NEW DELHI: Former Intelligence Bureau director Syed Asif Ibrahim on Friday said only 108 Indian Muslims had joined Islamic State, which is a minuscule portion of the country’s 180 million Muslims, and sought to attribute the low radicalisation rate to Sufi and non-Salafi nature of Islam here.

“As a result of the Sufistic and non-Salafi nature of Islam in India as well as the existence of a strong and vibrant democracy, only about 108 Indian Muslims joined ISIS which is 0.000058% of India’s 180 million Muslims. Of these 108, 50% of joinees went from the diaspora in West Asia...the ones exposed to Salafi radicals. 40% went from the coastal region in India, which was the recipient of Shafaiyei Islam, which came via the sea,” Ibrahim, who retired as IB chief in 2014, stated at a seminar on ‘Cooperation against Radicalisation and Terrorism between UAE and India’ organised by Policy Perspectives Foundation in collaboration Abu Dhabi-based think-tank Emirates Policy Group.

“The more religious you are the more fundamentalist you are is the current narrative, but this was proven wrong by UK’s security agencies, which interviewed ISIL (ISIS) returnees. Almost 90% returnees had little knowledge of religion. Strong religious education acts as a bulwark against radicalisation. So much so that in many madrasas in India, CVE (countering violent extremism) is a key chapter in most religious texts,” he pointed out.

Noting that Indian heritage of Islam as it evolved in early 12th century had come via land route, the former IB chief who has also been special envoy of the government of India for counter-terrorism said it confronted advanced civilisations like Persia and picked up culture and custom, “from which Indian Islam developed its syncretic and inclusive nature”.

Former IB chief P C Haldar, who is associated with Policy Perspectives Foundation, said there was special interest in counter-radicalisation approach of UAE as it was an Islamic country from where nobody had joined IS. Crediting UAE’s quicker justice delivery system and effective legal mechanisms, he said India was trying to devise ideas with a UAE-based think-tank on the need for a counter-radicalisation policy for India. “We will have further sessions in other parts of the country before we reach any conclusion,” he told TOI.