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Reformist Vice-Chancellor of Deoband Voted Out of Office

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25 July 2011

India's best-known Islamic seminary ousted its reformist vice-chancellor on Sunday, less than seven months after he assumed the post, over accusations that he spoke favorably of a Hindu nationalist suspected of fomenting deadly anti-Muslim riots in 2002.

Maulana Ghulam Mohammad Vastanvi (pictured) was voted out July 24 as Vice Chancellor of Darul Uloom Deoband. The voting to remove Maulana Vastanvi as the Vice Chancellor was conducted during the two-day Majlis-e-Shoora (meeting of the advisory board), after he refused to resign as promised following the controversy erupted in the wake of his reported praise for Narendra Modi, the controversial leader of Gujarat's government, whom most Muslims blame for the 2002 violence.

Vastanvi was appointed in January to be a reformist leader of the seminary in the city of Deoband in Uttar Pradesh State. He was popular in part because of the success of his madrasas (Islamic schools) in the western Indian state of Maharashtra that bridged traditional Islamic education with the needs of the modern world by teaching students secular subjects like science and computer programming. He had hoped to bring those innovations to Darul Uloom.

But the effort was almost immediately derailed when he was quoted in an Urdu newspaper as saying that Muslims in Gujarat State needed to move beyond the 2002 sectarian riots there, one of the worst eruptions of religious violence since colonial India was partitioned in 1947. Hindus rampaged through Muslim areas of Gujarat, leaving about 1,000 people dead and leading to reprisals in some areas.

Vastanvi's exact words were: "Muslims in Gujarat have progressed during Modi's rule. Muslims have benefited from the state's development model and are enjoying its fruits. Gujarat and its Muslims have forgotten the wounds of 2002 riots and are progressing."

English-language newspapers and television stations in India portrayed Mullah Vastanvi's remarks as implicitly condoning the actions of Narendra Modi.

Vastanvi has expressed his disappointment with Deoband's verdict and reiterated that he never praised Modi's work in Gujarat, but was rather praising the Muslims for picking themselves up and moving forward.

"There is no question of me praising him at all. If you read my interview properly then you will realise that it was only about the development in Gujarat, the growth of Muslims in Gujarat. It is clearly mentioned that I did not give a clean chit to Modi."

"What I mean to say is that the Muslims who worked hard progressed, but Modi has no role to play in it. After my statements, it came to my notice that because of Modi many Muslims failed to get jobs because of his injustice."

“I am saying goodbye to Darul Uloom,” a visibly upset Mullah Vastanvi said afterward. "I will continue my association, and keep on serving Deoband." He remains a member of the seminary's council.

"Vastanvi wanted to upgrade the old education system in Islamic schools, but nobody was supporting him. It is a loss to Darul Uloom, not to Vastanvi," said his brother Ibrahim Vastanvi.

The council has appointed one of its conservative members, Mullah Abdul Qasim Nomani, as his replacement.

Nomani hinted that he would not follow in Mullah Vastanvi's reformist direction.

"I will continue with the traditions of Darul Uloom," he said. "I take my inspiration from my predecessors and follow the traditional path."


Rishi Banerji, "Majlis-e-Shura votes Vastanvi out as Deoband seminary vice chancellor" Daily News Analysis July 25, 2011

Aleem Faizee, "Vastanvi Verdict: Historic and in synch with Muslim sentiments" UMMID July 25, 2011

Bhupendra Chaubey, "Praised Muslims, not Modi: Vastanvi" IBN July 25, 2011

Hari Kumar, "Muslim Seminary Chief in India Is Fired for Pro-Hindu Interview" New York Times July 24, 2011

Reproduced with permission from Islam Today


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