| NEW DELHI
NEW DELHI An ultra conservative Muslim seminary in India, which is said to have inspired the Taliban, issued a fatwa, or edict, against terrorism during a meeting attended by thousands of clerics and students.
The Darool-Uloom Deoband, a 150-year-old institute controlling thousands of smaller Islamic seminaries in India, vowed late on Saturday in New Delhi to wipe out terrorism, a senior rector said.
"Islam rejects all kinds of unjust violence, breach of peace, bloodshed, murder and plunder and does not allow it in any form," rector Habibur Rehman said.
Teachings of the Deoband school and its strict interpretation of Islamic law have spread to many countries, including Britain and Afghanistan.
But Deoband has always denied any connection with the Taliban and many experts describe the Taliban as their "naughty children," who twisted their ideology.
Muslims make up about 13 percent of India's officially secular but predominantly Hindu population -- giving it the third largest Islamic population after Indonesia and Pakistan.
Analysts described the meeting and fatwa as a significant step towards addressing terrorism and bringing relief to India's 140 million Muslims, who feel the acts of some individuals were tarnishing the image of the community as a whole.
During the rally, thousands of clerics and students wearing white skull caps and spotless tunics cheered as Rehman read out a statement: "The religion of Islam has come to wipe out all kinds of terrorism and to spread the message of global peace."
Senior clerics chanted slogans against terrorism, and many held placards that said "Islam means peace" and "terrorism is an enemy, finish it". Leaders asked those gathered to pledge to fight terror in all forms, witnesses said.
Pran Chopra, a political analyst, told Reuters: "It is an awakening among them (Muslim groups) to the dangers that face them as a fallout of terrorism and suspected association of terrorism with Muslims."
"The response by the Muslim population ... has been worth noticing and the fatwa is a very welcome development," Chopra said.
Religious leaders from different faiths and political parties voiced support for Deoband's position.
"Deoband's stand against terrorism will help us fight against it," Ravi Shankar Prasad, spokesman for India's main opposition Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), said in New Delhi on Sunday.
BJP President Rajnath Singh said: "I welcome this, Deoband is seeking to disassociate Muslims from terrorism."
Indian Muslims have been implicated in bomb attacks in India in 2006 and a failed attack in Britain last year.
Last month, a group calling itself "Indian Mujahideen" claimed responsibility for a blast that killed 65 people in Rajasthan. The same group also criticised Muslim organisations in an email sent to media houses last month.
Analysts say such threats were not making any impact as more and more religious groups were openly denouncing terrorism.
(Additional reporting by Nigam Prusty)