NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Darool-Uloom Deoband, a radical Muslim seminary said to have inspired the Taliban has denounced terrorism as against Islam, calling it an unpardonable sin, in an effort to distance itself from religious violence.
Tens of thousands of clerics and students from around India attended a meeting at the 150-year-old Deoband, north of New Delhi, on Monday, and agreed to take a stand against acts of terrorism.
“There is no place for terrorism in Islam,” Maulana Marghoobur Rahman, the ageing rector of Deoband, told Reuters on Tuesday. “Terrorism, killing of the innocent is against Islam. It is a faith of love and peace, not violence.”
Thousands of smaller Islamic seminaries, or madrasas, are affiliated to the Deoband school in India alone, and Indian security services say some have provided recruits for radical Islamist groups in India and neighbouring Pakistan.
Its teachings, and its strict interpretation of Islamic law, have spread to many other countries, including Britain and Afghanistan, where they are said to have inspired the Taliban.
Rahman’s comments are seen as significant as they betray a deep sense of anxiety among India’s 140 million Muslims that a violent interpretation of Islam was finding root in the country and tarnishing the reputation of the entire community.
Indian Muslims were implicated in bomb attacks on packed commuter trains in Mumbai in 2006 and in a failed attack in Britain last year.
But Rahman said it was unjust to equate Islam with terrorism, to see every Muslim as a suspect or for governments to use this to harass innocent Muslims.
“There are so many examples of people from other communities being caught with bombs and weapons, why are they never convicted?” said Qazi Mohammed Usman, deputy head of Deoband.
The meeting defined terrorism as any action targeting innocent people, whether committed by an individual, an institution or a government.
Rahman’s sermon will be circulated to all madrasas affiliated to his seminary.
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.