Abstract: This article presents biographies of three activists of the Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). Following 9/11, the Indian state banned SIMI for fomenting “terrorism”, “sedition” and “destroying Indian nationalism”. Of the three SIMI activists, Qasim Omar had spent 30 months in prison and Samin Patel, a US citizen of Indian origin, 27 months. Both these prominent SIMI leaders were charged with denigrating the photo of India’s flag and making provocative speeches. I interviewed them after their release. The third was an ordinary (non-office bearer) activist. Drawing on their biographies, I argue that Islamist radicalism or “terrorism” should be construed politically. Contrary to the prevalent politics, the pivot of which is bare rationality of profit and loss and ruthless pursuit of national interests, the kind of politics SIMI actors enact is best understood as a profound act of ethics manifest in the quest for justice. As such, they are not enemies of freedom, democracy and human rights; on the contrary, activists such as those in SIMI strive to rescue freedom and human rights from being monopolised and molested by the mighty few and thereby truly universalise them. Against methodological nationalism, I take the post-World War II global order as the human condition in which to situate the radical politics of these young SIMI activists.
Keywords: New World Order, Terrorism, Justice, SIMI, India, Jihad, Gandhi