By Umar Manzoor Shah
As India’s government continues efforts to bring back the remains of 39 Indians killed in Iraq by the so-called Islamic State, religious leaders have condemned terror in the name of religion.
The remains of the migrant laborers are expected to arrive in India by the end of March as the legal process may take up to 10 days, V.K. Singh, junior external affairs minister, told media soon after the deaths were confirmed.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj confirmed the deaths to media on March 20 and said DNA tests had identified 38 of the 39 victims, kidnapped in Mosul four years ago.
Soon after Mosul was freed last year from Islamic State, the Iraqi government began search operations. DNA samples from a mound with several bodies matched some of the missing laborers, Swaraj told parliament.
Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, secretary-general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, said the news about the murders was tragic.
“No religion in the world teaches its followers to kill others and if there is a religion that teaches to kill others, it is not a religion as such,” he told ucanews.com on March 26.
Indian news reports said 40 laborers were kidnapped but one escaped.
Manish Sharma, a rights activist in New Delhi, said the man faked his identity and told his captors that his name was Ali and he was a Muslim. They let him go.
Sharma said the case “opens the whole Pandora’s box that the killings were done in the name of religion.”
Indian media or officials have not revealed the religious identity of the missing, but speculation is rife that most of the dead were Hindus, or at least non-Muslims in view of the claim of the escaped man that his Islamic identity helped him win his freedom.
Molvi Azhar Amin, a religious scholar and member of Noor-e-Islam, told ucanews.com that the news of the killings had come as a shock to the entire Muslim world.
“These fringe groups like Islamic State have defamed Islam, which teaches tolerance, brotherhood and unity among the human beings of all religions. Muslims are saddened by such sadistic and inhuman acts and condemn them at all levels,” the cleric said.
Molvi Ghulam Ali Gulzar, an Islamic preacher based in Kashmir, said the killings have shown the inhuman face of Islamic State and stirred the conscience of all Muslims.
“How could such brutal acts be justified? Not even a word in Islam advocates killing innocent human beings. What Islamic State is doing is to do harm Islam in every possible way it can,” he said.
He said Islam’s prophet had already predicted there would be young people who recite the Quran but would be brainwashed.
“The prophet stated that these people will kill human beings in the name of Islam. Islamic State is doing exactly the same,” Molvi Gulzar told ucanews.com.