Hour of Reckoning DR MOHAMMAD MANZOOR ALAM (MAY 20, 2009)


Hour of Reckoning

Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam takes a look at the political trends that require decision by the Indian society in general, and Muslim society in particular.

We have seen a few disturbing trends in the recent parliamentary elections which need to be addressed before they wreak terrible damage on our society. One of these is the extensive fragmentation of Muslim leadership that surfaced in the election.

Some of the big all-India Muslim organisations, which I would not like to name here, took a stance that looked good in theory, but was extremely dangerous in reality. Whether it was Delhi or UP, Bihar or Kerala, they were backing the losing horses. The reasons for such policy were not realistic, but vaguely ideological and idealistic.

Thank God, Muslim masses as a whole ignored them. Even the illiterate Muslim peasants knew that following groups like Ulema Council would mean voting for the BJP by proxy, or by default. Instead of being (mis-) guided by the so-called leaders Muslims refrained from voting for candidates who would never win, but by diverting votes they would ensure BJP victory.

The BJP and SP, who were hand in glove, were backing these Muslim organisations stealthily. Hats off to our Muslim masses who saw through this dangerous game and avoided the trap. Now, the question is, who is more intelligent? Our so-called educated leaders, or allegedly illiterate masses? Of course, the clear answer is, our masses are more practical, down to earth and intelligent.

It is a moment of reckoning for Muslim leaders. They must decide to be practical from now onwards and pay heed to ground realities instead of making castles in the air.

Another disturbing trend seen in the elections was extensive misuse of the imams of local mosques by candidates and parties who knew they were going to lose. Their aim was to divert Muslim votes so that the BJP could win. Common Muslims feel that if they have to support the BJP, they would much rather have an understanding with it and ask it to drop its sick attitude towards Muslims before voting it directly. There was no point in ensuring a BJP victory by default through wasting votes on losing candidates.

The trend of dragging the mosques into vote politics was started by the late HN Bahuguna in 1977. He brought Imam Abdullah Bukhari of the Jama Masjid Delhi into politics with results that were far-reaching and disastrous. Bukhari was with the Janata Party along with Bahuguna. Later, he shifted support to different parties at different times before handing over the crown of “imamat” to his son Ahmad Bukhari.

PV Narasimha Rao, who turned the Congress Party into the B-team of BJP, created All India Imams’ Organisation headed by Maulvi Jameel Iliyasi. The Congress Party thought that if a single imam like Bukhari could wield such influence, an organisation of imams of India would have a greater force in its favour.

That turned out to be an illusion. Neither Bukhari nor Iliyasi had any influence among Muslims. They did not have any influence on Muslim voting decision at all.

This time another mischief has been launched by the Samajwadi Party in the form of Imam Council of India headed by Maulana Maqsoodul Hasan Qasmi. This development has disturbed Muslims deeply as it indicates trivialisation of Muslim sacred space.

The executive committee of this new-fangled organisation landed in Lucknow and issued a “fatwa” (that is what the press called it) asking Muslims to vote for the Samajwadi Party. Simultaneously, Urdu newspapers carried advertisements of Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party alleging that Samajwadi Party was indulging in anti-Muslim activities.

The Imam Council of India was soon shown its place by Muslim voters who ensured that all Samajwadi Muslim candidates for Lok Sabha were defeated. Maulana Qasmi, who is the imam of a local mosque in Delhi’s Okhla area, is caught in a larger controversy now.

Muslims are asking the question now whether it is correct to pray behind an imam who is trying to sell them to a political party for his personal gains. The point is that he has all the right to canvass and vote for someone in his individual capacity, but he certainly has no right to canvass as the religious and spiritual leader of a congregation. Unfortunately, they are thriving on the misconception among non-Muslims that the people who pray behind them would follow their political wishes. That is not the case, never was, never will be.

We can illustrate this point by asking, “Do Hindus politically follow the purohits who conduct puja for them?” The answer is a resounding “no”. The case is no different with Muslims.

These are some of the issues Muslims must address as soon as possible. It is also important for mosque management bodies to make it clear to maulvis before hiring them as imams that their services would be terminated if they try to use the sacred space for their personal political profit. Mosques must be depoliticised and their sanctity restored.

This is important for the political parties also to understand that imams are not vote “thekedars” and they must never be treated as such. g

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