Friday, March 17, 2006

Victory for the Moderate Muslims in Varanasi

Update: Remember to read the comments, they add to the article. Thanks for them, folks!

Some weeks ago, I was sent this article [free reg required, you can use bugmenot]. The point the article made was that Islam is suffering because somehow the moderate section of the community is not coming out strongly, thus letting the fanatics rule the roost and dictate the policies. Some very valid points and a nice read.

I have been engaged in a strong debate, both on the web and off it, regarding my pro "do not call Varanasi bombing a religious attack since it was not, and this might cause riots" stand. You may want to see my comments at the bottom of the post linked above. More about that issue some other day.

On to the latest news, I just saw that the Varanasi muslim moderates got a fatwa issued by the religious officials there against terrorism. Pretty cool, I say.

From the article:
Quoting references from the holy Quran, the mufti said Islam strongly condemned and restricted the 'fitn-o-fasad' (violence).

"Islam is synonymous with peace and protection of humanity," he said, adding that Allah has expressed unhappiness on all those acts that breach peace.

Allah says: "Slaying an individual without any reason is a heinous crime and sin; if one kills an innocent person, it is the killing of entire humanity, and if one saves an innocent person it is an act of protecting the entire humanity." (Quran; Sooreh Maida, Ayaat 32).

The fatwa against terrorism came in response to the written queries put before the Mufti by Qamar Jehan, former head of the department of Urdu, Banaras Hindu University, and Muniza Rafiqu Khan, registrar of Gandhian Institute of Studies, to know whether terrorism had any place in Islam.


The three-page fatwa said all human beings of the world were members of the family of Allah. The safety of each individual is essential and there is no barrier of religion or geographical boundary.

The holy Quran strictly denounces the act of violence through its different 'ayaats' including 'Sooreh Bakara - 60 and 205', 'Sooreh Araf - 56' and 'Sooreh Qasas - 83'.

It is the duty of each and every Muslim to have good relations with all individuals, irrespective of their religion. The fatwa further stated that a person of any country or religion involved in act of terrorism goes against the teaching of Islam.

Such persons could not be termed as religious-minded, as terrorists have no religion. Islam not only restricts a person from doing wrong, but also commands not to support evil as it is a sin.

I know some of you will brush it off as mere lip service, but honestly, isn't this a pleasant surprise, coming from a community where we were thinking that the moderate voice is not loud enough.

I wish for more such pleasant surprises in the future.

P.S. I got new shoes [unevenly worn out, thus playing a part in my ITB injury] and Zack, my officemate who is one of the coaches in the Marathon team, corrected my running style. Lets see.


  1. Come on man, that is paying lip service.

    Its not the local Muslims who are responsible for the bomb blasts, so this kind of fatwa makes no difference.

  2. Anonymous7:59 AM

    I don't mean to be philosophical, but then just think of this.

    There is a spoilt kid troubling everybody in a town. The whole town has got sick of the pranks this kid has been doing. One day after several years, his father admonishes the child in general public for doing bad things. And guess what, the whole town is singing praise for this father for admonishing the child.

    Isn't the father mostly responsible for whatever the kid did? I mean, shouldn't he have reacted sooner and did something more than just lip service?

    Think of it Animesh, think of where you stand. Just because some losers made some fatwa, does it mean anything at all to anybody?

    You seem to be growing into a pseudo secular guy like the rest of politicians...

  3. Don’t you think the ease with which a "fatwa" is issued points to some more pertinent problems. Just imagine this, there is no priestly hierarchy in Muslim world. More over, there is no clear indication about who or who cannot issue a fatwa. So… what about the fatwa issued by OBL on the non-muslim world. Which fatwa is binding and which is not.

    OK, so there is a fatwa on terrorism in Varanasi. But will it stop someone in POK to fund a training camp and send self-prophesied warriors to kill more people here. Hell... we don’t even know if it is a sunni fatwa or a shia fatwa.

    Because it ends up being a personal choice to ignore or embrace a fatwa. .. I think the statement issued adds no value to the fight against terrorism.

  4. They scream at us that we do not speak out agaisnt violence, and when we do we have to listen to this trash talk, yeah but they are never satisfied. the Fatwah is a good thing. thank you for posting this article.

  5. @confused: Thanks a lot for stating that the local muslims did not do it. Although the [potential] rioters may not agree with you, I completely do.

    On a different note, when non-local muslim gets a "negative" fatwa issued [to kill so-and-so author, e.g.], it obviously makes a difference, and we cry ourselves hoarse about islam being a violent religion, don't we?

    My view, everything makes a difference - some small, some big. This one makes a small difference, but I sure hope this is a sign of things to come. How many of us had heard of a "constructive" fatwa before?

    @anon: Your [nice] example made me think. How about I give a more complete example. Suppose there is a drunkard in a town. The guy gets drunk each night and causes a stir in the area [much like the kid in your example]. His wife [much like the father in your example], does not do anything to stop him. Is the wife responsible? YES. Is this a sad point that in that family, the voice of the moderate wife is not strong enough? YES.

    One day, after a lot of hue and cry by others and after some really atrocious acts by the husband, the wife finally gets the courage to speak up. She does not get the guy to jail, but for the first time she voiced herself, possible making the husband to stop for a second, before continuing on his way to the bar.

    Should the wife be praised now? I say yes. Because that is the only way to go. The guy's habit will change only when the wife's voice becomes stronger, and it will become stronger only if the others encourage it. Please note that the husband will _not_ encourage his moderate wife - the other people in the town have to.

    I must say that the husband needs to be dealt with, and maybe waiting for the wife to get stronger in her opinions is going to take too long, and the whole town should think about it. At the same time, the town should encourage the wife to excercise her new-found voice more, not brush it off as mere lip service.

    Your fatwa question is answered in the previous point. The fatwa in Iran against Rushdie mattered to everyone, since it gave them an opportunity to criticise... but who has the time to encourage a positive action?

    Pseudo-secular, I don't think so? I did state early in my post that KPS gill's article was a good one, something I agree to.

    @Ashish: I agree that fatwas are contexual, and I am not saying that this will have far reaching direct consequences, but nevertheless it is good to see the moderates being able to get something done.

    @Edward: I guess you are commenting as a muslim, and I take your point. If you are stating as a Pakistani, that is a different question.

    Thanks all for commenting. I am still exploring where exactly I stand on this, and thse discussions definitely help.


  6. Agreed Animesh,

    This has to be praised, its a bold step and step in the right direction and it should be encouraged.

    If we think we have the right to condemn and criticise any unrighteous comments [fatwa] or act of crime and violence and blame a community or a certain set of people for that, then its our duty again to praise acts like these, howsoever small they might be. Its every drop that builds the ocean.

    Reminds me of an old adage, when a sage said:

    "Inside me there are two dogs, one is evil and the other good. The evil one fights the other all the times." On being asked which dog will win, he said "The one I feed more".

    In a similar way, I feel its our responsibility not to let these positive moves die out. Our praise and support will act as a food for the good and righteous. This encouragement and support would help all sensible and sane people of muslim community to get together and keep the momentum going ... to defeat the evil.

  7. I was re-reading this post, and noticed something:

    "@Edward: I guess you are commenting as a muslim, and I take your point. If you are stating as a Pakistani, that is a different question."

    Interestingly, I don't know what I meant when I wrote that, since the peace-loving aam-junta in Pakistan is most welcome. I should have been clearer.