Kashmir may be the most dangerous place in the world. It is the only place where two nuclear powers have an active boundary dispute, and terrorism and political violence are also in the mix.Things may be about to get much, much worse.Kashmir is a Muslim-majority province which ended up in India back when Pakistan and India parted ways. Many Kashmiris want that to change; some would like to become independent, some want to join Pakistan. Some would like to remain in India with more local control.Fortunately, the form of Islam most widely followed in Kashmir is Sufism; sufis are often mystical in spirituality, open to other faiths in spirit, and moderate in politics. But that could be changing. Salafi Islam is spreading in Kashmir, supported by Saudi money and, in some cases, Pakistani influence.Tariq Mir’s article in the Boston Review, which profiles Saudi-educated Abdul Lateef Al Kindi, the main missionary in Kashmir, does well to highlight the fact that this targeted conversion does not just have implications in radicalizing Muslims against their Indian overlords, but also in cultivating distrust of the West and its clients—Israel, most obviously.
I asked him why Salafism was suddenly gaining popularity in Kashmir. “Before, we didn’t have the support that we have now,” he said. The Saudis provide free literature to anyone who cares to read, and they distribute the Salafi message over the Web, cell phones, and satellite television. One popular video clip shows Tauseef u Rehman, a Salafi cleric in Pakistan, attired in the style of a Saudi sheikh and calling for the implementation of Islamic law in all Muslim societies—a perfect synthesis of strict, old-time religion and modern technology.Al Kindi is acutely aware of Salafism’s outsider status in Kashmir. “You know how much pressure we’re working under in Kashmir,” he explained. “You have to be careful about what you say in sermons, speeches. We have been instructed by our leadership not to talk politics.” In his sermon he whipped worshippers into a frenzy over Western aggression in Muslim lands, decried the acceptance of Western values among the population, and blasted Palestinians for harming their aspirations toward statehood by “living like Jews.” But he steered clear of the complex affairs of Kashmir, even as he ridiculed Sufi customs.
Read the whole thing here. Radical Islam in Kashmir will make the world an uglier and more dangerous place. It is a trend that needs to be watched.