दुनिया के सभी देशों से अंतरराष्ट्रीय ईश निंदा क़ानून बनवाने के लिए एकजुट होने की वर्ल्ड सूफी फोरम की अपील।

31 अगस्त /चित्तौड़गढ़,

वर्ल्ड सूफी फोरम के चेयरमैन और आल इंडिया उलमा व मशाईख बोर्ड के संस्थापक, अध्यक्ष हज़रत सय्यद मोहम्मद अशरफ किछौछवी ने पत्रकारों को बताया कि वर्ल्ड सूफी फोरम ने दुनिया के तमाम देशों से पत्र भेज कर अपील की है कि अंतरराष्ट्रीय ईश निंदा क़ानून बना कर दुनिया को वैचारिक आतंकवाद से बचाया जाऐ।
उन्होंने कहा कि यह क़दम हाल में हॉलैंड के एक सरफिरे द्वारा पैग़म्बरे अमन व शांति हज़रत मोहम्मद सल्लाल्लहू अलैहि वसल्लम के कार्टून की प्रतियोगिता आयोजित करने के ऐलान के बाद उठाना ज़रूरी है क्योंकि दुनिया में बसने वाले अरबों की तादाद में मुसलमानों की आस्था ऐसी घिनौनी करतूत से आहत हुई है। न सिर्फ मुसलमानों की बल्कि सभी अमन पसंद लोगों की भावनाएं आहत हुई हैं ।
उन्होंने कहा, हालांकि पूरी दुनिया में हो रहे विरोध प्रदर्शनों और संयुक्त राष्ट्र मानव अधिकार आयोग से वर्ल्ड सूफी फोरम की शिकायत के बाद इस प्रतियोगता को आयोजित नहीं किया जाने का ऐलान किया गया है लेकिन यह अंतिम उपचार या न्याय नहीं है ।उन्होंने कहा कि कहीं भी दुनिया के किसी कोने में कोई किसी भी धर्म के खिलाफ अगर ऐसी घिनौनी बात करता है जिससे उस धर्म के मानने वालों को दुख होता है तो अंतरराष्ट्रीय कानून का होना जरूरी है ताकि दोषी को सज़ा मिल सके और फिर किसी की हिम्मत न हो ऐसा कुकृत्य करने की।
हज़रत ने कहा नामूसे रिसालत पर हमला करने वाले दुनिया को अशांत करना चाहते हैं असली आतंकी यही विचार रखने वाले हैं जो किसी की धार्मिक भावनाओं को अपना हथियार बना कर अपना शैतानी मकसद हल करना चाहते हैं ।लिहाज़ा इस मुद्दे पर सबको साथ आना होगा ।

By: यूनुस मोहानी

Why Sunnis are disassociating themselves from Salafists

  Sep 9, 2016 19:48 IST

The world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, Asharq Al-Awsat, reported that an international Islamic conference was organised in Grozny, a city in Chechnya with more than 100 top Muslim clerics from all around the world. The agenda was to take an uncompromising stand against the growing Takfiri terrorism that is playing havoc across the world.

The globally renowned Sunni Islamic scholars and clergy unanimously took a stand that the Takfiri terrorists, who loudly claim to belong to ‘Sunni’ Islam, are not from among the Ahlus Sunnah (the Islamic terminology for the mainstream Sunni Muslims in the world).

Addressing the conference, leading Sufi Sunni scholar and the current Grand Imam of al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmad al-Tayeb, defined what is meant by ‘Ahlus Sunnah‘ or Sunnism.

He stated: “Ahluls Sunna wal Jama’ah are the Ash’arites or Muturidis (adherents of Abu Mansur al-Maturidi’s systematic theology which is also identical to Imam Abu Hasan al-Ash’ari’s school of logical thought). In matters of belief, they are followers of any of the four schools of thought (Hanafi, Shaf’ai, Maliki or Hanbali) and are also the followers of pure Sufism in doctrines, manners and [spiritual] purification.”

This statement goes in Arabic as follows:

أهل السنة والجماعة هم الأشاعرة والماتريدية في الاعتقاد وأهل المذاهب الأربعة في الفقه، وأهل التصوف الصافي علما وأخلاقا وتزكية على طريقة سيد الطائفة الإمام الجنيد ومن سار على نهجه من أئمة الهدى

Having said that, Sheikh Ahmad al-Tayeb allegedly excluded the “Salafists” from the term of Ahluls Sunna (Sunnis) stating that Salafists –also known as Wahhabis – are not from among the Sunnis.

This was, probably the first time that the global Sunni Islamic scholars have disassociated themselves so clearly from the Salafists, who also claim to be the Ahluls Sunna or ‘Sunnis’.

Though this report has not received the media attention it deserved, it should be caught up as one of the most underlying news emanating from the Muslim world.

Over 100 Islamic clerics from around the world, including India, have attended this anti-Takfirism Sunni conference in Chechnya. They concluded that Salafism/Wahhabism, the state religion of the Saudi Kingdom flourishing in almost all Muslim-populated courtiers because of the massive Saudi funding, is not the part of mainstream Sunni Islam.

Given the significance of this epoch-making conference, the participating religious leaders called the conference a “significant turning point to correct the treacherous and lethal deviation from the true definition of Ahlus Sunna, as a result of the extremists’ attempts to hijack this glorious epithet, misusing it for themselves.”

Senior scientists during the international Islamic conference in Chechnya. Twitter/@shkaboobacker

Senior scientists during the international Islamic conference in Chechnya. Twitter/@shkaboobacker

Scores of Islamic leaders and clerics from various countries like Egypt, India, Russia, Syria, Turkey, Britain, Lebanon, Jordan and the South African countries, who attended this global Sunni conference, echoed in unison and spoke out against the Takfiri terror. They took a resolution to ‘awaken the world about the real terror outfits which are ‘using the name of religion for personal geopolitical agendas’.

Shaikh Muhammad Saad al-Azhari, a moderate Egyptian Islamic scholar and professor at the al-Azhar University, who is the religious affairs consultant for the Egyptian president, also participated in this conference. He is widely known in the Arab world for his scholarly refutation of the extremist jihadist theology of IS, as eloquently done in his Arabic book entitled, Al Haqq al-Mubeen fi al-Radd ala Man Tala’aba bil Deen. In this book, he has come up with original and fresh ideas attempting to rebut the theology of modern jihadism and political Islamism.

He masterly critiqued Sayyid Qutub, the chief political islamist ideologue and his commentary on the Quran Fi Dilal al-Quran (In the shade of the Quran). The theocratic interpretations on this commentary have twisted Islamic doctrines to fan the fire of Takfirist terrorism.

Therefore, Dr al-Azhari has refuted the radical Islamist underpinnings such as Hakimiyyah (Allah’s governance),  jihadism (violent misuse of Jihad), Khilafat (Sharia regime), Al wala Wal bara (loyalty to Muslims and disavowal towards others), Dar-ul Harb and Dar-ul Islam (religious classification of non-Muslim countries) point by point.

Remarkably, a considerable number of Indian Sunni Islamic scholars were also seen in this anti-extremism Islamic conclave. For instance, South Indian Sufi Sunni leader, Sheikh Abu Bakr Ahmad, who runs the largest Islamic seminary in Kerala – Jamia Markaz Saqafa Sunniya, and Shaikh Anwar Ahmad al-Baghdadi who teaches at a leading North Indian madrasa Jamia Alimia in UP were there to articulate an Islamic narrative of peace and counter-terror.

