India under threat from Islamic extremism

Mumbai, India – In the Indian state of Kerala, and more generally in the Indian Union, “fundamentalism is rising sharply and it concerns every religion. As a consequence, the various faith groups tend to turn inward, become more closed, lacking in openness to others,” said Fr Paul Thelakat, spokesman for the Syro-Malabar Church. “The attack on Prof T J Jose is an example of extreme Islamic fundamentalism,” but “there is also the plague of Hinduvta fundamentalism along with Christian (Pentecostal) fundamentalism,” he told AsiaNews.

The case Fr Thelakat referred to is that of Prof T J Joseph, the former head of the Malayalam Language Department at Newman College, guilty in the eyes of some Muslims of including in an exam back in March some questions they deemed offensive to the Prophet Muhammad.

The scholar explained that it was not his intention to insult anyone and he publicly apologised for it to the population, the college administration, the Church (which runs the college) and the police department. However, this was not enough. On 4 July, unknown assailants from the Popular Front of India attacked him and chopped off his hand and part of his arm.

On 1 September, Newman College, the Catholic institution where he worked, fired him for hurting the religious feelings of the population, justifying the step with the need to protect the institution’s secular nature.

On 12 September, a pastoral letter was read in all 120 parishes of Kothamangalam diocese (Ernakulam district). In it, the diocese joined the college that fired the educator in condemning the “irresponsible action of Prof T J Joseph”.

“Islamic extremism is growing in India,” said Syed Ali Mujtaba, an Indian journalist and founder of the South Asia Contact Group, as the case of Prof T J Jose clearly shows. “Those behind the dastardly act tried to communalise this issue,” he told AsiaNews.

For Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians, “the deafening silence of the authorities on the Islamic radicalisation of society, especially in Kerala and Kashmir, underlines the serious threat of Islamic fundamentalism to the secular fabric of India. Let us hope that one day all of this will just be a memory.”