Alert Sign Dear reader, online ads enable us to deliver the journalism you value. Please support us by taking a moment to turn off Adblock on

Alert Sign Dear reader, please upgrade to the latest version of IE to have a better reading experience


Putting genies back in the bottle

Published Mar 27, 2013 06:28pm


Your Name:

Recipient Email:

-Illustration by Abro.
-Illustration by Abro.

It is the pot calling the kettle black. For decades India has accused Pakistan-based fundamentalists of exporting religious extremism to India. The fountainhead of Islamic fundamentalism in South Asia, however, is not Akora Khattak, but Deoband in India.

India has long accused Pakistan-based religious seminaries of radicalising the youth and sending them over the border to fight in the Indian-administered Kashmir.  She has also accused Islamabad of either covertly supporting such seminaries, or not doing enough to keep them in check. India, however, has failed to do the same domestically.

The Deoband-based seminary, Darul Uloom, is perhaps the most radical of all religious seminaries in South Asia. And whereas, religious leaders of all stripes in Pakistan, with the exception of the Taliban who are not necessarily religious but religiously motivated militants, have issued religious edicts against suicide bombings and targeting civilians, the India-based Darul Uloom has failed to do the same. Indian authorities will be well-served to recognise the challenges at home before they accuse others.

Daul Uloom maintains an active website to offer edicts on matters of interest to Muslims. Essentially, edicts are answers to questions posed by the sect’s followers. It is not what the scholars at the seminary have said about violence that raises concerns. In fact, it is their conspicuous silence that is alarming. In a question about suicide attacks against non-Muslim forces, the scholars at Darul Uloom had nothing to say. Instead, they asked the inquirer to consult the local scholars in his vicinity.


How is it that the dozens of religious scholars in the Darul Uloom have no opinion on such an important matter? It is not that the Ulema are shy in expressing opinions. When someone inquired about how to clean one’s teeth with miswaak (a teeth-cleaning twig of the Salvadora Persica tree), the ulema offered a specific response: apply the twig across the teeth and along the tongue. They instructed to start cleaning the teeth from the right side and end on the left. They further asked to rinse and repeat three times. As for suicide bombings, the ulema at Deoband had no opinion.

The past decade of violence in Pakistan has been alleged to have been perpetrated more by the followers of the Deobandi school of thought than any other religious sect. A doctoral dissertation at the University of Pennsylvania revealed that of the 2,344 terrorists arrested in Pakistan, whose guilt was substantiated by sufficient evidence, more than 90 per cent followed the Deobandi sect.

The rise of the Deobandi sect in Pakistan was a coordinated effort sponsored by the Saudis and the Americans to raise beachheads to fight against the Soviet Army in Afghanistan. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Deobandi and other militias raised in Pakistan were of no use to the Americans. In the 90s, the graduates of the Afghan war and other madrassah alums were first deployed to the Indian-administered Kashmir to fuel the insurgency. The militants returned to Afghanistan and Pakistan after 9/11 to fight against the Americans who in fact had financed the very seminaries that produced the militants.

For Pakistan, the violence has been catastrophic. Thousands have died a violent death since the start of militancy in Pakistan, which also has an ugly sectarian side to it. Since 2003, thousands belonging to sectarian minorities, including Shias and Ahmadis along with hundreds of non-Muslims have fallen prey to the extremists. Pakistanis can use a strong religious voice against militancy and sectarianism. Instead, they have to battle the militants and the silence of their religious scholars.

Another follower of the Darul Uloom asked the scholars to opine about the fact that Pakistan-based Jamiat-e-Ulama-e-Islam (JUI), a Deoandi religo-political outfit, had partnered with the Shias. The inquirer was concerned that JUI’s teaming up with the Shias would reduce hatred against the Shias who may no longer be declared apostates. Yet again, the scholars at Deoband referred the inquirer to consult with his or her local religious leaders.


The fact that sectarianism threatens the very survival of Pakistan should encourage the Deobandi ulema in Pakistan to speak against violence in unequivocal terms. They should chart out their own path independent of the seminary in India, which has not been helpful with its silence over violence and sectarian hatred.

Sectarian and religiously motivated violence has been consuming the region for decades. India should consider having a constructive dialogue with the religious leaders and scholars at Deoband. It is time to put the genie back in the bottle.


Murtaza Haider, Ph.D. is the Associate Dean of research and graduate programs at the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University in Toronto. He can be reached by email at



The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.