The mainstream Indian Sunni scholars have recently begun to refute the literature that has been compiled and disseminated in the country with a view to indoctrinating the radical Wahhabi ideology among Indian Muslim masses, particularly in Kashmir.

In India, the Wahhabi version of Islam, underpinned by Ibn Taimiya’s Minhaj al-Sunnah and Ibn Abdul Wahhab’s Kitab al-Tawheed, still has to be confronted in a consistent and coherent way.  It took roots in the country when the earliest Salfism-inspired Indian clerics like Syed Ahmad ‘Shaheed’ Rai Barelwi and Maulana Ismail Dehlawi wrote books such as Taqweatul Imaan (strengthening the Islamic faith) and Sirat-e-Mustaqeem (the straight path). In these books, the term ‘jihad’ which actually elucidates an inner struggle to attain salvation was misconstrued, for the first time in India, as the strait path to the rebellion, separatism and wanton killing of the ‘infidels’.

Since the leading Islamic scholars of al-Azhar University have excluded the Salafists from the true adherents of Sunni Islam, it has inevitably caused an uproar among the Saudi Salafist clergy. Agitated reactions continue within the Salafist clerical circle in Saudi Arabia in a bid to oppose the Sunni conference hosted by the Chechen capital, Grozny.

In its report on the issue, the Arabic-language daily Ray al-Youm has told that that the Sunni conference has created a storm of anger among pro-government clerics in Saudi Arabia.

According to the report, several Saudi clerics accuse the Sunni-oriented conference of being an attempt by the Russian government to deepen the gap between Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

“It is not prudent to ignite crises and trigger misadventures of political nature, as well as intellectual affiliations and sloganeering, to demonize the Muslims and thereby widening divisions,” the council said in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.

Notably, the Sunni leaders of the Chechnya conference have recommended the establishment of a national television channel, at the level of Russia, whose objective would be to “communicate the true image of Islam.”

It is interesting to note that the same Islamist discourse is playing out in India too. It is this very Salafist concern that several Islamist leaders in India expressed when the World Sufi Forum was held in New Delhi. They painted it as the Indian government’s effort to frame Sufism as a force opposing Wahhabism/Salafism, though India has averred to combat the religious extremism per se. However, the World Sufi Forum’s participants seemed more enthusiastic about promoting Sufism as a way of supporting inclusive democracy and pluralism rather than Muslim sectarianism.

As an earlier article on Firstpost noted that Sufis have come all out of their conclaves and hospices to fight back the evils of ideological extremism stemming from the hardcore philosophies in the name of Islam. But the anti-Sufism elements and new movements of extremism in the Indian Muslim society are misleading the nation. They disparage every anti-extremism Sufi practitioner as “pseudo-Sufi”.

India and Iran: How these two ancient civilisations can curb radicalism:First Post

Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi  May 31, 2016 16:45 IST

firstpost

Recently, I was in the capital of Iran, Tehran when the epoch-making trilateral relations were built between India, Iran and Afghanistan. After 15 years, the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi visited Iran to rejuvenate the bilateral ties. He signed a $500m deal to develop Iran’s Chabahar port in a strategic effort to open up India’s trade routes to Afghanistan and Europe. According to the Chabahar project which was agreed between PM Narendra Modi and the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, India will invest billions of dollars in Iran following the removal of sanctions. Indeed, this deal will greatly help to deepen ties between India and Iran in business, commerce, agriculture, culture and education. But one wonders how India and Iran can exert joint efforts in countering extremism and growing radicalism? This is a relevant question because the two countries have also agreed to consult ‘closely and regularly’ on combating the threats of radicalism and terrorism.

Since India and Iran share grave concerns at the spread of radicalised forces, their agreement over close and regular consultation on combating threats of radicalism is well received in the region. To curb extremist thoughts and hardcore philosophies, both countries have great potentials and civilisational forces stemming from their ancient inclusive and pluralistic cultures.

As Narendra Modi pointed out, India and Iran are not new friends. Their friendship [or ‘dosti’ in the Persian language] is as old as history. Through centuries, their societies have stayed connected through culture, art and architecture, poetry, spiritual traditions and commerce. Today, when terrorism and radicalism are among the most baffling problems in the region, it was urgent and timely for the two governments to sit together and brainstorm effective ways to tackle the radical onslaught. Modi has rightly pointed out that India and Iran “share a crucial stake in peace and stability” and that “both share common concerns relating to radicalism and terrorism.” Therefore, the two countries have agreed to enhance cooperation between their defence and security institutions. Already, both establishments have spent a large amount of money on internal security, domestic peace and counter-terrorism. But what seems more effective to help the two countries in their bid to curb extremism is their renewed pledge to preserve the rich ancient culture of religious pluralism, peaceful co-existence and celebration of multiculturalism.

Narendra Modi in Iran. File photo. Twitter/@MEAIndia

Narendra Modi in Iran. File photo. Twitter/@MEAIndia

The ancient civilizations of the both the Vedic and Islamic countries have been inclusive and welcoming to foreign cultures. In his address to the conference on traditional linkages between India and Iran before winding up his two-day visit to Iran, Mr Modi highlighted Sufism and other cultural linkages as ‘a perfect response to those who preach radical thoughts in our societies’.

It is interesting to note that the current Indian PM has been consistently celebrating the universal appeal of Sufism as ‘a rich product of India’.

It is common knowledge now that after his participation in the World Sufi Forum recently held in Delhi, PM Modi is seen constantly preaching religious pluralism, the composite nature of Indian culture and its diversity. For instance, in his recent visit to Brussels in the wake of terrorist attacks on Belgium, he ardently praised Islam and its offshoot Sufism referring to the World Sufi Forum. He affirmed: “In recent days in India, liberal Islamic scholars, linked to Sufism, said those who speak of terror are un-Islamic. The more such voices rise, the faster the radicalization of youth can be prevented”.

Similarly, in his visit to Iran, the Indian PM delivered a remarkable speech on Sufism and its humanitarian approach to strengthen Indio-Iran relations. Recalling the historical religious and traditional bearings of the two countries, Modi invoked Sufism as the binding force that unites the world as one family. “Sufism, rich product of our ancient links, carried its message of true love, tolerance, acceptance to entire mankind,” he remarked in his speech in Tehran.

In my own recent experience in several historic cities of Iran, particularly Qom, Shiraz, Mashhad, Isfahan and the capital Tehran, I could see the same culture of peace emanating from deep-rooted Islamic mysticism. The pluralistic essence of Sufism which both India and Iran share in common has contributed to the growth of moderate and tolerant societies in both the countries. Iranians reflect the very spirit of Sufism, which Mr. Modi recalled as “voice of peace, co-existence, compassion and equality.” It is equally embedded in the Indian Vedic concept of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’, which means that the ‘World is one family’.

Similarly, there are striking parallels between the ancient heroes and epics of the two countries. The holy shrines [dargahs] of Khawaja Gharib Nawaz in Ajmer Sharif and Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia in Delhi are equally adored in Iran. Much in the same way, Mahabharata of India and Shahnama of Iran, Bhima of Bharat and Rustam of Persia and Arjuna and Arsh of the two countries bear great symbiosis in universal values and egalitarian messages for brotherhood of mankind.

