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Muslims invite Togadia to learn Islam

The vitriolic Muslim basher is being invited by scholars at a leading madrassa in UP to visit them so as to understand their community better.

india Updated: Aug 06, 2006 10:54 IST

Vitriolic Muslim basher Pravin Togadia is being invited by scholars at the leading Islamic seminary in Deoband to visit them so as to understand Islam and the country's Muslim community better.

The Darul Uloom says it is important for Hindu hardliners such as Togadia to come to the 140-year-old madrassa to have interaction with Islamic scholars with a view to removing misunderstandings.

"We have invited Togadia even in the past and we reiterate our invitation to him," Mohammed Qari Usman, the Naib Mohtamin (assistant administrator) of Darul Uloom, said, referring to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader.

Added Adil Siddiqui, the seminary's spokesman: "If you are sincere, see what we are doing. We invite everyone. All kinds of people come to Darul Uloom. Even BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) leaders have come here. We also invite Togadia.

"Come, stay with us, talk to us, see for yourself what is going on, go around (the seminary), and see what we teach our students. We came up in 1866 under the shade of a tree, and we believe in the values Mahatma Gandhi preached."

Darul Uloom now has some 3,700 students who study Islamic theology for free for 13 years. The five years of primary education includes Hindi, English, Urdu, Persian, history, general knowledge and mathematics.

During the next eight years, theology, logic and Islamic jurisprudence are taught. Some also go for computers, advanced English and journalism. Tailoring, book binding and calligraphy form part of the professional courses.

A majority of the students come from poor and lower income families.

Qari Usman says there is nothing wrong with the growing number of madrassas in India, insisting that indeed more were needed to cater to the religious needs of Muslims, the country's largest religious minority.

He underlined that it was often forgotten that Islamic ulema, or scholars, played a major role in the 1857 war of independence and that the Darul Uloom had bitterly opposed the British Raj as well as the 1947 partition of India.

"The reality is that the VHP and others want to crush Muslims in this country," Qari Usman said. "They don't want any Muslims here. It is their Hindu Mahasabha mentality.

"People ask us about madrassas and (Islamist) terrorism. What about those who openly and brazenly preach violence against Muslims? Nothing is done about them.

"As far as we are concerned, whoever has done the Mumbai train bombings (that killed over 200 people), every Muslim feels bad about it. We have no links with such people."

At the same time, Qari Usman pointed out that there were reasons why young Muslims in the country were frustrated, one of them being discrimination against them at various levels.

"Despite all this, Muslims are carrying on with their lives."

Qari Usman, however, showed no sympathy for US troops bogged down in a war of attrition in Iraq, where thousands of Americans have died fighting an insurgency that followed the toppling of Saddam Hussein.

"When someone comes and occupies one's home, what will a person do?" he says, when asked about the resistance to US forces that has taken the form of unending suicide bombings.

"As for the insurgents, it is the Americans who taught the mujahideen all this when they fought the Soviets in Afghanistan. At that time the fighters were with America. Now everyone is a terrorist. What to do?"

The American administration, he said, had invited the scholars of Darul Uloom to the US. He said the seminary turned down the invite.

Another seminary official added: "The Americans also offered computers to us. We said: 'Thank you but no'."

First Published: Aug 06, 2006 10:54 IST