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'Communalism and terrorism are inextricably linked'

February 18, 2009 12:17 IST
The Dar ul-Uloom at Deoband, which played a leading role in the struggle for India's independence, has in recent years been targeted by certain forces that have sought to link it with terrorism.

In an interview with Shahid Zaidi of the Urdu weekly newspaper Alami Sahara, the seminary's deputy rector Maulana Abdul Khaliq Madrasi speaks about the allegation, on the organisation's alleged role in the Kandhahar hijack episode, and more.

Below is an excerpt, translated by Yoginder Sikand, from the interview that appeared in the issue of Alami Sahara dated January 17.

For some years now, charges have been levelled against the Dar ul-Uloom Deoband of being allegedly associated with terrorism. Why is this so?

This requires a detailed explanation, but I will be brief. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the West, principally America, required an enemy to sustain itself, and this it conjured up in the form of Islam.

In this project, the Jewish lobby had a key and leading role to play. Following the attacks of 9/11, the Western powers invaded Afghanistan and Iraq and, at the same time, also launched a sustained attack against Islam itself.

Thus began a well-planned conspiracy to defame Islamic institutions and to seek to link Islam and Muslims with terrorism. In such a situation, how could one expect that the anti-Islamic forces would not make the Dar ul-Uloom an object of their attack?

However, not only has the Dar ul-Uloom effectively rebutted this malicious and false propaganda against it, but it has also unleashed a jihad against terrorism.

And, besides tearing off the veil behind which American global terrorism masquerades, it has also sought to expose the growing terrorism within India itself, and this struggle continues.

But why is it that within India some forces are seeking to present a very negative image of the Dar ul-Uloom Deoband?

This is not limited just to the Dar ul-Uloom Deoband. Islam and Muslims themselves are being sought to be projected in the same light. Behind this, too, is the hand of Israel and America, who are being helped by the Sangh Parivar in India.

I believe that this game started ever since our country's relations with America and Israel became increasingly close. Muslim intellectuals, ulema (scholars) and also the leaders of the Dar ul-Uloom Deoband have consistently been stressing the point that this unholy and dangerous game of terrorism is being jointly played by the Israeli secret service agency Mossad, the American intelligence agencies and the Sangh Parivar, acting together, who have sought to place the blame for this squarely on the Dar ul-Uloom and on Muslims in general.

This is clearly evident from the terror links of some people associated with the Sangh Parivar and which the chief of the Mumbai Anti-Terror Squad, the late Hemant Karkare, a brave officer who was recently martyred, unearthed.

Had he survived a few more days he would have brought to light much more evidence. The circumstances surrounding his death have raised numerous doubts and questions.

The report of the Second Administrative Commission, headed by Veerappa Moily that was commissioned by the present United Progressive Alliance government, has, in its section on countering terrorism, claimed that the chief of the Jaish-e-Mohammad, Masood Azhar, paid a secret visit to India in 1996, where he met with leaders of the Dar ul-Uloom at Deoband. On the basis of this report, Vinay Katiyar, a senior BJP leader, has accused the Dar ul-Uloom of harbouring terrorists. What do you have to say about this?

If it is true that the report of the commission has said this, it must present whatever proof or evidence that it has to substantiate the claim. The allegation that Vinay Katiyar has levelled against the Dar ul-Uloom, based on the report, is serious, and it is the duty of the government to establish its veracity or otherwise.

We have earlier also firmly rebutted allegations leveled by Katiyar and Praveen Togadia. Even the rector of the Dar ul-Uloom, Maulana Marghub ur-Rahman, has done so, and has said that the government must respond to and answer the specific reference that Katiyar has made with regard to the Moily Commission Report, and that the government must take notice of Katiyar's false and baseless allegation.

But why has the Dar ul-Uloom not taken any legal action against people like Vinay Katiyar?

All major decisions of the Dar ul-Uloom are taken on the basis of collective consultation (shura). As far as I know, the shura committee of the Dar ul-Uloom has not deliberated on this issue. We also believe that, in contrast to the communal forces, the secular and fair-minded people of our country do not believe in these false allegations. The elders of the Dar ul-Uloom have very forcefully rebutted these hollow charges.

This is for the first time that communal forces have made a reference like this to the report of a government-appointed commission as a basis, and that is why the Dar ul-Uloom has been demanding that the government should make the truth about the report public, otherwise it would stain the government's image.

As far as Masood Azhar is concerned, he was never a student of the Dar ul-Uloom. He was released from jail by the National Democratic Alliance government. Top BJP leader and the then foreign minister Jaswant Singh arranged for him to be sent to Afghanistan, and Singh claimed that this was backed by then home minister Lal Kishenchand Advani, and on the instructions of the then NDA Cabinet.

It is said that the then NDA government took the help of an important person associated with the Dar ul-Uloom to deliver Masood Azhar to Afghanistan and to have some 200 passengers aboard a hijacked Indian airplane released, and that, following this, the Sangh Parivar launched a propaganda campaign seeking to tarnish the image of the Dar ul-Uloom by alleging that it was associated with terror. What do you say?

The important person you are referring to has left this world. I do not know exactly what help the then government took from him in this regard, but I believe this cannot be the basis (for the allegations leveled against the Dar ul-Uloom).

If the government takes the help of an important person for the sake of the country and to get innocent citizens released, how can it be used as an argument to claim that this person or the institution that he was associated with had links with terrorists?

As I said before, this entire drama that is being enacted seeking to associate the Dar ul-Uloom with terrorism is the handiwork of America, Israel and the Sangh Parivar.

On December 19, 2008, Pakistan's Permanent Representative to the UN Security Council, Abdullah Husain Haroon, made a statement claiming that only the Dar ul-Uloom Deoband, can rein in the terrorists active in the tribal areas of north-west Pakistan because these terrorists are associated with the Deobandi school of thought. What do you have to say about this?

The Dar ul-Uloom strongly condemned this statement of the Pakistani representative and demanded that Pakistan should question him and make him withdraw what he had said.

This statement is also a reflection of the Pakistani government's consternation in the wake of mounting pressure following the Mumbai attacks.

It has tried to wriggle out of this by wrongly seeking to blame the Dar ul-Uloom, but in this has been unsuccessful. At the same time (through this wrong allegation), it has tried to mislead international opinion to believe (its claim) that it is India that is responsible for this terrorism.

However, the benefit of this baseless allegation was reaped not by Pakistan but by the Sangh Parivar. Further, behind this fallacious claim of the Pakistani representative is the long-standing resentment that Pakistan nurtures because of (the Dar ul-Uloom's) opposition to the creation of Pakistan and the 'two-nation theory'.

What do you have to say about the recent controversy that erupted in the Dar ul-Uloom surrounding the arrest of two Bangladeshi students?

Till date, not a single terrorist has been apprehended from the Dar ul-Uloom Deoband, contrary to the misleading propaganda of some Hindi newspapers. At present, there are just two students from Bangladesh studying in the Dar ul-Uloom, and both have come on visas.

We do not have any student studying illegally. Ever since the NDA government placed a strict control on visas to students wishing to study in religious institutions in India, foreign students have stopped coming to the Dar ul-Uloom.

In the past, students would come to Deoband from various Muslim countries and even from England and South Africa, and here they would not only gain religious knowledge but would also go back to their countries with a wealth of knowledge about India's composite culture and our democratic and secular system.

But this has stopped ever since the ministry of external affairs introduced strict controls on foreign students wanting to study in religious institutions in the country. If, however, the earlier policy were to be restored, the Dar ul-Uloom Deoband could serve as an effective ambassador for India in the Muslim world and even beyond, and could be a means to inform others about India's composite culture and religiously-plural society.

Leaders of the Dar ul-Uloom have repeatedly drawn the attention of the UPA government in this regard.

Do you have any other message for readers of this interview?

Terrorism and communalism, I wish to tell them, are grave threats to the prosperity and peace of our country and to harmonious, brotherly relations among the different communities. We must be aware of this. Communalism and terrorism are inextricably interlinked and both are inveterate enemies of our country.