New Delhi: The London School of Economics’s (LSE) students’ union said it was “deeply disappointed” with reports that spiritual guru Sadhguru called a Muslim student a “Talibani” after a talk that he delivered in the university.
Sadhguru, whose real name is Jaggi Vasudev, delivered a talk at an event titled ‘Youth and Truth: Unplug with Sadhguru’. Later, he had a discussion with Bilal Bin Saqib, a Muslim student, during which he called the latter a “Taliban” and a “Talibani”, according to reports. The LSESU said it views the comments as Islamophobic.
In a statement, it said:
The LSESU confirms that such comments do not have a place on campus and are to be condemned. If the comments were made in jest, this does not lessen their impact – the words still offend. Such incidents, if not duly denounced, aggregate to create a culture where casual Islamophobia becomes acceptable and, as such, we implore Sadhguru to release a formal apology to the student body with regards to the statements made.
The union reached out to Vasudev for a statement, in which he responded that he did not intend to “abuse or insult” Bilal Bin Saqib. He claimed that he was “joking” and used the word “Taliban” in its Arabic sense, to mean an ‘ardent student’.
He claimed he did not have it in his heart to insult anybody, “especially this wonderful young man with so many aspirations and intentions for the world”.
The statement said:
This small video clip of a private conversation, which has been mischievously edited, is unfortunate. I would like to tell all those concerned that the word ‘Taliban’ in Arabic means an ‘ardent student’, which Bilal definitely is, as also the other two students are. This term is always used in India in relation to someone who is over enthusiastic. It is in that context that I was joking with Bilal, it is very unfortunate that it has been projected this way.
Vasudev said if his comments “in anyway offended or insulted anybody, this was not the intent”. “I wish to anyway apologize to the London School of Economics and the Students Union, if it offended any of you in some way. My gratitude to the London School of Economics and the Students Union for having organised this event,” he said.
The LSESU retorted that it does not believe the comments were “mischievously edited”. It also said it had not come across reports of the word “Taliban” being used commonly in India to mean ‘over-enthusiastic’
LSESU stands firmly on our above stance and deem the comments to be Islamophobic. We do not believe the video was “mischievously edited” and have heard no reports supporting the common use of ‘Taliban’ in India as meaning over-enthusiastic.
The students’ union said “individuals who have many followers, hold power and status, and claim to promote tolerance, should be aware of and sensitive, to the political and extremist connotations attached to the word ‘Taliban’ in our current context”.
It said “casual Islamophobia” such as Vasudev’s comments “perpetuates the culture of misunderstanding and judgement”. “This is especially relevant given recent spates of terror against Muslims in Britain, New Zealand and around the world,” the union said.