Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Students' Islamic Movement of India (SIMI): The Full Details

Everything you ever wanted to know about SIMI: Students' Islamic Movement of India: who started it and when, what its ideology is and its goals are, and what it has done in the past.

South Asia Analysis Group publishes a paper presenting details of the history of SIMI:
Paper Number 1884
18 July 2006

Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI)
By R. Upadhyaya.

(A detailed paper on SIMI was published in SAAG earlier. Since SIMI has again come into limelight recently, an updated and shortened version of the paper on SIMI is being published. Director)

Historically, the organised participation of students and youth of Indian sub-continent in any national movement dates back to the freedom struggle against the British colonial power. Irrespective of their religious faith they were found thrilled with the thundering slogan of 'Vande Mataram' (Salute to Motherland) and formed All India Students Conference (AISC) to fight against the British. But at the instance of some political Islamists a group of Muslim students broke the united strength of this youth force. They seceded from AISC in 1937 on the plea that it was a Hindu dominated organisation and formed All India Muslim Students Federation (AIMSF) with Mohammad Nauman as President and Mohammad Waseeque as Organising Secretary.

The resolution adopted in the first annual session of AIMSF with presidential address of Jinnah hardly had anything to do with the modern and secular education to the Muslims.

Its 'working scheme' had an important clause, which read that 'Fath-e-Mecca' be observed as Muslim Students Day and demand should be made for the introduction of compulsory religious instructions for Muslim children in all schools" (The Punjab Muslim Students Federation by Sarfaraz Hussain Mirza, Introduction, 1991).

In the initial period after partition, there were no major organized union of Muslim students in India. However, with the emergence of the Janata Party and its Government at centre in 1977 a group of Muslim students under the patronage of the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JEIH) assembled at Aligarh on April 25, 1977 and formed Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). "The meeting was attended by the representatives of Students Islamic Organisation from Aligarh,Calicut, Mallapuram, Madras, Hyderabad, Lucknow, Allahabad, Sholapur,, Patna, Azamgarh, Jaipur and S. Madhupur" (Radiance dated May 1, 1977). An "amalgamation of a number of students and youth bodies like Muslim Students Association, Students Islamic Union, Students Islamic Organisation, Muslim Youth Association" (Radiance, an Organ of JEIH), SIMI gradually became a platform for fanatical Muslim students, who were opposed to democracy, secularism and nationalism.

Though, SIMI was not the main voice of Muslim students of the country, in the absence of any visible resistance from them a general impression was created that it was the sole representative body of the latter.

In its political pronouncement SIMI gave a call for restoration of the Caliphate for the unity of Ummah (Muslim community as a whole) by rejecting the concept of nationalism, democracy and secularism. Its political ideology was dominated by the mainstream Islamic fundamentalism propounded by Maulana Maududi, the founder of the JEI. Till October 1987 all the successive presidents of SIMI were the senior members of the JEI.

In Islamic history, the people, who had helped the Prophet in Madina, when he was driven away from Mecca were called Ansaars. Accordingly SIMI drew inspiration from this historical event and recruited Ansaars (helpers) as its adres from the Muslim students below thirty years of age. While the Prophet strengthened his position in Madina with the support of Ansaars and fought back Mecca, SIMI intended to fight against the present political system in the country with the support of its cadres (Ansaars) for establishment of Islamic State.

SIMI drew ideological inspiration from the Muslim thinkers, who launched Islamic movements in India after the decline of Muslim rule in this country in eighteenth century. Prominent among them were:

Shah Walliullah: He had invited Ahmad Shah Abdali of Afghanistan to fight against Marathas in 1760.

Sayyid Ahmad: A staunch follower of Shah Waliullah, he had launched Islamic Jehad "to liberate all India from foreign domination and establish a genuine Islamic state. He was however, killed in a battle with Sikh in 1831 at Balkot" (Islamic Movement, a monthly organ of SIMI, Volume 3, January 1992).

Haji Shariat Allah: He had launched Fara'idi movement in nineteenth century to create pure Islamic order in the society.

Maulana Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi: He was the founder of JEI.

Emergence of SIMI in democratic and secular India was a reminder to the formation of AIMSF in 1937. While the emergence of AIMSF was to strengthen movement for Pakistan, the SIMI was born to carry forward the legacy of Indian Islamic Movement launched by Muslim thinkers from Shah Waliullah to Maulana Maududi and to complete their unfinished agenda of establishing Islamic rule in the country. AIMSF countered the movement for social integration of Hindus and Muslims launched by the Congress under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi whereas the SIMI followed Jinnah, in rejecting the concept of nationalism. While Jinnah had secret support from the then British authorities for his communal demand, SIMI got similar support from Pakistan and other fundamentalist groups from Muslim world for its movement against secularism and democracy. Relying upon the jehadi power of Islam Jinnah succeeded in creation of Pakistan, SIMI equally depended on jehadi passion of Islam for Islamic resurgence in India.

