Inside the Madrasa: A Personal History

Ebrahim Musa in the Boston Review:

DeobandAs I walked one morning last spring through the town of Deoband, home to India’s famous Sunni Muslim seminary, a clean-shaven man, his face glowing with sarcasm, called out to me. “Looking for terrorists?” he asked in Urdu. “I have every right to visit my alma mater,” I protested. With a sheepish grin he turned and walked away.

I shouldn’t have been so annoyed. The century-old seminary in Deoband had come under intense scrutiny after the Taliban leadership claimed an ideological affiliation with it via seminaries in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Journalists, politicians, and diplomats have since September 11 descended periodically on this town near Delhi in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, long considered the intellectual and spiritual heartland of Indian Islam.

Once the Taliban was linked to Bin Laden, every aspect of India’s Muslim seminaries, or madrasas, became stigmatized. Top-level U.S. officials, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and a chorus of journalists, pundits, and scholars have declared all madrasas to be breeding grounds for terrorists, but they have done so without any evidence and without an understanding of the complexity of these networks of schools, which are associated with multiple Muslim sects and ideologies.

More here.  [Photo shows Darul Uloom, Deoband.]