Are Indian Muslims leading the way in condemning terror?
For those Western critics that say Islam does not enough to to condemn terrorism, perhaps they should look at India, home to one of the world’s biggest Muslim populations — around 13 percent of mainly Hindu India’s 1.1 billion people.
On Wednesday, it was the turn of Khalid Rasheed, head of the oldest madrasa in the northern city of Lucknow — a traditional centre for Muslims and religious scholarship. He rejected terrorism as anti-Islamic after he and his colleagues had been accused of apostasy over their pacifist stance by at group that calls itself the Indian Mujahideen.
Indian Mujahideen made threats against the madrasa in which they also claimed responsibility for last week’s bomb blasts in Jaipur, western India, which killed 63 people.
“The reaction of terrorists to our stand against terror has shown that we were moving in the right direction,” Rasheed said.
Apparently a “Movement Against Terrorism” has been created by clerics to exhort imams to use Friday prayers at mosques across India to speak out against terrorism.
This was no flash in the pan. Earlier this year, tens of thousands of clerics and students from around India attended a meeting near Delhi at the 150-year-old Darool-Uloom Deoband — whose strict interpretation of Islamic law is said to have inspired the Taliban in Afghanistan — and denounced terrorism as against Islam.
It is not surprising that Rasheed said they had received support from Darool-Uloom Deoband, Indian clerics appear to be increasingly outspoken, perhaps not surprising in a country where there is a centuries-old tradition of preaching religious tolerance.
How much is this outspoken criticism happening in other Muslim countries? And how much is being reported in the Western press? I would be eager to know more.
Despite a history of religious clashes, India’s tolerance often seems to win through. It was the Mughal Emperor Akbar, who was famed in the 16th century by many for his religious tolerance and who initiated scholarly debates with Muslim, Sikhs, Christians and Hindus.
Many of India’s bombings are blamed on Islamic militants, although few groups every claim responsibility and few people are ever arrested. The attacks have mostly failed to incite Muslim-Hindu tensions.
Here in New Delhi, I always enjoy taking foreign visitors to India to the Sufi shrine in Nizamuddin. My latest guest was a U.S. diplomat based in Pakistan. Hardly allowed out in Islamabad – let alone able to visit a mosque — the diplomat wallowed in the warmth of the visit and the relaxed atmosphere of the Qawwali singers.