Recently, Imams in India issued a joint fatwa to the United Nations Alliance for Civilization (UNAOC) against ISIL declaring that the terrorist organization’s actions were against the basic tenets of Islam. It was issued by over 1,050 Islamic scholars in India. It is the first time, in India, that such a large number of religious scholars have come together for a particular cause. Dr. Abdur Rahman Anjaria, President of Mumbai’s Islamic Defence Cyber Cell, had been collecting edicts from Muslim scholars from all over India during the past few months to compile a 15-Volume document. He recently shared the fatwa with many Presidents, Prime ministers, and Heads of State. The fatwa was announced to the UN Security General “as an example to the world. This was done before the attacks on Paris and Beirut, but made the news cycle soon after the Paris attacks.
Muslim communities in India have directly condemned ISIL. Darul-uloom-Deoband is one such Islamic school in Uttar Pradesh, also known for starting the Deobandi Movement . The organization outrightly, “in strongest possible terms,” expressed extreme disapproval of ISIL. The Head of the school, Maulana Qasim Nomani said that, “there should also be no doubt that this group (ISIL) has nothing to do with Islam because Islam never teaches killing innocent people.” This is not the first time Darul-uloom-Deoband has condemned terrorism, they issued their first ever fatwa against terrorism in 2008. This fatwa was announced as being “historic” due to its binding force for different muslim organizations like Nadwatul Ulama Lucknow, Jamaat-e-Islami Hind and All India Muslim Personal Law Board to come together. Habibur Rehman, rector from the organization declared that "Islam rejects all kinds of unjust violence, breach of peace, bloodshed, murder and plunder and does not allow it in any form.” It appears that this strategy and rhetoric is well supported by the large population of Muslims in India and in spite of the intolerance issues in different parts of India, it seems that Muslims who live with large non-muslim majority have a much better relationship with non-muslims, especially in South Asia.
The issuing of this fatwa by a large group within Islamic leadership did not only urge the international community to take action against this terrorists group, but also encouraged other religious communities to develop a more forthright rhetoric against the acts of ISIL. Dr Anjaria shared, in his documents, a report that suggested mercenaries from ISIL “have been trying to lure Indian youth to join them.” The fatwa, hence, was also issued at a crucial time when ISIL influence in India is starting to be seen as a significant threat.
It is important to understand the influence of the Muslim community in the world, and in India. There are 1.6 billion muslims around the world, making Islam the second largest practiced religion in the world. While the Islam is often more linked to Islam in popular media, the majority of the world's Muslim population actually lives outside the Middle East. This is largely in the Asia-Pacific Region. There are more Muslims living in India and Pakistan than there are in the Middle East. Currently, Muslims comprise of 14.2% of India’s population, which makes the Muslims the largest minority in the country. By 2050, India is estimated to have the largest Muslim population in the world. 311 million Muslims, which is 11 percent of the total muslim population in the world, will reside in India by 2050. Given that there are 1.6 Billion muslims in the world, it is unfair that the religion of Islam is under fire for propagating violence and terrorism. The debate of Islam being a violent religion is also being challenged in popular media with Reza Aslan’s response to “whether Islam promotes violence?.” His response was that “Islam is a religion and like every religion in the world, it depends on what you bring to it, if you are a violent person, your Islam will be violent. Islam is not violent, people are violent.” This rhetoric resonates in the fatwa as well where absolute condemnation by Indian Imams and other Islamic scholars is just another example of protest against ISIL around the world by the Muslim community that is expressing that ISIL is not representative of Islam as it claims to be.