The Islamic State (ISIS) is now openly calling for the destruction of idols of Hindu deities in India and other countries in South Asian region. According to information, the latest cover of the Voice of Hind magazine, a mouthpiece of the Islamic jihad terrorist organization, has recently surfaced online; from the looks of it, it does not augur well for India. The now-viral cover features the 123-feet-tall idol of Hindu deity Shiva installed at a temple in Murudeshwara, Karnataka. It is a major pilgrimage destination and a tourist attraction in South India. The iconic idol was digitally torn down and beheaded in true ISIS style; the black ISIS flag was planted at the apex, and the message “It is Time to Break the False Gods” was written underneath.
The cover of ISIS propaganda magazine certainly is a matter of gravest concern, especially when India is witnessing rise of jihadist forces within a number of its states, including Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal while there is rise of radical Islamic jihadist groups in several neighboring nations.
The ISIS magazine cover certainly raises serious security concerns. India is surrounded by Muslim neighbors and has numerous jihadi elements within it; they could team up to take down one of the largest secular democracies of the region.
Outraged Indian nationals have urged the Indian government to ramp up security measures around Murudeshwara and the temple that formed the backdrop of the ISIS magazine.
A politician from the ruling party, Dinakar Keshav Shetty, has taken cognizance of the matter. Sharing the disturbing image on his social media accounts, the Member of Legislative Assembly said that it has come to his notice through social media posts that the Voice of Hind magazine of the Islamic State has called for the demolition of the Shiva statue of Murdeshwara temple. He highlighted the fact that defending and developing Hindu temples is paramount for the Bharatiya Janata Party. He asserted that India’s defense force is strong and powerful enough to annihilate those who are behind these threats, and added that the Home Minister had been informed of this threat. He also assured the public that added security would soon be provided at the Murdeshwara temple. The coastal town is located near the sensitive Bhatkal town that is under the constant surveillance of Indian Intelligence agencies for regular anti-national activities.
Voice of Hind, a joint venture by the pro-ISIS media outlet Al-Qitaal Media Center and Junudul Khilafah al-Hind, can be defined as an India-centric online propaganda magazine. Launched in February 2020, it has been a regular menace, with a strong and obvious hatred for India. It canonizes the jihad terrorists of the Islamic State-Khorasan Province (ISIS-K, or ISKP) and has made a saint of Pakistani national Huzaifa-al-Bakistani, who was a key recruiter for the Islamic State and was killed in a drone strike in Afghanistan in 2019.
In its previous editions, the magazine wrote extensively about attacks on the Indian security forces, sought revenge for the 2020 anti-Hindu Delhi riots, and elaborated on how to make most of the pandemic situation by attacking India when the country of 1.3 billion was at its weakest.
India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) claims that the radical Islamic magazine is compiled by fresh graduates and translators operating from a “call centre-type setup” in Pakistan’s Karachi and Islamabad. Handlers responsible for collating the content for the ISIS mouthpiece are based in Afghanistan and India; some content creators have been recruited from Bangladesh and the Maldives as well. However, the editing of the articles, the designing of the pages, and the publishing of the final material all take place in the Pakistan-based facility only.
The involvement of Muslim youth in Kashmir must not be overlooked, either. The NIA, with technical expertise, have established that there are south Kashmir links with the site.
In July this year, three men – Tanveer Ahmad Bhat, Umar Nisar, and Rameez Ahmad Lone – were arrested in south Kashmir for allegedly being linked to a conspiracy of recruiting Indian Muslim youths for jihad, motivating them to join ISIS, and waging a ferocious jihad against India using the Voice of Hind magazine.
Reportedly, translators have also been hired for publishing area-specific articles in the local languages, including Tamil, Bengali and Malayalam. One Jufri Jawhar Damudi was arrested by the NIA in August for translating the content of Voice of Hind into various south Indian languages, and creating several pseudo-IDs on various chat platforms. Interestingly, this arrest was made from Karnataka’s Bhatkal area, which, as discussed earlier, is in close proximity to Murudeshwara, the site of the iconic Hindu idol targeted by ISIS on their magazine’s cover page.