By Yoginder Sikand, TwoCircles.net
9 November 2009
Last week, tens of thousands of men—this was a strictly all-male gathering—descended on the town of Deoband in Uttar Pradesh’s Saharanpur district to attend the 30th annual convention of the Jamiat Ulema-I-Hind, a leading body of Muslim clerics of the ultra-conservative Deobandi sect. Sources claimed that the gathering numbered over five hundred thousand, brought in from across India. Impassable crowds clogged the narrow, dusty pathways leading to the venue of the rally, and so, although I had travelled all the way from Bangalore to report on the event, I had to content myself by listening to the speeches relayed by loudspeakers while sitting a mile away, in the portals of the Darul Uloom, possibly the world’s largest madrasa and the nerve-centre of the Deobandi movement.
The event commenced with a maulvi reciting an Urdu poem extolling the sacrifices of the ulema of the Jamiat in India’s freedom struggle. ‘Were it not for us’, he burst forth, ‘you’—by which he probably meant the Hindus of India—‘would still be labouring under the yoke of the British.’ ‘We stiffly opposed the creation of Pakistan. We have sacrificed our lives for the country. We condemn all forms of terror. We love our India, whether or not you believe this’, he went on. The men sitting around me—dressed, like the rest of the crowd, in white kurta-pyjama, and sporting unkempt beards and white skull-caps—enthusiastically shook their heads in agreement. Like the maulvi-poet, they laboured under the burden of being forced to prove their patriotism, their anti-Pakistani credentials, and their opposition to terrorism—an unenviable predicament they were compelled to share with the rest of their co-religionists at a time of heightened Islamophobia the world over.
More than the speeches delivered at the rally it was the response of some of those who attended the event, including a number of students and graduates of the Darul Uloom, that interested me. And, among these, it were the cynics who impressed me the most. ‘This is just a political stunt orchestrated by the self-styled head of the Jamiat, Maulana Mahmud Madani’, said Akram, a peasant from a village near Saharanpur. ‘The rally is simply a show of strength, to impress upon the Congress his claim to be the leader of the Muslims, and to curry favour with Congress bosses’.
Akram spoke of murky goings-on within the Jamiat. ‘These selfish mullahs can never agree, though they keep harping on Muslim unity. They love nothing more than fighting among themselves.’ The Jamiat had split into several rival groups, he explained. One was led by the recently deceased Maulana Fuzail. The other two were headed by Maulana Arshad Madani and his nephew, Maulana Mahmud Madani, respectively. Maulana Arshad had recently organized an anti-terrorism conference, which had invited much media attention. Not to be outdone, Akram explained, Mahmud, who had emerged as his principal rival, had now arranged for this mammoth rally. ‘A petty game of one-upmanship’, Akram remarked. Mahmud’s branch of the Jamiat, he claimed, had splurged vast sums of money for this purpose, subsidizing train fares to the men who had been brought in, lured by the prospect of a free holiday in Deoband and free chicken biryani - ‘neither of which’, Akram joked, ‘a true Deobandi could ever refuse’. ‘How can these mullahs unite the Muslims and speak for us, when they cannot even unite among themselves?’, he angrily spluttered.
‘You won’t spot a single modern-educated Muslim in this huge carnival’, said Faisal, the owner of a bookshop located adjacent to the Darul Uloom. ‘The maulvis shun them, not just because they don’t find them religious enough but also because they fear that they will challenge their hegemony’. He indicated the crowd surging past his shop. Their features, dress and mannerisms all revealed, he said, that they were all poor peasants, madrasa teachers or maulvis. ‘The maulvis have little or no understanding of the modern world, so how can they provide us Muslims with proper leadership?’, he continued. ‘But because the Muslim middle class remains indifferent to community issues, engrossed in their pursuit of material acquisition or simply too scared to speak out against the mullahs’ obscurantist views, the mullahs’ hold on the community continues unchallenged’. ‘That’s why lakhs of Muslims have so easily been mobilized by the Jamiat for this mela’.
Bilal, a student of the Darul Uloom, decried the opposition of the Jamiat leaders to madrasa reforms, which was reflected in the resolution they passed at the conclusion of the conference decrying the suggestion that the Government set up a national madrasa board. ‘These politically influential maulvis send their sons to modern schools and even abroad, but they won’t let us madrasa students, most of who come from very poor families, learn anything about the modern world. They want us to remain ignorant so that they can continue to play politics in our name.’ He pointed to an open drain that ran along the wall outside the madrasa, clogged with grey water, plastic bags and blobs of fresh human refuse, out of which emerged an overpowering, nauseous sulphurous stench. Ahead, built into the outside wall of a mosque, a door-less toilet was littered with excrement that spilled out onto the street. ‘According to a saying attributed to the Prophet, cleanliness is half of faith. And so, as you can see, here half our faith is in the gutters!’
