By Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi, New Age Islam
25 May 2018
I was in JNU at the moment of writing this
piece. Something that had to come as an utter surprise to the varsity was the
proposal by the current administration of JNU to introduce a course on
"Islamic terrorism". As learnt through several media reports, the JNU
administration has given in-principle approval to the study of ‘Islamic
Terrorism’ by a new centre on national security, in an Academic Council.
Obviously, it was not supposed to go down
well with the overwhelming number of Muslims, leftists and ‘liberals’ enrolled
and employed at JNU. The representative views of the PhD students from
different research centres and departments of the related discipline unravel
it. They all acknowledged that there is, of course, ‘terrorism’ being
perpetrated under the false grab of ‘religions’ and that people are
increasingly falling victims to the terrorist ideologies.
But the question they pose to the academic
council of the proposed Centre for National Security Studies (CNSS) at JNU is:
does any particular religion exclusively preach terrorism? “If Islam was a
terrorist religion, then the millions of people who believe in it must have
turned into terror-mongers and creators of chaos in the world, but that has
never happened”, says Mohammad Shameem, a doctoral researcher in International
Relations at JNU, who has also pursued classical Islamic studies at South
India’s largest Sunni seminary–Markaz Saqafa Sunniya (centre for Sunni
The dominating view that echoes in the JNU
campus—both in the theistic and even agnostic and ‘liberal’ circles—is that ‘it
is not religion that radicalizes the people, but rather it is people who
radicalize the religion’. Thus, they premise that Islam, like any other
established faith tradition, is not essentially a religion propagating
terrorism. Then what's happening in the academic council of the university?
“A few people interpret the religion in
their own way for their personal gains and thus create troubles with Islamic
labels and identities. But the mainstream Muslims condemn their actions and
atrocities and side with the victims”, says Mohammad Imran Misbahi, who hails
from Jammu & Kashmir, and is doing his second-year PhD candidate at the
JNU’s Centre of Arabic and African Studies (CAAS).
Mr. Misbahi adds that this case holds true
for all other religions; people misuse their own religions to achieve ulterior
political motives and thus cause the greater defamation to them in consequence,
which sometimes results into Islamophobia. He makes his point citing the
example of how the founder-ideologue of the political Islamist
party—Jama’at-e-Islami—Maulana Maududi never let his children read his books or
allowed them to involve in the Jama’at politics. He was reminded of an excerpt
from an interview of Maulana’s son Syed Haider Farooq Maududi with The Daily
Star in which he was reported to have stated:
“On the creation of Jamaat-e-Islami in
1941, Farooq said his father’s political ideology was a result of the era he
was born in. ‘In the era he [Maududi] was born, there was communism,
imperialism, and he had made Islam also a system of ism, a system of life’.
‘Religion is for the people and people are
not for religion. Religion makes a human being a good human being.’ However,
religious sentiment is so deeply rooted in this region that no one is ready to
listen to the right thing’.
‘If he [Maulana Maududi] ever saw us in a
rally or demonstration, he would later call us and ask what business we had
standing there. He totally kept us away from all these.’ ‘This is a tragedy of
all our religious politics, that we use people’s children, but keep our own
away from it as we all know about its negative impacts’.
Bearing this in mind, will it not be injustice
to label the narrative of terrorists with Islam, Hinduism, or Buddhism per se,
asked another PhD scholar of the JNU who was paying heed to our conversation
for long. Then, a graduate of Darul Uloom Deoband currently enrolled at JNU
also opened up: “We are not against warning people against terrorism and
teaching them the mechanisms to cope with that. Instead, our concern is in
labeling that terrorism with Islam, or any other religion.” Following this
conversation, a number of questions were raised by the JNU students who
participated in my questionnaire. Beginning with the oversimplified question as
to why does the JNU administration specifically open a course on 'Islamic
Terrorism' and why not on 'Hindu Terrorism', 'Buddhist Terrorism' or 'Sikh Terrorism',
the conversation headed towards the quest for a more nuanced understanding
of the religious texts that are
translated and interpreted to legitimize terror and fear in the name of God’s
I also tried hard to talk to the Academic
Council and committee of the proposed Centre for National Security Studies
(CNSS) at JNU, but to no avail. Inevitably, the most important question that
remains unanswered is: has the JNU administration considered the implications
of introducing this subject in the secular intellectual circles or on the
Muslim community outside? What's noteworthy is the Islamic organisations’
reactionary take on this. While the non-religious parties like the CPI (M) have
lambasted it as ‘an attempt to communalise the varsity's syllabus’, the Jamiat
Ulama-i-Hind has threatened a legal action against the JNU administration. In a
letter to the JNU vice chancellor, the Jamiat has strongly condemned the
decision to introduce 'Islamic
Terrorism' as a subject under the newly approved 'Centre for National Security
Studies' in the varsity.
