Wednesday, August 3, 2022

AMU Removes Maududi and Qutb: Is This How the Islamism is Supposed to be Defeated?

By Arshad Alam, New Age Islam 3 August 2022 Rather Than Excluding Them, the Need of the Hour Is To Openly Critique and Debate Them Main Points: 1. AMU removes the books of Maududi and Syed Qutb from it Masters Course 2. This was done after a group of academics complained to the prime minister 3. The right wing seems to playing according to the rulebook put in place by the left 4. The battle of ideas is never won by censuring; rather it is won through rational and informed debate ----- Abul A'la al-Maududi was an Islamic scholar, Islamist ideologue, Muslim philosopher, jurist, historian, journalist, activist and scholar active in British India ---- A group of academics recently wrote to the prime minister to remove two thinkers, Abu Ala Maududi and Syed Qutb from the Masters curriculum at the Islamic Studies Department of Aligarh Muslim University. It is not known whether the prime minister’s office took any notice of the said letter but the University has now complied and hurriedly removed the books written by these authors from the course content. One can certainly argue that this is policing of thought, which it certainly is; but the more important point to remember is that this is not the first time such censoring is happening and it is certainly not the last that we will hear. Serious questions need to asked, not only from this government, but also the past governments who gave rise to this cult to censorship. Since the time of Nehru, books have been banned in this country which led to a culture that it was okay for a government to decide in advance what constitutes indoctrination and what kind of literature has the potential to corrupt the minds of the people. It was only a matter of time that this censorship would be extended to universities, the hallowed space of critical thinking and freedom of speech. The political left, which controlled these universities for a long time had their own list of tabooed authors who were not fit to be taught. They included Hindu right-wing thinkers like Savarkar and Golwalkar who were kept out of the curriculum with ideological indignation. So were other alternate perspectives of Phule, Ambedkar and Muslim thinkers. The logic perhaps was the same: that these thinkers are corrupting influences on young minds or worse still, what if young students get converted to ‘their’ point of view? Or perhaps the idea was to hold aloft a particular narrative of Indian society. As a former student in one such university, I now realize the flawed thinking embedded in such a selection. Many like me passed out of the university structure to realize that we missed out on understanding the most important political strain in the country. Moreover, the policy has been one of object failure. Despite their banishment from the university spaces, they continued to enjoy immense popularity in social and national life; eventually overtaking even the university spaces. The Hindu right wing intellectuals in India, who became ascendant in the past decade, are making the same mistake. Removing the works of Maududi and Qutb must be seen in a long line of such demands made by them, at times in the name of hurt religious feelings or by citing threats to national integrity. Whether it is the removal of Allen Lane’s book on Shivaji or the Ramayan essay of Ramanujan which was removed by the University of Delhi, the underlying fear seems to be the same: that it will have negative influence on the minds of young Indians. Today, the right wing is an established stream within the overall Indian intellectual tradition. One would have expected that with the passing of time, they would become more surefooted within their domains rather than getting unnerved by certain authors. But what seems to be happening is that the right wing is essentially copying the formula developed by the left wing, which is to shut out anything which is not to their liking. Although the right wing often critiques the left, the AMU episode makes it doubly clear that they have nothing new to offer. It is a pity that although they are in power, they are still playing by the rulebook which was authored by the left. This makes one wonder if they have any long-term perspective to challenge the hegemonic imprint of left liberalism or they are just interested in political signaling by targeting Islamist thinkers. Sayyid 'Ibrāhīm Ḥusayn Quṭb, known popularly as Sayyid Qutb, was an Egyptian author, educator, Islamic scholar, theorist, revolutionary, poet, and a leading member of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood in the 1950s and 1960s ---- Maududi and Qutb and many others like them have a foundational bearing on what is known as Islamism today. It is their penchant to see the rule of Islam, enforced through a Sharia state that has wreaked havoc in much of the Muslim world today. Indian Maudidi, the poster boy of political Islam, who eventually migrated to Pakistan, could achieve very little in terms of putting his ideas into practice. Except of course putting the Ahmadiyya off limits from the Islamic community. Qutb though, had much more influence and his ideas germinated in the form of Muslim Brotherhood, which is at the root of political violence in many of the countries today. I have little regard for both the authors in terms of their ideas but it cannot be denied that their work is read by millions of Muslims today. Many Muslims form their idea of Muslim-ness through such authors. There is a battle of ideas going on within the Muslims society; the moderates battling for hegemonic control of the Islamic narrative from the extremists, many of whom happen to be the followers of Maududi and Qutb. It is not surprising therefore that some moderate Muslims have welcomed the expulsion of the books of these authors. Aligarh Muslim University ----- But is throwing their books from the curriculum an effective solution? In today’s world of internet, it is plainly foolish to do so. Anyone interested in reading their books can simply walk into a library or login to a digital library. What is needed is the very obverse. That the ideas of these Islamists must be critiqued and debated freely. And what better place to do so than a university? The way in which the AMU has capitulated to the demands tells us a lot about the intellectual quagmire that these universities have plunged. Ultimately, the cult of Islamism has to be fought in the minds of Muslims. How does one do that without first having the freedom to read and critique what is besetting that mind? ---- A regular contributor to, Arshad Alam is a writer and researcher on Islam and Muslims in South Asia. URL: New Age Islam, Islam Online, Islamic Website, African Muslim News, Arab World News, South Asia News, Indian Muslim News, World Muslim News, Women in Islam, Islamic Feminism, Arab Women, Women In Arab, Islamophobia in America, Muslim Women in West, Islam Women and Feminism

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