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October - November 2007
When a Muslim convert became an Islamic terrorist
Shortly before the 1947 partition of India, the minority Hindu population in the Muslim State of Bahawalpur in the province of Punjab were alarmed when Mohammed Aslam brazenly led a rowdy mob of Laathi- wielding Muslims amidst vociferous chants of Allahu-Akbar through the narrow streets of the sleepy town of Rahimyar Khan.
It was a very peaceful town where life moved at a snail’s pace and Muslim women in the all-enveloping Burqa shuffling along crowded bazaars were a common sight, and the horse-drawn tanga the popular mode of transport. And violent crime was a rarity, though not the stray dogs!
Appearing triumphantly at the main Chowk(Square) of Rahimyar Khan, Aslam delivered a fiery speech in Saraiki, the local lingo, urging Muslims to drive the Kaffir out of the town. His raised right hand revealed a nasty Punja(knuckle-duster).
This open outburst of anti-Hindu rhetoric made headline news in the popular Urdu-language Pratap daily newspaper owned by a Hindu businessman, raising fears for the safety of non-Muslim people.
His Highness Nawab Al-Haj Sir Sadiq Mohammed Khan Abbasi Punjum(5th in line of succession of the Abbasi dynasty in India) was equally dismayed at such a display of extremist Islamic fervour. Nawab Sahib, whose ancestors came from Baghdad, was a moderate Muslim well-disposed towards the Hindu/Sikh community resident in his domain.
This was, however, not so much out of a sense of deep concern for the small community but because of an ‘enonomic’ factor. Whenever the Bahawalpur ruler needed money – lots of money and quite frequently – he could always count on the generosity of his prosperous and wealthy Hindu subjects to obediently present His Highness with a more-than-generous Nazrana(offering).
The bagsful of Rupees went a long way in facilitating the Nawab’s numerous trips to London and Paris night clubs to squander the dough – and bring back a White girl to add to his large Harem.
So one very hot and humid summer day in 1947, with passions running high at the impending partition of the nation of 350 million people just eight weeks away, Nawab Sahib with his large entourage, on an official visit to Rahimyar Khan, granted an audience with local Hindus to re-assure then of their safety.
Attired in an austere grey English suit with plain green necktie, and devoid of any ostentatious protocol that was his usual style, His Highness received at the local Dak bungalow a delegation of prominent Hindu/Sikh gentlemen which included Bhatiaji, wealthy factory owner; Mehta Hargobind, Sessions Judge; Sardar Sher Amir Singh, landlord; and my father Pundit Shiv Dutt, highly-respected Barrister whose family lived in an ancestral estate on the outskirts of the town.
Despite Nawab Sahib’s assurances, sporadic attacks on Hindus and Sikhs and burning of their shops clearly showed the latter that their days in Bahawalpur were numbered.
Returning to the troublemaker from the nearby village of Sadiqabad: WHO was Mohammed Aslam? WHAT was his motive in ousting Hindus? WHY was he so bitterly opposed to his fellow citizens? No one had heard of this man before.
It was, however, revealed that this rabble-rouser, a small-time dealer (Kabari) in second-hand goods was a Hindu by the name of Lala Mool Chand before converting to Islam.
The story goes that Mool Chand had madly fallen in love with Sakina, a local Muslim girl, and the only way he could get her was by embracing the Islamic faith. And by doing so he was ostracized by his family and Hindu friends. Mool Chand alias Mohammed Aslam seemed to bear a grudge against the Hindu community of the town.
Aslam became radicalized by regularly attending the local Jama Masjid mosque where he came into contact with Islamic extremists from Multan and Sargodha and the Imam of the mosque who harboured a strong antipathy against Hindus and Sikhs and the Angrez (Englishmen)
Mohammed Aslam also enrolled at the Mudrassa (Muslim religious school attached to the mosque) to learn the Koran and to brush up on the (half-baked ) teachings of Islam as expounded by the wily Mullahs who were adept at twisting the Islamic tenets to their advantage.
One day, following the Friday Namaz’(prayers) a prominent Moulvi made an impassioned speech – more of a sermon – in Urdu calling upon the ‘Soldiers of Islam’ to wage a holy war, Jihaad, on all non-believers. "We no longer like the Infidel to remain in our midst," he declared in angst whilst twirling the Tasbih prayer beads. "By the grace of Allah, the pompous Angrez are soon leaving us for good, and for us to form our own Islamic nation of Pakistan," hollered the cleric with a foot-long white beard. "But these Hindus will only go, to Hindustan, if we use force." And raising a clenched fist he shouted, "Death, DEATH, to the Kaffirs!"
The attentive and mesmerized congregation of illiterate worshippersin shabby Shalwar-Kameez, and many with no gainful employment, assembled in the mosque courtyard shouted back hysterically, Allaaaahu-Akbar! And Mohammed Aslam, the convert to Islam, once a timid and docile nonentity and now a fiery Islamist, was swept along the tide of hatred and hostility towards a people who were his own.
This was a classic case of a rabid Mullah, and a fanatical convert to Islam, preaching Ta’asub(religious bigotry) andTashad’dud (aggression) against all non-Muslim people.
Needlerss to say that despite the Bahawalpur ruler’s anxieties, the winds of Islamic extremism blowing with force across that part of India brought in a frightening scenario where fanatics like Mohammed Aslam relentlessly indulged in terror tactics aimed at the non-violent and peace-loving Hindu communities. Tactics that induced fear and prompted the latter to migrate en masse to the new and independent India which offered them peace, security and freedom – and where democracy was enshrined in the Indian Constitution.
It may be pointed out that among converts to Islam who in the first decade of the 21st Century became anti-India and anti-West terrorists were Dhiren Barot, a Gujarati Hindu who took the Muslim name of Al-Hindi and went on to become Osama bin Laden’s ‘General’ in Europe (and is now serving a 40-year prison sentence in England).
Then there is 28-year-old Fritz Gelowicz, German ‘Taliban’ terrorist who became Abdullah and was very recently captured by German commandos for plotting to bomb Frankfurt airport and an American military base in Hanau (Germany).
It is noteworthy that both Dhiren and Fritz, fanatical converts-turned-militant-Islamists, had attended terrorist training camps in Pakistan which reportedly has 2200 such camps operating on its soil. A strange anomaly, wouldn’ you agree, that whilst fighting global terrorism USA is supporting a regime which has the world’s largest concentration of Al-Qaeda terrorists?
And having escaped unscathed from violent Islamic disturbances in 1947 to take refuge in Hindustan, in the year 2005 I was to witness, to my chagrin, the likes of Mohammed Aslam such as 19-year-old Muslim convert Jamaal turned-suicide-bomber bringing death and destruction to the civilised and peaceful streets of London.