Maulana Madani further elaborated that if a
leading university like JNU will launch a course on terrorism clubbing with
Islam, it will hurt billions of Muslims across the world who not only pride
themselves in peace, but have also played pivotal role in counter-terrorism.
Maulana proclaims: “In India, alone our organization, Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind has
been playing active role in the jihad against terrorism. We came up with fatwa
against terrorism signed by 6000 Islamic scholars which was followed by more
than 250 conferences and rallies consecutively all over the country. We raised
voice universally that Islam is helpful in routing out terrorism not that it colludes
in any way with its perpetrators”.
However, Maulana Madani has left a scope
for this course, if it is revised. He has asked the university to ‘genuinely
engage’ in counter-terrorism in place of any slugfest to spread ‘Islamophobia’.
He clarifies his position in his letter: “At this stage, we are not against
your proposal to establish Centre for National Security Studies and its related
courses and would be ready to offer help and support for any genuine and
sincere initiative against terrorism”.
But what many Muslim leaders like Maulana
Madani have failed to ask and contemplate is this question: Why Islam is
globally a “securitisation issue" today? And if so, why is it academically
unethical to introduce 'Islamic' or 'Islamist' terrorism as a course of study
in a central university like JNU? They will do a great favour to the community
if they conceptualise and clarify an erudite and scholarly position on this. In
this context, these two pertinent questions have emerged in the intellectual
Is the subject of “Islamic Terrorism”
already being taught in an Indian or foreign university?
If so, what areas are being covered under
this subject and what are (a) the sources, (b) methodology, (c) reference
books/works/studies to be followed?
The Delhi Minorities Commission
chairperson, Dr Zafarul Islam Khan has basically asked these and a few more
questions to the JNU registrar in a bid to find the reason behind the varsity's
proposal to start a course on "Islamic terrorism".
The commission which claims to have taken
cognizance of the reports about the proposed course has, in its formal notice,
asked the JNU administration to respond to a few queries as the following:
Is there any concept paper or proposal to
include a course on “Islamic Terror” in the proposed “Centre for National
Security Studies”? If so, please provide a copy?
Since there is report that “many members”
of the Academic Council objected to the introduction of this subject, was there
any voting and if so what was the result?
Nevertheless, there are Islamic
intellectuals, leaders and clerics who protest, largely in the Urdu press, that
the name of this proposed course be changed into 'religious extremism’ or at
least 'Islamist terror', rather than 'Islamic'. A Delhi-based community leader
and cleric, Maulana Ansar Raza has reportedly stated to the Urdu daily Inquilab
today that the best way would be to impart a course on ‘religious terrorism’
without dubbing it with any particular religion. “If you label terrorism with
Islam, then that is to spread the impression that this particular religion is
that of terrorism and all Muslims must be targeted. In other words, that's to
water and sanction other forms of terrorism”, he said.
But whether it is dubbed as 'religious
terrorism', 'Islamic' or 'Islamist’, or even couched in neutral terms—such as
Counter-Radicalization or Countering Violent Extremism (CVE), the question is:
why most academic exercises on this subject have eroded other faith-based acts
of violence or religious persecutions? Why they are focused exclusively on the
study of violence in Islam? Barring a few international research institutes,
majority of world's leading universities and policy-making institutions are
running various study programs under this rubric. But the problems grow
exponentially when such courses are seen as 'initiatives' of an administration
publicly charged with 'animosity' towards Islam and the Muslim minority.
In its official statement, the JNU Student
Union has alleged that a panel was formed to finalise modalities of the course
on ‘Islamic terrorism’, after it was decided to establish such a centre. But
the report of the 145th Academic Council (AC) meeting chaired by the JNU V-C
who allowed the tabling of a course on ‘Islamic Terrorism’ under the proposed
National Security Studies has rebuffed it. It clarifies that the ‘Islamic
Terrorism’ will be treated as a key area of work for the centre, rather than a
course (as claimed by the JNUSU), along with over 20 other areas, which include
‘Insurgency’, ‘Naxalism’, and ‘Military Modernisation of China and Pakistan’.
Regular Columnist with Newageislam.com, Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi is a
classical Islamic scholar and English-Arabic-Urdu writer. He has graduated from
a leading Islamic seminary of India, acquired Diploma in Qur'anic sciences and
Certificate in Uloom ul Hadith from Al-Azhar Institute of Islamic Studies.
Presently, he is pursuing his PhD in Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.
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