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BBC vs. ‘The Deobandis’ – My Response

BBC Radio 4 – The Deobandis (Part 1) – The Response

Click here for part 2

I love a good drama. After much hype and social media chatter, I settled down to listen to the first of a two-part series on Radio 4, ‘The Deobandis’.[1]

I listened intently and was engrossed from the beginning. In fact, with the eerie music and sinister overtones, I thought I had accidentally tuned in to the afternoon drama. These thoroughly nasty ‘Deobandis’ were the villains and our intrepid reporter, Owen Bennett Jones, went out to expose their dastardly deeds. All the ‘actors’ were hand-picked and perfectly cast to support the plot which thickened and ended with the distinct hint of links to terrorism – to be continued in next week’s thrilling instalment. It left me cursing these so-called, ‘Deobandis’.

Hey – but hang on a minute – I am a ‘Deobandi’!

This term ‘Deobandi’ seems to have become the new buzz-word in the right wing press and the BBC.  In fact, ‘Deobandis’ are their new target.[2]

The programme painted a picture of a UK-based ‘Deobandi’ organisation which has a leader, a structure consisting of numerous seminaries and mosques, affiliates, command and control, communications and membership. In reality, this is far from the truth. Many of the mosques and seminaries are far removed from the original DārulʿUlūm in Deoband. In fact, I guarantee you, had the reporter bothered to go to a ‘Deobandi’ mosque and asked a worshipper – “Are you a Deobandi?”  The response would probably have been, “No – I am a Surti” or “Bharuchi”.

The majority of the stated 600,000 so-called ‘Deobandis’ in the UK do not even know that they would be classified as ‘Deobandis’.

With that being said – let us now turn our attention to the cast of this wonderfully produced drama.  First of all, let us consider Mufti Mohammed Amin Pandor’s contribution. He was very pleasant, and tried his best. Little did he know that, despite inviting Owen into his house for a cup of tea, it was not going to be a chat about last night’s football. Owen asked challenging and unexpected questions which seemed to fluster Mufti Saheb, and his responses were then cleverly edited in such a way as to support the key thrust of the programme.

The contribution from the Abu Bakr Boys School, Walsall, was excellent and was the one highlight in an otherwise unbalanced and biased program. The Deputy Head, and the boys who took part, clearly portrayed a school full of passion, enthusiasm and a desire to produce excellent future British citizens.

However, the other contributors were very much true to form, based on very simple background checks done through Google searches of each one.

Aliyah Saleem is a well-known Muslim-turned atheist.[3] The programme tried its best to insinuate that her atheism was as a result of her Islamic boarding school experience.  However, Aliyah herself explained that her Islamic belief and identity continued after school and was only ended as a result of her picking up and reading the book, ‘The God Delusion‘ in college.

She proudly states, “I have now been Godless for around six years. I now dance, listen to music, go out at night, wear whatever the [—] I like and do as I please.”

Thus, Aliyah’s leaving of Islām was evidently driven by her pull towards her whims and desires. She found her inclinations did not fit into the parameters set by Islām. This intellectual ‘enlightenment’ individuals such as this claim to have reached, when compared to the most astute scientists and intellectuals accepting Islām on academic grounds, is the perfect cover up. In fact, this is the common theme in the entire programme: how can we force-fit our carnal values into a religion that regulates them – thus, the programme’s focus on the ḥijāb, music, free-mixing, lowering of the gaze, participating in festivals and rules around marriage.

In fact, desires are always the driver behind specious views. If ever you come across an ‘ex-Muslim’, looking at their relationships, desires and personal grievances would prove a far more productive illustrative method than opening up such a debate on religion.

“And when they commit an immorality, they say, “We found our fathers doing it, and Allāh has ordered us to do it.” Say, “Indeed, Allāh does not order immorality. Do you say about Allāh that which you do not know?”[4]

The next ‘expert’ introduced was Dr Philip Lewis. He is well-known in his opposition to Tablīghi Jamāt. In fact, in an article written as far back as October 2008, he stated

“Tablīghi Jamāt are isolationist, patriarchal and [have] a narrow reading of Islām that leaves it vulnerable to extremists.”[5]

Listeners also found that even Sheikh Musa Admani has been working to address the issue of Radicalisation since 2006.[6] Sheikh Admani has been a key protagonist in petitioning the Home Office and key academics to supervise and control Islamic Societies at university.[7]

Thus far, pretty much all of the cast members of this drama could have been hand-picked merely through their well-documented history. However, my biggest concern was the contribution of Mobeen Azhar, the journalist. His was the most damning of all the contributors. He professed to be a barelwi turned Tablīghi Jamāti in his youth. He stated that members of Tablīghi Jamāt would say that their sect was the “one true sect – everyone else is condemned to Hellfire – we are destined for Heaven”.

