NEW DELHI: India´s new prime minister has dismissed Al-Qaeda´s plan to set up a South Asia branch, saying it was “delusional” to think the country´s Muslim minority would follow orders to wage jihad in the region.
“They are doing injustice towards the Muslims of our country,” Narendra Modi said in an interview with CNN broadcast on Friday.
“If anyone thinks Indian Muslims will dance to their tune, they are delusional. Indian Muslims will live for India, they will die for India — they will not want anything bad for India.”
It was Modi´s first reaction to Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri´s announcement this month that the group would set up a new operation to take the fight to India, which has a large but traditionally moderate Muslim population, as well as Myanmar and Bangladesh.
Millions of Muslims fled India for what is now Pakistan in 1947 when the British Empire partitioned the two countries at independence, and tensions persist between those who remain and the Hindu majority.
Indian Muslims have also been the victims of violence led by Hindu extremists. Hundreds died during the 2002 Gujarat riots, at a time when Modi was the state´s chief minister.
But there have been relatively few reports of young Indian men leaving to fight Islamist causes abroad, which experts say is because local grievances have kept them at home.
Modi said the threat from extremist groups was “a crisis against humanity, not a crisis against one country or one race.
“We have to frame this as a fight between humanity and inhumanity, nothing else,” he added.
Modi´s Bharatiya Janata Party was accused during the election campaign of trying to polarise votes along religious lines.
Party president Amit Shah faces charges of inflaming tensions in a speech during the campaign. But in a widely-praised Independence Day speech in August, Modi said communal violence was “stalling the growth of the nation” and had gone on for “too long”.