VINUTHA MALLYA writes from Kuala Lumpur: Churumuri, of course, hasn’t carried even a word on the subject, but the “anti-terrorism” call sent out by one of the oldest and most orthodox Islamic seminaries in South Asia, the Dar-ul-Uloom in Deoband (Uttar Pradesh), has received scant square centimetres in our so-called “national newspapers”.
Which is so true to type: we are quick off the block when Dar-ul-Uloom decrees that co-education is “unlawful”. When it says television is sinful and un-Islamic and issues a fatwa against it, we shout from the rooftops.
Even when Muslim enrolment in Karnataka shows a rise, we somehow find a reason to suspect madrassas.
The irony is unmistakeable. Each time, there is a terror attack, every time, talking heads on television and other sage voices in print, believe that time has come for “moderate Muslims” to speak up. But when a major Muslim body—a “radical seminary” at that—states that terror is un-Islamic, silence, deafening silence!
The newspapers were perhaps exhausted after covering the arrests in Karnataka, of suspected ‘terrorists’ and the discovery of several camps in the forests.
Which is not to say there was nothing in the media. There was. On the morning after Dar-ul-Uloom declared that terrorism did not have credence in Islam, most newspapers dutifully reported in 300-500 words what we already knew—that terrorism has no sanction in the religion.
The only ‘news’ found to be worth reporting was that the February 25 conference was the first of its kind, which brought together Islamic scholars from across the country to discuss, define and condemn terrorism. If there was a debate within the august gathering while the landmark declaration was being formulated, it wasn’t considered important enough to be reported.
The editorials appearing over the next few days followed the same cursory tone. One suggested that this was an opportunity for groups of other faiths to start a dialogue with the ulema. Another hailed it for defining terrorism and for being the first Islamic institution of India, not to mention the most orthodox, to give such a declaration.
One said that along with the declaration the religious leadership should look at reforms within and focus on providing liberties to the community, and guide the “misguided youths”. Each leader writer and op-ed writer agreed on one thing: this was a first step and more needs to be done. But this is like motherhood and apple pie, who can disagree with these predictable reactions?
The only detailed reportage, in English, of the conference itself, and who-said-what-and-why, came from scholar Yoginder Sikand.
Almost all the angrezi reporters missed one key aspect: The deliberations at the conference were not intended to send out a message to the ‘terrorists’ to give up fighting in the name of the religion. Instead, it was a message to all those who have fallen in the trap of equating Islam with terrorism. So, while the convent-educated newspersons were euphoric, thinking that a “stand” had been taken by the respected scholars, the truth was that the ulema wanted to dispel perceptions which non-Muslims have about their religion.
In the declaration issued after the conference, titled ‘Concept of Peace And Condemnation of Terrorism in Islam’, the ulema have addressed all the scenarios of terrorist activities such as attacks on innocent people, hijacking of aircraft, and most importantly the concept of ‘Jehad’. Quoting extensively from the Koran to make their point, the scholars have tried to convince the finger-pointing Islamophobes about the peaceful and tolerant nature of Islam.
The document does not fail to bring up the classical conspiracy theory of the West and the Zionists against Islam. It labels the Indian media ‘subservient’ in its role by helping these ‘elements’ link Islam with terrorism, instead of being objective and neutral. Not to be outdone, the US Government sent a delegation to Deoband last week to show support and to make it known that contrary to perception the US is not ‘anti-Islam’.
On the point that the Indian media (by which one refers here to the English-language media) has not been objective and neutral, I agree with the ulema. But it is also reflective of the social milieu we are now part of. For the majority of non-Muslims, including journalists, Islam and its social and religious institutions are totally alien. Despite having co-existed for centuries, the majority of India is at a loss when it comes to figuring out this religion, which is now on the defensive. And the majority has stopped wanting to know. Unfortunately so have the journalists graduating from media schools, leaving it to the Urdu press to discuss these matters.
India is shining and the economy, Bollywood and urban lifestyles make for better copy and ‘breaking news’.
A negative story like arrests of suspected terrorists makes more headlines than examining the details of one of the largest conferences organized by an Islamic seminary. Not only does it take less home work to cover the arrests, but the sensational value of the story is an absolute gold mine!
But the poor coverage and analysis of the Dar-ul-Uloom “Terror is Un-Islamic” conference is not the only exhibit of how the Indian media is feeding the fears and fantasies of the middleclass masses.