This is an established historical fact that Islam in India and Iran owes much of its existence to Sufi saints and dervishes like Shaikh Sa’adi and Hifiz Sherazi in Iran and the 13th century Sufi saint Khwaja Ghareeb Nawaz of Ajmer Sharif in India. Gharib Nawaz came from Iran to India and rendered great humanitarian services. His peace activism is regarded a milestone in the path of love, human equality, spirituality and religious pluralism. Thus, this peaceful and pluralistic Indian tradition ushered in a new era of composite culture in the country which still remains well-spirited and widely accepted among the Indian common masses regardless of faith and creed. After Khwaja Ghareeb Nawaz, one of the most celebrated Indian Sufi masters, Makhdum Sayed Ashraf Jahangir Simnani (1287 – 1386 CE) left his birthplace Simnan in Iran and settled in India. Revered by both Indian and Iranian Muslims, Makhdum Simnani was a prominent Sufi Shaikh belonging to the Chishti and Qadiri Sufi orders. He became the disciple of the well-known Sufi saint of Bengal, Hazrat Alaul Haq Pandavi and established his own Sufi order (silsila) through his spiritual disciple Syed Shah Abdur Razzaq Nurul-Ain, the 11th direct descendant of the world renowned Sufi Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jilani. His shrine is still revered as great Sufi hospice and is known as “Aastana-e-Hazrat Jahangir Simnani” in Ambedkar Nagar, Uttar Pradesh.

The long and short is that Iranian-origin Indian Sufis fervently taught and promoted pacifism, spirituality and non-violence. As a result, the shrines of these saints are still attracting people from all faith traditions even after hundreds of years. In the current situation of growing religious hatred, faith-inspired terror and malice, the Indian and Iranian governments are reminded of these peace actors. It is indeed a welcome move.

A view is emerging in both the countries that the menace of extremism can be better wiped out from the region through the restoration of Rishi-Sufi tradition and propagation of its universal values. Not only the governments, but more of common citizens have developed this impression in their own ideological battle against the extremist thoughts and hardcore philosophies. I met a considerable number of Muslim youths in Iran who consider Islamic State an offshoot of radical Islamism, not just ‘a handiwork of the Jews’ a widespread perception in the global Muslim community. When asked how they try to rebut its ideology, they told me they seek to strengthen Islamic moderation through the doctrine of Mahdism, an Islamic belief in the awaited messiah or spiritual savior of the world from the clutches of the evils.

Iranian Muslims in general are Shiites and, hence, venerate the fourth caliph of Islam, Hazrat Ali as their supreme spiritual leader. He was assassinated by the Kharijites, the first terrorist faction in Islamic history. They indulged in violent takfirism, declaring others kafir [infidel] and thus legitimizing their killings. With the commencement of the 19th century, many new-born Kharijites emerged in the Middle East and took roots in the wider Asian region. They started anti-Sufism and anti-Shia movements with an aim to fan the fire of sectarianism and thus giving rise to extremism among Muslims. The ideology of Kharjiites which basically originated in the time of Hazrat Ali was later propagated among people on the grounds of misinterpreted and seemingly militant Qur’anic verses.

In this entire duration, spiritually inclined masters of the community, the Sufis, remained confined to their conclaves in holy shrines and hospices. As a result, particular fractions of religionists began to adopt theoretical extremism, religious bigotry, takfirism and justification of wanton killings. This is the Kharijite ideology which is now playing havoc across the world and the Middle East in particular.
It is indeed gratifying to note that the two peace-loving countries, India and Iran, with their ancient civilizational and cultural linkages, are on the lookout for an acute anti-extremism alliance. While India has been ideologically fighting the Islamic State on its soil, Iran has been the most proactive Muslim country in breaking terror’s back. Tehran has already committed its military and weaponry in Iraq, offering Baghdad its unconditional support against the self-imposed Islamic caliphate, Daesh’s atrocities.

Since Iran is a Shia-majority country and Daesh is ideologically anti-Shia, it has killed thousands of Shias considering them kafir (infidel). After its expansion in Iraq only kilometers away from Iranian western borders, Islamic State became the biggest threat to the Shia Muslims of Iran. Therefore, Iran has been actively engaged in an ideological battle against the radicalism since the beginning of Syrian Civil War in 2011. It was the first Muslim country to provide assistance to Iraqi and Syrian regimes to fight Islamic State, deploying its troops in the two countries. It is still combating the takfirist terrorists of Islamic State in both Iraq and Syria. The Iranian Quds Force played pivotal role in military intervention against the Daesh. Al Jazeera once reported that hundreds Iranian Sunni Kurds crossed the Iran-Iraq border to fight Islamic State in January 2015.

As a result of its effective anti-terror strategy, the Jihadists of Islamic State, despite having their strong base in the close neighborhood, in Iraq and Syria, have not yet succeeded in Iran. Various research works and polls have shown that Islamic State got no recruitments from the Iranian Muslim society, not even from the Sunni community of Iran. At this juncture, we are amazed at the naivety of our anti-terror Indian establishments that could not prevent a few Indian Muslim youths from travelling to Iraq and Syria and joining the Islamic State.

While signing the 12 new agreements, India and Iran have also decided to jointly combat cyber crime to weaken the terror networks and radical recruiters. As the two strategic partners in counter-extremism, India and Iran can fiercely battle the online radical indoctrination. In fact, we have contagious cyber threat against peace, pluralism religious diversity in India. This forms the bedrock for the extremists’ recruitment of Indian youth. Growing cyber radicalisation and terrorists’ recruitments on social media are still unrestrained. Young and naive Muslims with impressionable minds are still being drawn into extremism through different online channels. Seductive messages in the disguise of Islamic exhortations easily catch the imagination of the young netizens in Indian subcontinent like in the Middle East, US and Europe. Inspired by the neo-Kharijite extremist ideology, a few Indian Muslim youths traveled to the Middle East, particularly in Iraq and Syria, for terrorist training that was meant to bring the cancer of radicalism back home. In this grim situation, the Indo-Iranian joint efforts to counter the cyber radicalization will be a panacea for this ill.

Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi is a scholar of Comparative Religion & Classical Islamic sciences, cultural analyst and Doctoral Research Scholar at Centre for Culture, Media & Governance (JMI Central University).

 

http://www.firstpost.com/world/india-and-iran-how-the-two-ancient-civilizations-can-curb-radicalism-2808348.html

World Sufi Forum: How Sufism runs as a counter to hardline ideologies?: First Post

Mar 17, 2016 15:42 IST

 By Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi

  • In an article published in The Guardian dated, 23 October 2014, Jason Webster explained how Sufism runs as ‘a natural antidote to fanaticism’. Sufism-inspired discourses on peacemaking and counter-extremism and deradicalisation have created interesting debates, enlarging the ambit of modern approaches to peace, pluralism and non-violence. Obviously, a Sufi is not much of a social scientist or a strategist, the pluralistic Sufi concepts and mystically-inclined Islamic narratives of peace and counter-extremism are worth deliberating.

    In 2003, Stephen Schwartz wrote a groundbreaking book “Two Faces Of Islam: Saudi Fundamentalism and Its Role in Terrorism” in which he explained that Sufism is a “mystical branch” of Islam- the second largest religion of the world which has been conflated in sections of the media and academia, over a period of time, with violent extremism, exclusivism, puritanical fundamentalism, xenophobia and religo-facism. Given this, he hypothesised that an objective analysis of the mystical narrative of peace and counter-extremism and its ideological underpinnings in Islam will trigger   an avid interest both in media and academia.

