Wednesday, September 19, 2012





The obnoxious anti-Muslim film produced by someone in the US and disseminated through the Internet has already caused five days of daily ant-US demonstrations in Chennai.

2.Muslim youth of Chennai did not react in such a vigorous manner over the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, during the visit of former US President George Bush to India in 2006 and against the cartoons published by a Danish journal in September 2005 projecting the Holy Prophet of Islam in negative colours.

3.The surprisingly angry reaction of the Muslim youth this time could be attributed partly to  the fact that the film is much,much more obnoxious than the Danish cartoons and partly to the feeling that the Government of India has not reacted against the film as vehemently as it should have. The anger in sections of the Muslim youth of Chennai also reflects the growth of religious activism among the Muslim youth in educational institutions and the dilution of the control of the elders of the community over the angry youth.

4. There are over 20 Muslim organisations in Tamil Nadu with different political agendas and objectives. The Muslim political consciousness movement in Tamil Nadu has been widely splintered. It continues to be so. However, whereas the elders constituting the leadership of these organisations are still splintered, the youth of these organisations have shown a readiness to come  together and work jointly for common Islamic causes.

5. The anger of the youth belonging to different organisations ( their number is estimated at around 5000 ) has had certain characteristics that need attention. Initially, the expression of anger started in the colleges and subsequently it spread to schools. The protests attracted a  number of Muslim women from colleges and schools who took to the streets in solidarity with the boys. On the fifth day on September 18,2012, some of the clergy in charge of prayers in  some of the main mosques of the city were also reported to have joined.

6.On the evening of September 18, when the elders tried to persuade the youth to go back to their mosques for their evening prayers, many of them in a spontaneous gesture of Islamic solidarity prayed in the middle of the Anna Salai (road) totally disrupting traffic. An incident like this has not happened  before.  Details of the protests on all the five days underline the difficulties increasingly faced by the elders of the community in persuading the youth not to violate the law in expressing their anger.

7. The youth disregarding the appeals of the elders violated the law in various ways --- like acts of vandalism in and around the US Consulate-General on the first day, burning in the streets US flags and pictures of President Barack Obama on all the days and clashes with the police when they tried to prevent them from marching to the Consulate. The Chennai Police seemed to have been taken by surprise by the intensity of the anger and by the orchestrated manner in which attempts were made to give expression to it.

8. While there was apparently an attempt at competitive instigation of the anger by different organisations and youth groups from different educational institutions, the anger was kept directed against the US Government and President Obama without letting it degenerate into anger against US nationals living and working in Chennai. The anger was directed against the US Consulate as representing the US government, but not against other US establishments such as business houses.

9. The youth leaders also saw to it that the anger did not assume a communal dimension. There seems to be an anxiety among some leaders of the Muslim community that the anger could assume a communal dimension in the coming days as the Vinayak Chaturthi is observed. They have appealed to the youth to discontinue their protests and return to their classes. It remains to be seen whether the youth heed their appeals.

10. The Chennai Police has been doing well under tremendous pressure. They should step up their intelligence collection efforts and intensify their interactions with the influential members of the Muslim community---young and old—in order to seek their cooperation in mitigating the anger. The central intelligence agencies should pay more attention to the phenomenon of Muslim youth activism in Chennai.

11. This may please be read in continuation of my earlier article titled  “Anti-US Protests By Some Muslims In Chennai” at


(The  writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail:  Twitter @SORBONNE75)


Luthfullah Azeez. T said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Luthfullah Azeez. T said...

1. Thanks for the timely analysis.
2. The Indian Express has figured the number of crowd as 20,000.
3. It is the most peaceful demonstration the city has witnessed in the recent past.
4. The act of performing namaz at the road is not proper. The Prophet says that removing a stone in the roads too is sadaqa - act of charity. It is ironic and tragic that those who gathered in the name of the Prophet of Islam(PBUH) acted against his teachings.
5. The youth were angry but they vented their anger in peaceful manner. After all right to protest and demonstrate is the hallmark of democracy.
6. According to Indian Express the number of the participants in the demonstration is 20,000. It was unprecedented.
7. The gathering consisted of young and old. It had students as well as businessmen.

Kaushik said...

Mr. Raman, your blog has good content. But I'd like to point out an issue. I had quite a bit of problem 'mining' for info related to any one particular topic, pakistan for example. might i suggest incorporating tags into your articles to help make finding info easier.

Paresh said...

There is no doubt that the obnoxious film deserved condemnation. Our sympathies were with the Muslims when this issue came to light. But as the days have progressed and the agitation has dragged on and become more violent, it is beginning to get silly, laughable and reprehensible. Agitators in the Islamic countries are doing the faith a great disservice by these theatrics. Even my Pakistani friends here have started to complain the incessant violence in their country as being foolish and selfish on the part of politicians or the religious leaders, who themselves are most "un-Islamic".

Muslims should realize that this event has shown to the Western countries that it takes only one small cartoon or 10 minute video clip to provoke the middle east into burning and looting themselves!! Like a sleeping bear is startled and runs around in chaos. I am glad our Indian Muslim compatriots are much more sensible and balanced-minded. Kudos to them!