A BBC documentary shown last night came under attack from one of India’s largest Islamic groups for linking their movement to Osama bin Laden and “extremist” Muslim groups around the world.
The Deoband school, whose main madrassa Darul Uloom (House of Knowledge) lies 90 miles north-east of Delhi, said it had allowed a television crew making a three-part documentary called Clash of Worlds into its grounds to explain its “message of peace and historic role in Indian affairs”.
The seminary is a global centre of Muslim learning with 15,000 schools worldwide adopting its sparse and dogmatic version of Islam. One report last month said almost 600 of Britain’s nearly 1,400 mosques are run by Deobandi-affiliated clerics.
However, Muslim scholars in Delhi became alarmed to hear the programme’s presenters talk of their part in the anti-British uprising in the nineteenth century being similar to “the role played by Osama bin Laden today”. Mohammad Anwer, a spokesman for the Deoband school, said he had protested to the film’s producers about the link with Bin Laden and “many other mistakes”. “We protested at the time but it made no difference. We do not advocate violence nor are we asking others to do violence,” said Mr Anwer.
“We did fight against the British in the nineteenth century but so did Hindus. Deoband has a long, proud history of being part of the independence struggle. But this is not comparable to Osama bin Laden.” Clerics in Delhi have also been incensed that their creed has been termed an Indian version of Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi school, seen as a hardline, revivalist form of Islam.