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Faith forward

Hopefully, the Darul Uloom seminary seminary’s will reverse the trend of equating Islam with the misguided actions of fanatics.

india Updated: Feb 27, 2008 00:13 IST

For decades now, moderate Islamists have spared no effort to convince the world that Islam and violence are incompatible. But so far, they have been preaching to the converted. After 9/11, Islam has come to be viewed with greater hostility than ever before, in great measure helped by acts of terrorism across the world in the name of the great religion. So it has come as a breath of much-needed fresh air that the influential Darul Uloom seminary in Deoband, long known for its hardline stand, has come out in no uncertain terms against the outrages being committed in the name of Islam. Its rector Maulana Marghoobur Rahman has said, “Killing of innocents is not compatible with Islam. It is anti-Islamic.” This is the first time that a religious institution has so strongly condemned violence in the name of Islam.

Hopefully, the seminary’s statements will reverse the trend of equating Islam with the misguided actions of fanatics. Coming as it does from scholars and men who are held in high esteem in the community, it will be difficult for hotheads to challenge these statements. It is clear that there has been considerable internal debate and discussion before the Darul Uloom made its pronouncements. This will prove a shot in the arm for moderate Muslims not just in India but in the region who have been uncomfortable with the new jehadi Islamic tradition that has been promoted by certain sections. So far, the Indian Muslim community has been reactive in its public position, normally articulated after some terrorist outrage or the other. Now the Deobandis have broken that mould and assumed a proactive role. This will not only take the wind out of the sails of those within the community who have chosen to interpret Islam to serve their own nefarious ends, but also fundamentalists within the Hindu fold who have always been quick to equate Islam with terror.

This provides a golden opportunity for clerics of other faiths to engage in dialogue with their Muslim counterparts in the true spirit of secularism as envisaged in our Constitution. India could well provide a framework to resolve inter-faith conflicts across the world if it can build on these positive developments and those in our region like the complete rejection of fundamentalist parties in Pakistan’s recent elections. If all concerned play their cards well, the ‘clash of civilisations’ could become an outdated concept.