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India

Islamic State threat to Kerala Christians worries leaders

It cannot be taken lightly as Islamic militancy poses a threat to all mankind

T.K. Devasia, Kochi

T.K. Devasia, Kochi

Updated: October 12, 2016 11:12 AM GMT
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Islamic State threat to Kerala Christians worries leaders

Indian Muslim students hold posters during a gathering to denounce the so-called Islamic State, in Mumbai on Nov. 20, 2015. (Photo by AFP) 

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Media reports that terrorists connected to the so-called Islamic State(IS) plan to target Syrian Christians in Kerala is causing concerns for religious leaders in the southern Indian state.

The Times of India daily recently reported that Kerala police have busted an IS-inspired cell.

Interrogations reportedly revealed that the Islamic militant outfit was targeting churches and institutions run by "a denomination of Christians of Syrian lineage."

The report did not specify the denomination, but said they were targeted because their ancestors had killed Muslims during the historical crusades.

Those from Syrian traditions form the bulk of Christians in Kerala. They include members of the Catholic, Jacobite, Orthodox and Chaldean churches.

Shaukat Ali, Deputy Superintendent of the National Investigation Agency, refused to comment on the report.

However, a source close to the agency told the ucanews.com that Subhani Moideen, had revealed the IS plans.

Moideen, a 31-year-old native of neighboring Tamil Nadu state, was allegedly radicalized through social media, and traveled to Iraq in 2015. For several months he worked for IS in both Iraq and Syria, before returning with a mandate to carry out attacks in India, ucanews.com was told.

Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, who is based in the Kerala state capital, has declined to comment.

However the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council views the report seriously. The council's deputy secretary general Father Varghese Vallikatt told ucanews.com "We cannot take the threat lightly. The spread of IS militancy poses a threat to all mankind."

Father Vallikatt speculated that IS may hope to destroy the prevailing religious harmony in Kerala. Of the 33 million people in Kerala, 55 percent are Hindu, 27 percent Muslim and 18 percent Christian.

Most Christians in Kerala trace their religious roots to St. Thomas the Apostle.

Father Paul Thelekkatt, former spokesperson of the Syro-Malabar Church, told to ucanews.com that the militant IS outfit "is trying to purge Christianity from their ancient lands."

Father Thelekkatt said "This is because they identify Christianity with West. In order to attack the West, they rightly or wrongly attack the Christians, even outside the West."

"Normally Muslims do not share this view, but poverty and illiteracy in many Muslim countries offer a fertile ground for sowing the seeds of terrorism."

Meanwhile, political observers in Kerala are more skeptical.

"Christians and Muslims have been living in perfect harmony in Kerala for centuries. There has been no friction between the two so far," said N.P. Chekutty, a senior journalist based in Kazhikode.

"This is because Christians and Muslims in the state are economically and socially interlinked. No one can destroy their mutual trust," Chekutty said.

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