    In the wake of the 9/11 bombings, a considerable corpus of literate was devoted to explain how peculiar and idiosyncratic elements of religion can motivate both violence and non-violence. Scholars well-versed in the sociology of world religions reproduced holistic analyses of the different, vibrant and myriad spiritual theories of peace and non-violence that emanate from the mystical interpretations of all religions. In the case of Islam, Sufism emerged as the spiritually-inclined version of faith helping in peacemaking and eradicating violence and extremism. Case studies of different religions and populations of faith adherents have been examined as practical applications of religions’ spiritual resources for counter-extremism.

    On the contrary, the radical Islamist ideologues of the sectarian hue worked out a complete theology of anti-pluralism seeking to justify extremist thoughts and actions, sectarian conflicts, faith-inspired violence, wanton killing of civilians and suicide-bombing.

    Representational image. AFP

    Representational image. AFP

    In this backdrop, a rational and consistent narrative of peace and counter-extremism within an Islamic framework was called for. Therefore, noted Sufi scholars, not only in India but across the rest of the world brainstormed ways to tackle the onslaught of religious extremism catching the imagination of many young Muslim practitioners. In a bid to refute extremism on ideological grounds, they articulated a Sufism-inspired approach to peace and de-radicalization of the vulnerable sections of society. Thus, an Islam-based Sufi narrative of peace, counter-extremism and de-radicalization grounded in refutation of the extremist underpinnings was laid down.

    The first research-based Sufi activism in this ideological field can be traced back to the post-9/11 outburst of views and debates on khilafah (caliphate), jihadism, hijrah (migration to lands of Islam), hakimiyah (divine rule on the earth) and other drives of religious extremism propounded by the radical Wahhabism. Since then, Sufi leaders and scholars have been seen in the global media as well as academia countering the violent extremism, intolerance, xenophobia, religio-fascism and other supremacist and exclusivist thoughts.

    Remarkably, the first focus on this energetic facet of Sufism was carried out by Idries Shah around 50 year ago. Entitled “The Sufis”, his book had the renowned western writer Robert Graves writing a foreword for it. It was praised as “a seminal book of the century” by The Washington Post. Since then, much of the work on the similar lines has been carried out.

    Of late, rigorous Sufi activism aimed at finding concrete counterpoints to extremism has been geared up in the Middle East, Europe and America, South Asia and other parts of the world. A considerable number of seminal research works on this subject have been accomplished in many peer-reviewed academic journals. Equally important is the increasing number of books and monographs on these themes as produced in the academic arena.

    A recently-published book “State and Nation-Building in Pakistan: Beyond Islam and Security” mentioned that the former Pakistani President, Pervez Musharraf needed to reinforce Sufi liberal attitudes to mitigate the sectarian conflicts in the country. “He (Musharraf) launched the concept of Enlightened Moderation at the 2002 Organization of the Islamic Conference meeting in Malaysia and emphasized Sufi teachings as a counter to extremism. In November 2006, he launched a National Sufi Council amidst great fanfare”. Government efforts ensured that the Sufi-oriented religious scholars of the Pakistani Education Board, Tanzimul Madaris discourage and rebut the twisted ideas leading to acts of terror and suicide bombing.

    Until recently, Sufi Islam was not fashionable for many Pakistani Muslims. Rather, it was shunned not only by the upper class, government, military, and bureaucrats but also by academic and intellectual circles. But a reversing viewpoint is emerging now. Both academicians and bureaucrats are beginning to actively support Sufism as a much more tolerant version of Islam that can better equip them ‘to counter the rise of Islamic extremism in Pakistan’.

    A ground-breaking work entitled “Re-Appropriating Sufi Authorship in New Media” clearly asserts that “Different factions of upper- and upper-middle-class Pakistani society-including politicians, intellectuals, filmmakers, and celebrities-have joined together to raise their voices in opposition to the extremist threat by reaffirming Sufism” (Cynthia Chris, David A. Gerstner, 2013).

    At a time when Muslims are faced with the present-day cancer of growing sectarianism looming large in the global Islamic societies, Sufism is looked up to as a panacea for these ills.

    Taliban, Al Qaeda, ISIS and all other terrorist organizations and un-Islamic elements have destroyed the brotherhood of mankind that was once established by the Sufi hospices. They go to the extent of brutal and bloodthirsty massacre of common civilians and non-combatant innocent Muslims as in Iraq and Syria in particular. At this juncture, Sufism comes as a rescue to the oppressed, because it rejects all extremist ideas and actions outright. Sufis were vehemently opposed to the brazen violation of human rights enshrined in Islam and exhorted the Muslim youth to shun takfiri indoctrination and wrong interpretations of the Quran and Hadith that go against the consensus of the Ummah. Even today, they denounce- in the harshest words- the wanton killing of civilians, destruction of property and wealth, rebellion against the government, accusing Muslims of kufr (Takfirism), demolition of shrines on both local and global levels. In clear and categorical words, it rebutted all intellectual, social, religious, political and economic or ideological terrorism.

    While affirming the importance and the need of reviving Sufism, there is greater need to inculcate universal and egalitarian values-brotherhood of humankind, compassion, acceptance and tolerance, social affinity and national harmony. This is impossible in the Muslim society without promoting the tolerant, spiritual and moderate version of Islam.

However, the Sufi divines would do a great help to Indian Muslims if they do not merely reiterate “reformist Sufism” in the name of revival of Sufism. They need to support the non-conformist form of Sufism which is in full accordance with the universal prophetic traditions and in complete synergy with the spiritual and saintly righteous Muslims. We never endorse ignorance or illiteracy in the name of Sufism. Anything in the name of Sufism that doesn’t reflect itself in accordance with the Quran and Sunnah is null and void. Therefore, along with the revivalist Sufism, we strive to stress the need for the reformist Sufism.Going by history, this is an eternal fact that Islam in India owes much of its existence to Sufi Mashaikh, Saints and Dervishes. In the 13th century, Khwaja Ghareeb Nawaz came to India and his arrival in India is regarded a great milestone in the path of love, equality, spirituality and peaceful Dawah work.

Hazrat Khwaja Ghareeb Nawaz (r.a) pioneered the composite culture in India which still remains well-spirited, widely accepted and appreciated by the majority of Indian people. After Khwaja Ghareeb Nawaz, Khwaja Qutbuddin Bhaktiyar Kaki, Baba Farid, Khwaja Nizamuddin Auliya, Makhdum Sayed Ashraf Jahangir Simnani and Ameer Khusro took this cause of eternal salvation ahead. They devotedly taught and promoted unconditional love, peace and all-embracing spirituality. Mere the reality that the shrines of these saints are still captivating people from all faith traditions, even after 800 years is self-explanatory that Sufism is a vital help in the current situation of hatred and malice.

In the backdrop of this, modern Sufis have come all out of their conclaves and hospices. They are declaring that the evils of ideological terrorism and extremism, materialism and opportunism can only be wiped out from the society through the restoration of Sufism, propagation of its peaceful massages, humane nature helping in the cessation of extremist thoughts and hardcore philosophies.

On the other hand, many anti-Sufism movements reared their head in the Muslim societies in the 19th century. They began to disparage Sufis as pseudo-Islamic spiritual masters. Though pacifist by nature, some well-spirited and energetic Sufis retorted this accusation calling it a tide of ideological extremism deep-rooted in the Muslim history. They link it with the ideology of Kharjism which basically emerged in the caliphate of Hazrat Ali (r.a), and was propagated among the Muslim fringes on the pretext of Qur’an and hadith, Prophetic sayings. In this beginning, Sufi divines remained confined to their shrines. As a result, particular Islamsit factions started adopting extremism, hatred, takfirism and wanton killing. This is, they view, is something that has brought the wider Muslim world and Middle East in particular to a grim and gory situation.

