Deoband Rector's Speech at Anti-Terrorism Rally
Yoginder Sikand, February 25, 2008

In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate. Praise be to God, the Lord of the Worlds. May Peace be on the Prophet Muhammad and His progeny.

Terrorism and the conditions created by it are a matter of grave concern for every peace-loving person. On the one hand are the destructive actions of terrorists, which disrupt peace and cause the loss of life of innocent people. On the other hand is the irresponsible role of those who are meant to preserve the law, who, in the wake of every terrorist act, unthinkingly point their fingers at Muslims [as supposed culprits]. Instead of seriously searching for the real culprits, they blame innocent people and thereby conceal their own ineptitude. These conditions have made those in charge of the madrasas to stand up because even today the Muslims look at the ulema of the madrasas as their true leaders, and their stand is considered as representative of the Muslim community, especially in countries like India. Hence, in this regard, madrasas must today play the role expected of them. They must announce and explain their balanced position on terrorism so as to shut the mouths of the enemies of the faith. At the same time, they must plan a strategy to counter policies and activities directed against Muslims and those associated with madrasas.

In this context, it is appropriate to announce the clear and unanimous stance of the madrasas on the issue of terrorism. We have no relation whatsoever with terrorism. We condemn all forms of terrorism, and in this regard do not make any distinction at all. Terrorism is a wholly wrong and condemnable activity, no matter what the religion, community or social class of those engaged in it. Terrorism is also a total antithesis of Islamic teachings. Islam is a religion of mercy and peace. Hence, any terrorist activity that targets innocent people contradicts Islam's conception of peace.

In this regard Islam's teachings are so explicit and clear that it can be said, without fear of being contradicted, that today the only comprehensive concept of peace and harmony in the world lies with Islam. Islam regards the killing of a single innocent person as equal to the killing of the whole of humankind, as the Holy Quran says. Islam clearly instructs Muslims that if they face no threat to their lives, property and security from others, they must behave with them in a friendly manner. Islam also insists on the need to respect treaties and agreements with others. It also prefers peace. It announces the equality of all human beings. The Holy Quran says that God has created everyone from the same set of primal parents, and that He has made them into different tribes and groups so that they may recognise one another. In his farewell address during his last Hajj pilgrimage, the Prophet (may peace be upon him) declared that Arabs and non-Arabs and whites and blacks have no superiority over each other. They are all children of Adam and Adam was made of mud. The most noble in the eyes of Allah is he who is the most pious. In taking revenge, Islam insists on reciprocity and does not permit excess. In matters both of friendship and of enmity it appeals for the maintenance of justice, even if that might appear to go against oneself, one's parents or other relatives. The Holy Quran lays down that the enmity of any community should not cause Muslims stray from the path of justice. Islam has advised mercy for all. The Prophet (may peace be upon him) said that God is merciful to those who show mercy. Islam regards all creatures as members of God's family.

In short, Islam calls for peace and justice and mercy. Under no conditions does it legitimize strife. This is why terrorism can have no link whatsoever with Islam. Hence, madrasas, which are the true torchbearers of Islamic teachings, clearly announce that they have nothing to do with terrorism at all.

In our country today, Muslims are increasingly being targeted, especially religious Muslims, the ulema and graduates of the madrasas and those associated with them. They are easily branded, or at least suspected, as culprits in any terrorist activity without any investigation or proof. In order to blame them it is considered enough that they are associated with a madrasa or an Islamic organization. The situation has become so serious now that communal forces associate all terrorist activities with the madrasas. In fact, some bigoted people have even branded [Islamic] religious education as the pillar of terrorism. All this is happening despite the fact that the [Indian] Muslims have continued to uphold peace and non-violence and have displayed complete loyalty to their country. They, especially the ulema, have made immense sacrifices for the freedom of India. Can any person claim that without the struggles of the ulema, the country would have ever achieved freedom from the clutches of British imperialism? These pious elders of ours shed not sweat but their blood and sacrificed their lives for the glory of the country without any thought of recompense. This history is worth writing in words of gold. After [India gained] independence, these ulema of the madrasas, who were in the forefront of the anti-imperialist struggle, spurned all reward and focused, instead, on the task of character-building and promoting humanitarianism.

This work is the main focus of the madrasas, which, unfortunately, are today being branded as centres of terrorism and anti-national activities. The truth, however, is that madrasas work for the welfare of the country, the community and the entire humanity. They train peace-loving, honest and responsible citizens of the country. They teach concern for human beings and peace. Here love, not hatred, simplicity, austerity, patriotism and respect for humankind are taught. It is thus no exaggeration to claim that madrasas are a major block that stand firm against terrorism. One proof of this is the historical fact that these madrasas have been in existence for centuries without their character ever being questioned. Instead, they have trained freedom-loving ulema who love their country and stand for peace and loyalty to the country and community. This tradition of theirs made the [Indian] Prime Minister proudly declare at the United Nations that Indian Muslims are not engaged in terrorism. The truth is that the role of the madrasas is as clean as a mirror. Nothing about the madrasas is kept secret. Everything is kept open. And so when wrong allegations are made about them it gravely pains the heart and mind.