Your Name:

Recipient Email:

Author Image

Murtaza Haider is a Toronto-based academic and the director of

He tweets @regionomics

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (58) Closed

M Ali Khan Mar 27, 2013 12:42pm
Dar ul Uloom, Deoband was also the place where a fatwa was passed that declared Shia Muslims to be kafir back in the 1980s.
Md Imran Mar 27, 2013 12:47pm
Institutes like Darul Uloom in India provides a voice to the oppressed in India. However, Indian government should be held accountable in the UN for sponsoring terrorism against Pakistan. Unfortunately, our leaders are so busy going to and coming from London, that they hardly have time for such triffles. Hence, i hope military comes back to power to put India back in its place. And i am not alone in this wish. Millions of educated, middle-class Pakistanis wish the military comes back to power to eradicate corruption, and deal with India's hegemonic designs.
Amjad Mar 27, 2013 01:09pm
Mrtaza Haider has highlighted a very core issue. there is no doubt, terrorists are serious threat to the region, they have damaged the social fabric of pakistani society. it is need of an hour to end the blame game and come close together and settle their dispute. it will be fruitful for both countries and region as well.
RAW is WAR Mar 27, 2013 01:11pm
Good point. But if India tries ti correct the situation, it will be termed Islamophobic.
SPar Mar 27, 2013 01:20pm
Your argument is making a mountain out of mole and comparing with another big mountain. Nobody will buy this argument, excepting sections of Pakistan.
AHA Mar 27, 2013 01:27pm
Another excellent piece from Murtaza. The silence of Muslims on ruthless terrorism carried out under the name of Islam is deafening.
James Mar 27, 2013 01:34pm
So that next time Indian govt do something, you call it anti-muslim/ pseudosecular, or islamophobia......Please ask first regarding this to your fellow countryment Mr. Haider
Shahid Mar 27, 2013 01:38pm
A very well researched and well written article where every word speaks of facts. Thanks
saigandhi Mar 27, 2013 01:54pm
Murtaza bhai, there is a seperation of church and state - indian deobandi -dont take money from govt - so govt cant do anything -nor indian deobandi bombing in india - this is not a law and order issue - plus indian govt dare say a word to muslims in india - then they make a hulla-balla - minorities in india are not like that in Pak - in india they are powerful.
vishmed Mar 27, 2013 02:11pm
Maybe India doesn't care because Indian Muslims pay no heed to the Deoband.
Tahir A Mar 27, 2013 02:30pm
A good revelation about India based Darul Uloom. You mentioned the eerie quietness of their stance about suicide attacks on non-Muslim. Let
a.k.lal Mar 27, 2013 02:43pm
military must come back to power, so that country goes back a decade again
Omar Mar 27, 2013 03:07pm
About minorities yes your very right, I guess its just a word that politicians have coined for their gains. India is the best place for minorities.
Cyrus Howell Mar 27, 2013 03:07pm
It is particularly deafening when a bomb explodes next to you.
Cyrus Howell Mar 27, 2013 03:09pm
Men of Peace are lovers not fighters.
Cyrus Howell Mar 27, 2013 03:11pm
Millions of educated, middle-class Pakistanis wish the military comes back to keep them safe.
Abhijit Dutta, India Mar 27, 2013 03:11pm
Thank God you said this Sir. In India vote banks rule ! :-)
Karachi Wala Mar 27, 2013 03:15pm
" It is time to put the genie back in the bottle". Since the genie came out of the bottle, it has grown many heads. Getting all these heads back into the bottle will take some serious doing.
JANE Mar 27, 2013 03:25pm
your democracy has sent pakistan 60 years back
Irony Mar 27, 2013 04:16pm
Well said!!!
SHARAT GUPTA Mar 27, 2013 04:35pm
Perfectly said. Religious bodies want only rights with no obligations or duties to the society or country. SHARAT GUPTA, INIDA
SBB Mar 27, 2013 05:31pm
These are all very good observations about Darul Uloom. I think it opens our eyes to places where problems may lie... and we need to resolve hatred wherever it exists. Even if it's in India.
Jagreet Mar 27, 2013 05:58pm
Darul Uloom?? Never heard of them.. Please do some research, any body can have website. How many follow or even Darul Uloom???
observer Mar 27, 2013 06:04pm
India is a Secular polity. The state does not interfere with the religious views of its subjects unless those views are in conflict with the Constitutional and Legal provisions. Since Darool Ulum was silent on the issue of suicide bombing or spreading hatred against Shias, the state has no cause for interference. There are organisations promoting suicide bombing and hatred against Shias in Pakistan, what is Pakistan doing?
RD Mar 27, 2013 08:14pm