World Sufi Forum is going to begin in New Delhi at 7 pm on Thursday and Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to begin his speech at around 7.30 pm

Photographs from World Sufi Forum:17-20 March 2016

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Why are Indian Wahhabis angry with Modi for promoting Sufism?: DailyO

The PM is the only political leader in India who understands the dynamics of the Muslim problem.

07-04-2016

Uday MahurkarLOGO (2)

UDAY MAHURKAR

@udaymahurkar

The leaders of the Wahhabi section of Indian Sunni Muslims represented by the Deoband school, the missionary body Tablighi Jamaat, and another Wahhabi stream, Ahle Hadees, were into their familiar game of accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi of dividing the Muslim community recently, soon after Modi extolled Sufism at the World Sufi Forum in Delhi and called for encouraging it to counter radical Islam, leaving a deep impression on a series of Sufi scholars who were present at the meet.

The first salvo was fired by Maulana Arshad Madani of the Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Hind (JUI), a Deobandi outfit. He accused Modi of dividing the Sunni Muslim community (Sunnis are divided into Wahhabi and Sufi sections in South Asia) by promoting Sufism. Next, a series of Urdu publications controlled by Wahhabis made the same allegation against Modi. Significantly, in the past one year, this was the third time that the Wahhabis were attacking Modi on the issue. The last two attacks followed soon after Modi met two different Sufi delegations in 2015.

What is the difference between Wahhabism and Sufism?

The attacks on Modi are, in fact, rooted in the internal religious dynamics of the Sunnis of India who form 85 per cent of the total 17 crore Muslim population in the country, and are divided among themselves into Wahhabi and Sufi sections, with the former constituting 35 and the latter 65 per cent of the 14-crore-plus Sunnis in India.

An intense struggle has been going on between the two factions for the past many decades with the Saudi Arabia-supported, powerful Indian Wahhabis working overtime to convert their fellow Sufis into Wahhabism in what is a battle of two religious ideologies – one moderate and inclusive, and the other orthodox and exclusive.

Significantly, the Sufis who are also known by two other names in India – Ahle-Sunnat and Barelvi – worship saints and celebrate Prophet Muhammed’s birthday as against the Wahhabis, and believe that Allah can’t be reached without the intercession of the souls of the Muslim saints buried in dargahs.

Sufism in India and Pakistan is symbolised by the dargahs of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti in Ajmer, Nizamuddin Auliya in Delhi and Baba Farid in Pakistan. These are among the dargahs of hundreds of Sufi saints in the Indian subcontinent which are worshipped by Sufis as well as Hindus by laying chadar on them in what is the symbol of a truly syncretic culture.

On the other hand, the Wahhabis, driven by the radical ideology of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab (1703-1792) of Saudi Arabia, believe that there can only be direct dialling between the believer and Allah because seeking intercession of a saint – a third party – in reaching out to the Almighty is akin to guru puja. They believe the practice of dargah worsip is an import from Hinduism and therefore un-Islamic.

Terrorists come from among the Wahhabis only and not the Sufis

Interestingly, all the terrorists in the world invariably belong to the Wahhabi stream while not a single terrorist comes from the Sufi stream. But only a minor section of the Wahhabis have taken to terrorism or have sympathised with terrorists, others understanding the pitfalls of terrorism. The arrival of the ultra-Wahhabi Islamic State (ISIS) and its medieval vandalism has created a scare amongst a big section of the Wahhabis about their survival in the wake of the world zeroing in on their ideology. This has further strengthened the moderate faction amongst the Wahhabis. The biggest symbol of this is the welcome that Prime Minister Modi is getting in Wahhabi countries like Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (UAE).

How Wahhabis convert Sufis and how riots strengthen Wahhabism

But in India and Pakistan, the old game of Wahhabi preachers to convert impressionable Sufi youths into the Wahhabi fold continues. The communal clashes between Hindus and Muslims help the Wahhabi strategy. In Hindu-Muslim riots, it is the Sufis who largely bear the brunt of Hindu aggression in reaction to acts triggered by the Wahhabis. For example, in the 2002 Gujarat episode the Muslims who killed the 59 karsevaks at Godhra were Wahhabis and those who faced Hindu ire later, in reaction, were largely Sufis. How the Wahhabi conversion game operates is indeed interesting.

When the Sufi victims of communal riots land up in relief camps the Wahhabi preachers woo these riot victims with the aggressive brand of Wahhabism and convert them. The Wahhabi clerics’ missionary zeal and convincing power, backed by funds create an ideal platform for conversion in these situations.

Interestingly, the Sufi victims of the communal riots are told that they are facing the ire of Allah because they are following un-Islamic practices. The Wahhabi funds are often used in the form of subtle inducements to convert the Sufis who succumb to this ideology in those delicate phases.

No wonder then that incidents like the 2002 Gujarat riots and 1992-’93 Mumbai riots following the demolition of the Babri Masjid have strengthened Wahhabism in a big way, as these unfortunate episodes have been exploited by sections of Wahhabis to convert Sufis into their fold. In fact, that is how Wahhabi population has increased in India from less than ten per cent at the time of independence to 35 per cent now.

Interestingly, another factor that strengthened Wahhabism in India was the patronage that it got from the Congress since the days of the freedom struggle when the Deobandis, since they didn’t believe in territorial nationalism, shook hands with an unsuspecting Congress and Gandhiji and earned the label of “patriots” in the process. That’s how Abul Kalam Azad, a Wahhabi and a follower of the Deobandi school, could become the president of Congress twice. His second innings was in the most crucial phase – between 1939 and 1945 at the time of Second World War.

So it is was not surprising that Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad attended the massive anti-RSS/Modi rally organised by Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Hind (JUI) of Arshad Madani in Delhi last month in a vain bid to cash in on the artificial anti-RSS atmosphere built by the leftists with the support of a section of the media which, however, on the ground, was quite hollow.

The nationalist claims of the Indian Wahhabis are best exposed by the speech given by the late JUI leader Maulana Hussain Ahmed Madani in the 1945 JUI conference at Delhi which has been very precisely quoted by historian ZH Faruqi in his book The Deoband School and the Demand for Pakistan and also by reformist Muslim writer Hamid Dalwai.

Madani opposed the demand for Pakistan in that conference saying that he didn’t want Islam’s right to convert non-Muslims remain restricted to a small part of undivided India called Pakistan, thus clearly underlining that the Deobandis or Indian Wahhabis pitched for India against Pakistan since they were against territorial nationalism as they thought Islam’s right was to convert the entire world.

This is what Madani said in the 1945 conference: “It is the non-Muslims who are the field of this Tabligh (propagation and conversion) of Islam and form the raw material for this splendid activity. We are opposed to Islam’s right to do missionary activity to a particular area (read Pakistan).”

How Congress and Gandhiji helped strengthen Wahhabism

It is the one-sided secularism of Gandhiji that created room for the Wahhabis to enter the Congress and play their strategic game unhindered after the Mahatma shook hands with the pan-Islamists by supporting the Khilafat movement launched in 1920 by pan-Islamist Muslim leaders, including the Wahhabis for the reinstatement of the Khalifa of Turkey who had been unseated by the British. Once the Wahhabis earned the label of patriots, the patronage from the Congress helped them grow after independence and come up with the famous Qazmi Bill that proved to be a blow to Sufism.

The Bill which came soon after independence had a deep bearing on the growth of Wahhabism as it clubbed the Wahhabis and Sufis together under the label of Sunnis in what was a strategic move by the Wahhabis who controlled the levers of power in the ruling Congress at that time.

