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Islamist Radicalization in Kerala

Radicalization In India - By Abhinav Pandya

Islamist radicalization in Kerala is multidimensional. For those with purely theological yearnings, religious lectures and classes are there providing justification of Jihad and caliphate. And for young minds with intellectual yearnings and interest in political philosophy; JeI gives a political and Marxist framework to Jihad. For those young minds seeking thrill in technology and adventure, engaging social media content is there and for those weak and vulnerable young minds searching identity and anchorage, there is a strong infrastructure for conversions and indoctrination. Some important points to note are: –

  • Most of the radicalized minds are young minds. They come from well to do families (upper Middle-class) and are well educated. The 21 individuals who escaped from Kasargod and Palakkad to join IS, were doctors, engineers and IT, and management graduates.
  • If one analyses the statements of the young Keralites who joined IS, they appear as individuals with strong religious convictions. For example, Ayesha said in her YouTube video- ““This whole life is a test… I had to break my mother’s heart, my father’s heart… But what matters most is Allah”. The message sent by the 21 escapees said, “We reached our destination. There is no point in complaining to Police……we have no plans to return from the abode of Allah[i]”.
  • Further, many of the radicalized ones were new converts to Islam. One often comes across the narrative of migrating from dar-ul-harb (house of war) to dar-ul-Islam[ii] (house of peace) among the radicalized segment. In Salafi, communes the tendency is to create 7th-century Arabia. The residents rear goats and camels. Interaction with non-salafis is shunned away. They have a firm believe that in the first place, Salafi battle is with those Muslims who have deviated from the path of Quran, and then with the infidels.

From the facts mentioned above, it becomes clear that there is a strong use of religion and the theology of Islam in radicalizing. Hence, the statements by senior politicians that radicalization in Kerala has nothing to do with religion are completely baseless and an exercise in denial. Additionally, it also becomes clear that the problem of radicalization has deep psychological roots. Rich, young men and women appear to be searching for an identity. They are trying to find spiritual anchorage by opting for over-religiosity. Their weak and vulnerable mental state forms a perfect ground for extremist indoctrination, online or in person.

Hence, counter radicalization and de-radicalization policies should have multiple ways and multiple levels of engagement. Broad-based and generic policy measures are also needed, but along with them zeroing in on the individuals susceptible to radicalization can be immensely helpful.

The intelligence agencies focused on individuals who were on the verge of radicalization. Such individuals were subjected to constant surveillance and social media monitoring. Their operations were highly successful as it prevented many youngsters from joining IS. Such radicalized individuals were immediately contacted and their parents were also informed about them. Then, through counseling many of them were brought back to the mainstream.

  1. Mainstream political parties and the religious organizations try their best to downplay the threat of radicalization. Few cases have already been mentioned earlier in the chapter. The IUML which claims to oppose extremism of PFI and IS, supported Zakir Naik because of his belief in Salafi ideology. These inter-organizational and inter-sectarian differences on religious narratives and the appeasement policy of politicians are extremely detrimental to the communal harmony of the state. In the long run, the interplay of these organizations will only help in creating confusing, hindering the clarity in understanding and realizing the gravity of the threat posed by Islamic radicalization in Kerala.
  2. So far, no major terrorist incident has taken place in Kerala in spite of the modules of IS, Al Qaeda and Indian Mujahiiddin working in the state. According to informed sources, major terrorist incidents have not occurred in Kerala because the extremist elements want to protect Kerala as a safe haven. They want to keep their sleeper cells active and use the immunity and peace in the state for organizational work, strategic planning and meetings, and seeking shelter.
  3. The youngsters also get attracted to Wahabbism because of its opulence. The prosperity of the Salafi Muslims returning from the Gulf attracts the youngsters. Salafis have strong presence in education, medical sector and social work. The youngsters also get lucrative financial, career and educational opportunities from their Salafi affiliation. Besides, by associating with groups like PFI and SDPI, the youth feels politically and socially empowered. The rise of Hindu right wing in the state has also emerged as a factor strongly aiding the growth and expansion of organizations like PFI and SDPI.


  • Firm and effective action against the ecosystem of Islamism in Kerala is needed. Especially organizations like PFI need to be banned. There arises a concern that if PFI is banned, its activities may become more secretive and lethal and the security agencies may not have sufficient capabilities to suppress them. One would like to recommend that such organizations need not only to be banned but rendered ineffectual or rather neutralized by taking strong military, financial and legal measures. All instruments of statecraft must be employed to liquidate such radical organizations.
  • The problem is one of serious national security issue and merits urgent attention. If avoided or delayed, it will become a menace for Indian establishments in the near future.

[i] Safi, Michael, “How ISIS recruiters found fertile ground in Kerala, India’s tourist gem”, The Guardian, November 29, 2016, Accessed: September 30, 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/nov/29/isis-recruiters-fertile-ground-kerala-indias-tourist-gem

[ii] Aravind, Indulekha, “Why a section of Kerala’s Muslim youth is treading a radical path?”,The Economic Times, July 31, 2016, Accessed: September 30, 2018, https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/why-a-section-of-keralas-muslim-youth-is-treading-a-radical-path/articleshow/53468470.cms


Radicalization in India: An Exploration, Authored by Abhinav Pandya,
(Buy this Book from Amazon)

Foreward by HE Mr. Satya Pal Malik, former Governor of the state of Jammu and Kashmir (India) and currently,
the Governor of the state of Goa (India).

Year: 2019, Pages: 236, ISBN: 9788194163466, Binding: Hard Bind, Publisher: Pentagon LLP,
Price: Amazon: INR 668, Abebooks.com: USD 35

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