SIMI maintained, "it is the responsibility of this (Muslim) 'last community', the 'best community', the 'middle community', to rise up and face the challenges that surround it, to revive Deen, to lead and guide not only the Islamic world, but all of humanity along the 'Straight Path' and rescue it from the clutches of Satanic power. It is the demand of the time that Muslim youth should struggle for the superiority and establishment of Deen and revival of Islam in the light of Holy Quraan and Sunnah"(SAGA OF STRUGGLE -Annual Report 1998-2000, page 3, published by SIMI, New Delhi).

According to SIMI "the end of Khilafah(Caliphate) led to our (Muslim) disintegration into different countries on the basis of nationalism, language and other sectarian prejudices. Naturally therefore, our main responsibility is to strive in those areas, which are directly related to the reinstating of Khalifah" (Ibid. Page 8). Since its inception SIMI has kept Caliphate at the centre of discussion from local to central level and had been in communication of thought on this issue with the like-minded Islamic organisations of the world. It claimed to be in touch with 25 organisations from all over the world through Internet and its delegation participated in workshops conducted by Dawah Academy in Sri Lanka in 1999 and attended the Ijtema of Jamat-e-Islami in Pakistan in 1998. SIMI is also known to be in touch with number of Islamic organisations of the world like:

Federation of Students Islamic Societies (FOSIS) - United Kingdom and Ireland.

Ittehad al-Tallab al-Muslimeen - Myanmar

Islami Chhatra Shibir - Bangladesh.

Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba - Pakistan.

Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (ABIM) - Malaysia.

World Assembly of Muslim Youth (Riyadh)

Internatinal Islamic Federation of Students organisations (Kuwait)

Consultative Committee of Indian Muslims (Chicago)

Jamaat-e-Islam units of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal

(Islamic Movement, a monthly organ of SIMI, VOL. 3, January 1992 and Internet news)

On the issue of secularism SIMI "feels it is essential to emphasise that no political party or organisation can bring about a solid and constructive change through secularism in the light of their erratic ideologies. The only way to bring about real change through establishing an Islamic system of life" (Ibid. Page34)..

With its units in different parts of India SIMI often raised voice against national and international issues, which were not in tune with its Islamic movement.

In September 1985 it played an active role in joining protest demonstrations all over the country against the Supreme Court verdict in Shah Bano case.

It campaigned against singing of Vande Mataram in U.P. schools, and protested against blasphemy regarding the Prophet.

Since its inception SIMI made a protracted attempt to project itself as the main voice of Indian Muslims. Unfortunately, no Muslim student organisation came forward to counter it.

After the demolition of Babari Mosque in 1992, SIMI exploited the enraged sentiments of Muslim mass. By the closing decade of twentieth century it increased its influence in a sizeable section of Muslim populace in different cities of Utaar Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Madya Pradesh , Gujarat and Assam.

It always maintained pro-Pakistan stand on Indo-Pak conflict and spoke in the language of Pakistan on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir. By mid nineties its defiant and militant posture even annoyed its patron the JEIH, which started maintaining distance from it possibly due to tactical reasons.

SIMI projected the Muslims killed in communal riots as martyrs and complemented those who were detained by Police with the honour of Islamic warriors sacrificing for the cause of faith. With these activities SIMI succeeded in generating some interest in middle class Muslim society that was earlier immune to violent interpretation of jehad in Islam. Its hate campaign against Qafirs (non-believers) only increased the widening gulf of mistrust between Hindus and Muslims.

SIMI considered USA as enemy of Islam and joined radical Islamists for their aggressive criticism of the presence of American troops in Saudi Arabia. "The Saudis invited in the U.S. military shortly after Saddam Hussein invaded Iraq's oil-rich neighbor Kuwait, on August 2, 1990. To help protect the kingdom and prepare to expel Iraq from Kuwait, the United States sent about 500,000 troops to Saudi Arabia". "U.S. presence was opposed by some in the kingdom -- the site of Islam's holiest sites � and was among reasons cited by Saudi-born Osama bin Laden for his al-Qaida attacks on America on Sept. 11, 2001.

The base became the center of the U.S. presence in the country in 1997 after the Khobar Towers bombing that killed 19 airmen and injured 400 others" (http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mpl/nation/2070489Aug. 28, 2003, 8:10AM- Most U.S. forces withdrawn from Saudi Arabia, Associated Press)

By 1997, when the base of American troops in Saudi Arabia, became a centre of U.S. presence, radical Islamists all over the world took it as a danger to their faith. In July 1998 SIMI held demonstration in Bombay, Calcutta and Delhi against the presence of American troops in the Holy Land of Hijaz. For SIMI, it was "not only a gross violation of some of the last instructions or will of the Prophet, but also represents a sinister plot on the part of the enemies of Islam to desecrate and capture its holiest site" (Annual Report 1998-2000 of SIMI, page 9).

