The Indian Express — The fictitious “Lucknow Connection” to Shia Violence in Pakistan

A Rejoinder to a pack of lies Indian Express failed to publish

In its issue of 12 May 2014, the Indian Express published an article by a biased Pakistani of the ilk which is financed by western foundations and agencies to malign Islam and Muslims. Under the headline of “The Lucknow Connection,” the Pakistani writer claimed that Lucknow’s Nadwatul Ulama is responsible for the murderous violence against the Shia in Pakistan. Since that disjointed article was based on lies and falsehood, I sent the following rejoinder to the editor of the Op-Ed in the paper on 16 May:



“The Lucknow Connection”

Under the above headline Khaled Ahmed, a Pakistani journalist, has offered a disjointed cocktail based on inaccuracies and plain untruth. The writer traces the anti-Shia violence in Pakistan, not the only violence in that country, to a madrasa in Lucknow, viz., Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulama or Nadwa for short. He claims that Manzur Numani (Manzoor Nomani - the queer spelling shows that the author’s source is not subcontinental) was head of Nadwa. He also quotes a pseudo-scholar that Manzoor Nomani was a teacher of Nadwa. Both these claims are false. Maulana Manzoor Nomani, a well-known scholar of the Deobandi school of thought, was never the head of Nadwa and never taught there. But it is correct that he wrote a book against Shia beliefs and it is quite possible that he was swayed by some Saudis to do so. I can say this because at that same time I too was approached by a Saudi source to write such books and to establish a research centre for that purpose in Delhi for which money was no problem -- I rejected the proposal outright.

Nadwa is known for its enlightened, cautious and middle-of-the-road approach from its very inception in 1894. It was established as a middle path between the rigid madrasa system and the Anglophile Anglo-Mohamedan College of Aligarh.

As an alumnus of Nadwa and as the author of the article on this institution in the second edition of the “Encyclopedia of Islam” (Leiden), I can say that what Mr Khaled Ahmed has tried to ascribe to Nadwa is totally baseless, malicious with malafide intent, and concocted. Nadwa cannot be blamed for what Maulana Nomani wrote which, in any case, was a rehashing of the age-old Sunni polemic against Shiism like Shah Abdul Aziz’s “Tuhfa Ithna ‘Ashariya” written in the early nineteenth century.

It is questionable that the writings of Nomani led to violence against Shias in Pakistan if they failed to ignite such violence in his own city of Lucknow itself. While Pakistan is struggling with all kinds of violence, the Shia-Sunni front of Lucknow has been more or less peaceful after the last big riot of 1977.  No big Shia-Sunni riot occurred when the said book was published in late 1980s. Shia-Sunni riots are now a thing of the past in Lucknow mainly due to the wise leadership of some Shia clerics like the great mujtahid Maulana Kalbe Abid (d. 1986).

The author, quite strangely and insulting to one’s intelligence, alludes that the acts of charity in Iraq by Lucknow Nawabs in the eighteenth century have some connection to what is taking place now in that country as a direct result of the American military intervention.

Khaled Ahmed concludes his piece with a strange assertion that the Shias of India and Pakistan are “rediscovering their faith as a schism that took place in early Islam and are readying themselves for a new Armageddon”. The last part of this concluding sentence leaves one flabbergasted. Rediscovery and faith rejuvenation are taking place in all Muslim communities today and one main reason is the continuous western assault on Islam and Muslims. But there is no sign of any “Armageddon” within the Muslim ranks in India and elsewhere. Shias and Sunnis are working together all over the world notwithstanding their differences over approach to the current civil war in Syria. Indian Muslims reject sectarianism. We believe that any attempt to foment discord in our ranks is disservice to us and to our country. Pakistanis should not try to export their civil war to us.

Dr. Zafarul-Islam Khan is editor of The Milli Gazette and President of the All India Muslim Majlis-e Mushawarat.


The rejoinder was not published, hence I sent the following letter to the editor of the Indian Express by mail and got it hand-delivered at his office same day:

20 May, 2014 Shekhar Gupta Esq. Chief Editor, The Indian Express New Delhi - 110002
Dear Mr. Gupta,

A piece by the Pakistani writer Khaled Ahmad (“The Lucknow Connection”) was published in your esteemed newspaper on 12 May. Since it contained blatant lies and malicious material about an important seat of Islamic learning in India, I sent a rejoinder to your newspaper on 16 May via email at 1:05 pm. It was emailed directly to your op-ed editor Ms Vandana Mishra at her email address (vandana.mishra[@] as well as to your usual feedback email address (feedback[@] I also sent an sms at the same time to Ms Vandana Mishra on her mobile phone (#98713966XX) requesting confirmation that the piece was received. I received no reply to either my email or the sms. I waited until yesterday and again sent an sms in the morning to Ms. Vandana Mishra and received a reply sms from her at 10.50 am saying “In a meeting. Will get back later today.”  I am writing to you since I did not receive any further sms or email.

With an experience of over four decades in journalism, I know it is not my legal right to get a reply to my email or sms although self-respecting publications like NYT, WSJ and London Guardian do reply. But I do know that it is a professional duty of a publication which publishes slanderous and malicious material to publish a rejoinder if one comes.

By not quickly publishing my rejoinder to the Pakistani writer’s slander you are only helping this malicious lie to gain ground and become an accepted fact which will, in the long run, tarnish the image of that institution as well as the community to which it belongs. This is particularly ominous in the current atmosphere where lies get easily accepted and circulated when against Muslims. Your own paper has done a commendable job in exposing some of these lies related to the “war on terror” in which thousands of innocent Muslim youth have been arrested and forced to remain in jails for years before they are acquitted honourably.

There is a larger issue related to the one at hand here. This larger issue is the almost total blackout of a 200 million- strong community by our media, print as well as electronic. They exist only when some aberration of a fatwa or the like crops up. Our media has no Muslim beat, Muslim writers and intellectuals are never invited to write or are interviewed, letters by Muslims are seldom published, reporters rarely visit Muslim localities unless there is some extraordinary incident like the arrest of Muslim youth. Even in racist Israel, I know that at least two prominent Jewish journalists wilfully live in Arab areas in order to properly understand and report the Arab scene in Israel.

I think it is your responsibility as the head of a media organisation to see that this blackout comes to an end so that a large community of the size of Germany, France and Spain put together, has some space in your publication. Do publish bad news if there is one, but also do not ignore when there are good news and developments, publish a paragraph or two when an important Muslim personality dies and give space to the cries and tears of a large community whose current position was portrayed, rather understated, by the Sachar Committee Report.

My sincere apologies if I have taken too much of your precious time.

Yours sincerely, Dr Zafarul-Islam Khan Editor, The Milli Gazette


The Indian Express Editor, like his Op-Ed editor, did not deign to reply though a short letter was published on 21 May from Nadwatul Ulama’s PRO refuting the Pakistani writer’s claim (reproduced below).

This episode shows the arrogance which “mainstream media” has for its readers, especially Muslims. A mere 600-word rejoinder was too much for this editor who of late has been almost daily publishing his full-page trash on the Op-Ed page which perhaps no Indian Express reader cares to read.

Since we have utterly failed on the media front, such arrogance from those who have succeeded in this crucial field is only natural.      


The Lucknow connection
The Lucknow connection