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Fatwa, Terrorism and Jehad

The decision of the Deoband school to denounce terrorism in no uncertain terms is welcome. The well-respected school's decision is significant.

COMMENTARYaugust 2, 2008 EPW Economic & Political Weekly16abdicated their prime responsibility as people’s representatives by allowing shrill security strategists, nuclear scientists, South Block bureaucrats, retired intel-ligence spooks, verbose newspaper col-umnists and television blabbermouths to divertthenational political agenda to-wards the peripheral nuclear issue. Prime minister Manmohan Singh without any political constituency and Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Prakash Karat, who has never been elected to any post since his student days, have wasted three precious years in squabbling over the nuclear deal much to the glee of the opportunist BJP leaders, L K Advani and Rajnath Singh, and cynical regional satraps like Mayawati and Mulayam Singh. This needless confrontation will have grave political consequences. The increas-ingly bitter and scornful electorate will feel that their elected representatives have yet again demonstrated their callous dis-regard for the woes of the ‘aam admi’. The electoratewould become even more dis-enchanted with the idea of representative democracy and the concept of national political parties. It could turn further towards voting for small extremist, rabble-rousing parties catering to petty, local and sectarian issues. This would atomise the polity and leave it without any national focus. Large sections of the citi-zenry could also turn away from the entire exercise of electoral democracy and seek the intervention of extra-parliamentary forces like violent gangs of fascist goons, mass disruptive movements, exploitative non-governmental organisations, overtly religious and ritualistic ‘sants’, and armed liberators such as the Naxalites. Our par-liamentarians and a small coterie of blus-tering “opinion-makers” have brought us to this pass.Muzaffar Assadi ( is at the Department of Studies in Political Science, University of Mysore, Mysore.Fatwa, Terrorism and JehadMuzaffar AssadiThe decision of the Deoband school to denounce terrorism in no uncertain terms is welcome. The well-respected school’s decision is significant.May 30 was an important day for the centuries old historic Islamic seminary, Darul Uloom of Deoband. On that day at the Delhi Ramlila grounds, in its anti-terrorism conference, attended by a large number of Muslim seminaries, the seminary issued a fatwa againstterrorism. This fatwa was issued to remove the tag of terrorism attached to Islam and also to condemn terrorism in all its forms. Even before the fatwa was issued,a lot of debate had been under-taken while condemning terrorism. Inci-dentally, earlier in February the same school had condemned terrorism, but had not issued any fatwa.Not all fatwas have legitimacy;neither would the Muslim masses adhere to or support each and every fatwa. Exceptions are made, however, to the fatwas issued by the Deoband school for different rea-sons though: its fatwa is recognised by the Muslim masses as well as different Islamic schools in India and outside without any murmur or any discontent. In many countries Islamic schools of thought follow the Darul Uloom Deoband’s teaching methods. The impor-tance of the Deoband fatwa can be gauged by the fact that immediately after the issuance the Jamat-e-Islami Hind, the Muslim personal law board, Nadwatul Ulem, Lucknow and others ratified and acknowledged the fatwa. This is where the importance of the Deoband school lies.The establishment of the Deoband school or Darul Uloom was in the back-ground of the 1857 revolt against British rule. However, two important roles that it played in Indian history are important, other than its attempt related to “Silken Letters” against the colonialists in the early part of the 20th century. In 1921, at the time of the non-cooperation move-ment launched by Gandhi, it issued a fatwa asking all the Muslims in India to participate in the movement on grounds of religious as wellasmoralobligations. Many of its studentsactivelyparticipated inthenationalist struggle. Khan Abdul Gafar Khan once stated that. Sitting here we used to make plans for the independence movement as to how we might drive away the English from this country and how we could make India free from the yoke of slavery of the English. This institution has made great efforts for the freedom of this country [Darul Uloom Deoband 2008].However, this is not the first time that such a fatwa was issued against terrorism elsewhere in the world or in India. Three years back, the American Fiqh council had issued a fatwa opposing terrorism on three grounds: It is ‘haram’ (forbidden) in Islam to target innocent masses; it is also forbid-den in Islam to join hands with terrorism and that it is the duty of every Muslim to help the government to nab or checkmate terrorists. In fact, the Gyanvapi mosque inVaranasi, on the request of Muslim women, had earlier in 2006, issued a fatwa condemning terrorism.
SYLFF Programme of JU 2009-2010, and

Applications are invited from suitable candidates for being considered for the award of SYLFF-JU Fellowship(Ryoichi Sasakawa Young Leaders Fellowship Fund, endowment of Nippon Foundation). Fellowship is intended to financially assist young students of social science and humanities with leadership potential. Maximum of four fellowships-two for M.A., one for M.Phil and one for Ph.D students will be awarded. Numbers may vary depending on quality of the proposals.Orientation for writing a good research propoal under the SYLFF-JU programme will be held at JU campus on 30.08.2008 at 11 a.m., at K.P. Basu Memorial Hall.

