Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, founder of the Isha Foundation was forced to issue a clarification on Tuesday to the Student Union of the London School of Economics (LSE) after he referred to a Muslim student in the institute as a 'Proper Talibani'. The LSE Student Union (LSESU) had a video recording of this private conversation from March 27 in the institute's premises and stated that it was 'deeply disappointed in Sadhguru's comments and views them as Islamophobic'. The student union further rejected Jaggi Vasudev's clarification where he claimed the word 'Taliban' was used in the context of 'over-enthusiastic' in India.
The comments were made when Jaggi Vasudev visited the institute as part of his Youth and Truth series where he has been invited to institutes across the world to engage with students. In LSE, amongst the students to engage with him was Bilal Bin Saqib, who is of Pakistani origin. Bilal was one of the hosts of 'Unplug with Sadhguru' event.
In a conversation recorded between the two off the stage, Bilal tells Jaggi Vasudev about how he views life and stress. He says, "The night you are meant to spend in the grave, you won't be spending it outside anyways."
To this Jaggi Vasudev(jokingly) responds, 'This guy is a proper Taliban here.'
When Bilal immediately asks what 'Talibaniya' is, Jaggi Vasudev says, "Taliban, Taliban."
The Taliban is Sunni Islamic fundamentalist political movement which is currently waging war within Afghanistan. It is a terrorist group notorious for explosive violence. Following these comments the LSESU demanded that Jaggi Vasudev release a formal apology for the islamophobic comments against a student.
"There have been reports that, subsequent to the event ‘Youth and Truth: Unplug with Sadhguru at LSESU, Sadhguru (Jaggi Vasudev) called a Muslim student at the LSE “a Talibani” and “Taliban”. The LSESU is deeply disappointed in Sadhguru’s comments and views them as Islamophobic," stated the Student Union on its Tumblr page. "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 post read.
Following this, Jaggi Vasudev issued a clarification on his statement and alleged that the video had been 'mischievously edited. He further claimed that the word Taliban was used in India as meaning 'over-enthusiastic'.
"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," said Jaggi Vasudev in his video and written clarification. "If this has in anyway offended or insulted anybody, this was not the intent. This private conversation was mischievously edited, with what intent, I am unable to fathom. I wish to anyway apologize to the London School of Economics and the Students Union, if it offended any of you in some way," he stated.
The LSESU however was not willing to buy this explanation.
"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," said the student union on its social media page. "We believe that 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. Casual Islamophobia such as this 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."
When TNM contacted the ISHA foundation, authorities told TNM on the condition of anonymity that this act by LSESU is motivated.
"They must release the whole video and not selectively. Then in the context of the conversation, the truth will come out," says an office bearer. "The Student Union elections are coming up in LSE, that is why they are doing all this now."