Three days earlier to that, a bunch of Muslim MPs, cutting across party lines, proposed an alternative plan to do away with the Haj subsidy. At a time when the Andhra Pradesh government was facing criticism for considering subsidies to Christians similar to the Haj subsidy, this piece of news went unnoticed by everyone else and was reported only in The Telegraph, Calcutta, by Radhika Ramaseshan on February 22.
When the Centre rejects a proposal to hike Haj fares, we go ballistic. We ask why there shouldn’t be similar subsidies for Hindus going to Kailash-Mansarovar or Vaishnodevi, but when there is a proactive attempt by Muslim MPs themselves to do away with Haj subsidies, we go weak in the knees.
Is that because good news on Muslims makes bad news?
Also read: Where has all our compassion and tolerance gone?
Cross-posted on sans serif
Dar-Ul-Uloom’s anti terrorism call did actually make it to the front page of some English news papers and the Haj subsidy story also got written about. If only Telegraph in Calcutta wrote about the subsidy, I wouldn’t have known about it sitting in Mumbai. Surely you’ve missed out on some facts Vinutha. After all it is one isolated instance of a muslim organization issuing a statement against terrorism in remote UP. Why blow it out of proportion and make it look as though it’s representative of most Muslim organizations?
You talk of the rest of us figuring out how this religion works. I think it should be the other way round. Muslims should figure out mainstream and be part of it.
Did you read what tavleen singh of indian express wrote about the same organization ? you obviously DID’nt.
Deoband is not representative of the muslim community at large and has no bearing on the thought process of the common muslim on the street. Even SIMI claims it is not a terrorist organisation but its actions are exactly opposite to what it claims. So how much credence do we have to give to this declaration by clerics of deoband. After all it was the chief maulvi of deoband who asked the muslims not to pray for the indian army jawans during kargil war, because they were fighting co-religionists in the pakistan army. How are we sure that this is not another case of al-taqiyah ?
Please answer the following questions:
1. The Deoband sect did not criticise the following:
a. Terrorism in Kashmir and the death of Hindu priets
b. The rape, mutiliation and genocide that is going on right now in Somalia.
When the Deoband is honest about its intentions, please wake me up. Else dont give me this absurd notion of Deoband taking a stand against anti-terrorism.
Have you been living under some rock? IBN drove us all mad with its constant coverage on its web site.
Coming to the actual condemnation, it is rather misleading. The Dar Ul Uloom has condemned so called state sponsored terrorism (and has extensively mentioned the US and western countries) but there is not a word on Jihadi terrorism. There is not a single word condemning the various terrorist acts in India.
To call this as some giant leap forward would be misleading.
Ah the ever delightful Ms Malliah is back! How nice!
Superb rejoinder. Your post must be a ‘must read’ for all ‘scholars’ like Malliah and her ilk:)
“….To call this as some giant leap forward would be misleading.”
but thats what ‘great’ newspapers like The Hindu did and continues to do!
If one simple resolution was the solution to the complex problem posed by the Jehadi Muslims the world over, then the author is living in a world of make-belief. This is her third take at Churumuri and she is graduating as a pretentious and pompous scribe with half-baked knowledge that merits no rebuttal.
why dont you write about the Hindus’ plight in Malaysia and the atrocities met to them by the Malaysian administration? Why sympathise so much about only Muslims? I think you can do a better job by studying the situation of Hindus at your place.
“…..Almost all the angrezi reporters missed one key aspect: The deliberations at the conference were not intended to send out a message to the ‘terrorists’ to give up fighting in the name of the religion. Instead, it was a message to all those who have fallen in the trap of equating Islam with terrorism…..
“…. the truth was that the ulema wanted to dispel perceptions which non-Muslims have about their religion…”
That is precisely why this ulema meeting was rightly ignored.
Instead of addressing the issue of terrorism, the ulemas wanted to send a message to the victims of terrorism that islam is a peaceful religion.
And if Vinutha Mallya’s writing is any indication, the Ulema’s message has been rightly taken and digested. By the author.
I don’t mean to offend muslims..but I pray that Islam shall always be an alien religion in india..