The power to appoint members on State Wakf Boards that controlled dargahs was given to the state governments. And since state governments, till only a few decades ago, were mostly of the Congress, a vast majority of the members appointed on the Waqf boards were Wahhabis. So in a unique and unjustifiable situation, the Wahhabis came to control the dargahs in which they didn’t believe, and according to allegations by many Sufis, started taking steps to erode Sufism through the backdoor.

When the Sufis protested against giving the control of dargahs to the non-dargah-believing Wahhabis through the backdoor, their protests fell on deaf years, thanks to the pro-Wahhabi Congress establishment. In some cases, the allegations of the Sufis that the Wahhabis were openly eroding Sufism was borne out by powerful evidence as in the case of the dargah of Dorabshah Baba in Navsari near Surat which would have been completely destroyed by the Wahabis but for the support of the BJP government in Gujarat.

What Wahhabis fear the most under Modi

The Sufis are demanding that since the Wahhabis don’t believe in dargah worship, the current Sunni Wakf Boards should be renamed Sufi Wakf Boards and their charge be exclusively given to the Sufis while floating a new Wakf Board for the Wahhabis in every state. Mohammed Hamid, president of the Sufi tanzeem, IMAN (Indian Muslim Association – Noorie) said: “Why should those who don’t believe in dargah worship control dargahs? It is a very legitimate demand of the Sufis.”

What the Wahhabis are fearing the most now is that the strengthening of the Sufis will embolden them to place this demand before the Central government and a sympathetic government might give in to their demand which has all the logic when it comes to evidence. Plus, the Sufis’ argument that the control of dargahs can’t be allowed to remain with those who don’t believe in dargah worship can stand scrutiny even in the court of law. No wonder then that a possible loss of control of the dargahs would shatter the Wahhabi dream of wiping out Sufism from the entire Indian subcontinent.

How the Wahhabi march slowed down in the Indian subcontinent

When the situation goes out of control it seeks natural channels for remedy. Wahhabism got a unexpected lift when Russia invaded Afghanistan in late-1979 and the then Pakistan president Zia-ul-Haq, a Wahhabi himself, used the opportunity to spread the ideology while seeking American help in the anti-communist drive.

The first stage comprised the training of mujahideens at Wahhabi madrasas in the North West Frontier Province with the help of America to fight the communist occupation of Afghanistan. Little did America know it was creating a Frankenstein. Eventually, the very Wahhabi fighters who were trained with American help started targeting America in an upsurge of ultra-Wahhabism which, in turn, started producing suicide bombers.

That’s how anti-America ultra-Wahhabi movements in the form of Taliban and Al-Qaeda surfaced. In Pakistan, the final upshot of these developments was that the ultra-Wahhabi suicide bombers started targeting Sufi shrines and mosques in the country in a bid to wipe out Sufism.

But what then happened was the most unexpected, and it pointed to how natural remedies are created in a hopeless situation. In what was a ripple reaction to the destruction of Sufi shrines the peace-loving and scattered Sufis, moved by the challenge of survival, started defending and uniting themselves and making their presence felt.

The consolidation of the Sufis slowly but effectively started curbing the conversion of Sufis to Wahhabism. By 2011, the conversion rate of Sufism to Wahhabism had greatly slowed down because of the awakening of Sufi youths to the dangers of Wahhabism both in India and Pakistan.

This was was best demonstrated by the turnout of lakhs of Sufis in the birthday procession of Prophet Muhammed (Wahhabis consider this procession un-Islamic) in both India and Pakistan in 2011. The turnouts were one of the biggest in both countries in many years and indicated an awareness amongst the Sufis about the Wahhabi threat.

Why Modi is the best bet for the Wahhabis

A senior officer in the prime minister’s office (PMO) very bluntly told a delegation of the Sufis recently that describing all Wahhabis as terrorists was unacceptable to the prime minister as he firmly believed that a very small section of Wahhabis had taken to terrorism or sympathised with the terrorists.

He was only reiterating what Modi has indicated in the past: while he would promote Sufism he would also like to take the moderate Wahhabis along who are genuinely against terrorism. Modi’s stand is just and is borne out by evidence. The first clue to the 2008 Ahmedabad serial blasts was provided to the police by a Wahhabi.

So not surprisingly, Modi is the only political leader in India who understands the dynamics of the Muslim problem and has some vision on how to tackle it. The only correction Modi needs to bring in himself is that he has to be more pronounced in his disapproval when BJP leaders like Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, Sakshi Maharaj and Giriraj Singh tend to equate and condemn all Muslims by their senseless statements.

Clearly, Modi is the best bet for even the moderate Wahhabis in India.

Sufism set the tone for religious co-existence:Sunday Guardian Live

By RAZIUDDIN AQUIL | 19 March, 2016
The belief that a soul can achieve union with God brought Sufis into conflict with Islamic orthodoxy.

The political use of Sufism is not a new thing. Rulers have always tried to invoke popular religion and spirituality for the legitimation of their power. Conversely, men of religion and spiritual leaders have also tended to intervene in matters of politics and governance.

Historically, in India, interactions between political and spiritual domains have created conditions for general public weal through inclusive political theory and practice, as well as recognition of shared and pluralistic cultural traditions with space for diversity and difference. Sufism has contributed immensely to these processes, marking India’s civilisational achievements with peace and tolerance as defining features. It is important that these virtues of Sufi-oriented Islam are highlighted, especially in these times of hatred and violence.

Sufis or Muslim holy men styled themselves as lovers of God. The early Muslim mystics, who were often charismatic leaders with popular appeal, were eventually organised or institutionalised in silsilas, or orders, branching into quite a few competing strands. To start with, the living Sufi master (referred to as sheikh, khwaja, pir) guided followers or visitors at his dwelling place (khanqah/jama’atkhana), but later the shrines (dargahs) of Sufis of previous generations became important and grew into places of pilgrimage, eventually carving a whole sacred geography of Sufism, called wilayat.

What distinguished Sufism from other forms of Islam was its belief that a human soul could achieve union with God, a belief later formulated in the doctrine of wahdat-ul-wujud (unity of existence, or monism as a reality). This doctrine often brought Sufis into conflict with Islamic orthodoxy (represented by the Sunni Hanafi ulama or theologians). The latter believed that God was unique and therefore to suggest that a human’s soul could achieve union with God was to imply that there was no distinction between God and human beings. It is for this reason that we find that even before Islam came to India, Sufis were persecuted for heresy. Sufis were also targeted by the ulama for their occasional indifference to formal religious practices such as regular congregational prayers (namaz/salat), instead focusing on meditations and spiritual exercises which included music.

Sufis played a significant role in the growth and development of the vernacular literature (Urdu, Hindi, Deccani, etc). Their contribution to the spread of poetry and music is equally notable (mahfil-i sama or qawwali). Sufi orders such as the Chishtis used song and dance techniques of concentration and for creating spiritual ecstasy. The wahdat-ul-wujud and several forms of meditation brought the Sufis spiritually very close to certain strands of non-Muslim religious traditions. For example, Advaita Hinduism claimed that atma (a human soul) and parmatma (God) were one and the same, a theory similar to wahdat-ul-wujud. Similarly, Sufis found much to learn from Hindu spiritual disciplines such as yoga, which influenced their techniques of meditation such as pranayama (breath control).

