The latest video message from al-Qaeda head Ayman al-Zawahiri that focuses on the hijab controversy in India is purely for propaganda and a bid to increase his support base in the country, intelligence sources told CNN-News18 on Wednesday.
International terrorist organisations would previously only target India over Kashmir but now they are talking specifics, they added.
In the video, al-Zawahiri purportedly praised Muskan Khan, a student from Karnataka, who played a prominent part in the pro-hijab protests and became known for shouting “Allahu Akbar” to counter a group of boys who were chanting “Jai Shree Ram”. He also said that Indian Muslims should “react to this oppression”.
This was the first video from the al-Qaeda chief in a few months.
“…we must shake off the delusions that confound us… we must stop being deceived by the mirage of the pagan Hindu democracy of India, which, to begin with, was never more than a tool to oppress Muslims,” he said in the Arabic video clip, with English subtitles provided by the American SITE Intelligence Group.
The message is an eye-opener for Indian Muslims, said the intelligence sources, as the emotive issue of hijab is now being used by the world’s top terror organisations like Islamic State (ISIS) and al-Qaeda. It’s time for Indian Muslims to relook at their protest on the matter, they said.
In Kashmir too, the hijab protests were backed by terror groups, said the intelligence sources.
The controversy erupted in January after a government pre-university (PU) College in Karnataka barred six students from attending classes wearing the headscarves. Later a few other institutions joined in and the issue was also picked up by various political and radical outfits. The Karnataka High Court last month dismissed all writ petitions filed by Muslim girl students seeking permission to wear hijab in colleges, saying it is not a part of essential religious practices of Islam.
According to the intelligence sources, al-Zawahiri’s statement will not have any impact except for a few radical elements seeing this as support.
al-Qaeda is only radicalising individuals and it doesn’t have a support base in India they said.
The intelligence sources said that al-Zawahiri is trying to tell the world that he is alive and is trying to regain his popularity by raising an emotive issue.