Under attack, Deoband head says Allah won’t forgive Modi

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Old 23-Jan-2011
Under attack, Deoband head says Allah won’t forgive Modi

Under strong pressure from within the Shoora — the governing body of Dar-ul-Uloom — which elected him, after reports that he praised the Narendra Modi government in Gujarat, the newly elected Mohtamim (Head) of Dar-ul-Uloom, Ghulam Mohammad Wastanavi, today issued a public apology in some Urdu newspapers and rejected allegations that he gave Modi a clean chit on the 2002 riots. Calling his remarks “greatly distorted,” the Gujarat-born Wastanavi, who was elected on January 10, told The Sunday Express on his first day in Deoband today: “I cannot forgive Narendra Modi, Allah will not forgive Narendra Modi, the common man will not forgive Narendra Modi. No one can forgive Narendra Modi...We will take revenge on Modi. We will pray to Allah for this.”
“This humble person cannot even think of saying something that is against the dignity and traditions of Dar-ul-Uloom,” he said, adding that if the community was hurt by his statement, “I apologise from the bottom of my heart.”

However, it’s unclear whether this will placate his critics. In fact, anticipating more pressure, Wastanavi was quoted by Twocircles.net, a website that covers Muslim community news and events, as saying: “I am ready to step down if the same Shoora (that elected me) asks me to do so. If one day the Shoora tells me that it has changed its mind and wants to replace me, I will put in my papers.”

Speaking to The Sunday Express, Wastanavi said: “They asked me for my comment on the Gujarat riots. I replied, ‘Why are you asking us after eight years? There were so many Muslims who were tortured, killed and injured.’ I did not give a clean chit to Narendra Modi.” Referring to the remarks attributed to him in The Times of India, he said that he had a copy of the recording in his possession to prove his point.
The 61-year-old Maulana said that he wished that Muslims empowered themselves so that a repeat of Gujarat could be avoided. “Wastanavi is not a person who can forget about what happened eight years ago. At the same time, I wish that Muslims got themselves educated and started businesses. Meanwhile, we should be aware of the many riot cases that are being argued in our courts. I have also been involved in the rehabilitation process, I am the president of a body which does such work. We have spent crores as part of the relief efforts,” he said.
He stood by his remarks on development in the state. “I did not praise Modi but I spoke about the development of Gujarat. I praised the development of Gujarat, which is the result of the work (of) Centre and State Governments,” he said. Asked if he thought Muslims were marginalised in Gujarat’s growth, Wastanavi said: “I do not live in Gujarat, I live outside.”

The controversy comes days after he was elected on January 10. As first reported in The Sunday Express, his choice was seen as a break from tradition: he was the first from outside the Deoband fold (or one who has not been educated and trained in a Deobandi madrasa). He is also known as an education entrepreneur, running a madrasa in Akkalkua in Maharashtra — where he has lived for the past three decades — and several engineering colleges.

Critics were restive over an MBA theologian taking over the traditional and normally conservative seminary. In the days following his election, there were newspaper ads and statements by clerics questioning his credentials. One attacked him for having been associated with a function involving the distribution of idols in Beed in October. In his apology today, Wastanavi said: “Keeping or distributing idols is a great sin in my faith...therefore, there is no question of keeping or distributing any idols.”

Opposition to him has united the two rival factions of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, a Muslim organization of clerics and the largest organization of madrasas in the country. Mahmud Madani, MP and leader of one group said: “I think his remarks have been distorted, but if he said Muslims in Gujarat are OK under Modi, that is unacceptable and absurd. When we are critical of incidents of discrimination in states run by otherwise secular political parties like Maharashtra and West Bengal, it is simply absurd to say that Modi’s state is OK. There are only two ways out for the new Mohtamim now — either punishment or he should apologise.”

When contacted, Maulana Arshad Madani, leader of the other faction and a bitter rival of Mahmud Madani, said: “People are already writing and talking extensively about his appointment. Now there is no point in my joining the debate, one shouldn’t enter all debates and discussions.”

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