I have a question about this article. Does Darul Uloom maintain oversight over the Deobandi outfits in Pakistan? Or that they don't and the Pakistani outfits grew on their own after the 2 countries became independent? I believe it is the latter. And if that is so, Darul Uloom should not be responsible for what happens in Pakistan based on what they say OR what they do not say.
Ram Krishan Sharma Mar 27, 2013 08:14pm
100 percent correct . Muslims in India have power , while Hindus in Pakistan have been forcibly converted to the so called Religion Of Peace. They do not exist.
Pinto Mar 27, 2013 08:16pm
Everybody wish to put the genie in bottle.....but how? you got any methods?
Rac43 Mar 27, 2013 08:51pm
'India should have a constructive dialogue....', the point is who in India should do it, & why should they do it? India is not threatened by extremist ideologies, which cannot present a case for harming India, because India is inclusive, rather by national ideologies seeking a hundred wounds, for fictional past wrongs.
Akil Akhtar Mar 27, 2013 10:44pm
Watch for the excuses from the readers from across the border now and laugh.
Akil Akhtar Mar 27, 2013 10:47pm
Rightly said
umesh bhagwat Mar 27, 2013 11:17pm
To the best of my knowledge the Dar uloom has condemned terrorism in no uncertain terms!
Sanjeev Mar 28, 2013 02:37am
I stay in Indonesia which has the largest muslim population in the world. Indonesians do not even know about the Ddeoband darul uloom. They have their own religious leaders and go to the mosque on each friday. The workers in my office pray as per their timings, But Indonesian muslims are very peaceful and have no hatred for other religions. I have met many with names like wisnu, sita, dewi, gita, etc which are clearly hindu names. Pakistan should stop following religious leaders who promote hate and remove the extremism themselves.
Bread Butter Mar 28, 2013 02:57am
you are educated but you are blind.
John Mar 28, 2013 03:31am
And Pakistanis will then blame Indian for atrocities against Muslims.
Pramod Mar 28, 2013 04:50am
Problem is anything said against any Muslim organisation in India whether it right or wrong is considered Communal and some political like Congress, Samajwadi Party or RJD are ready to go to any extent for Muslim's votes.
PS Mar 28, 2013 05:23am
Muslims are oppressed in India,is it a joke? it's other way around. They are 100 times better than Pakistani minorities communities.
Kamal Gupta Mar 28, 2013 05:26am
I have a few highly educated Muslim friends in India who were more liberal that religious but have lately started saying that Shias are pretenders, not real Muslims. It seems to me that they are getting brainwashed by the preachers in their mosques.
Ashoka Mar 28, 2013 05:33am
Actually there is a difference. In India you do not have the state arming and abetting extremists as a matter of state policy or to further foriegn policy objectives. While it is true that sects such as these are allowed to function but then these are kept in tight lease in case they cross the red line of violence. Anyway my own understanding is that these sects form a fringe of the society and in many cases these are just ignored.
aviratam Mar 28, 2013 06:03am
This needed to be said, always enjoy reading your pieces - brave and intellectually honest.
Rajan Sinha Mar 28, 2013 06:09am
I agree with you. Indian govt will be the last to say anything to Deoband-such is the level of hypocricy
kanak Mar 28, 2013 06:13am
The simple fact is that there are no suicide bombings in India and Indian muslims don't want violence of any sort. They only want development, It is a minuscule number of people in Hindu, Muslim and other religions that may involve in terror related violence and religion has no place in it. The author has to take on religious scholars who promote violence and not those who do not want to express an opinion as they have no interest in the matter.
Ravi Mar 28, 2013 06:41am
They dont bomb in India, hence govt is happy. indirectly they are helping IN govt by bombing in Pakistan. second point minorities in India have too much voice ( sometime it is frustating for us but its ok), sono govt say anything against Muslim, Christian... one good thing is religion and state affairs are seperated..
heera Mar 28, 2013 06:42am
Faraz Mar 28, 2013 06:44am
It is time to put the genie back in the bottle and take it back from the bottle when needed next. Right? Address the root cause or face the music.
abhi Mar 28, 2013 06:57am
very bold blog, however Indian government can't do much against deoband because so far they are not found activily involved in terror activities. And it is anyway an outdated institution whose influence is reducing with time.
Goga Nalaik Mar 28, 2013 09:19am
