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Islamic World News ( 21 Nov 2008, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Taliban’s Spiritual Fathers Denounce Terror. Could Taliban Be Next?

2. Qaeda scorns Obama with racial slur

3. New enrolment rules will benefit thousands of Madrasa students in India

4 The President-Elect Barack Obama and India by Martha Nussbaum

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



Taliban's Spiritual Fathers Denounce Terror. Could Taliban Be Next?

By Jeffrey Donovan, Abubakar Siddique


What would happen if the Taliban’s spiritual fathers denounced terrorism? That, in effect, is what has taken place in Deoband, the northern Indian hometown of the austere form of Sunni Islam followed by the Taliban.

In May, Darul Uloom Deoband Madrasah, located north of New Dehli, issued an unprecedented fatwa, or religious decree, against terrorism. Earlier this month, 4,000 senior Indian ulema and muftis -- Muslim clerics with the authority to interpret Islamic law -- backed the fatwa in a mass gathering in the city of Hyderabad.

Now, the Deobandi political leader in India has told RFE/RL that the next step is to gather Muslim leaders from across South Asia, including the Taliban, to discuss endorsing the anti-terror decree.


It looks set to be a hot debate.


“The killing of innocents or atrocities against them is terrorism,” Maulana Mahmood Madani, general-secretary of Jamiat Ulama-i Hind (JUH), the conservative political party founded by Darul Uloom Deoband, told RFE/RL in explaining the May 31 fatwa. “That is how terrorism is defined.”

Strong Stand

The fatwa was issued in a strictly Indian context. In recent years, amid a series of terrorist attacks, India’s 150 million-strong Muslim community has come under strong criticism from majority Hindus. Stigmatized as terrorists, Indian Muslims have been seeking to take a strong stand to dissociate them from violence -- and the fatwa is the latest, if perhaps the most vocal, contribution to that effort.

But given Deobandi influence on Muslims across the subcontinent, the fatwa is seen as having a potentially significant regional impact.

Darul Uloom Deoband was formed about 150 years ago as a spiritual resistance movement to British rule. Over the years, its austere form of Sunni Islam, which harkens back to the early days of the faith, spread across northern India and what is now Pakistan. Thousands of madrasahs propagating its teachings cropped up across the region, including along the Afghan-Pakistan border. It is here that many Taliban, including leader Mullah Omar, received their schooling.

With their teachers now coming out against terrorism, will the Taliban in Pakistan or Afghanistan follow suit? Madani is unsure. But he wants senior clerics from the eight member states of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) to come together to debate whether to endorse the Deobandi decree.

“I don’t know what [the Taliban and clerics who support them] will say,” Madani said. “But my intention is that this issue must be debated. I am trying to bring together the ulema and muftis from all SAARC countries in India. Then I will request them to endorse this decree.”

Critical Stage

The Deobandi efforts come at a critical stage of the Afghan conflict, which has spilled over into the bordering tribal regions of Pakistan with militants also striking targets in and around Islamabad. In October, Saudi King Abdullah hosted allies of the Taliban and Afghan government for a religious dinner in Mecca. That meeting fueled talk that Afghan President Hamid Karzai wants a peace deal with the Taliban -- provided they accept the Afghan constitution and renounce ties to Al-Qaeda.

On November 16, Karzai offered to provide safe passage to Omar and other Taliban leaders to take part in any peace talks. Taliban sources said they were considering a response.

Late last month, Pakistani and Afghan politicians and tribal leaders met for two days of talks in Islamabad. Their so-called “mini jirga” reiterated the desire of both countries to combat extremism and terrorism, and extended an olive branch to militants willing to lay down their arms.

The jirga process, which is continuing, is a positive development, according to Maulana Syedul Aarifeen, who heads a major Deobandi Madrasah in Peshawar, capital of Pakistan’s restive Northwest Frontier Province.

In the 1980s, Aarifeen’s late father -- Maulana Rahat Gul -- was instrumental in bringing together ulema to issue a fatwa declaring the fight against Afghanistan’s Soviet occupiers as jihad. But Araifeen now wants an end to nearly three decades of war in the region. He tells RFE/RL the jirga between Pakistan and Afghanistan is the best forum to bring an end to the Taliban insurgencies in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“This jirga should be held among Muslims,” Aarifeen said, “because Allah and his Prophet [Muhammad] said that when two Muslims have differences among themselves, you should seek rapprochement among them though consultation. And this process is called jirga in Pashto [language]. Now we see that there are differences among Muslims, who were united before. Now, the jirga is a good forum for us to unite again.”

