Influential Muslim seminary brands terrorism un-Islamic

February 26, 2008

Darul Uloom Deoband, India/official photoOne of the most influential Islamic seminaries in one of the world’s most populous Muslim states has issued an important statement denouncing terrorism as un-Islamic. The statement is all the more interesting for the fact that it comes from an institution often linked in the media to the Taliban. But the seminary is hardly known to non-Muslims and the country is not an Arab state, not even a real “Muslim country” as such. So the statement, which was backed by several thousand Islamic scholars, looks like it will end up like the tree that falls in the forest with nobody around to hear it. It got some good coverage in its home country (like here and here and here) , but little anywhere else.

The seminary is Darul Uloom Deoband, a 150-year old institution in northern India that is the spiritual home for the arch-conservative Deobandi school of Islam. Its influence spreads across the subcontinent, into Afghanistan and into Muslim communities abroad, such as in Britain. Its link to Afghanistan’s radical Islamists goes through the madrassas in Pakistan that are considered to be “Taliban nurseries.” Most of them are Deobandi schools. Many of the pro-Taliban Islamist parties in Pakistan are Deobandi. General Zia-ul-Haq, who began Pakistan’s Islamisation drive in the 1980s that helped spread those madrassas, was Deobandi. Etc, etc, etc. Darul Uloom Deoband has always denied any connection with the Taliban and there is no reason to think it had any direct links. Its denunciation of terrorism will probably not influence the men with guns along the Afghan frontier, but it might carry some weight with the Islamist parties and madrassa directors further inland in Pakistan.

A madrassa near the Afghan border where Pakistani troops arrested suspected al Qaeda-linked militants, 15 Sept. 2005/Anjum Naveed/PoolThe declaration saysIslam sternly condemns all kinds of oppression, violence and terrorism. It has regarded oppression, mischief, rioting and murdering among severest sins and crimes.” Maulana Marghoobur Rahman, the ageing rector of Darul Uloom Deoband, told our New Delhi bureau: “There is no place for terrorism in Islam.” Our bureau saw his comments as a sign of deep sense of anxiety among India’s 140 million Muslims that a violent interpretation of Islam was finding root in the country and tarnishing the reputation of the entire community. Indian Muslims were implicated in bomb attacks on packed commuter trains in Mumbai in 2006 and in a failed attack in Britain last year.

Notice the number there? India has 140 million Muslims, putting it third behind Indonesia and Pakistan in the ranks of Muslim populations. The difference is that they’re only 13% or so of the majority Hindu country, while the others are overwhelmingly Muslim.

Do you think statements like this one make any difference? Does the fact that an important Islamic seminary makes this declaration give it any special weight?


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From Harvard Crimson

The Failure in the War on Terror
It’s not Osama but Musharraf
Published On Monday, February 25, 2008 10:44 PM

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The former head of the Pakistani Inter-Service Intelligence’s (ISI) political cell recently confessed that he was responsible for political manipulation in Pakistan’s 2002 elections that led to Islamists coming to power in two provinces and gaining 59 seats in the National Assembly. This fraud was the work of the America’s supposedly unfaltering ally in the War on Terror, General (ret.) Pervez Musharraf and his desire to paint an image of Pakistan as an extremely dangerous, unstable country ready to fall into the hands of extremists the moment he leaves.

Musharraf pretends that he is the only hope for the US in Pakistan. Closer analysis, however, suggests that his claims are far from true. In the 2008 elections—which were much freer and fairer than those of 2002—only 6 seats went to the Islamists. In addition, a secular party won the majority of seats from the North-West Frontier Province where the War on Terror is actually taking place. These results prove that the people of Pakistan are against religious fundamentalism, something the US has largely ignored. In 1999, Pakistan was a stable country with a moderate political party in power. There were no suicide bombings, no abductions by extremists, and people were free to move about without security personnel. By 2007, Pakistan was among the world’s most dangerous places. This transformation is the result of Musharraf’s long, incompetent rule.

There are many other pieces of evidence to support that Musharraf is not committed to fighting terrorism now, or if he ever was. Musharraf’s own speeches and words, such as, “[I am] not going around trying to locate Osama bin Laden and Zawahri, frankly” are the biggest confirmation of his indifference. In addition, Washington has been shocked by news reports that the majority of the funds given to Pakistan are not used for the War on Terror. This news is corroborated by widely available pictures of troops in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas moving around in traditional ‘chappals’ (open foot shoes) and poor equipment. If even a small portion of the U.S. aid were spent on weapons upgrades, bullet proof jackets, reconnaissance devices and training, the results would have been much better. The Pakistan Army would have performed better: more terrorists caught, fewer casualties and more leads to Osama bin Laden.

