Deoband's new chief says resignation's on hold

Lucknow: In the past few days, Maulana Vastanvi has been grazed by  extreme criticism and less shrill but equally effective support.

It is that quieter placement of confidence in his ability to lead Muslims that he says has prompted him to reconsider his resignation as the top man at Asia's largest Islamic seminary, Darul Uloom Deoband in Uttar Pradesh.

On the 10th of this month, the Maulana was elected the Vice Chancellor of Asia's largest Islamic seminary, Darul Uloom Deoband. Two weeks later, his remarks on his home state of Gujarat and Chief Minister Narendra Modi provoked noisy protest from students at the seminary.

Mr Vastanvi is reported to have told a newspaper that Muslims in Gujarat were prospering financially and that it was time for the community to move past the communal riots of the state in 2002.

Two days ago, the Maulana quit. And when he returned to his hometown of Surat in Gujarat on Thursday, he received a hero's welcome.

On Facebook and other sites, students posted comments in favour of the tech-savvy 61-year-old Maulana, who is an MBA graduate.

Now, he says, those who are standing by him have persuaded him to reconsider his decision to quit.

The governing council of the seminary, the Majlis-e-Soora, will met on February 23 to discuss whether Mr Vastanvi should step down.

Mr Vastanvi has said that his remarks on Mr Modi were misquoted. He stands by his comments that the Muslim community is benefitting from the development taking place in Gujarat, but says that he never gave a 'clean chit' to Modi.

Across India, moderate Muslim voices suggest that those in influential positions must weigh carefully the repercussions of their comments.  Thousands of Muslims are still hurting, they say, over what transpired in Gujarat.  "The issue is sensitive for people still," said Najeeb Jung, the Vice Chancellor of  Jamia Milia Islamia.