Parallel Track

Alongside the jirga process, the Deobandi effort amounts to a parallel track on the theological front.

Francesco Zannini, an Italian author and expert on South Asian Islam, says the Deobandi fatwa appears aimed at condemning Al-Qaeda-style tactics -- atrocities against civilians -- while clearly leaving intact the Koranic concept of jihad, which among other things legitimizes defending Muslims against aggression.

“I believe it’s a big step forward in the sense that the Deobands are now promoting in some way a movement that goes against what Al-Qaeda is doing. This is a positive point,” said Zannini, a professor at Rome’s Pontifical Institute of Arabic and Islamic Studies. “But, at the same time, I would say that it does not attack classic fundamentalism but rather only condemns its most extremist aspects. In my opinion, the Taliban could very well end up backing it.”

The Deobandi fatwa comes amid other recent developments in Muslim countries that have condemned terrorism and embraced tolerance.

Saudi King Abdullah has led ongoing efforts to promote inter-religious peace and tolerance, including a United Nations meeting last week in New York. Earlier this month, Catholic leaders, including Pope Benedict XVI and representatives of Islam’s major schools of thought, signed a statement after three days of talks at the Vatican pledging to combat violence waged in the name of religion.

Zannini, who took part in the Vatican talks, says it all adds up to a trend: “I believe at this point we find ourselves faced with what is, essentially, the great Islamic middle class that has grown tired of this confrontation. As a result, it has begun to do something about it.”

Perhaps the most dramatic shift within radical Islam came last May, when Sayyid Imam al-Sharif, the Egyptian ideological father of Al-Qaeda, published a major condemnation of the tactics used by Osama bin Laden’s terror network.

“We are prohibited from committing aggression, even if the enemies of Islam do,” al-Fadl wrote.n RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan contributed to this report. Source:


Qaeda scorns Obama with racial slur

Nov 19, 2008, By Randall Mikkelsen

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Al Qaeda's deputy leader accused Barack Obama of betraying his race and his father's Muslim heritage on Wednesday and urged more attacks, as the group tried to counter the incoming U.S. president's global popularity.

Osama bin Laden's second-in-command Ayman al Zawahri attacked Obama as a "house Negro," a racially-charged term used by 1960s black American Muslim leader Malcolm X to describe black slaves loyal to white masters.

"You represent the direct opposite of honorable black Americans like ... Malcolm X," Zawahri said in an 11-minute recording publicized on the Internet on Wednesday. It was al Qaeda's first high-level commentary on Obama's election on November 4. Bin Laden could also release a message on Obama within the next two weeks or so, one analyst said.

Zawahri criticized Obama's support for Israel and plans to send more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, where he said they were destined to fail. He urged Islamist fighters to keep striking a "criminal" United States until it withdraws from Muslim lands.

The recording was distributed on a videotape that carried pictures of Obama at the Western Wall in Jerusalem and Malcom X, flanking Zawahri in the center.

U.S. officials and analysts, alert for signs of an attack in the period leading up to the transfer of presidential power on January 20, said there was no sign of an imminent threat.

They cast Zawahri's message as an attempt to shift al Qaeda's focus from U.S. President George W. Bush and maintain an enmity against the United States among its supporters.

"They're faced with what is by any accounting a change in this country," said one U.S. counterterrorism official who asked not to be identified.


"The way they're dealing with the change represented by the election of an African American as president of the United States is to insist that nothing has changed," he said.

Obama's transition office declined to comment.

His election was greeted with broad hope in the Middle East, where U.S. relations with Arabic countries were deeply strained under Bush.

Daniel Benjamin, a counterterrorism official under former President Bill Clinton, said Obama's election on a platform of breaking with Bush policies was a boost to American "soft power," or nonmilitary international influence.

"I think they (al Qaeda) are deeply threatened by the fact there is a new American president and that he has come to office saying he wants to have a more constructive relationship with the one billion Muslims in the world."

