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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2830

Islamist fundamentalism raises head in Mauritius

By our political editor
Port Louis, 09 June (Asiantribune.com):

Mauritius is witnessing an upsurge in Islamist fundamentalist elements since the general elections held last December.

Besides a host of Islamist groups like Zam Zam Society (ZZS), Hizbullah Party(HP), and Islamic Society of Mauritius (ISM), Hizb-ut-Tahrir (HuT, Islamist Party of Liberation), which American experts see as more dangerous than ISIS, has become active raising concerns in the Indian Ocean island nation.

HuT’s foot-print in Mauritius is a part of its effort to building a global infrastructure of radicalized youth and deep-pocketed Arab support in preparation for the global Khilafat.

ISIS has reportedly found its first recruits from Mauritius with Islamic preacher Reaz Lauthan and his close friend, one Yusoof Osman travelling all the way to Syria to join the anti-Assad rebels. They left Mauritius in July 2013.

While Reaz has returned, Osman has not yet. Riaz’s passport does not show any movement beyond Turkey border raising suspicion.

Political and diplomatic observers say that the Islamist elements are encouraged by the government’s agenda of placating the minority Muslim community for short term political gains and long term financial backing of the Muslim world.

Lending credence to this view are recent political changes in the country. On the insistence of Prime Minister Sir Anerood Jugnauth, President Kailash Purryag, resigned two years before completing his term; he has been succeeded by Professor Ameenah Gurib-Fakim. Moreover, the government has many Muslim Ministers, one of them a Vice-Prime Minister. There are 11 Muslim law makers in all.

Muslims account for 16 per cent of the total population of Mauritius while Hindus are a majority (48%) followed by Christians (32%). As much as 68 percent of Mauritius population is of Indian descent.

While the government is working to strengthen bilateral relations with Pakistan and Saudi Arabia with an eye on investments and trade, the Islamist groups are exploiting the “opening” to spread their net in the island nation.

For instance, the Zam Zam Society (ZZS) is affiliated to the Deoband School of Wahabi Islam that draws its sustenance from Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan. Most of the Islamist militant outfits active in Af-Pak region like the Afghan Taliban which is active in Afghanistan, Pakistan Taliban which is drawing blood in Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT), and its parent outfit, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, which are mostly India centric, Jaish-e-Mohammed (JEM), Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), Tehrik-I-Jafria Pakistan (TJP), and Tehrik-I-Nifaz-I-Shariat-I Mohammadi (TNSM), which are all Pakistan based subscribe to Deobandi fundamentalism and Wahabi Islam.

Their goal, like HuT’s, is creation of Khilafat where Shariah (divine law of Islam as revealed by the Prophet as well as in his function as model and exemplar of the law) is strictly enforced. Shariah was systematised during the 2nd and 3rd centuries of the Muslim era which corresponds to 8th–9th centuries.

ZZS gets its finances directly from Saudi Arabia and has about five to six thousand followers. So do Hizbullah Party (HP), which is now Mauritian Solidarity Front (FSM) and Islamic Society of Mauritius (ISM).

FSM, also known as Islamic Jihad once in the past, also has some 5000 members; at least 2000 of them are believed to be “very active in Port Louis”, according to police sources.

Interestingly these fundamental outfits are anchored in anti-India sentiments.

“ZZS, FSM and ISM have come to notice for propagating anti-India sentiments”, a top police official said in an interview, pointing out that FSM doesn’t prefer Indian Imams for its Madrasas set up through Jamat-ul-Moslemeen.

“Jamat-ul-Moslemeen doesn’t consider Indian Imams as truly Islamic; therefore they are not appointed in its Madrasas where youth are taught fundamentalism”, the official stated.

Presence of HuT in Mauritius came to light recently when a group owing allegiance to the outfit held a noisy demonstration near the French Embassy protesting against Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons. It (demonstration) was a publicity stunt”, say the Mauritius Security Agency while noting that the group’s leader Fazl-ur-Rahman had earlier condemned killing of Muslims in Gaza strip and situation in Pakistan and denounced US’s divide and rule policy.

Libya is also helping Mauritian Islamists financially, according to sources familiar with the ‘emerging scenario’. Some ‘active’ Mauritian Islamists are believed to be visiting Pakistan for religious training; a natural corollary is Islamabad using the Islam card to make inroads into Mauritius, which it sees as its Gateway to Africa.

To further the process, Pakistan is sending a retired Army Officer who had closely worked with the Islamist militants during his stint in the ISI (2011-13), as its envoy to Port Louis. For this ISI job, this Major-General was reportedly handpicked by then Army Chief Pervez Kayani from the Sindh Regiment (Infantry). His CV also shows that he had served in the Saudi Arabian Army on deputation.

Diplomatic observers point out that Pakistan has been regularly sending retired or serving senior military officers with stints in the ISI to various diplomatic missions in Asian countries including Sri Lanka.

“In a sense this is not a new development that should cause eye brows to rise but stints in ISI and Saudi Army are a deadly combination and should cause concern to the United States in these days of Islamist fundamental upsurge both on its own soil and in the Middle East”, a strategic analyst said.

It is said that even India will have reasons to worry when the change of guard takes place at the Pakistan Mission in the Mauritian capital.

“The new incumbent can work to consolidate Pakistan’s hold over Mauritius Muslim population, fundamentalist elements in particular, to utilize them for activities against Indian interests in the long run”, the analyst, a long time India-Pakistan observer, said pointing out that the present Mauritius government appears to be “turning away” from New Delhi.

The reference is to the plans of government of Prime Minister Jugnauth to open an embassy in Saudi Arabia. He came to power on the pledge of turnaround in the economy and more jobs. Both tasks demand huge investments, and his government is looking towards countries like China and Saudi Arabia which have deep pockets. So it is natural for the aid giving nations to gain influence in Mauritius.

The return of Jugnauth at the head of a three-party coalition, Alliance Lepep (AL) has eclipsed his predecessor, Navin Ramgoolam, whose regime saw India-Mauritius relations deepen and broaden. More over his support base is Indo-Mauritians.

Navin is making a determined bid to stage a comeback but Prime Minister Jugnauth is equally determined to marginalize his key opponent.

Already several cases have been slapped on Ramgoolam in “a very planned manner not only to discredit him within the Indo-Mauritian support base but also to render him incapable of a political comeback”, a political analyst said.

Result is the absence of a strong opposition. And this may help the Prime Minister to consolidate his hold and pass on his baton to his son, Pravind Jugnauth by the year end “without any hiccups”.

-Asian Tribune -

Islamist fundamentalism raises head in Mauritius
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