Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi dismissed al-Qaeda’s plan to set up a South Asia branch, saying it was “delusional” to think that the country’s Muslim minority would follow orders to wage jihad in the region.
“They are doing an injustice toward the Muslims of our country,” Modi said in an interview with CNN broadcast on Friday.
“If anyone thinks Indian Muslims will dance to their tune, they are delusional. Indian Muslims will live for India, they will die for India — they will not want anything bad for India,” he added.
It was Modi’s first reaction to al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri’s announcement this month that the group would set up a new operation to take the fight to India, which has a large, but traditionally moderate, Muslim population, as well as Myanmar and Bangladesh.
There have been relatively few reports of young Indian men leaving to fight extremist causes abroad, which experts say is because local grievances have kept them at home.
Modi said the threat from extremist groups was “a crisis against humanity, not a crisis against one country or one race.”
Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party was accused during the election campaign of trying to polarize votes along religious lines.
However, in a widely-praised Independence Day speech last month, Modi said communal violence was “stalling the growth of the nation” and had gone on for “too long.”
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