He further suggests that he reach such point of unwitting hypnosis that he would go home and tell his Barelwi mum to wear a “ḥijāb” and his dad that his practices were a “bidʿah”. His statement then expounds the sentiment that, when going to college, he became disillusioned with Tablīghi Jamāt so much so that he had some pretty vitriolic things to say about them.

In the era of social media and biographical accounts on the Internet, together with him being a journalist, I thought I would find some record of his Tablīghi Jamāt past. In fact, his biography on the BBC website makes no mention of this claimed Tablīghi Jamāt experience in his childhood at all. Very strange, I should say.[8] In fact, the only open declaration I could find on the Internet was the fact that he is gay.[9] (See my suggestions on the reasons for Aliyah Saleem’s distaste for her former religion).

All this is very intriguing from a man who seems to document and record all aspects of his life on the Internet, even his own sexuality. And yet, he makes no mention of his allegedly, very unhappy experience with regards to his involvement with Tablīghi Jamāt.  This begs the very natural question – was Tablīghi Jamāt ever even part of this 35 year old’s very colourful past?

I love a good drama – I can’t wait for the next instalment.

Source: www.islam21c.com


[1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06gqr66

[2] https://www.islam21c.com/politics/the-slander-of-deobandi-islam/

[3] https://aliyahsaleem.wordpress.com/2015/02/22/leaving-islam-for-good/

[4] Al-Qur’ān, 7:28

[5] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/3222602/Olympic-mosque-could-create-breeding-ground-for-extremists-says-senior-Anglican.html

[6] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/5411172.stm

[7] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/terrorism-in-the-uk/6917777/British-universities-seats-of-learning-and-loathing.html

[8] http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcthree/item/d991061e-1634-4380-8320-dbd022ea0fb4

[9] http://queerbio.com/wiki/index.php?title=Mobeen_Azhar

About Mukhtar Master

Mukhtar Master has a BSc (Hons) in Business Information Technology and has worked in Local Government as a manager for over 20 years. He has been active for many years in the local political scene and also the anti-war movement in the UK.


  1. Excellent resume. Please do the same after tomorrow’s second episode.

  2. It is beautiful isn’t it, that we have Muslims who have the understanding of the Queen’s language even over and above Mr Jones. I’m praying that he gets to read this worthy response that he may understand for himself that his play on words and bias is an effort in futility.
    If only they knew; Islam would have died during the time of the Prophet Salla’llahu alayhi wa sallam if it were ever to. We take comfort in “wa ya’ ba’llahu an yutimma nuuruhu wa lauw karri’al kaaferoon.

    • I was hoping to read a factual counter view from the one I heard on the Radio. Unfortunately all I read is character assassinations of the various contributors. I am not too interested in the CVs of the contributors. It is hardly surprising that you would not be too keen on them, given that the advice that I read on this website was not to contribute with the programme makers. I am more interested in the points that they make. It is a pity that this article did not try counter these instead.

      • There is wisdom in giving a serious rebuttal when deserving and not when undeserving.

        • Thanks for the reply. The reply and the original article demonstrate an arrogance. Questions and challenges are simply dismissed as unworthy. It would be much better if you explained why they are unworthy. I am an atheist. I have, what I believe is, a rational fear of the influence of conservative strands of Islam. As far as I am aware, in broad terms most Deobandi Muslims would believe in the following:
          1) women should not leave the home unless absolutely necessary
          2) when leaving the home women should be almost fully covered
          3) homosexuality is sinful (and should be punished by stoning)
          4) apostasy should be punished by death
          These beliefs are misogynistic, homophobic, and deny the basic human right of freedom of belief. As such they are in direct contrast to what I would consider as conventional British values. As such a movement that promotes such values deserves scrutiny and holding to account. I for one am glad to hear the Radio 4 programme. In responding to it by criticising the contributors rather than addressing the issues you do your movement no credit.