SIMI publishes monthly and weekly organs in different languages like:

Islamic Movement (Monthly) in English, Hindi and Urdu.

Sethi Mandal (Monthly) in Tamil.

Iqraa (Monthly) in Gujrati.

Rupaantar (Monthly) in Bengali.

Vivekam (Bimonthly) in Malayalam.

Tehreek (Weekly) in Hindi.

By the closing decade of twentieth century particularly after the BJP came to power at the centre the SIMI succeeded in expanding its influence to a visible extent among Muslim students. Moreover, the Muslim middle class that has not yet reconciled with its lost medieval supremacy - provided open space to SIMI,s cadres. With financial help from oil-rich Muslim countries to carry forward the Arab legacy of Islamic imperialism and material support from Pakistan to create disorder in India strengthened the morale of SIMI leaders.

SIMI was allegedly responsible for inciting communal violence in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. It was also allegedly responsible for communal riots in Pune and Kanpur and for bomb blat in Sawarmati Express in 2001. It also praised Osama bin Laden, supported the policy of Taliban and often renounced the parliamentary system on the plea that it was unsuitable for bringing Islamic revolution. Arrest of a SIMI activist in bomb blast case in Sabarmati Express near Faizabad (August 15, 2000), its alleged involvement in bomb blast incident in Delhi (May, 2001) and provocative statements of its leaders supported its jehadi design. Keeping in view its activities detrimental to national interest, Government of India ultimately imposed a ban on SIMI under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 in September 2001 by declaring it an unlawful association.

Justice S. K. Aggarwal of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Tribunal confirmed the ban notification of the Government and said:

"It is clear that the members, office bearers and activists of SIMI association have been indulging in unlawful activities. I hold that there is sufficient cause for confirming the notification issued under sub-section(1) of Section 3 of the Act, declaring SIMI to be an unlawful association and the same is confirmed" (The Pioneer dated May 10, 2002).

SIMI challenged the ban in Supreme Court and sought its revocation. "The Bench, however, declined to entertain the same cautioning the petitioner to either withdraw the petition or get it dismissed. The counsel appearing on behalf of SIMI subsequently chose to withdraw the petition" (Pioneer dated July 7, 2006),

Although, SIMI's challenge to democratic and secular system was temporarily defeated, propagation of radical Islam by thousands of its Ansaars is still a source of concern for India particularly in a predominantly non-Muslim environment. Restoration of Caliphate might be the dream of radical Islamists but they ignore the historical records that suggest how Caliphate shifted to monarchy.

Ironically, the Muslim students in India are not ready to aggressively denounce the clerics favouring medieval interpretation of Islam. They are not ready to change the mode of their thinking. Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir during an Islamic summit held in Malaysia pointed out to the angry mood of Muslims against anti Muslim forces and exhorted, "Angry people cannot think properly. And so we find some of our people reacting irrationally. In contemporary India it is also the responsibility of the present generation of Muslim students to give a wake up call to their co-religionists for developing a twenty-first century mindset, which does not approve religious hegemony of any community".

Religion is basically a spiritual path to reach the Divine. Its role in politics if any is to bring peace in society through spiritualisation. Permeating communal interpretation of Islam in modern world in the minds of Muslim students is not only harmful to the country but it is also a major hindrance to the meaningful progress of Muslim society as a whole.

Contrary to it deeply ingrained religious intolerance and violent burden of historical luggage being carried by SIMI - have adversely affected the Islamic ethos of forbearance and liberalism as projected by some saner section in the community. World Trade Center incident in USA and attempt to attack Indian Parliament only negated such Islamic ethos.

The fundamental postulate of SIMI was Islamisation of India by recruiting Ansaars for jehadi onslaught on non-believers. Generating negative energy in the name of religion by the self-appointed guardians of Muslim students only accelerated the widening divide between Hindus and Muslims.

Ironically, Muslim intellectuals, politicians or Muslim students look other way and never come forward to counter the divisive move of this radical outfit in assertive way.

Mahatma Gandhi tried to educate the people to "shed fear, hatred and violence for the unity, equality and brotherhood of man. He passionately believed in the unity of all religions and the universality of the essential teachings of all faiths" (Hindu dated September 28, 2003). The President A. P. J. Abdul Kalam "called upon the youth to make India economically strong with an integrated spiritual life, if they wish to live in a peaceful, prosperous and safe country" (Hindu dated September 27, 2003). But those, who created Pakistan, termed Mahatma Gandhi as a Hindu leader although he sacrificed his life for the cause of Muslims. For SIMI the saner words of Mahatma Gandhi or A. P. J. Abdul Kalam have no relevance, as they still believe in revival of Caliphate in a democratic and secular society in which majority are 'non-believers'.


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