Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi says al Qaeda won't gain a foothold in India
Modi: "If anyone thinks Indian Muslims will dance to their tune, they are delusional"
Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri released a video message directed at South Asia
Modi frames struggle against al Qaeda as "a fight between humanity and inhumanity"
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said al Qaeda will fail if it seeks to spread its terror network into his country because Muslims there “will die for India.”
Al-Zawahiri said that his group would seek support in the Indian states of Assam and Gujarat, and in Kashmir, the disputed region between India and Pakistan – and that he wants to free Muslims from the “oppression” they face there.
But in an exclusive interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, Modi insisted that any such efforts would not succeed.
“My understanding is that they are doing injustice towards the Muslims of our country,” he said.
“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.”
Asked why so few among India’s roughly 170 million Muslims have joined al Qaeda’s ranks, Modi suggested the issue was one of a wider fight for principles, rather than a question of nationality.
“This is a crisis against humanity, not a crisis against one country or one race. So we have to frame this as a fight between humanity and inhumanity. Nothing else.”
India, a predominantly Hindu nation, has a 13% Muslim population, according to the country’s census.
Inter-religious relations have become tense before. In 2002, Gujarat was wracked with anti-Muslim violence, in which more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed.
Most of the world’s Muslims live in Asia, with about 1 billion in the Asia-Pacific region and about 322 million in the Middle East and North Africa, according to the Pew Research Center.
Besides Assam, Gujarat and Kashmir, al-Zawahiri also said in his message that he would seek to gain support “for the vulnerable” in Myanmar and Bangladesh.
Peter Bergen, CNN’s national security analyst, called the video “hyperventilation and posturing.”
“It’s al-Zawahiri’s obvious way of getting some of the limelight back,” he said, as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has moved front and center.
CNN’s Jason Miks and Madison Park contributed to this report.