Legendary Islamic school ousts reformist leader

AP News
Posted: Jul 24, 2011 8:45 AM
Legendary Islamic school ousts reformist leader

One of the world's most revered schools of Islamic learning ousted its reformist leader on Sunday just months into his term, after he praised a Hindu nationalist politician loathed by many Muslims in India.

Ghulam Mohammed Vastanvi had pledged to update the Darul Uloom seminary's curriculum and rein in hard-line religious edicts when he became vice chancellor in January.

But within days he upset conservatives and sparked protests by praising Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's development policies and reportedly saying Muslims in that western state should move on from the 2002 communal riots that left hundreds dead.

The board of the 150-year-old institution in the northern town of Deoband voted Sunday to replace 60-year-old Vastanvi, who is also an MBA, with Maulana Abdul Qasim Nomani.

"Now, I am the vice chancellor of the seminary," Nomani told Press Trust of India. The board had first debated a special committee's report on Vastanvi's conduct, prompting 14 board members to walk out, Nomani said.

Vastanvi objected that the report was incomplete. Nevertheless, the remaining board members voted 9-4 to remove Vastanvi.

"This is injustice and a conspiracy against me," Vastanvi reportedly said, but added that he would not seek to reverse the decision.

Darul Uloom has around 4,000 students and, as the center of the Deobandi school of Islam, is seen as the spiritual light for thousands of other schools across the Middle East, Britain, the United States, Malaysia, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

It was founded in 1866 to preserve Islamic culture in India and preaches an austere form of Islam that has inspired millions of Muslims, including the Taliban's hard-line interpretation.