“…Hindus’ plight in Malaysia and the atrocities met to them by the Malaysian administration…”
What bollocks. There’s nothing to write about “Hindus’ plight” in Malaysia. It is just a bunch of Konga hooligans being treated in a manner any govt., worth its salt would treat such ruffians. Having said that, Vinutha’s whine is just the cliched old whine in old bottle. zzzzzz…
Vinutha is certainly living under some rock. By the ELM she obviously does not include The Indian Express and its in-your-face politically incorrect livewire reporter – the peerless Tavleen Singh. Tavleen has written about this lost-in-mists-of-time entity in Deoband quite a few times. And this time too she was right on the mark and ripped this apology of a denunciation to shreds. Yoginder Singh is an appeasing misinformer, so let’s ignore him and instead read Tavleen in the original.
Sisya, as a matter of fact it is Hindus, kongas or otherwise, being treated like dirt in Malaysia. Whassa matter? Can’t find the courage to treat your konga friends in Bangalore the same way like your Malaysian buddies. But where would you? When people like you are zzzzz’ing most of the time and having your by-2 and 3-by-5s, kongas from across the border walk in and take your jobs away. Wake up sisya!
Reading between the lines of Deoband fatwa
Posted online: Sunday, March 02, 2008 at 2315 hrs IST
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.
Last week, this seminary was in the news because it declared cinema offensive to Islam and held a conference of bearded clerics at which terrorism was discussed. The cinema fatwa can be ignored because it is meaningless except to literalist interpreters of Islam and they do not go to the movies anyway. The All-India Anti-Terrorism Conference held in Deoband on 17 Safar 1429H (February 25) we need to pay careful attention to. Most newspapers reported on their front pages that the conference had condemned terrorism. As someone who thinks of the Deobandi interpretation of Islam as exactly the kind we do not want in our land of happy infidels, my ears instantly pricked up. Could the Darul Uloom have changed since my one and only visit? Had it now become a place of unveiled women? The head Maulana refused to entertain my request for an interview because I was unveiled. And, I, proud infidel that I am, sent him a message to veil himself if he had a problem with gazing upon the female form.
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. After declaring untruly that Islam treats all mankind with equality (there should be no infidels then) the declaration says, ‘Islam sternly condemns all kinds of oppression, violence and terrorism’.
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.
The problem with institutions like the Darul Uloom is they give all Muslims a bad name. The vast majority of Indian Muslims do not believe in the literalist interpretation of Islam that the Saudis propagate through seminaries like the one in Deoband. They do not think of cinemas as ‘centres of sin’ or believe that the solution to the world’s problems lies in returning to the times of the Prophet. They do not believe either that the West is a ‘tyrant and colonial master’ but it is not those Muslims that our ‘secular’ government likes to promote, so the finance minister in his budget last week announced a fund to modernise madrassas. It is a criminal waste of tax-payers’ money and a disservice to the Muslim community because what ordinary, non-jihadi Muslims need badly are neighbourhood schools that are modern, secular and affordable. If they want to turn their children into maulvis they will send them to the Darul Uloom type seminary anyway. And, even a casual stroll in its compounds is all you need to notice that it is flush with funds.
Personally, as a secular, unbelieving Indian, I object to my money being spent on religious schools of any kind. I understand that we are heading towards a general election and the Muslim vote bank is elusive and important but if the Congress party and its Marxist friends want to woo it, then they should use party funds and not the budget. Right?
Is it true that Darul Uloom still consults its heads in Pakistan before declaring fatwas and calls?! Read it in a newspaper.
The author obviously has not read Indian Newspapers! It made it to ToI and DH front page (that too on the top). DH wrote an editorial on it. There was even critical analysis of this on offstumped. I am a little surprised how this post got past the “editorial board” of churumuri :-)
Why did Darul take so long to come out with this statement?
Being in Kuala Lumpur, why not write about Indians being treated badly there?? Why not write about the mixed traditions of Malays, that has Hindu as well as Islam practices? Or may be she should take a small trip to Bali and write about the Hindu practices there?
Anyway, Karnad, URA, G Lankesh, A Roy…will all be happy
Churumuri, why are you giving a lot of space to `secularists’?
This writer seems to be yet another self-claimed pseudosecular in the making. Great going, you will soon get identified on the lines of Gouri and teesta!
I am sure the cute l’il miss can defend herself, but is Ms Mallya claiming that the English Language Media did not cover the news? Or that the sultans of sanity, like Gush-gush Singh, did not comment on it? She is not. What she is questioning is the quantum of coverage. For the Hindutwits, it might seem that there has been enough coverage of the Deoband and Haj stories. For the Commutwits, it might seem as if there has not been enough coverage. The truth, as always, lies somewhere in between, depending on the rag you buy each morning. But if we can be subjected to frenetic graphics, SMS polls, ‘Jana Dani’, news analyses, opinion pieces and pure speculation and rumours when bad news is in the air, surely a responsible media should give similar if not same attention to “good news”?