Zawahri, he said, "feels like he has a competitor for the hearts and minds."

Zawahri referred to Obama's Kenyan father, who was raised Muslim but became an atheist. Obama is a Christian. "You were born to a Muslim father, but you chose to stand in the ranks of the enemies of the Muslims," Zawahri said.

The Malcolm X reference probably reflects the influence of American-born al Qaeda spokesman Adam Gadahn, believed to be close to Zawahri, said a U.S. terrorism monitor who goes by the pseudonym Laura Mansfield.

Zawahri has employed the "house Negro" insult before; when in 2007 he used it to label Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her predecessor, Colin Powell, who are both black.

"And in you and in Colin Powell, Rice and your likes, the words of Malcolm X ... concerning 'House Negroes' are confirmed," Zawahri said in the message released on Wednesday.

His spoken remarks could also be translated as "house slaves," but al Qaeda's accompanying English translation, distributed by the IntelCenter Web monitor, used "house Negroes."

Mansfield said it typically takes bin Laden, deep in hiding, longer than Zawahri to produce a statement reacting to events and relay it to an outlet. But it would not be a surprise if he released one soon, she said.

(Additional reporting by Inal Ersan and Firouz Sedarat in Dubai)

(Editing by David Storey)



New rules will benefit thousands of Madrasa students in India

19 November 2008

New Delhi: A significant move by the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) will benefit students who pass out from small madrasas and maktabs to get enrolled for Secondary course of NIOS. Under the new rule the notification for which was issued this Monday, any one can enrol in a Secondary course level on the basis of a self-certificate eliminating the need to show their previous academic work.

The notification issued by NIOS secretary D. S. Bist states that any learner has to just state that "I have studied enough to be able to pursue Secondary level course." This eliminates the need for having any formal school education and therefore a school-leaving certificate is also not required. The notification specifically clarifies that the new provision "will also be applicable for those learners who wish to enrol themselves in Secondary course of NIOS through Madarsas."

In an earlier notification issued in June of this year, NIOS stopped insisting on madrasas and maktabs being registered society or be affiliated/recognized by any Board. It also accredited all Madrasas and Darul Ulooms which are recognized by other institutions.

Established in 1989 and initially known as National Open School, NIOS provides for educational needs of out of school children, drop-outs and those who do not have easy access to school facilities.

NIOS's Secondary Course is equivalent to the Xth standard. Students are required to successfully complete a minimum of five subjects to get the certification. Subjects offered at this level are Mathematics, Science, Social Science, Economics, Business Studies, Home Science, Word Processing, and Typewriting in English, Hindi, and Urdu. Many language courses are also offered including in English, Hindi, and Urdu.

Students who successfully complete Secondary course are eligible to enroll in Senior Secondary which is equivalent to XIIth standard.

Link: Source:


The President-Elect Barack Obama and India

November 19, 2008 - 4:40pm.

By Martha Nussbaum

President-elect Barack Obama will face many challenges in foreign policy, but forging a productive relationship with India will be high on that list. President Clinton took a keen interest in India, and, especially, in issues of rural development. He visited rural development projects with his usual zest and curiosity, taking a particularly keen interest in the situation of women. After his Presidency, Clinton has continued his work on issues of poverty and development. He was also virtually the only major international leader to stand up right after the Gujarat pogrom of 2002 and publicly condemn the perpetrators.

President Bush, by contrast, focused his efforts on the nuclear deal, more or less neglecting issues of poverty and development. One bright spot in the generally dismal record of his dealings with India, however, was the decision to deny a visa to Narendra Modi, who had been invited to lecture here by a group of Non-Resident Indians (NRI's). The State Department cited his role in the Gujarat pogrom as its reason for denying him a diplomatic visa and revoking his tourist visa. This courageous stance in favor of human rights and against the perpetrators of genocide was surprising but highly welome to the large number of U. S.-based scholars of India who had petitioned the State Department in this matter.

What course will President Obama choose? Will he, like Clinton, focus on poverty, quality of life, gender equality, and an end to the politics of hate? Or will he follow the lead of the NRI community, focusing on entrepreneurship and nuclear partnership? Much discussion, this week, has focused on Obama's appointment of Sonal Shah to his transition team. I shall not add to the growing volume of commentary on Shah's links to the VHP-A, since she has already issued one statement condeming the politics of hate, and will soon be invited to clarify her position further. Shah personally is involved with only the VHP-A's relief efforts. There is room for concern, however, that someone with such close ties to an organization that has been complicit in terrorist activities against Muslims and Christians should hold such a prominent place. The whole issue deserves the further clarification that it will receive.