Bilal took me around the hostels of the madrasa, into dark, dingy airless rooms, each shared by more than half a dozen students. Cobwebs hung like thick curtains in corners, and the floors were strewn with filth. The scenario was even more pathetic at the nearby Darul Uloom Waqf, a madrasa set up by a rival group of Deobandi maulvis in the wake of a coup engineered by the Madani family that forcibly ousted the then rector of the Deoband madrasa, Maulana Qari Tayyeb, in 1980. Vegetable peels and waste daal and rice law thrown around in large puddles outside the students’ rooms, under vast armies of flies. ‘The maulvis here, who never tire of claiming to be heirs of the Prophet, simply don’t care about all this. All they hanker after is power and fame’, Bilal rued.
The next morning’s newspapers gave wide coverage to the Deoband rally, focusing particularly on one of the many resolutions that the Jamiat had passed—its opposition to the compulsory singing of the Vande Mataram song. Rizwan, a graduate of the Dar ul-Ulum, now teaching in a Deobandi madrasa in Agra, summed up what seemed to be a widely-shared feeling among the participants at the rally. ‘We love India, but it is ridiculous to demand that our loyalty be tested on the basis of our attitude to this song.’ The song, originally contained in a book that openly spewed hatred against Muslims, had generated a major stir even in pre-independence days, he explained. It was also, he pointed out, unacceptable not just to Muslims but to other monotheists, for it spoke of the worship of the motherland as a deity. At the same time, he added, there was simply no need for the Jamiat to have raked up the issue that had been lying dormant for years. ‘It’s probably a deliberate tactic of Maulana Mahmud and his cronies to leap into the limelight by igniting a controversy and then presenting themselves as leaders of the Muslims’, he mused.
Rizwan was equally critical of the media coverage of the rally. ‘The media has pounced on the Vande Mataram issue, conveniently ignoring the other resolutions passed at the rally—the Jamiat’s condemnation of terrorism, its demand for the implementation of the recommendations of the Sachar Committee report, its call for combating communalism and providing security to Muslims and so on’. ‘Like our self-styled leaders behind this Jamiat-sponsored drama’, he added ‘the media, too, is simply not interested in the welfare of the Muslim masses. They both revel in stirring wholly avoidable controversies, while it is the hapless Muslim masses who continue to suffer, and whose voices continue to go unheard.’
URL of this Page: http://www.newageislam.com/the-war-within-islam/drama-at-deoband--spurious-claims-of-indian-muslim-leadership/d/2079
From: Ashok Chowgule
To: Sultan Shahin Editor@NewAgeIslam.com
Subject: On Yoginer Sikand
In the article, available at twocircles.net and posted on your website,
Yoginder Sikand says: "A recently-reprinted Urdu booklet published by the Jamiat provides the best guide to the Jamiat's committed patriotic stance since pre-1947 times."
Perhaps you may wish to forward the enclosed two articles to him. The first expands on what Smt Tavleen Singh wrote in March 2008 on the Jamait, and the second is a very recent article by Smt Singh herself. In addition, could you also please bring to his notice what the Jamait had to say about itself as far back as 1924? This is what Hamid Dalwai wrote:
"Mau?ana Hussain Ahmad Madni was considered a great 'Nationalist Muslim' leader. He was President of Jamiat-e-Ulema-i-Hind. When the ulema convened a confer?nce in Delhi in the year 1945, he said in his presidential address, 'It is the non-Muslims who are the field of action for this 'tabligh' of Islam and form the raw material for this splendid activity....We are opposed to the idea of limiting the right of missionary activities of Islam within any particular area. The Muslims have got a right in all the nooks and corners of India by virtue of the great struggle and great sacrifices of their ancestors in this country.
Now it is our duty to maintain that claim and try to widen its scope, instead of giving it up.' (The Deoband School and the Demand for Paki?tan, Z H Faruqi, Asia Publishing House, Bombay, 1963, p 117.)....The same learned Maulana has said elsewhere, 'If Dara had tri?mphed, Muslims would have stayed in India, but not Islam. Since Aurangzeb triumphed, both Muslims and Islam were here to stay.'" [Shri Hamid Dalwai, Muslim Politics in Secular India, pp 62-3. Latest edition. Dalwai Hamid, "Muslim Politicis in India", Indian Secular Society, Mumbai, 2002. pp 47-48]
As I had said to you before, I think the problem for the Muslims in India is not the obscurantist leadership, but the moderate Muslims and the secular Hindus who bend backwards to rationalise these obscurantists.