Terrorism: statement condemning it.
If Islam is a religion of peace then why not issue fatwa against LeT, JeM or Al Qaeda?
Recently an art exhibition (organized by Francois Gautier) on the life of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb which included demolition of the Somnath temple and the Mathura temple was pulled off forcibly by the TN police on the orders of the DMK government. The reason given was that the exhibits were too “communal in nature”. Many newspapers did not even cover this story, let alone making it a major headline. Apparently, the clerics were able to influence the TN government before much “damage” was done. This instance is a clear rebuttal to Vinutha Mallya’s thoughtless piece.
English media in general ignore such stories because of political pressure. Had this been another exhibition of MF Hussein’s paintings, the whole media would have cried foul.
People like Vinutha Mallya and Arundhati Roy just have big mouths, an imaginative mind and generous column spaces for their junk.
Are Tamilans not a part of India? what a moron are you? I think you are an ardent follower of The Hindu daily!
I see that the point was lost, except on Aatmasakshi.
@Taleharate: Deoband is one of the oldest seminaries of South Asia, established nearly 150 years ago. It is certainly not the only representative, but is the largest Sunni seminary in these parts. The Darul Uloom is not an “isolated organisation” by any measure.
Also, for my understanding and the readers’ of Churumuri’s too, could we please have your definition of “mainstream”?
@ krishna & kaangeya: You were right, I obviously did not read Tavleen Singh’s piece. However, besides being rabid, how is her opinion contributing towards anything useful? Is Islam the only religion where the atmosphere is “cloistered”? And where women get a raw deal? Aren’t there Hindu temples and mutts where a non-Hindu would feel the same? And please don’t even get me started on the women’s status in Hindu society. And to clarify to Ms Singh, the Deobandis of India do not subscribe to the Wahabbi version of Islam from Saudi. She is right that there are many Muslims who do not care a fig about what Deoband says or doesn’t, and she has a right to opinion about how her tax money should be spent. However please be aware that the call for madrassas to be “modernised” has come from all quarters.
@ SumneNeeve: Yes, they have not. It is a question I want to ask them too. But the journalists who were there, reporting from the frontlines didn’t ask them to talk about it, or even if the ulema had, we would never know since it was not reported.
@ Mayura and Indian: Please refer to my comment above.
@ DB: Hello old friend! Didn’t think you had missed me. I am delighted to be back, but I see that in my absence your spellings have not improved.
@ Idiot: Err, did I say this resolution was a solution? I wish you read the piece(s) properly, and then if you still want to call me pompous, I will accept it gracefully :)
@ Chamundeshwari: Thanks, atleast someone understood.
@ Kadala Kutuhala: If wishes were horses….
@ Rama: The seminary’s hub is in India, not in Pakistan. In fact, the Darul Uloom had strongly opposed the partioning of India in 1947. The Darul Uloom in Pakistan no longer sees eye to eye with the
@ Satya: I saw the story on the front page too, of ToI! But like I said, it didn’t tell me anything more than what I already knew. What good is that? If the analysis by the opinionmakers of this country is going to be predictable, then we are only mouthing rhetoric and we won’t move from where we are.
@ Pragmatic & Arun: I would like to focus on India, but will give your suggestions deep thought.
@ Vishal: Despite your compliments on my mouth, mind and writing, I am in support of your argument. You are confirming the point that I am trying to make in this piece: that the media is selective in what it chooses to report.
Let’s for a moment forget the irony of a writer from Malaysia ignoring the absolutely reprehensible “bumiputra’ policy that makes 2nd class citizens of non-Muslims and instead thank you for joining this discussion.
Tavleen as have a few others (I think Kanchan Gupta in The Pioneer) have not uncovered any essential proposals in the Deoband ‘declaration’. They have simply written about it in full and shown it up as a statement that does not even pretend to condemn terrorism, leaving us to wonder if the mass of journalists bother to read press releases in full. At this moment Taslima Nasreen a refugee from fanaticism is being shown the door by a government that lacks the spine to enforce the law and afford her not any special protection, but simply what she as any other human being is entitled to, all beacause the administration is fearful of an entity like the Deoband madrassas. An institution like Deoband is “cloistered” to an absurd degree and stands all by itself. Saying that Deoband doesn’t subscribe to Wahabism is like praising Pol Pot for his rejection of the methods of Mao! There’s nothing rabid in what Tavleen has said, it is the plain truth, unpalatable maybe, but truth alright.
