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memri
August 1, 2008 No.
1959

Indian Clerics Conference Issues World's First Anti-Terror Fatwa

On May 31, 2008, thousands of Islamic clerics and madrassa teachers from across India converged in the Indian capital of New Delhi for the Anti-Terrorism and Global Peace Conference, held by the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind (Assembly of Indian Clerics), a countrywide network of Islamic scholars. The conference issued an anti-terrorism fatwa, which is being called the world's first unequivocal fatwa against Islamic terror.[1]

The anti-terrorism fatwa was issued at the request of Indian MP Maulana Mahmood Madani, who heads the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, by the Darul Uloom Deoband, the 150-year-old Islamic seminary second in size only to Cairo's Al-Azhar University that controls thousands of Islamic seminaries across India and is situated in the town of Deoband near New Delhi. The fatwa was read out at the conference and administered in the form of a pledge to about 100,000 people present at the conference.[2]

The conference's importance lies in its being co-sponsored by several prominent Indian Islamic organizations, including Darul Uloom Deoband; Nadwat-ul-Ulema Lucknow, a century-old seminary of international repute; mass religious organizations such as Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, Jamiat Ahle Hadith, and Rabta Madaris Islamia Arabia; and the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, a networking and lobbying group of Indian Muslim organizations.

The following are details from the conference:

"Islam Has Come to Wipe Out All Kinds of Terrorism and to Spread… Global Peace"

The initiative for the anti-terror fatwa came from Maulana Mahmood Madani, the Indian parliamentarian who asked the Darul Uloom Deoband to clarify the Islamic stand on global peace in light of shari'a. The fatwa, signed by Darul Uloom Deoband grand mufti Maulana Habibur Rahman, stated: "Islam is a religion of peace and security. In its eyes, on any part over the surface of the earth, spreading mischief, rioting, breach of peace, bloodshed, killing of innocent persons and plundering are the most inhuman crimes."[3]

However, the conference was also concerned over the linking of terrorism with Islam and Muslims, both in India and worldwide. In this context, the fatwa stated further: "It is proven, from clear guidelines provided in the Holy Koran, that the allegation of terrorism against a religion which preaches and guarantees world peace are nothing but a lie. The religion of Islam has come to wipe out all kinds of terrorism and to spread the message of global peace. Allah knows best."[4]

The fatwa is actually the ratification of an anti-terror declaration issued by the Darul Uloom Deoband earlier this year. The declaration, which stated that killing a single person is tantamount to the killing of all humanity, without differentiation based on creed, was adopted last February by about 10,000 scholars, muftis, clerics and madrassa teachers from across India.[5]

The anti-terror fatwa, which has the support of various sects of Indian Islam, is being seen as the first scholarly statement against international terrorism. According to a media report, "[the Darul Uloom Deoband] not only declared terror activities to be anti-Islam, but also involved top clerics in defining terrorism in the light of the Quran and shari'a."[6]

The conference also adopted a declaration which sought to juxtapose Islamic terrorism with jihad. The declaration said: "There is a world of difference between terrorism and jihad. Jihad is constructive and terrorism is destructive. Jihad is for the establishment of peace... terrorism is the gravest of crimes, as held by the Koran and Islam."[7]

Maulana Mahmood Madani and Maulana Marghoobur Rahman, who is rector of Darul Uloom Deoband, were among a dozen prominent Indian clerics who addressed the conference. According to a report, Maulana Madani said: "Any action that targets innocents, whether by an individual or by any government or by a private organisation anywhere in the world constitutes, according to Islam, an act of terrorism."[8]

Leaders of Different Faiths, Scholars, and Filmmakers Support Anti-Terror Fatwa

The anti-terror conference had the support of numerous social activists, filmmakers and spiritual leaders of Hinduism, Sikhism and Jainism. Among the prominent figures who spoke at the conference were filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt, social activist Teesta Setalvad, social activist and Hindu spiritual leader Swami Agnivesh, Jain saint Lokesh Muni, and Sikh religious leader Pramjit Singh Sarna.[9]

According to a report, filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt said: "Whenever there is a bomb blast, a finger is raised at Muslims, who are put behind bars and are subjected to a sense of dejection." Islamic scholar Maulana Abdul Khaliq Madrasi said: "The biggest challenge today is the attempt to link Muslims with terrorism." Social activist Swami Agnivesh told the convention: "We will fight terrorism in every street and corner and if even after this we are called jihadi, I announce at this conference that I am the biggest jihadi. We are fully part of the Jamiat's fight against terrorism."[10]

The significance of these statements is likely to be seen in the context of Islamic terrorist groups' success in establishing a toehold among Indian Muslims, many of whom have been arrested on suspicion of being linked to a series of bombings in various Indian cities and towns in recent years. Most recently, dozens of Muslim youths were detained by police in India following the May 13 bomb blasts in the tourist city of Jaipur.[11] The high point of Indian Muslims' involvement in international terrorism was Indian nationals' participation in the 2007 car bomb attack at Glasgow International Airport.

