and Hindutwa fascists has come into being. They were also joined by some followers of Buddhism which is widely held as an ideology of non-violence. They all together have created a colossal exodus of refugees throughout the world. To make their job easier, they created mysterious groups like ISIS. They lure Muslim youth to join such organizations using secret agents.
This Zionist-Hindutwa conspiracy angle is not unique to PFI and SDPI – the conspiracy of the Hindus and Jews against Muslims is textbook Pakistani establishment rhetoric, in itself borrowing from the Arab Jewish conspiracy goose chase. Sample this from a piece written for the Mint by Aakar Patel of Amnesty International back in 2012:
One of the most repeated words in Pakistani media is “saazish” (conspiracy). Conspiracies are usually the doing of “Yahood-o-Hanood (Jews and Hindus)”, besides of course “Amrika”.
This lunacy has no bounds. Nawaiwaqt’s Muhammad Ajmal Niazi once abused Geo News for being too soft on the West. Niazi did not refer to Geo by name, but said he meant the channel “jiska naam Yahoodi say milta hai” (whose name resembles “Jew”).
Pakistanis see the Hindu’s evil hand in many things, including in acts that harmed India. Ajmal Kasab is not really Pakistani, but the Indian agent Amar Singh. This is the analysis of Zaid Hamid, who appears in his red beret as strategic affairs expert on Dawn News, Aaj TV, Dunya News and Samaa TV. He champions Ghazwa-e-Hind, a prophecy predicting Muslim conquest of India.
Links to puritanical versions of Islam is not a new allegation. In 2013, Sultan Shahin, the editor of New Age Islam, had categorically named PFI as a body influenced by the fanatical Wahhabi Islamic ideology practiced in Saudi Arabia. Shahin had noted that the PFI was seen as an offshoot of the banned Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), which functioned as a student movement but bracketed Islam within the strict codes of Wahhabism.
The allegiance to an international Islamist agenda becomes clearer when one sees documents uploaded on the PFI site. A scan on the statements issued by PFI on international matters between January and December 2017 on the website is a good insight into the thinking of the organization’s leadership. Here are a few samples:
Condemning the US Ban on Immigrants from Muslim Countries in January 2017
PFI had strongly condemned the executive order of US president Donald Trump banning immigration of people from Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Libya, Syria and Yemen. As per the Chairman’s statement, “this travel ban on people belonging to Muslim dominated countries is an insanely racist decision and stands diametrically in opposition to the principles of religious liberty, equality and pluralism that America has been boasting the country stands for.”
Against the atrocities on Rohingya Muslims in August 2017
The Central Secretariat of PFI “condemned the genocidal attacks on Rohingya Muslims and urged the international community to act against the atrocities being perpetrated by Myanmar Security forces and state supported Buddhist militias.”
Uncomfortable Linkages With ISIS and Sri Lanka Easter Bombings
In June 2019, the NIA had busted an ISIS terror module in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, and arrested the TN-Kerala ISIS module mastermind, Mohammed Azarudeen. Azarudeen was a Facebook friend of the Sri Lankan Easter bombings’ suicide bomber Zahran Hashim. Through a Facebook page named “KhilafahGFX”, Azarudeen had been propagating the ideology of ISIS as per the agency.
What caught the special attention, besides pellet gun bullets, mobiles and sim cards was the large number of incriminating documents and few pamphlets of PFI and SDPI. The NIA had earlier uncovered links between Zahran Hashim and Riyaz Aboobacker who was arrested on 30 April 2019 in Kerala in connection to the Sri Lanka Easter blasts.
This was certainly not an isolated point of connection. Republic TV on 14 June 2019 had revealed that NIA documents it had accessed demonstrated a link between ISIS India modules and PFI in four cases – ISIS Kannur and ISIS Valapattanam case registered in 2017, ISIS Chennai module and ISIS Omar Al Hindi registered in 2016. Clearly, the organization has far more to explain for than just the bigotry and the violence it has been perpetrating in India.
ISIS seems to be more deeply connected with PFI than perceived by many. In 2017, the Kerala Police had released a press statement, where they claimed to have identified six PFI activists – Abdul Ghayoom, Abdul Manaf, Shabeer, Suhail and his wife Rizwana, and Safwan – from Kannur district who have joined the Islamic State. The statement said that all six men were active as PFI activists in the state, and that these men managed to move out of India, possibly to Syria, with fake passports. Even in the social media space, Kabir Taneja and Mohammed Sinan Siyech of the Observer Research Foundation had found youths working with PFI propagating pro-IS chats on Facebook in Malayalam.
Funding from Gulf Countries, Inflaming Passions in Diaspora – a Red Alert
From January 2020, the PFI has been under the scanner of the Home Ministry, especially for its funding. As per a dossier of the Ministry, PFI gets significant funding through its multiple front organisations in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Oman as reported by the Hindustan Times.
As per the dossier, PFI actively operates in UAE via front organisations such as the Rehab Foundation, the Indian Social Forum, and Indian Fraternity Forum. PFI leaders maintain an office at Muraba, behind Lulu hypermarket in Al Ain in Dubai. The Indian Fraternity Forum in Bahrain, UAE, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia is also involved in raising funds for it. The story quoted anonymous ministry officials stating that senior PFI leaders visit these countries and urge members to facilitate in jobs to Indian Muslims so that the base of the organisation expands along with the funds flow. One evidence of the close links can be seen in the condolence meeting conducted to mourn the demise of A. Sayeed, former national president of Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI).
Another event by the India Fraternity Forum called for the ‘abolition of uniform civil code’, restoration of Muslim personal law, and saw open advocacy for the PFI. As per this report, the National Executive member of PFI, Advocate A Mohamed Yusuff said that
Any effort to destroy the diversities and impose uniformity by force will cause to drain the trust of minorities and raise mistrust between the communities. The dissatisfaction and mistrust so emerging will ultimately lead the nation to disintegration. There are reasons to believe that the real intention of those who seek elimination of Muslim Personal Law is not a civil code, but a civil war. It is not nationalism, but anti-national motives that are behind this demand.
With these linkages with the ISIS modules and the language of Islamism clearly evident, it would be prudent that concerned authorities, which are already scrutinizing the body seriously, take the next step towards ensuring that the organization is unable to harm India and Indian interests any further.
Read the first part in this article series: