Although Islamic leaders across the country last month dismissed the World Hindu Council’s demand that Muslims declare India Dar al Aman, or land of peace, this week the country’s leading Islamic seminary, Darul Uloom Deoband, issued a fatwa declaring just that. The Hindu council – the Viswa Hindu Parishad, or VHP – in letters sent to the country’s top 13 Muslim organisations last month, including the seminary, sought a fatwa from Muslim clerics that would state clearly that India is a Dar al Aman and Hindus are not Kafirs (infidels). Islamic leaders called the move “irrelevant, illogical and provocative”. Quoting e-mails, allegedly sent by the Indian Mujahideen terrorist group that has orchestrated terror attacks on India in the past, the VHP letters, drawn up by the body’s Religion Protection Council, also demanded the fatwa clarify that jihad, or holy war, is not justified against India.
In response, the seminary this week issued a fatwa saying that since the Indian constitution guarantees equal protection and rights for all communities, including Muslims, India is Dar al Aman, though it did not declare that Hindus were not Kafirs. “Jihad is illegitimate in this Dar al Aman and India has ceased to be a Dar al Harb with the end of colonial rule ? All non-Muslims are indeed Kafirs, though that should not be regarded as a pejorative term. Muslims should consider Hindus as their brothers and sisters. Islam does not permit injustice against non-Muslims,” the seminary fatwa reads. But most Muslim leaders across the country were irked at the VHP demand for the fatwa, saying Muslim community members never considered independent India a land hostile to Muslims. Moreover, Islamic leaders have always decried terror attacks in the strongest possible terms. Calling the VHP demand for the fatwa “illogical”, Maolana Adbul Khaleque Madrasi, senior cleric and vice rector of Darul Uloom Deoband, said the Hindu organisation was raking up a non-issue and it could lead to further disharmony between the two communities.
Although the Darul Uloom Deoband issued the fatwa, some Muslim clerics from the same seminary said it would not have been wrong to ignore the VHP’s demand. “Those who asked for the fatwa should know that we have launched a series of meetings across India condemning terrorism, apart from issuing a fatwa along the same lines last year,” said Maolana Madrasi, referring to a fatwa issued in May by the seminary’s leader declaring that Islam forbids any act of terrorism. “In our [May 2008] fatwa and speeches by our clerics on different occasions, we clearly stated how terrorism and violence against innocent people had no place in Islam.” Q R Ilyas, a senior Jamaat-e-Islami leader and a member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board Working Committee, said the VHP was dividing Indian society and attempting to set Hindus against Muslims by seeking such fatwas “unnecessarily”. “The demand of the fatwa is nothing but a VHP attempt to help the [Hindu] BJP party in forthcoming parliamentary elections, by polarising the society along communal lines. It was not really necessary to respond to the VHP demand for the fatwa,” Mr Ilyas said. The VHP’s international president, Ashok Singhal, said religion-inspired violence and terrorism would never come to an end unless Muslims condemned it strongly in a fatwa. “They say Islam is a religion of peace. So, we want them to issue a fatwa on that line,” said Mr Singhal, who had taken the initiative in seeking the fatwa, according to the Urdu-speaking press.
Muslim community leaders and authors have taken turns to criticise VHP for seeking the fatwa. Aziz Mubaraki, a young Muslim leader in Kolkata, said it was the VHP that was instigating communal riots and terrorist activities in India and it was “ridiculous” that it was seeking the fatwa. “Muslim religious and social groups in the past year have condemned terrorism in countless religious meetings, seminars and public rallies,” he said. “There is no proof of any Muslim religious organisation being involved in any communal or anti-national activity in India. But in recent years, VHP itself and its other militant offshoots have been directly involved in open acts of terrorism against minorities in scores of cases. They have no moral right to seek any antiterrorism action from anybody.” Aziz Burney, chief editor of the national Urdu daily Roznama Sahara, launched a scathing attack against the VHP in an editorial, accusing the religious group of double standards and stirring up sectarian tensions. “Can Mr Singhal point out any Indian Muslim institution training terrorists, the way Bhonsala Military School and Abhinab Bharat did?” he wrote, referring to Hindu institutions in Maharashtra state that police say had leading roles in establishing a terror network. “Mr Singhal is the leader of the group [VHP] which in Gujarat and Orissa – in riots – killed thousands of innocent Muslims and Christians. Members of his group have been killed while making bombs meant for terrorist attacks. Has he ever condemned these activities by his groups the way Muslims came forward en masse condemning terrorism?”