It is in this context that the Darul Uloom Deoband is spearheading an anti-terror awareness movement among Indian Muslims, who are leaderless due to the exodus of their educated and economically influential middle class to Pakistan at the time of partition in 1947. Since the adoption of the anti-terror declaration in February of this year, the Darul Uloom Deoband has held a series of anti-terrorism meetings and conferences in the Indian towns of Varanasi, Lucknow, Kanpur, Kolkata, Surat, Ahmedabad, New Delhi and Hyderabad.[12]

Darul Uloom Deoband's unequivocal condemnation of terrorism in its fatwa has also been backed by the right-wing nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, the major Indian opposition party known for its consistent anti-Muslim rhetoric. Bharatiya Janata Party leader Rajnath Singh lauded the fatwa, saying: "The Darul Uloom Deoband is trying to disconnect Muslims from terrorism."[13]

Dalai Lama: "If A Person Is a Terrorist, He Cannot Be A Muslim"

Among Indian Muslims, awareness is rapidly growing, reinforced by hundreds of television channels and newspapers, that international terrorism is at their door and that they must act. In this context, the Dalai Lama stepped inside the Delhi's 17th-century-old Jama Masjid to lead a multi-faith prayer for peace; it is highly unusual for a non-Muslim to lead a prayer inside a mosque. In this move, he was accompanied by leaders of different faiths, political leaders, and foreign dignitaries. During the multi-faith prayer meeting, he said: "Muslims cannot be terrorists. If a person is a terrorist, he cannot be a Muslim."[14]

At Second Anti-Terror Event: "We Condemn Terrorism In All Its Forms"

Later that day, the Dalai Lama, the Imam of Jama Masjid Syed Abdullah Bukhari, social activist Teesta Setalvad, and a host of Islamic scholars from Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Jordan, Lebanon and Indonesia attended an international anti-terrorism conference, the second such anti-terror event to take place in the Indian capital in as many days. The International Anti-Terrorism Conference was organized by the Jama Masjid United Forum, which is steered by the leadership of the old Delhi's Jama Masjid.

The conference denounced terrorism in all forms. Syed Yahya Bukhari, the head of Jama Masjid United Forum, said: "It is essential to consistently condemn terrorism, in all its forms, with one voice. Whoever that person maybe or for whatever reason he commits it must be condemned. We condemn terrorism in all its forms."[15]

Muhammad Hashim Babar, a leader of Awami National Party that came to power recently in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province, was one of the delegates at the conference. He told the gathering: "The madrassas in Pakistan's tribal areas on the border with Afghanistan are nurturing grounds for terrorism. We need to establish moderate schools to counter these madrassas."[16] Babar also called for ending state support for terrorism, stating: "The root cause of terrorism is when a state patronises religion."[17]

Endnote:

[1] Rashtriya Sahara (India), June 1, 2008.

[2] Rashtriya Sahara (India), June 1, 2008.

[3] The Hindu (India), June 1, 2008.

[4] The Times of India (India), June 1, 2008.

[5] MEMRI Special Dispatch Series No. 1856, "Indian Clerics' Anti-Terror Conference Issues Declaration against Terror, Blames 'Tyrant and Colonial Master of the West [i.e. U.S.]' for Aggression in Muslim World," Indian Clerics' Anti-Terror Conference Issues Declaration against Terror, Blames 'Tyrant and Colonial Master of the West [i.e. U.S.]' for Aggression in Muslim World.

[6] Hindustan Times (India), June 1, 2008.

[7] The Hindu (India), June 1, 2008.

[8] Hindustan Times (India), June 1, 2008.

[9] Rashtriya Sahara (India), June 1, 2008.

[10] Roznama Inquilab (India), June 1, 2008.

[11] MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis Series No. 441, "Jihadist Groups Perpetrate Terror in Jaipur, India," Jihadist Groups Perpetrate Terror in Jaipur, India .

[12] MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis Series No. 441, "Jihadist Groups Perpetrate Terror in Jaipur, India," Jihadist Groups Perpetrate Terror in Jaipur, India [12]; The Times of India (India), June 1, 2008.

[13] Roznama Munsif (India), June 2, 2008.

[14] Rediff.com (India), June 1, 2008.

[15] Roznama Munsif (India), June 2, 2008.

[16] Roznama Munsif (India), June 2, 2008.

[17] The Times of India (India), June 2, 2008.