If Sufis learnt from non-Muslim traditions, the local, Indic, traditions (local, foreign, Indic are sensitive categories which must be used with care), were also powerfully affected by the principles of Islam as represented by the Sufi saints. In the teachings of Kabir and Nanak one can see the clear imprint of Sufi Islam. The criticism of idol worship, of useless ritual, emphasis on equality, emphasis on one God, are all to be traced to Sufism. Its greatest contribution to Indian culture is considered to be the example it set in the field of religious and cultural co-existence. Indian Sufi orders showed that Muslim and non-Muslim religious traditions could prosper side by side and learn from each other.

In conclusion, Sufis dedicated themselves to the love of God, which in turn meant love for all His creations—translating into charitable endeavours, blessings and benediction, and notions of egalitarianism; service to humanity through feeding (langar), healing (jhar-phuk, blowing and touching, charms and amulets), etc., were considered a better form of worship than ritualistic prayers; control of the lower self, nafs, and cultivation of the heart, qalb, through a variety of meditational-cum-bodily practices and withdrawal from this-worldly demands, tark-i duniya, with the same kind of intensity as the madness of Majnun and yet superior to him, for the latter sacrificed his life for a perishable Laila, whereas Sufis devoted themselves for an eternal God. In an ecstatic love for God, Sufis could also sing and dance, not in a vulgar manner, but in the most aesthetically sophisticated forms developed through centuries of practice, teaching all along the virtues of tolerance and peace. When Sufis passed away, celebrated as marriage or union with God, Urs, they left behind memories to be cherished forever. The shared legacy of Sufism coupled with inclusive political practices have shown it is possible to address the aspirations of a variety of people, leading to peaceful co-existence in what is aptly referred to as unity in diversity.

Destitute Dinosaurs: Indian Express

Published: 27th March 2016 Modi with delegates at World Sufi Forum

For any movement or leader to come of age, they have to seize the moral high ground. The Congress was baptised on the moral high ground of non-violence and the freedom struggle. It converted this advantage by turning its soul slogan, secularism, into a parthenon of tolerance and governance. Last week, the party faced its nemesis in the form of the World Sufi Forum. PM Narendra Modi, long portrayed by it as the merchant of death and the incinerator of Muslims, swept the minority championship rug from under their secular feet when he declared Sufism to be Islam’s greatest gift to mankind. On March 17, speaking at Vigyan Bhavan, he addressed a vast forum of global Islamic leaders, “When we think of the 99 names of Allah, none stands for force and violence. At a time when the dark shadows of violence are getting longer, you are the only Noor or light of hope. When young voices are silenced by guns on the streets, yours is the voice that heals.”

In one elegant and expansive stroke, Modi made the Indian Left-over secularists look orphaned of all legacy. All their years of marketing the Gujarat riots as Modi’s opera had gone waste.

Around the same time, when Kashmiri separatists were trying out the Pakistani High Commissioner’s biryani, also present in New Delhi among the 200-odd global Islamic leaders was Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri who has demonstrated many times his power to bring Pakistan to its knees. At the time two Kashmiri student punks were praising Afzal Guru and equating him with secularism, the crowds at Ramlila Maidan were roaring the names of international Sufi leaders from Egypt, Pakistan and Iraq, who ascended the stage one by one to speak out against terror.

Thus, for the first time after the BJP came to power, it acquired the moral high ground of leading a government that stood for protecting moderates, including Muslims, all over the world, leaving a disconsolate opposition trapped in the marsh of its own manipulations. A man they had pilloried as a Right wing fanatic was championing the right of all men to live free from fear. A leader who was castigated for refusing to wear an Islamic cap offered by a mischievous secularist at a public function was wearing his moral credentials like a feather in his cap. What went wrong with Sonia’s plans?

Little had the Congress perceived that the super-Hindu nationalist was already trapping them with his silence towards their hysterics. By refusing to engage them over Ghar Wapsi and intolerance on their own turf, Modi was building his own moral high ground. By advocating the Sufi pacifist cause, he segued the voice of over 14 crore Indian Sunni Muslims with his own, thus granting Moditva a halo of tolerance. A powerful Wahhabi imam howled that Modi was dividing Indian Muslims by supporting Sufis. He missed the point that if Modi was consolidating the peaceful Indian Muslim as a force against terrorism, which is mainly sponsored by Pakistan, it would only win him global accolades as a sane, moderate voice against the greatest evil that haunts mankind. And not like one of the hypocritical weak-kneed European PMs who keep sacrificing their citizens at the altar of accommodation, but as a leader ready to act against the enemy by carrying the sane world with him.

The Congress and other secular desperados need to realise that a war is not won by losing temper and rousing the inner ape. It is won through strategy. Their greatest nightmare is coming true. As their secularism stands exposed, Modi has hijacked their strategy and platform too. What they stand to lose next is their moral high ground.

The parameters of Modi’s Muslim outreach are finally becoming clear:Scroll.in

PM’s address at a Sufi conclave, and his upcoming visit to Saudi Arabia, hint at his evolving views towards Islam.

On March 17, less than a week before the horrific terrorist attacks in Brussels, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the World Sufi Forum in Delhi. There, he eloquently spoke of the “… 99 names of Allah, none [of which] stand for force and violence, and that the first two names denote compassionate and merciful. Allah is Rahman and Raheem.”

Modi added: “Those who spread terror in the name of religion are anti-religious.”

Much has been said about the All India Ulama and Mashaikh Board’s maiden attempt at holding an international conference, with a little help from the Modi government. Some Muslim scholars, notably Tauqeer Raza Khan of the Barelvi school, have wondered why Muslims would want to sup with a man “accused of killing 3,000 Muslims in Gujarat”, while Arshad Madani, who heads the allegedly pro-Congress faction of the Jamiat-Ulema-i-Hind, asked if one “section of Muslims is being held close and others being ignored,” by the state.

Several critics have also pointed out the obvious discordance at the heart of Modi’s policy, which is that it is very well for the prime minister to spend time with a few hundred Sufi scholars over an evening, but what was he planning to do about allaying the fear and insecurity of Indian Muslims?

Despite the lynching of a Muslim man in Dadri last year, and Minister of State for Human Resource Development Ram Shankar Katheria’s recent demands that hate-speech related charges against local Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bharatiya Janata Party leaders be dropped, Modi continues to maintain a stony silence.

Muslim outreach

Nevertheless, the parameters of the prime minister’s Muslim outreach are slowly beginning to emerge from conversations with people who have knowledge about these initiatives.

First of all, Modi’s scheduled visit to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on April 3 on his way home from the nuclear security summit in New York (on the margins of which he will meet Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif) is a key link in the chain that connects Modi’s evolving views towards Islam, both at home and abroad.

Modi realises that when he breaks bread with the leaders of the House of Saud, which is also the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques in Mecca and Medina, a powerful message will be sent back to Sunni Muslims in India who comprise about 120 million of the country’s 170 million Muslim population. This will significantly burnish his credentials.

At the Sufi conference, Modi not only spoke eloquently about the peaceful message of Sufi Islam (“Sufism became the face of Islam in India, even as it remained deeply rooted in the Holy Quran, and Hadis. Sufism blossomed in India’s openness and pluralism”), but also about the power of moderate Islam in countering the horror of terrorism that has been unleashed in its name.

“At a time when the dark shadow of violence is becoming longer, you are the noor, or the light of hope,” Modi said at the Sufi Forum. “When young laughter is silenced by guns on the streets, you are the voice that heals.”