Instead of pursuing that question further, however, I should like to focus on a letter written by then-candidate Obama to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, dated September 23, 2008, and published in India Abroad, the October 10 issue. I address these remarks to my former University of Chicago Law School colleague in the spirit of the type of respectful yet searching criticism that I know he will recognize as a hallmark of our faculty workshops and discussions.

The Obama letter has three slightly disturbing characteristics.

First, the letter gives lengthy praise to the nuclear deal, without acknowledging the widespread debate about the wisdom of that deal in both nations. Perhaps, however, this silence simply reflects politeness: Obama is surely aware that Singh has been an enthusiastic backer of the deal, risking much political capital in the process.

Second, the letter speaks of future cooperation that will "tap the creativity and dynamism of our entrepreneurs, engineers and scientists," particularly in the area of alternative energy sources, but never mentions a future partnership in the effort to eradicate poverty and illiteracy. This silence, unlike the first, cannot be explained by politeness, since Singh has devoted a great deal of attention to issues of rural poverty, and it is plausible to think that he could have gotten a lot further had he had more help from abroad.

Third, and most disturbing, the letter commiserates with Singh for the Delhi bomb blasts, but makes no mention of Gujarat or Orissa. Obama offers Singh:

"my condolences on the painful losses your citizens have suffered in the recent string of terrorist assaults. As I have said publicly, I deplore and condemn the vicious attacks perpetrated in New Delhi earlier this month, and on the Indian embassy in Kabul on July 7. The death and destruction is reprehensible, and you and your nation have my deepest sympathy. These cowardly acts of mass murder are a stark reminder that India suffers from the scourge of terrorism on a scale few other nations can imagine."

Obama's use of the word "terrorism" to describe acts thought to be perpetrated by Muslims, while not using that same word for acts perpetrated by Hindus, is ominous. Muslims suffer greatly in India, as elsewhere, from the stereotype of the violent Muslim, and both justice and truth demand that we all do what we can to undermine these stereotypes, bringing the guilty of all religions to justice, and protecting the innocent. (The recent refusals of local bar associations in India to defend Muslims accused of complicity in terrorism, under threat of violence, shows that the rule of law itself hangs in the balance.) Particularly odd is Obama's omission of events in Orissa, which were and are ongoing. His phrase "the scourge of terrorism" is virtually Bushian in its suggestion that terrorism is a single thing (presumably Muslim) and that many nations suffer from that single thing. (Note that it is not even true that most world terrorism is caused by Muslims. Our University of Chicago colleague Robert Pape's careful quantitative study of terrorism worldwide concludes that the Tamil Tigers, a secular political organization, are the bloodiest in the world. Moreover, Pape argues convincingly that even when religion is used as a screen for terror; the real motives are most often political, having to do with local conflicts.)

Obama's letter was written during a campaign. Perhaps it reflects awareness of the priorities of NRI's who were working hard in that campaign. At this point, however, he can start with a clean slate and decide how to order his priorities regarding India. Let us hope that, like Bill Clinton, he will give the center of his attention to issues of human development (poverty, gender equality, education, health), and that, when discussing the issue of religious violence, he will study carefully the violence in Gujarat and Orissa, learn all he can about the organizations of the Sangh Parivar, and adopt a policy that denounces religious violence in all its forms. To mention one immediate issue, it would be a disaster for global justice if Obama, as President, were to heed the demands of the diaspora community to grant Narendra Modi a visa -- especially since the Tehelka expose has made so clear the cooperation of the government of the state of Gujarat in those horrendous acts of violence.

President Obama has repeatedly shown a deeply felt commitment to the eradication of a politics based upon hate. Can we have confidence that he will carry that commitment into his relationship with India, even when the demands of powerful leaders of the NRI community make that difficult? I certainly hope so.

Martha Nussbaum is the Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at The University of Chicago, and the author of The Clash Within: Democracy, Religious Violence, and India's Future. This article first published on