We wish to tell the Government and its agencies and departments that for establishing peace and doing away with strife they must remember the need for justice and equality. If they are serious about combating the curse of terrorism they must firmly abide by justice and not make any distinction on the basis of persuasion or religion of people. They must search for the real culprits [in terrorist violence] and desist from harassing innocents so that the country's unity and integrity is preserved and that it can progress.

To understand the reality of terrorism and its context it must be kept in mind that it is not basically a problem of our country. Rather, it is a curse created by those global powers whose ideology is based on Zionism. Their sole agenda is to pursue the criminal designs of Zionism. They are in the forefront of spreading strife and conflict throughout the world. Otherwise, how is it that, despite spending billions of dollars and committing several thousand soldiers ostensibly to combat terrorism, the problem still remains? In fact, their failure is obvious from the fact that they have failed even to come up with an agreed definition of terrorism. From their actions it is evident that they readily brand any individual who is or can be a barrier in the path of their mindless pursuit of their criminal expansionist designs as a terrorist. The world very well knows that the curse of terrorism remains alive only because of the backing it receives from the Zionist forces. That is why those commentators who keep a close watch on their methods of working argue that terrorist attacks that occur in India must be examined in detail because there seems to be a common pattern in the methods used in several of these attacks. It should not be that because of incomplete investigation or because the investigation is diverted in a different direction the real culprits are ignored and, instead, innocent people are branded as criminals.

For the Government to take on the menace of terrorism it must keep in mind the historical fact that in the past it has happened that on numerous occasions those who are branded as criminals by the state have been claimed as heroes by the people, especially those who have been driven to extremism because of injustice and oppression on the part of the state. Keeping in mind this historical reality, the state should desist from any action which might lead to the emergence of extremism as a reaction.

No community must be blamed for the actions of a single individual or group of people who belong to that community. Otherwise, all the major religions and communities in the world would then be branded as terrorists, which, of course, would be grossly erroneous. This logic also applies to Muslims. Muslims are an inseparable part of this country's history and civilization. To render them insecure is in no way in the interests of the country at large.

How is it possible for [Indian] Muslims to turn into terrorists, when, from Independence onwards, they have been forced to suffer all manner of problems and difficulties and various forms of discrimination but yet have remained faithful to their country, have always used democratic and Constitutional means to seek to secure their rights, and have abstained from any form of extremism and anti-national activity? After all, how can they damage their own country for whose freedom they have made immense sacrifices? Given the fact that Muslims would bear the brunt of [the aftermath of] any terrorist attack before any other people, every rational person can understand that for [Indian] Muslims to become terrorists is unrealistic.

I wish to tell our fellow [non-Muslim] countrymen that we [Muslims] are their brothers. We have been living together in this country for centuries as good neighbours. Our joint sacrifices gave birth to what is referred to as the 'Ganga-Jamuna civilisation'. We have fought shoulder-to-shoulder in all struggles for the country. If our non-Muslim fellow Indians fall prey to the false propaganda of communal forces and ignore the glorious history of the Muslims it would be a great misfortune not only for us but also for them and for the country as a whole. That is why they should come closer to us, try and understand us, and struggle together for the peace, unity and prosperity of our country.

A key issue is that of the madrasas, which have been given to us as a precious trust by our predecessors and by the whole Muslim community. We must fully protect them. This is our principal duty. For this we must always keep in mind the basic purpose of the madrasas. Our pious predecessors established them in order to preserve the tradition of learning of the Islamic shariah in an appropriate way. They wanted them to train experts in the Islamic sciences and men of Islamic morals who, through their intellectual expertise and sterling character, would serve as righteous leaders of the Muslim community.

In order to train such people it is necessary that we should seek to protect our [madrasa] students from every negative external influence, including from the mounting wave of materialism and the curse of Western culture. We must focus on their intellectual development in such a way that they do not come under the influence of any anti-Islamic movement or engage in any illegal activities [ostensibly] in the name of Islam.

Another crucial issue is that madrasas must seek to let people living in their surroundings know about their conditions, their peaceful role and their educational activities. Many misunderstandings are caused by ignorance. If madrasas have strong links with their surrounding societies and if the Government and its representatives are constantly made aware of their activities, it would serve as a powerful rebuttal to the propaganda of the communalist forces. We do not need to unnecessarily make or consider others as our enemies. Rather, what we need to do is to spread our message of love.

In conclusion, I earnestly appeal to the leaders of the different Muslim sects to realize that, given today's delicate conditions, the need for Muslim unity has never been greater before. Is it not possible for us to set aside our minor differences and come together to counter those opposed to us? Furthermore, I must also mention that madrasas need to improve their system of functioning. Their financial affairs should be as clear as a polished mirror. Likewise, the environment in the madrasas must be a model Islamic one, based on good morals, trustworthiness, honesty, respect for the rights of others, obedience to the path of the Prophet and fear of God. If we succeed in moulding our society on these lines, then, God willing, all the dark clouds will vanish and the conspiracies against the madrasas will die a natural death.

May God make this conference a source of blessing for all the madrasas and for the entire Muslim community. Amen.

And, ultimately, praise be to God, the Lord of the Worlds

Delivered at the "All-India Anti-Terrorism Convention", Organised by the Rabita-e Madaris-e Islamia Arabia at Deoband on 25 February, 2008. Translated [from Urdu], edited and abridged by Yoginder Sikand.