Ashok Chowgule, Vice-President, Vishwa Hindu Parishad
In The Obscurantist "World Of Fatwas"
Letter To 'The New Indian Express'
Reference the report "Vande Mataram Remains Out Of Tune With Islam" -
In a 'revealing' article entitled "Reading between the lines of Deoband fatwa " in your sister publication - Indian Express of 01 Mar 2008 - columnist Tavleen Singh wrote: "The scariest religious institution I have ever been to is the Darul Uloom in Deoband. In the hour I spent wandering about its grounds on my single uninvited visit a couple of years ago I understood why it had inspired the Taliban. It is an institution that remains frozen in seventh century Arabia, a time when men were primitive and women got a primitive deal. I saw one woman while I was there and she was veiled to the eyeballs. The angry young students I met were Islamists to a man and the maleficent power of Saudi Arabia manifested itself in their refusal to speak to me because they were only allowed to speak Arabic. So they said. This most important Islamic seminary on the Indian sub-continent may not be directly training jihadis but it is responsible for perpetuating a narrow, literal interpretation of Islam which is the ideology that inspires the jihad ". Your report also spoke of the Home Minister 'singing paens' for the Deoband Fatwa on Terror issued in 2008. However, Tavleen Singh presents a more realistic contrarian opinion in the article: "Last week, when I heard the Darul Uloom had condemned terrorism, I went disbelievingly to their website to download a copy of the declaration made at the end of the conference of bearded mullahs. This is what I found. - - - . So far so good, but the next paragraph and the one after clarifies that the Darul Uloom's idea of terrorism is different to yours and mine. It's not attacks by Islamist suicide bombers on us idol-worshippers that they are worried about but attacks on Muslims. Listen. 'The Conference expresses its deep concern and agony on the present global and national alarming conditions (sic) in which most of the nations are adopting such an attitude against their citizens, especially Muslims, to appease the tyrant and colonial master of the West . . . the conference strongly demands the Indian Government (sic) to curb those maligning the madrassas and Muslims'. As I suspected, nothing has changed in the cloistered world of the Darul Uloom. If it had the declaration should have contained at least one reference to innocent infidels being killed by Islamist suicide bombers as they prayed in temples and went home from work on Mumbai's commuter trains ".
Dr Walid Pares, a former PLO Jihadi commented on the Fatwa as follows:
"These statements could be seen as impressive when quoted by news agencies rushing to break the good news, but to the seasoned analysts of Salaafism, the solid doctrinal roots of jihadism were kept untouched. The logic of "we are Muslims and we are against terrorism" helps significantly the disassociation between the community and the acts of violence. However, without criticising the ideological roots of this violence, the fatwa seems to state a wishful thinking, not an injunction. A more powerful fatwa should have openly and expressly said: "We reject the calls for violent jihad regardless of the motives." For the followers of jihadism do not consider their jihad as 'terrorism'. Their answer has always been - to these types of fatwas - "but we aren't performing terrorism, we are conducting jihad". Thus, at this crucial level, the Deobandi fatwa missed the crux of the problem. The fatwa is concerned with geopolitics more than theological reform. Concern for the safety of one's co-religionists is of course legitimate and should be addressed. But jihad, the legitimising root of political violence, cannot be ignored in any effort to protect the lives of Muslims. But instead of using their religious prominence to remove the theological weapon from the hands of the jihadis, the Deobandi clerics are attempting to shield the jihadis from the actions of Governments by denying that these extremists are indeed using - and abusing – religion. Therefore, in terms of identification of terror entities, the edict has failed to show its followers who is the terror perpetrator. This text simply doesn't bring novelty to the debate about jihadi-rooted terrorism". So much for the 'P.C. Paens'!!!
Let's turn to the 'un-Islamic' practice of singing the Vande Mataram. Bankim Chandra Chatterjee's sublimated love for Mother India was adopted by the Congress in pre-Independent India to be sung before the start of every AICC session. The first banner of revolt against its singing was raised by Maulana Mohammad Ali (of the Khalifat Infame) at the 1923 Kakinada AICC session. He reasoned that in Islam, music was forbidden.
Earlier, in 1922, to appease Muslim sentiments, Iqbal's " Sare Jahan Se Acha ", had been adopted by the 'dhimmi' Congress as 'Associate National Anthem'. But it was in 1937, the fuse blew on this 'revered hymn' of Indians. The Muslim League had then instructed "Muslim members of various Legislatures and public bodies in the country not to associate themselves in any manner with this highly objectionable song ", and termed it as "callous, positively anti-Islamic, idolatrous in its inspiration and ideas, and definitively subversive of the growth of genuine nationalism in India ". In an act of 'craven capitulation', the CWC in Oct 1937 at Kolkata, decided to retain only the first two stanzas of Vande Mataram and scrapped the rest on the logic they "contained certain allusions and a religious ideology which may not be in keeping with the ideology of other religious groups in India ", and upheld " the validity of objections raised by Muslim friends to certain parts of the song ". Forgotten by the 'dhimmi' Congress was how this Hymn played a stellar role in the reunification of Bengal in 1911 after its Partition in 1905!!
