Project him as reformist and visionary who wants Indian Muslims educated

Amid fiery speeches and references to the democracy movement in Egypt, a gathering of Muslim clerics, editors of Urdu newspapers and former students of the Darul Uloom Deoband on Monday came out in open support of the beleaguered Vice-Chancellor of the institute, Ghulam Mohammed Vastanvi.

The participants also took strong exception to the Deoband-Delhi visit of Maulana Fazlur Rahman, chief of Pakistan's Jamiat-ul-Islam, at a time the Darul Uloom was seen to be in ferment. Reacting to press reports that the Maulana was backing Mr. Vastanvi's opponents, they asked: “Who is the Pakistani Maulana to interfere in India's internal affairs?”

The support to Mr. Vastanvi comes just ahead of Wednesday's crucial meeting of the Majlis-e-Shura (governing council) of the Darul Uloom Deoband, where Mr. Vastanvi's fate is expected to be decided . However, with no member of the Shura present at this meet, it is anybody's guess which way the governing council will tilt.

Mr. Vastanvi, who had announced his resignation in the wake of protests over his alleged pro-Narendra Modi statements, later changed his mind, saying any decision would have be taken by the Shura which had elected him in the first place. The rector also clarified that he had never praised Mr. Modi.

Monday's meeting, which was hosted at the Ghalib Academy by the Tanzeem Abna-e-Qadeem (old boys) of the Darul Uloom, projected Mr. Vastanvi as a reformist and visionary who wanted Indian Muslims educated and lifted out of their ignorance and poverty. They described Mr. Vastanvi's leadership of the Darul Uloom as a rare opportunity for Muslims to turn away from the backward, divisive politics of the past and move ahead on the path of enlightenment. Editor of Nai Duniya, Shahid Siddiqui lavished praise on Mr. Vastanvi, saying the Vice-Chancellor, with his extensive work in Muslim education, had shown it was possible to combine ‘deen' and ‘duniya' (religion with progressive practical outlook): “We want the Darul Uloom to produce world class doctors and heart surgeons. And this can only happen when a man of intellect heads it.” Badar Kazmi, from Muslim Majlis in Deoband, said no outsider had any business opposing Mr. Vastanvi, who had been elected democratically by the Majlis-e-Shura. He condemned Mr. Vastanvi's opponents as double-faced hypocrites who wore religious robes but practised partisan politics. He appealed to the Shura to stand by its decision.

Editor of Jadid Khabar Masoon Moradabadi said the fact that Mr. Vastanvi's opponents continued to target him even after securing his apology showed the whole affair had been orchestrated to defame him.

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