          • Carl you are welcome to look through and discuss different articles on this site and others on the topics/concerns you have highlighted, I’m sure you will enjoy the experience. Owen Bennet Jones’ unfortunate propaganda piece is far from an appropriate medium to do so through. It was merely laying the foundations to perpetuate in the second instalment the fictitious and downright bigoted fairytale that so-called conservative religious piety is upon a continuum leading to so-called terrorism. This is the ‘conveyor-belt theory’ widely ridiculed by the peer reviewed academic community. You can read more about it here:


            And a response to a similar propaganda piece on Ch4:

            As for the usual smears of misogyny, homophobia, etc. then you can have a read of the following articles:

            A useful principle to apply when charting a course through such popular indictments is not to paint another people with the presumptions, stereotypes and historical baggage of your own. Just because, for example, in British history covering up women may have been due to misogyny, it is unjust to impose that baggage onto expressions of piety, let alone within other wisdom traditions. Likewise the same principle applies in your usage of the word of ‘homosexuality’ to refer to two extremely different phenomena, leading by necessity to the charge of ‘homophobia’, with a helping of ‘stoning’ to add to the stereotypes.

            • Thanks for your reply which I genuinely appreciate.. I have read the articles that you link. However, I do not think you answer my questions. For the sake of simplicity I will again ask whether the following are mainstream Deobandi views:

              1) Women should not leave the house unless necessary (y/n)?
              2) Women should cover themselves fully when out of the house (y/n)
              3) committing the act of sodomy is a sin (y/n)
              4) those committing the act of sodomy should be punished (y/n)
              5) Apostasy is a sin (y/n)
              6) Apostates should be punished by death (y/n)

              I believe the adjectives that I used in the previous message are correct, but of course they can be interpreted differently so I will not repeat them. So please let me know if my assumptions above are true or not. They are simple and direct questions.

              • 1) Don’t know, depends on consequences I suppose. Sounds like a loaded question.
                2) Yes, men too.
                3) Yes.
                4) If they want, or they could just deny it.
                5) Yes
                6) If accompanied by a crime requiring capital punishment yes, if not then no.

                • Thanks for your reply Abu. Before I carry on I want to point out that I do not link Deobandi beliefs with terrorism. I understand that it campaigns against such acts. However, your response confirms to me that the ‘conservative values’ that it promotes values that are in direct contrast to mainstream British society.
                  The policy on women (described earlier as being driven by piety) will limit the life chances of many thousands of young girls in this country. This directly conflicts with equality of opportunity.
                  The attitude to sodomy stigmatises a significant population in this country. The notion that the act should be punished will inevitable promote amongst many discriminatory and worse actions.
                  Finally the attitude to apostasy limits free speech and freedom of thought. Amongst individuals that are sincere in their devoutness, this can lead to tragic consequences. For example: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/apr/09/shunned-for-saying-theyre-muslims-life-for-ahmadis-after-asad-shahs

                  So although Deobandis are peaceful, from the evidence above, they are promoting values that run counter to mainstream society. As such it is right that this is brought to wider attention.

                  • “The attitude to sodomy stigmatises a significant population in this country”

                    By significant what do you mean?
                    Carl You don’t know what your talking about. Do you know what statistically significant is?

                    • Thanks for replying Abu. As it happens I do know what statistically significant means. In terms of statistics significance is tested by things such as the chi squared test. The actual test used would depend on the type of data being tested.
                      I did not say ‘statistically significant’ though. In this case, I would say that the homosexual population of the U.K. Is significant in a more general, non-mathematical sense. For example, ‘in the UK there is a significant proportion of the population are homosexual. In fact there are more homosexuals than Muslims’.

                  • Muslim women in the UK are more liberated than the Muslim men. Do a survey and ask the men. They are petrefied of the women as they are outspoken, confident and independent. Many with professional careers.
                    Islamically a woman has more rights than the men in many ways.

                    • Abu, what do you mean by rights. Primary for me is that rights mean freedom of choice. If a religion states that women should not leave their home unless necessary, that women inherit less than men, that women’s testimony in court is not equal to that of a man, that their dress is not a matter of choice, that (in some interpretations) a man may beat his wife, then it is impossible to argue that they have equal rights.

                • MashaAllah very good answers.

                  Carl, you sound like an extremist. I’m sure you have extremist right wing websites you’d rather be on.

                  • Doesn’t Carl sound like the fifty something grumpy English man? M Risbrook trying to be a bit more polite?? Loool

                    • He does lol.

                    • Muslima and Abu. I am of the left. I be
                      I’ve in equal opportunities for all. Indeed it was Karl Marx that said ‘Religion is the opium of the people’. I don’t think anyone would accuse him of being right wing. In terms of my age etc you do yourself and your cause no credit. I came on this website to deepen my understanding through discussion and debate. To be honest I am disappointed with the quality of the responses.

                  • I think Carl already is on an extremist right wing website. This one.

                • “6) If accompanied by a crime requiring capital punishment yes, if not then no.”

                  Which early faqih said this?

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