Rules of combat: we only fight Kongas in Karnataka when they get out of control. Elsewhere we are all Indians. Thanks.
I didnt get the point behind this long winded article.
Most of us seem to have heard about the statement from the Deoband seminary from the press. So obviously it was not blacked out and was reported in the press.
There was an article earlier about the media portraying muslims who were detained, as terrorists, and the media blew such incidents up without verifying the underlying incident or causes. And making out as though this is a general trend. This is something an unbiased press shouldn’t do. Also if the press consciously doesn’t report good work done by muslim individuals in everyday life as much as other communities – it is probably an issue.
But this rant doesn’t make much sense – some piece of news didn’t get as much coverage as the author personally wants it to – so what?
If the seminary had made this statement sometime back before the US (and proxies like Pakistan) started going after terrorists, it would be big news indeed. Or even now if the seminary did something out of the ordinary regarding this issue. For example – if they issued a fatwa against any Muslim participating in terrorist activities. Not just some generic statement saying that terrorism is unislamic. Whatever the means used – it will be news when terrorist attempts (even planned and foiled ones) by Muslims stops. Which means an end to the mentality among some muslim youth that they are always persecuted, their religion is under attack and that they are in some way superior to others around them not of their religion.
For now this is only a positive move in the right direction – and I believe it has received the attention it deserves in the press – not more, not less.
I am not disputing the argument that the media is selective in its coverage but the fact that its selectiveness is opposite in nature to what you suggest. It generally ignores the “bad news” of the muslim community as opposed to the “bad news” of the hindu community – could be because of political pressure as well.
I am going to treat all news regarding the Minority community as fiction. It is a Peaceful Religion. No doubt about that. Its followers are the most educated and tolerant people on the face of the Earth. No doubt about that. It is the Bania dominated press that is bad mouthing them.:)
@kaangeya: The irony is totally lost on me, for two reasons. I am of Indian nationality, and contrary to your assumption I am not fully resident in Malaysia. I divide equal amount of time between India and Malaysia, and pay my taxes in India. Having said that, it is indeed ironical that while there are many esteemed Churumuri readers living in countries of Northern America and Europe who are not questioned when they wax eloquent on the goings-on in India, without having to actually live through it. Mind, I have nothing against opinions of NRIs, they have a right to opine about the “motherland” whose shores they left only due to the lack of oppportunities, or so we would like to believe. You might want to welcoming me into the discussion till such time, if ever, I choose to migrate to another country.
I completely uphold Tavleen’s right to write what she thought, and my comment via this piece is more about a balance in the reportage. Tavleen’s opinion would not be different even if there was no statement coming out of Deoband. One of the points that I have highlighted is that Deoband did not comment on the terrorist acts that have recently taken place in India. I am on your side of the fence there.
The point regarding Deoband not being influenced by Wahabbis is not a matter of opinion, but a historical fact. Deoband seminary was in existence before the Wahabbis started their rule in the region which later came to be known as Saudi Arabia. They both interpret Islam on the basis of the Shariah, and to that extent can be equated. But the political influences on the Wahabbi school of thought has meant a radically different manner in interpreting Islam in that part of the world.
To understand this better (if you really want to be open minded about this), I would recommend you read Seige of Mecca, an excellent investigative book by a WSJ journalist, which is available through rediff.com.
@Vishal: If the media was ignoring the bad news about Muslims, how come we all have such high opinion of the community, as demonstrated here, in Churumuri message boards?
>>Are Tamilans not a part of India?
Sadly, they are. Thankfully though, their Malaysian counterparts are Malaysia’s to endure (or cure) – and we shouldnt be taking kindly to the likes of MuKa trying to push them down our throat. Devil will quote the scriptures if the need arises and MuKa will become a ‘Hindu’ when it suits him. When baniyas(?) in some godforsaken fiji were getting their asses whipped(supposedly) .. it never was a “Hindu” problem (if anything, it was about “Indians”) Nor was it when gujjus’ asses were on the line in Uganda. Suddenly when a bunch of konga hooligans are water cannoned in a (Muslim) Malaysia, they suddenly realise that they’re Hindus?! And we thought “Hindus” were “Aryan” and MuKa’s bros were all “Dravidian”.
terorist not muslem, terorist do it just for nationalisme,there are not islam religion in terorisme.