A display of anti-Islamic State (IS) flags outside Srinagar’s Jama Masjid after Friday’s prayers caught people by surprise, given that pro-IS flags are a routine feature here.
Witnesses said that a group of young men climbed a wall in Nawhatta chowk immediately after the prayers and displayed a poster depicting an IS commander.
Written in Urdu, the poster shows the commander as saying, “God does not order us to declare jihad against Israel”, in response to which a second line questions: “Then does God order you to blast mosques?”
The emergence of the Islamic militant group on a global scale seemed to enamour many of the younger people in Kashmir, particularly in Srinagar’s downtown where flags in support of the IS often get waived around during protests.
Police attribute the allure to the “usage of Islamic symbols”. However, Friday’s stunt could indicate a changing mindset in the Valley.
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Almost all prominent militant groups operating from Kashmir, including the United Jihad Council and Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), have been antagonistic to the claims and actions of IS.
Last year in November, the LeT had termed the IS as “a production of anti-Islamic western countries, which had no role and scope in Jammu and Kashmir”.
United Jihad Council general secretary and Tehreek-ul-Mujahideen chief, Sheikh Jamil-ur-Rehman had dismissed any “scope for the Al-Qaeda and IS in Jammu and Kashmir”.
In January this year, separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani condemned the group as “anti-Islamic” and a “group of murderers” after a group of boys made it a practice to put up IS flags near the mosque in downtown Srinagar every Friday.
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“Those fighting for Daesh (IS) are actually murderers, who are spilling innocent blood and are not in any way representing Islam,” he said, urging youth to not be swayed by propaganda.
With fears of the group infiltrating Kashmir cropping up, police officials say there is hardly any presence of the IS on the ground, and allege that the flag hoisting routine is done “to annoy security forces” and “get media attention”
Friday’s anomaly however, went unnoticed by them. Station House Officer (SHO), Nawhatta, Mudasir Shafi said, “Today we had a relatively peaceful day after the prayers. There were some very minor incidents of stone pelting,” adding he was unaware of the incident.
Aside from the anti-IS flags, those of LeT were also allegedly put up.