KJ Alphons made headlines last Saturday after making offensive remarks about the Muslim community in Kerala. According to former BJP MP and Union minister, Kerala may face the same fate as Afghanistan within five to ten years. “There is so much Talibanization happening in Kerala, especially certain pockets of Kerala in the past 25 years,” he added. He lambasted the ruling party and the opposition parties in Kerala for failing to address this issue, fearing losing political support and votes from the Muslim population.
Alphons’s remarks come in support of a recent sermon delivered by Malabar Catholic Bishop of Pala, Mar Joseph Kallarangatt. The sermon, deemed to be highly controversial, introduced an unpopular and vile term called “Narcotic-Jihad,” more popularly known as ‘Love Jihad.’ The sermon called out Muslims for attempting to destroy the lives of individuals belonging to other religious beliefs.
The recent arrest of several people from Kerala by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in terror-related cases has raised concerns over the existence of Islamic State (IS) sleeper cells in the state. Often these organizations resort to using social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, to attract gullible youth. NIA investigation reports suggest that the IS has been attempting to establish a strong foothold within India. The agency has investigated a total of 37 cases of terrorism-related activities motivated by the IS ideology. The central government believes the recent establishment of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan to have opened a gateway for a mass exodus of IS sympathizers across the border into India.
Five years ago, the NIA had warned the state government regarding the rising radicalization movement amongst Muslim youth in Kerala. However, the state government did not heed their warnings. As a result, districts such as Palakkad and Kasargod had reported many cases of Muslim families and individuals who went missing. These individuals have allegedly joined forces with terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq.
The Chief Minister of Kerala, Pinaryai Vijayan, discouraged the use of such terms and urged people to not cause communal disharmony in the state during these unprecedented difficult times. In an apparent dig at the BJP, Pinaryai added that there are groups in the state trying to inculcate communal violence into India’s most religiously diverse state but the good people of God’s country have rejected them in the past and hopes that they would continue doing so.
While regional parties such as the Kerala Congress and CPI(M) condemned the irrational and insulting sermon, the BJP supported it with Rajya Sabha MP Suresh Gopi saying that the statements made weren’t religiously discriminatory. The bishop’s side has clarified that his remarks were not made to create war or animosity between religions but rather to warn his community.
Nevertheless, the sermon and remarks question the basic structure of the Indian constitution and challenge the pillars of freedom and secularism that shaped the country. Despite the blatantly racist and discriminatory nature of the remarks, no legal action has been taken.
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