I have also observed the usage of the term 'saffron' in a pejorative sense by the ' convent school educated-English speaking-deracinated- 'secular' Indian scribes', as Anita Saluja has done on the inside page of date!! One wonders if the likes of Anita and ilk are aware of the fact that the AICC session of 1931 in Karachi, had recommended on the basis of a report by a 'Committee of Seven ' the National Flag to be: 'Saffron in colour with a charkha in reddish-brown in the extreme left-hand corner '. This 'dirty & communal seven ' were: Sardar Patel, Pandit Nehru, Maulana Azad, Master Tara Singh, D.B. Kalelkar, Dr.N.S. Hardikar, and, Dr.Pattabhi Sitaramaya. The Committee stated, among others: "If there is one colour that is more acceptable to the indians as a whole, even as it is more distinctive than another, one that is associated with this ancient country by long tradition, it is the kesari or saffron colour". Says all about the cancerous deracination that has set in, in present day Indians!! How the tri-colour came into being is another instance of 'Congress Appeasement'!!
Media reports earlier had also alluded to the Muslims objecting to the worship of the 'Mother'. 'Spins' and obfuscations on the subject notwithstanding, a plausible explanation for this Muslim objection may be found in the 'Hadits' by Shahi Muslim. In his excellent research & scholarship, Arun Shourie, in his "The World of Fatwas: or The Sharia in Action ", wrote: " There are different reasons for it. [For the prophet being forbidden to pray at his mother's grave]. The one obvious reason is that the mother of Hazrat Mohammad (may peace be upon him) was not a believer in the technical sense of the term. [She died when the prophet was six years old and before he had received the revelations]. She had lived in the intermittent period. Her status in religion is, therefore, best known to god. The holy prophet (may peace be upon him) was, therefore, forbidden to seek forgiveness for her, since her position as a believer was not explicit. If the holy prophet had been allowed to do this, it could lead to misgiving among the people and they would believe that forgiveness could be even sought by non-Muslims" (pp- 183-184).
Thus, technically the Prophet's mother died a 'Kafir'. If that be so, then what status for 'Kafir - Mother India'? And, India is Dar-ul-Harb !! So no to 'Vande Mataram'. No more. No less.
A question arose in my mind - why should a 'secular' Union Minister pay obeisance to such a crass 'fundamentalist organization'? Again, Shourie gives us the illumination: "The Indian State is of course worse. As the ulema control the community, it is to the ulema, and to those who speak their language [like the AIMPLB] that the state genuflects. As the state has got weaker, the ulema have been able to press their campaigns with greater and greater ease. And in turn they have been able to fortify their hold over the community by demonstrating that it is to them that the state bends- outside the legal system of the country". (pp - 63-64)
In a hard-hitting opinion entitled " The clash of uncivilisations ", written about the prevailing mores in the U.K., Melaine Philips wrote: " Liberal society cannot see them as a threat [ Islamofacism ] because, under the prevailing doctrines of multiculturalism and moral relativism, minorities can never be guilty of prejudice or bad deeds. Only the 'far right', it appears, can be racist".
How very true of the Indian scene also? !! Explains the 'crawling' of P.C. at Deoband!! JAI HO!!
H.Balakrishnan, CHENNAI - 600 090
Subject: Article by Yoginder Sikand
To: Sultan Shahin Editor@NewAgeIslam.com
In the article, posted on your website, the introduction starts as follows:
'You won't spot a single modern-educated Muslim in this huge carnival', said Faisal, the owner of a bookshop located adjacent to the Darul Uloom. 'The maulvis shun them, not just because they don't find them religious enough but also because they fear that they will challenge their hegemony'.
But haven't the modern-educated Muslims praised the Jamait for their fatwa against terrorist?
As as the Jamait is concerned, this is what Hamid Dalwai, who was one of the founders of Muslim Satyashodak Manch, had written some time in the 1960s:
The cynicism of people participating in the rally is eye-opening. A common person understands the politics behind the stance the 'ulama take. And that their disinterest in the cleanliness in and around the madrasa is symptomatic of the larger disease of not caring much about education as a means of participating in the modern world. They can probably teach a centuries-old syllabus with no changes to generations of people, but ignore that the Prophet said to go as far as China to acquire knowledge. Of course, it wasn't religious knowledge he was talking about.
On the other hand, what the media chose to concentrate on also perpetuates the same backwardness. How about bringing up every day the concerns raised by Sachchar Commission? How can the media expect Muslims (who are educationally and economically not doing well) to talk rationally?