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This faction, which had lost its connection to their homeland, developed as a radical group whose main motive was to revive Islam in its purest sense.

Deep down the streets of Uttar Pradesh, lies a small town of Deoband. Small in size but huge on impact, a revered Sunni study center of this town has a history of over 150 years. Founded during the struggle against colonial imperialism, Deoband is recently in headlines for its supposedly shared religious views with the Taliban of Afghanistan. President of Darul Uloom Deoband, an Islamic seminary, refutes the claim.

The Darul Uloom Deoband is an Islamic seminary established in 1866 as a centre for Sunni studies. It has over 6000 students enrolled from countries like Malaysia, Indonesia and Bangladesh. After the 1857 revolution, British rule became increasingly tyrannical especially towards the Indian Muslims. Some members of the community sought refuge from this oppression by strengthening their beliefs in the fundamentalist, puritan version of Islam. As Milad Karimi, deputy director of the Center for Islamic Theology at the University of Münster said, "They were convinced that salvation, both religiously and socially, lay exclusively in a pure, historically unadulterated Islam." Hence, they closed the doors of communication with other religions and focused on what they considered to be the pure doctrine.


Darul Uloom Deoband The Darul Uloom Deoband is an Islamic seminary established in 1866 as a centre for Sunni studies. Wikimedia Commons


The emergence of Taliban's views are inspired by the Deobandi doctrine but in an extreme form. However, the connection is only historical. The Islamic study centre of Deoband only engages in theological studies of their religion and are not associated with propagation of terror in any form. This is in sharp contrast to the functioning of the Taliban.

During the 1970s, a group of fundamentalist resistance fighters fled to Pakistan from Afghanistan after assassinating the President of the communist government, Mohammad Daoud Khan. The vision of Pakistan's President Zia-Ul-Haq of islamizing his nation and exerting control over Afghanistan motivated him to supply the funds by US to the extremist groups. These conducive situations paved the way for the spread of a radical version of the Deobandi doctrine.

A large portion of Pakistan's funds were used to form a guerrilla group called the Mujahideens. They fought the soviet forces in Afghanistan and aided in toppling the Communist government. Stuck in a warzone for decades, many members of the Mujahideen felt alienated from their own country, Afghanistan. This faction, which had lost its connection to their homeland, developed as a radical group whose main motive was to revive Islam in its purest sense. This group was named Taliban. However, their version of Deobandi Islam varied drastically from the Indian version. According to scholars, the Taliban's Islamic beliefs are closer to Wahhabism, ultraconservative Sunni beliefs practiced in Saudi Arabia, than to Deobandi beliefs.


The roots of the ideologies of the Taliban and the Deobandi school of thought might be shared but their practices vary drastically. Allegations from the Hindu extremist organisations of Darul Uloom Deoband propagating terror are based on no substantial proof. As the students of this revered centre hail from different countries, locals assert that if the centre was propagating radical propaganda then the other countries would have also been affected by terrorism. In Deoband, women are free to get education and grab job opportunities which is in stark contrast to the situation in Afghanistan. "They call themselves Deobandi, but 99% of the Taliban has never even visited India. We have no connection to them," said Arshad Madani, the principal of Darul Uloom Deoband. The locals have also welcomed the proposal of the Yogi government of opening a training centre for Anti Terrorism Squad commandos. "There is nothing wrong with what we teach and we welcome the ATS staff to be a part of our classes whenever they like," said Arshad Madani.


Keywords: Afghanistan, Taliban, Sunni, Religion, Deoband, Islam, History of Taliban, Ideology.


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