Very nice and informative article for non Muslims readers. If I may simplify it further, the situation is as fol : In our sub-continent, it all started from Darul Uloom Deoband. If I'm not wrong, 90% of religious madrassas in Pakistan are of Deobandi school of thought and where our future generation is being brainwashed by a group of mullahs with a special mindset that has nothing to do with our traditions in the sub-continent. If we are really sincere to eradicate terrorism from our soil, let
observer Mar 28, 2013 10:32am
Indian Constitution guarantees freedom of religion and belief. As such the State is not required to act on any religious beliefs and practices that are not in conflict with any laws. Darool Ulum has kept silent and not advocated suicide bombings or any attack on Shias, hence the State has no cause for interference. If the associates of same seminary in other countries are preaching violence in other countries then it is for those Governments to act.
Baighairat Kafir Mar 28, 2013 12:54pm
Great observation Murtaza. Kudos to you for bringing up this important issue. Deobandis have been responsible for originating the myopic fundamentalist strain of Islam in Indian subcontinent. That strain has itself developed into worldwide terrorism now. That strain should be nipped in the bud and be replaced by Sufi tolerant strain that also bodes well with the history and culture of the Indian subcontinent.
A Shah Mar 28, 2013 01:21pm
A ridiculous article. Every country has trouble - in the UK there is Northern Ireland, China has the Muslim regions and India has its Communists. But they do not go around the world attacking others these are domestic issues. India and the world has no issues with Pakistani's killing each other, this is totally acceptable and appreciated. But when they start spreading their wings outside its borders this is then they need to have their wings clipped.
Nauman Mar 28, 2013 01:28pm
Sanjeev, I am afraid you are a little blinkered in your outlook of religious harmony in Indonesia. There is an extremely violent campaign instigated by JI offshoot against a big and thriving Ahmadi community in Indonesia. By the way, have you forgotten what happened in East Timor? Wake up please and do not mislead others.
farideh zivary Mar 28, 2013 02:11pm
On which planet do you live..
Pramod Mar 28, 2013 05:08pm
I am not sure about any Fatwa but we will not allow target killing of Shia or any other sect in India. We ll not let it happen.
Ganesh (Indian Mar 28, 2013 05:19pm
I really wonder why some people in Pakisthan always talk of hatred, evil or ill will toward India... These are the people with lot of insecurity may be...........
Gautam Mar 29, 2013 01:45am
I am not surprised that you find it funny! By the way, where is the excuse?
vijay Mar 29, 2013 01:54am
Come to India and see for yourself. I have visited Deoband and seen lot of students from Arab countries studying there. It is very peaceful place. If you don't have any knowledge then please don't comment. Pakistani have a habit of blaming others for their acts. If Deobandi's are spreading terrorism then why they are not spreading terror against Hindu's in India
Putar Mar 29, 2013 06:15am
I have been reading Mr Haiders articles in Dawn. This one is a real childish one . Either the author lacks basic understanding of the subject or is displaying selective amnesia towards basic facts /truths to direct the article towards a predetermined direction. I would like to clarify that the Deobandi school is there for a long time and majority of Muslims of Indian subcontinent follow them. It is something like a shared heritage which many Pakistanis shun in order to convey a separate identity for the Pakistani nation. Actually to remind you that 65 years ago there was nothing called as Pakistan. This seminary actually belongs to that era. India has more Muslims than Pakistan. They are as Indians as others living in this country. The problem in Pakistan is your own creation. Your leaders in their own wisdom want to destroy India. For this they have trained hordes of people in the name of religion. Now these very people are troubling you. The same thing India did with srilanka and we have faced the consequences of the same ,. but we have learnt our lesson whereas your leaders fail to see the light of the day. In order to keep clinging to power they have raised a Frankenstein who is now becoming a danger to Pakistan itself. My dear mr Murtaza you have too accept one thing however otherwise you may think that the destinies of India and Pakistan are linked with each other and this has to be built of the basis of shared heritage and culture.
Fascist Mar 29, 2013 07:20am
Someone seems to be doing the right thing
Ram Krishan Sharma Mar 29, 2013 08:27am
I agree with you , Ravi