Over the past eight years, Pakistan has received $11 billion from the U.S. in direct aid for fighting terrorism, billions from other countries for curbing extremism and development projects, and access to secret intelligence. In response to this, Musharraf has been repeatedly diverting funds in efforts to retain his support within the army, upgrade weapons to be used against India, or pay his supporters and crackdown on political opponents. His long, highly extravagant foreign tours to publicize his book or beg for more aid are hardly helpful in fighting terrorism.

Musharraf’s political ambitions have led to many serious lapses and failures in the War on Terror: Rashid Rauf, a high profile terrorist involved in a failed attempt to blow up transatlantic planes, escaped from Pakistani police custody. Militants have been capturing forts and have intercepted NATO’s supplies. A radical mosque built up a brigade of terrorists adjacent to the Pakistan Intelligence’s building in Islamabad, the capital. The intelligence agencies are not to be blamed; they have more important tasks to do—update files on and blackmail political opponents of Musharraf.

Last November, on the pretext of fighting terrorism a “state of emergency” was declared in Pakistan, and resulted in a country-wide crackdown on the judiciary, media, human rights activists, and anyone who could possibly oppose Musharraf. This was followed by the release of 25 high profile terrorists including former Taliban Defence Minister Mullah Obaidullah, who has close ties to Osama bin Laden and is the highest-ranking Taliban official ever captured. With Musharraf releasing arrested Taliban figures, U.S. taxpayers can be assured the $11 billion pumped into Musharraf’s regime has gone to waste.

Musharraf is a major liability in the War on Terror, yet the Bush Administration fails to see this and continues to provide him unfaltering support. However, Musharraf does not have any support in Pakistan, as evidenced by the strong anti-Musharraf vote in the Feb. 18 elections. If the U.S. continues to support Musharraf it will further alienate the people of Pakistan from the War on Terror and augment anti-U.S. sentiments. When the U.S, backed a highly unpopular dictator in Iran, it back-fired resulting in an extremist Islamic revolution. The world cannot afford a nuclear power like Pakistan to turn into another Iran. The U.S. must use all its capabilities to return Pakistan to the rule of law and to have the Supreme Court judges deposed by Musharraf restored. Musharraf must be tried for his crimes in the War on Terror as well as his crimes against the people of Pakistan by the real Supreme Court of Pakistan. This will send a clear message to the next government that it cannot take the war on terror lightly and that the U.S. will not allow itself to be manipulated by Pakistani leaders.

Samad Khurram ’09-’10, a government concentrator in Winthrop House, is an active member of the resistance movement against Musharraf. His column runs on alternate Tuesdays.

Posted by Javaid Aziz | Report as abusive

Very awesome article. It is clear that its Musharraf who is the failure behind the war on terror not anyone else.

Posted by Ahmad | Report as abusive

In microbiology, a characteristic or trait that gives a bacteria or virus an advantage and promotes reproduction/propagation is called a virulence factor. The main virulence factors of radical Islam are intolerance and the spreading of fear. It is the capacity for saying “join us or die” and then having the will to carry out the threat that makes Islamic extremists so very dangerous. The irony is that attempting to “exterminate” radical Islam is self-defeating as we create martyr after martyr. The answer is PROMOTING moderate islamists–pump money, resources, and whatever else you can get your hands on into organized moderate Islam. Give the people a sane, rational, nonviolent choice, and link that choice to prosperity. Moderate Islam is the greatest threat to extremism–and the extremists know it. Stop the killing. Start the giving.

Posted by James Cole | Report as abusive

[…] unfinished last week. On Feb. 26, I wrote a post about a leading Muslim seminary in India declaring terrorism to be un-Islamic and noted that the news got almost no coverage in western media. “So the statement, which was […]

Posted by Guardian blogger picks up on “takfir” where we left off – FaithWorld | Report as abusive

[…] terrorism at Friday prayers across India. Earlier this year, an influential Islamic seminary declared terrorism un-Islamic. That’s not to say there’s no possibility of anything happening, but it seems the situation is […]

Posted by Kissinger, Iraq and India’s Muslims – a new domino theory? « Shariah Finance Watch | Report as abusive

The truth is that this killings, raping, bombings etc. are part of Islam . I have read in the quran where muslims were commanded to attack anyone who is not a muslim. Moreover, I carried out a personal research on the founder of this religion. What I found out was not exactly what ordinary muslims know.Even if they know, the intimidation and the fear will not let them say the truth.

Posted by desmond | Report as abusive