With the assault in Brussels at the hands of Islamist jihadists still ringing in the world’s ears, Modi definitely hopes to be representing the world’s third-largest Muslim population when he meets the Saudi leadership. Here it is worth noting that Belgium’s 11.2 million population has spawned 451 Belgian jihadists in Syria and Iraq in contrast with 23 jihadists from India.

“India’s 170 million Muslims and the uniqueness of Indian Islam could teach the 29 million Wahhabi Saudis a thing or two,” a government official said on condition of anonymity.

India’s Islamic inheritance

So as Europe grapples with terrorism, several intelligence chiefs have been trooping to Delhi to ask why and how India keeps its own Muslims safe.

“In the Indian sub-continent, Islam expanded not only against the blade of the invader’s sword, but also through roots that Sufi orders, like the Chishtis, put down in this soil,” said the government official. “[It kept] taking from Hinduism and giving back, until it emerged a uniquely syncretic religion that was inherently tolerant because it had to survive in an alien land.”

The Sufi conference, held at Delhi’s Vigyan Bhavan and at the Ramlila Maidan over four days, was attended by about 150 representatives of the Sufi khanquahs or orders, the Grand Muftis of Egypt, Baghdad and Syria, as well as a few thousand Muslims, who full-throatedly cheered Modi’s denunciation of terror in the name of Islam.

With the weight of this conference behind him, Modi believes his upcoming meetings in Riyadh will serve as a reminder to the world that India, not Saudi Arabia, is the leader of a much larger and much more diverse Islamic inheritance.

Certainly, there is a churning in the heart of Sunni Islam in West Asia as manifested in the Arab Spring revolutions as well as in the growing belief in several kingdoms that non-state actors (read, terrorists) cannot be allowed to hijack Islam’s moderate message. Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nayhan agreed with India during his recent visit to Delhi that “Indian and UAE models act as strong bulwarks against the forces of extremism and radicalism”.

Certainly, too, Modi has come a long way from the time he undertook a Sadbhavana fast in Ahmedabad in 2011 when he was Gujarat chief minister. There, he refused to wear a skullcap offered to him by Imam Shahi Saiyed, a Muslim cleric from a small dargah in Pirana village on the outskirts of the city. At the time, he explained away his refusal by saying: “If a skullcap is a symbol of unity, then why is it that Mahatma Gandhi didn’t wear any.” He also told the cleric to offer him a shawl instead, which the cleric did and which Modi accepted.

But since he became prime minister nearly two years ago, the Modi government has supported several religious-cultural initiatives, indicating his faith in the inherent strength and stabilising influence offered by India’s religions. Last year, the Vivekananda Foundation – formerly headed by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, a close advisor of Modi’s – held a conference on the confluence between Hinduism and Buddhism. Earlier this month, the prime minister spent quality time at Hindu spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s World Culture Festival in Delhi. The Sufi conference, said to have been supported by Doval, has been in the works for a while.

As to why the prime minister continues to maintain a stony silence around Hindutva groups targeting Muslims, BJP leaders have little to say. Many say that it is not his style to speak up publicly. Others believe that the successful Sufi conference and the Saudi visit are messages to the majoritarian right wing. “Samajhdar ko ishaara kafi hai (Intelligent people understand signals),” they said, adding: “By interacting with Muslim leaders for over two hours at the Sufi conference, the PM has indicated that he is the leader of all Indians.”

India can be an honest broker in West Asia:Hindustan Times

Shishir Gupta, Hindustan Times| Updated: Mar 08, 2016

During a meeting with UAE Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in New Delhi in February, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the Islamic State (IS) cannot be tackled through military means only. Instead, Modi said, any counter-offensive against the group should be preceded by a sociological and psychological analysis of those who are attracted to the IS’ ideology. The Crown Prince agreed to the PM’s proposal and added that the UAE was opposed to extremism since al-Qaeda days and it had also sent troops to Afghanistan to fight Osama bin Laden.

Aware of Modi’s plan to travel to Saudi Arabia on April 3, the Crown Prince conveyed the willingness of the Gulf countries to join hands with India against terrorism. While the UAE is a frontline State in the battle against the IS, India is starting to feel the impact of this radical ideology with a section of Sunni Muslim youth eager to join the IS’ Caliphate.

India’s security agencies have identified 28 youth fighting for the IS in Iraq and Syria, out of which six may have been killed. Recently, 22 people were arrested for acting on behalf of the IS in India, taking the total number of radicalised youth beyond 100. India is finding it hard to counter this spurt in radicalisation because its intelligence agencies are understaffed at the field level.

It is in this backdrop that the Modi government is promoting a four-day World Sufi Forum (WSF) from March 17 to 20. The meet will be attended by more than 200 international delegates from Pakistan, the United States, Britain, Canada, Egypt and Turkey, and over 100 papers will be presented. The event, which is being organised by the All India Ulema and Mashaikh Board, will showcase India’s Islamic heritage that rejects violence and supports inclusivity.

Led by Sufi scholars such as Canada-based and Pakistan-born Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, the WSF will spread the spiritual and universal message of Islam. Sufism could be a strong counter to the IS troopers as it never pursues political power or tries to change social structures.

Instead, Sufism stands for multiplicity, tolerance, acceptance and love.

Musicians such as Nizami brothers will highlight the cultural aspect of Islam and spread the message of inclusiveness through qawalis.

This counter-narrative will not end with the WSF: Later this year, scholars from Deoband are organising a conference to expose the IS.

Modi’s visit to Saudi Arabia — on his way back from the nuclear security conference in Washington — should be seen in context of the country joining hands with the West Asian powers to prevent radicalisation of youth and eradicate extremism.

With seven million Indians in West Asia (two million in Saudi Arabia), Modi must ensure that the Indian convergence is linked only to terrorism and not to any sect or a country.

Although Chinese President Xi Jinping did the balancing act when he visited Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iran in one year, Modi does not need to do so as India’s relation with Saudi Arabia, Iran and Israel are independent of each other and transparent.

While trying to prevent radicalisation within India, Modi needs to reach out to both Saudi Arabia and the UAE to ensure that the two Sunni-dominated states do not become gateways for Indian youth to join the IS. This convergence has started to bear fruit with friendly West Asian countries keeping an eye on Indian youth. These countries have state-of-the-art cyber interception technologies and they have often acted as warning systems against threats emanating from the IS or other terrorist groups against India.

The cooperation with Saudi Arabia would also restrict the movement of Pakistan-based jihadi groups, which have acted as a strategic arm of the State in targeting India with hardly any ideological baggage.

Even though Saudi Arabia heads the 24-nation coalition to counter extremism, it needs India’s support to ensure that the campaign to counter the IS is not limited to any particular faith or ideology.

With the security of its seven million citizens as its priority, India can act as an honest broker since it has time-tested links with all major powers in West Asia on counter-terrorism.

India’s Islamic traditions can remind the world that the fundamental principles of the faith can be expressed in different ways without any dilution of the core religion. This character is evident not only in India but also in Afghanistan and the Central Asian Republics.

This broad-based front to contain, restrict and then eradicate the IS cult is the need of the hour as it has the potential to take advantage of the existing geographical-political vacuum in West Asia and can also redefine existing relationships among nation states and non-State players.

The Modi government is rightfully concerned about youth radicalisation and understands the larger threat that emanates from a certain section of the Indian Muslim clergy and pro-Pakistan Kashmiri separatists since radical thoughts transcend geographical boundaries.

Modi is correct in saying that the IS cannot be tackled only through military offensives. Its rabid ideology must be challenged by a counter-narrative that is inclusive, and India must lead that movement by example.