November 8, 2009 3:58:30 am
First,let me say that in my humble opinion the Home Minister is right to reach out to Muslims. With the Taliban at our doorstep,it is very important for Indias Muslims to understand that the way of the Taliban is not their way. Muslims in the Indian subcontinent have for centuries had a civilisation and culture that is very different from the Wahabi Islam being promoted by Islamists everywhere. Let me give you one small but important example. It is not part of Indian Muslim culture for women to be treated as human bundles to be veiled and locked indoors,illiterate and helpless. That is the Taliban way and we must make sure that they keep their ideas to themselves or take them back to Saudi Arabia where a woman can be jailed for wandering about without a man. And,whipped if seen in the company of a man who is not a relative. Muslims in India have never subscribed to such barbarous practices.
What puzzles me about Mr Chidambarams exercise in inter-faith dialogue is why he chose the Darul Uloom at Deoband as his first stop. Having had the dubious pleasure of a day trip to that institution,I have said more than once that I have never seen a religious institution that has frightened me more. My troubles began at the gate when the bearded gatekeeper told me that the head maulana would never grant me an audience since I was not veiled. I responded that he could veil himself if he was that shy and gave myself a little unguided tour. I met rabid,young Islamists who refused to speak to me because they said they were forbidden to speak any language other than Arabic. In dress,manner and beard they affected what they thought was proper Arab culture. In the hour I spent wandering about among the fine buildings and manicured gardens of the Darul Uloom,I saw only one woman and she was so heavily veiled that all I saw of her were her eyes and the tip of her nose. It was as if I had strayed into a little patch of Saudi Arabia.
If only the Home Minister had spent some time visiting the Darul Ulooms website before his visit,he would have discovered that what he thinks of as terrorism is quite different to the Darul Uloom view. Listen to this. The struggle of resistance of the weak for securing their legitimate rights against suppression or aggression is branded as terrorism. Even less ambiguous is the Darul Ulooms definition of who the worlds real terrorists are. According to the definition of terrorism by intellectuals and thinkers of the West,the conduct of the governments of USA,Israel,Russia,Phillipine (sic) and Burma may be regarded as brazen acts of state terrorism. Is this the position of the Government of India? Do we think of these countries as sponsors of state terrorism?
Then there is the Vande Mataram fatwa. Last weeks gathering of 10,000 Muslim clerics banned Muslims from singing this song. Vande Mataram is not the national anthem,nobody is forced to sing it,so it is not clear why a fatwa was needed at all unless it was to hint at a rejection of something bigger and more important: Pre-Islamic Indian culture,civilisation and history. I very much fear that this was the fatwas real intention. On the Darul Ulooms website I came across a line that described the state of India before this fine institution came into being. The old madaris in India had almost become extinct and condition of the two or four that had survived the ravages of time was not better than that of glow worms in a dark night.
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Is dark night a description of India before Islam came to enlighten us infidels? I ask because when I read the words I was reminded of a board outside the grave of an Iraqi preacher who came to Rajasthan many centuries ago to spread Islam. He ended up in Nagaur and the board outside the shrine that preserves his remains says that he came to India because he saw it as a vast darkness. So the Vedas,the Puranas,that extraordinary treasure of Sanskrit literature,the Ramayana,the Mahabharata,all get dismissed as pre-Islamic garbage. Right? They cannot possibly have come out of the darkness that was India and cannot compare even with the glow-worms that existed before the great enlightenment that has come since the creation of the Darul Uloom.
It really is no surprise that the Darul Uloom spawned the Taliban. What is a surprise is the Home Ministers choice of this institution to make his fine speech about pluralism and diversity. If he had stopped to ask the head maulana his views on pluralism he may have come away with a new kind of enlightenment.
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