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Schooled in fundamentalism

Schooled in fundamentalism

Author: Roli Srivastava
Publication: The Times of India
Date: September 2, 2007

Mohammad Shahid alias Billal's alma mater is Darsgah Jihad-o-Shahadat (DJS), a fundamentalist outfit working out of Hyderabad. Its website says it is involved in the ''training of thousands of Muslim youth to defend themselves and their community in various training centres of DJS''.

Started in 1983 by Sheikh Mahboob Ali, a retired employee of a government printing press to ''establish and perform Islamic obligations'', DJS has been organising camps to train young men in ''self-defence''. Some of these young men, alumni of the DJS, have hit national headlines for their involvement in terror attacks, the most recent name being that of Billal.

But DJS' founder and president says he doesn't remember if he had a student by the name of Mohammad Shahid. ''Even if he was, what can I do about it,'' he asks. ''If he did become an ISI agent, go shoot him. It is not DJS' policy to indulge in such violence,'' he says.

The aims and objectives of DJS revolve around ''safeguarding lives and properties of Muslims and educating them about jihad''. Police officials say its key activity is indoctrination of youth from the Old City of Hyderabad.

The outfit holds training camps for four months every year (on the same lines as the RSS, as Ali is quick to point out) where it trains 30 to 40 young boys from mainly Muslim pockets such as Mogulpura, Rein Bazaar, Saidabad among others. ''The training involves karate lessons and lathi drills, apart from sermons,'' says the official, adding that Ali remains DJS' most powerful speaker.

''I am a fundamentalist,'' says Ali, adding that he teaches his students the tenets of Islam. DJS has training centres in Hyderabad and Secunderabad and in a few districts of the state. While Mahboob Ali is the president of the group, his son-in-law Abdul Majid Khan is the vice-president. Ali's son, Saifullah Khan, is the secretary. ''While these are the three key people of the organisation, it is run single-handedly by the 75-year-old Ali,'' a police official says.

The local police station has registered cases against DJS, mainly for taking out processions without permission. ''The only one it takes out with prior permission is the one on December 6,'' says a cop.

In 2004, 20 members of DJS had created trouble when the Gujarat police was in the city to arrest Maulana Nasruddin, involved in Haren Pandya's murder. ''There was a case booked against three persons including the outfit's president and some followers. The trial is going on,'' a police official says.

However, while DJS is largely perceived as a fundamentalist outfit, it has sympathisers in the Old City. ''They are fair people and teach Islam. There is nothing wrong with what they teach. The police likes to target Islamic organisations,'' says Alim Baba, a teacher in the Old City.

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