  • 1. For each one year fellowship of US$ 1600 for M.A. applicants must be enrolled with the M.A. first year and one year fellowship of US$ 2440 for M.Phil, applicants must be enrolled with M.Phil first year in the year 2008-2009 in Jadavpur University under the Faculty of Arts.
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    COMMENTARYaugust 2, 2008 EPW Economic & Political Weekly18anarchist movements and anti-globalisation movements are also now added to the list of terrorisms. One agency in the US even once included India’s security agency, theRAW in the list. Every year the list is expanding. At present, officially designated terrorist groups might be around 800 at the global level; however, if we add non-designated groups, the numbers might cross 1,000.Jehad has been linked to terrorism in another context: that of globalisation. The jehad against western symbolism, hegemony in culture, power and against western lifestyle has been conflated with terrorism by many. This jehad is however a struggle against hegemony of another culture and has existed before in history, particularly in the Indian context. For example, the Muslim sea traders were sup-ported in their efforts to oppose Portuguese hegemony through a jehad by the Zamorins of Calicut. Kunhalis belonging to coastal Kerala including Calicut, Malabar and Kochi had also opposed Portuguese hege-mony [Makdum 2008]. Another example is that of the 1857 revolt (as revealed by William Darlymple’s latest book on The Last Moghul). Even colonialists of today regard the struggle against western hegem-ony a form of jehad (“Clash of civilisations” according to Samuel P Huntington).It is but obvious that the Darul Uloom Deoband school’s decision to denounce all forms of terrorism must be appreci-ated. At the same time, one must make a contrast between terrorism and the jehad against western hegemony (which is a constructive one). This jehad should orient itself to recognise and protect the rights of women, dalit Muslims and the poor, through the process of opposing western hegemony which has manifested through the processes of globalisation and capitalism.ReferencesDarul Uloom, Deoband (2008): ‘Declaration: All India Anti-Terrorism Conference’,, Shaykh Zainuddin (2008): Tuhfat Al- Mujahidin, Other Books, Calicut.This article is part of a larger study ‘Where Is Sylhet? Hindu and Muslim Voices from a Forgotten Story of India’s Partition’ that has been supported by a postdoctoral grant from SEPHIS, International Institute of Social History, The Netherlands. The author thanks Khaleda Sultana Ahmed for her valuable fieldwork support for this project.Anindita Dasgupta ( teaches history at a Malaysian University, and is currently a recipient of SEPHIS postdoctoral grant to write an oral history of Indian Sylhetis.Remembering Sylhet: A Forgotten Story of India’s 1947 PartitionANINDITA DASGUPTAStudies of India’s Partition have been focused on the cases of Punjab and Bengal, but very few have been based on the site of partition in colonial Assam, “Sylhet”. Urgent attention is required to record the historiography of partition in Sylhet as many of those who had experienced the phase of partition are more than 80 years old now.Despite major methodological strides1 made in recent years, most studies of India’s 1947 Partition continue to remain focused on the two better-known cases of Punjab and Bengal. Remarkably little is known about other partition sites – the Sylhet district of colo-nial Assam, for instance – which was ceded to (East) Pakistan following the outcome of a referendum held on July 6 and 7, 1947 according to Mountbatten’s partition plan of June 3, 1947. Besides a small Hindu pocket consisting of Ratabari, Patherkandi, Hailakandi and half of Kar-imganj thana, the rest of the district left Assam/India to join East Pakistan. Sixty years afterwards, the stories of such lesser known partition sites face the danger of being overlooked and forgotten by what may be called “mainstream” partition his-toriography unless documented without delay. Because oral history uses spoken sources, even in the absence of written documentation oral historians are able to document the histories of groups which have long been out of historical focus. Given that the people who can remember and retell the story of the 1947 Sylhet par-tition, are more than 80 years old now, this task assumes even greater urgency.Eastward towards AssamOf late, historians in south Asia have been using non-traditional sources like memo-ries, folk history and popular fiction to shed new light on the experiences of ordinary people whose lives were thrown into turmoil by the 1947 Partition. Their studies have helped flesh out the hetero-geneity and the unevenness in the expe-rience of Partition and generated a de-bate among academics. But in spite of vast and rich research, this “new” history still falls short of providing a wide-ranging view of the local nuances of Partition of India due to its near exclusive focus on Punjab and Bengal. Against this background, it may be interesting to turn the lens further east and north of Bengal, to look at a third site of partition, the district of Sylhet in the erstwhile colonial province of Assam. Assam was little known in British India except for its tea production but which eventually became included in Jinnah’s demand for a six-province Pakistan. A BackgroundSylhet, a Bengali-speaking district histori-cally a part of East Bengal, was joined with its Assamese-speaking neighbour Assam in 1874 by the British who wanted

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