Deoband Declaration Against Terrorism

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS

NEW DELHI – Denouncing terrorism, leading Muslim theologians from across the country said that it is completely against the teachings of Islam. The statement was made last week (February 24) at an all-India conference organized by Darul Uloom at Deoband in Uttar Pradesh, with the subject, “Anti-Terrorism, All-India Conference.” The declaration issued at the conclave, with support from about 10,000 participants representing some 6,000 religious schools categorically labeled terrorism and any kind of violence as a “sin.” Describing Islam as a “faith of love and peace,” Maulana Marghoobur Rahman (Darul Uloom, Deoband) said: “There is no place for terrorism in Islam. Terrorism, killing of the innocent is against Islam.”

While strongly condemning terrorism, the declaration also voiced concern at developments across the world, for which Muslims are not to be blamed. “It is a matter of great concern that the internal and external policies of our country are getting heavily influenced by these forces. Aggression, barbarism and state-sponsored terrorism not only in Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan but also in Bosnia and various South American countries have surpassed all records known to human history,” it said.

Voicing objection to the tendency of linking Islam with terrorism in the west, the declaration expressed concern at this trend spreading to India. Criticizing the discriminatory approach adopted towards Indian Muslims, particularly those linked with madrasas, the declaration pointed to there being no knowing of when a madrasa-associate may be labeled as a terrorist despite his being an innocent Muslim, living a clean and pious life. The declaration also drew attention to numerous Muslims being in jails without any solid evidence of their being terrorists. This was all the more condemnable in light of people belonging to other religious groups roaming around scot-free even after having indulged in violence and other criminal activities. The declaration stated that such a partial and discriminatory approach towards Muslims raised questions over the nature of Indian secularism. Strongly urging the government to put a check on this trend, the declaration highlighted the need for preserving the country’s secularism. The declaration also asserted the gathering’s commitment to and demand for attitude towards Muslims in keeping with fundamentals – related to secularism, law and justice – governing the country.

The declaration laid out that care should be taken in not labeling the entire religious community of an individual charged for terrorist-offences as terrorist. To check this trend, the declaration voiced the need for having similar conferences of this nature in different parts of the country.

Though the Muslim leaders in the recent years have come together several times to voice their stand on different issues, these gatherings have been largely of a political nature. It was perhaps the first occasion, when Muslim theologians of the country gathered at one place to condemn terrorism, strongly express that Islam does not support terrorism and critically oppose the discriminatory approach displayed by authorities in labeling Muslim individuals as Islamic terrorists. With Darul Uloom, founded in 1866, held as the most influential Muslim religious school in South and Southeast Asia, its declaration against terrorism is expected to have a significant impact.

By and large, the declaration, viewed as a fatwa by some, has been welcomed by Muslims across the country. Maharashtra Congress Party spokesman Mohammad Hussain Dalwai welcomed the anti-terrorism declaration and said that the nation should jointly face the evil of terrorism. The Hindu organizations should pass similar resolution against extremism and terrorism, he said.

“We fully endorse the Deoband fatwa against terrorism because there is not a single school of religious thought in Islam which endorses the killings of innocent persons in retaliation of any criminal act,” Saud Alam Qasmi, dean of theology at Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), said. “Muslims are being singled out and punished for all acts of terror and organized violence whereas others responsible for similar crimes are not being dealt with according to the law,” he said. “If the approach of double standards in tackling organized violence is not checked at the earliest then it will have dangerous ramifications,” Qasmi said.

Welcoming the declaration, All Sikkim Muslim Association (ASMA)’s Public Relations Officer Mohammed Khalid said: “Islam subscribes to the principles of peace, non-violence, brotherhood and those people indulging in terrorism and violence in the name of religion are not abiding by the teachings of the holy book Quran.”

There has been, however, a mixed reaction from Muslim organizations of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). Expressing that the declaration is not in support of Islamic movements in the world, Jamiatul Mujahideen (JM) has demanded a fresh decree from Deoband. “By making a large number of scholars assemble there, Deoband wanted to make its position clear that it is against all the Islamic and pro freedom movement in the world. The Deoband scholars must sit again, reconsider their decree and issue a fresh decree for jihad,” JH spokesman Jameel Ahmad said. At the same time, he accepted that Darul Uloom is an important Islamic educational institution.

Describing the Deoband declaration as “correct, but one-sided,” Syed Sadaqat Hussain, spokesman for Muzaffarabad-based United Jihad Council (UJC) said: “Maulana (Marghoobur Rahman) is correct in saying that Islam rejects terrorism, but there is no interpretation especially because various powers are dubbing genuine struggles as terrorism.” “We respect the scholars at Deoband and we hope that they would discuss the struggles in Palestine, Afghanistan, Kashmir, Chechnya, and Iraq and interpret it in the light of what Quran says,” he said.

Questioning the silence of Deoband declaration on Kashmir, Sheikh Aziz, an executive member of moderate Hurriyat Conference, agreed that Islam does not allow killing of non-combatants. “But the scholars have touched one aspect of the problem and remained silent on the real problem of Kashmir,” he said. While he had respect for Deoband school, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who heads a parallel Hurriyat faction, seemed unconvinced by their declaration. “The decree would have no impact on Kashmir struggle, which is political,” he said.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesman V.K. Malhotra said: “They said Islam does not permit terrorism. If it can be put in practice, it will be most welcome.”


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