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Proud to sing Vande Mataram!

November 09, 2009 20:33 IST
There is understandable disquiet over the resolution adopted by the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind during its 30th general session at Deoband from November 1 to 3.

'The grand session of the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind while expressing concern over communal hatred and violence exploiting the issue of Vande Mataram, condemns the provocative activities in this connection,' the resolution says, 'We can love and serve our country, but cannot elevate it to the status of Allah, the only one worshipped by MuslimsÂ… The fatwa of the Darul Uloom (Deoband) is correct... This house demands that the issue of Vande Mataram not be deliberately raised for causing communal discord and threat to law and order.'

Not be deliberately raised? This is truly astounding.

Without any provocation whatsoever, the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind adopts a resolution endorsing a fatwa against Vande Mataram issued by the Darul Uloom, Deoband, and urging India's Muslims not to sing the National Song lest it defile Islam. Yet it wants the resolution to be seen as a warning to those 'causing communal discord and threat to law and order' -- a not-so-thinly veiled reference to Hindus -- by 'deliberately' raising the 'issue of Vande Mataram.'

At first sight, it would seem the resolution apparently refers to a fatwa reportedly issued in 2006 by the Darul Uloom, Deoband, instructing Muslims not to participate in the celebrations planned by the Ministry of Human Resource Development to mark the centenary of the Congress adopting Vande Mataram as the National Song on September 7, 1906, as it would require the singing of Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay's soul-stirring immortal lines.

The mullahs of Deoband need not have worried. Whoever had given the idea to Mr Arjun Singh, the then HRD minister, had got his date wrong. The planned celebrations turned into a fiasco after historians pointed out that the Congress never met in September 1906, so it could not have possibly adopted Vande Mataram as the National Song on that date.

On that occasion, too, Indians, including Muslims, were outraged by the Deobandi fatwa reported by the media. But was there really a fatwa? On September 4, CNN-IBN reported that no such fatwa had been issued by the Darul Uloom, Deoband.

According to this news channel, the seminary wanted to 'steer clear of the issue' and insisted that it had no 'role to play' in the controversy.

The Darul Uloom, Deoband 'categorically stated it had not issued any fatwa on Vande Mataram, nor had it directed Muslim children to skip classes on September 7.'

After the mandatory finger-pointing at 'communal forces', Mohatamim Maulana Margoobur Rehman told CNN-IBN, 'Darul Uloom is being unnecessarily dragged into the Vande Mataram controversy.'

The official Web site of the Darul Uloom, Deoband, does not list the edict instructing Muslims not to sing Vande Mataram which has been cited by the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind. But the Web site of the Darul Ifta, the fatwa division of the Darul Uloom, Deoband, lists a fatwa (385/358-B/1430) dated April 7, 2009, which says Muslim children 'should avoid hymning it (Vande Mataram)' as it is 'against our creed of tauheed'. A classic example of taqiya?

Was the April 7, 2009 fatwa meant to set the stage for the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind's November resolution?

Why was it issued after the Deoband vigorously distanced itself from the Vande Mataram controversy'?

And what prompted the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind to revive the rancid debate over whether it's haram for Muslims to sing Vande Mataram?

Was the purpose to provoke a backlash and then claim victimhood?

In a sense, any discussion on the repudiation of Indian nationhood by those who view India's National Song not as a celebration of the concept of motherland as defined by our civilisational ethos but as Hindu idolatory is meaningless.

There's nothing startlingly new about the vitriolic denunciation of Vande Mataram by Maulana Mahmood Madani and his ilk who believe 'bringing women into the mainstream will create social problems and issues including their security', want India's Muslims to 'don their Islamic identity', say salam instead of namaste and live in a joyless, dark world of ignorance where the Sharia'h will apply to girls as young as 10 years old.

We have heard similar denunciation of the Vande Mataram with the explicit purpose of hurting the sensitivities of India's majority Hindu community and rejecting India as a nation earlier too. And the attack has not been restricted to our National Song.

Maulana Syed Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi (better known as Ali Mian) of the Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulama, the other famous Islamic seminary, was unrestrained by such considerations as Hindu sentiments.

'Cow-slaughter in India is a "great Islamic practice", said Mujaddid Alaf Saani II. This was his farsightedness that he described cow slaughter in India as a "great Islamic practice". It may not be so in other places. But it is definitely a great Islamic act in India because the cow is worshipped in India,' Ali Mian said in an address to a congregation of Indian and Pakistani ulema in Jeddah on April 3, 1986.

Ali Mian and his fellow ulema on the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board, which lacks legitimacy yet holds Muslims in thraldom, were to later issue a fatwa against the singing of Vande Mataram by Muslims.

Issuing fatwas against Vande Mataram can be traced to the Congress's willing capitulation in the face of opposition by those who place faith over nation.

In 1923, the Congress met at Kakinada and Maulana Mohamed Ali was brought to the venue in a procession led by a raucous band. As was the practice, the session was scheduled to begin with a rendition of Vande Mataram by Pandit Vishnu Digambar Paluskar. When Pandit Paluskar rose to sing what had by then become the anthem of India's freedom movement, Maulana Mohamed Ali protested, saying music was 'taboo in Islam' and, therefore, singing Vande Mataram would 'hurt' his religious sensitiveness.

Pandit Paluskar retorted that the Congress session was an open gathering and not a religious congregation; and since Maulana Mohamed Ali had not found the band that led his procession as 'taboo in Islam', he could not object to the singing of Vande Mataram. He then went on to sing Bankim's composition which Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi associated with 'the purest national spirit'.

It is this national spirit which bothers those among us who are loath to see their identity linked to the identity of India. At the far end we have the likes of Maulana Mahmood Madani with their separatist agenda, but that does not mean every Muslim is persuaded by the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind's bunkum.

My respect for Mr Shahid Siddiqui has gone up by leaps and bounds for thumbing his nose at the mullahs and declaring that he not only sings Vande Mataram but sings it with pride. Mr Siddiqui is not in a minority of one — there are many Muslims who will lend their voice to him because they are proud to be Indian.

Kanchan Gupta is Associate Editor of The Pioneer.

Kanchan Gupta