Intro: The courage shown by Indian Muslims in Uttar Pradesh (UP) by openly condemning global Islamic terrorism, received a setback, when the state administration put a ban on an “anti-terrorism rally” on September 6. A clarion call for a mass rally was given by prominent Shia Muslim cleric and scholar, Maulana Syed Kalbe Jawad Naqvi, in which more than a lakh people were expected to participate, including the representatives of various religious organisations.
Kalbe Jawad is well-known for being at the forefront of anti-government demonstrations in 1997 to lift two-decade-old ban on the controversial Azadari processions in Lucknow, Waqf Movement and also for holding the biggest ever anti-US-Israel-Denmark rally attended by over one million people. Delhi based journalist Debobrat Ghose spoke to him on growing Islamic terrorism; ban imposed by the administration, the appeasement politics of Samajwadi Party-led UP government, Jihad and his decision to move court against UP administration in an exclusive interview for Organiser.
- What was the main objective of the mass rally scheduled to be held on September 6?
The objective of the mass rally was to condemn the global Islamic terrorism and pray for world peace. People from all walks of life, irrespective of religion, caste, creed or political affiliations from across the country were supposed to participate. We invited ‘Dharma gurus’ (religious leaders) from different religions, including Sunni Muslims to be on the discussion panel. It was an apolitical rally-cum-conference to condemn the heinous killing of innocents by terror outfits like Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, Taliban or any other outfit in any country.
- Why was the rally banned by the local administration, if representatives and leaders from all religious organisations including Sunni Muslims were supposed to attend it?
It was really surprising. We informed the administration a fortnight prior to the rally, but they informed us about the ban only a day before the rally. The local administration cited the reason of by-election and said the rally would disturb communal harmony in the state. It’s an irony that when the Centre has issued a red alert against al-Qaeda’s call, by banning an ‘anti-terrorism rally’, the UP government has apparently given a green signal to terrorism.
- But, by-poll seems to be a valid reason, as model code of conduct doesn’t permit holding any such rallies during an election.
The by-poll was in another constituency and there was no restriction in our constituency. In fact, the Election Commission didn’t raise any objection on our application to hold the rally. The ban was a result of dirty communal politics. The administration used the state archeological department, who in turn asked us not to hold the rally at Bada Imambada, citing that it might cause damage to the historical monument. Whereas, the fact is that there is huge floor space inside the monument and nobody would have sat on the walls or other structures of Imambada, causing damage to the monument. These were all excuses given by the local government to prevent the rally.
- So, did you cancel the rally? What is your next move now?
We didn’t cancel the rally, but shifted it to another venue. Due to the ban, we had to ask people coming from other states to cancel their visit, as the administration had threatened that they won’t let buses and vehicles carrying people for the rally to enter Lucknow. We held a seminar of religious leaders and a press conference, which was attended by mediapersons along with a large number of visitors. Had the rally taken place, the city would have witnessed congregation of different religions against a common cause — Terrorism. Fearing this, the state government through local administration imposed the ban. It’s the invisible hand of a particular man behind this, who wants Muslims to get polarized in UP. We’ve decided to move court against the administration for imposing ban on our secular rally.
- Would you clarify whose ‘invisible hand’ is behind the so-called conspiracy of banning the anti-terrorism rally?
Samajwadi Party (SP) has created fake leaders among various sects of Islam, who act on behalf of the party in playing vote bank politics. The SP runs a single-point programme – getting votes by any means. It won’t even shun from using the names of Osama bin Laden or ISIS – if it serves their purpose. By ‘invisible hand’ – I’m talking about SP leader and minister Azam Khan, who undoubtedly has tarnished the image of Muslims in UP, and a large section doesn’t like him. May be this rally had posed a concern for Khan and the Wahabi sect, and he ensured that the rally mustn’t take place!
- It’s said that at present you have a cosy relation with SP and its supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav. Despite this fact, why did the administration impose a ban on the rally?
It’s true, and we had invited both Mulayamji and chief minister Akhilesh Yadav. The ban was surprising for us too. Though, Azam Khan has fallen out of favour with the party, his presence can’t be ignored. The Wahabis, as all know, are involved in terrorism and Khan is backed by this sect.
- Mulayam Singh Yadav has always claimed himself and his party to be secular. What is the status of Muslims in UP? Are they safe?
The conditions of Muslims in UP is very bad and the common man is unsafe. Almost every alternative day we hear about communal riots. Muzaffarnagar riot was a horrible experience. The law and order situation in the state has badly deteriorated. By banning programmes on anti-terrorism, the UP government will encourage more riots in the state.
- What would you say about the rising Islamic terrorism worldwide? Isn’t it a shame for the entire Muslim community, given that the innocents being killed are also Muslims and the community ends up being profiled as terrorists?
Terrorism of any kind, by any group, is a shame for the society and mankind. No religion patronises it. The rise in Islamic terrorism has undoubtedly given a bad name to the religion. Contrary to their claim, these terrorists can’t be followers of Islam anyway.
- Shias in Iraq and the holy shrines in Karbala are under a severe threat from the terrorist outfit Islamic State also called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). What is the stand of Indian Shias on this issue?
The Indian Shias have voluntarily come forward to go to Iraq to save Karbala as well as offered their services in various sectors. We strongly condemn terrorism in Iraq, Syria and other countries.
- The Islamic terror outfits like IS, al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, etc are unleashing a reign of terror in the name of ‘Jihad’. What according to you is ‘Jihad’?
Islam never propagates killing of innocents. And, Jihad is not killing people in the name of religion – as the terrorists are propagating. Jihad means working for a noble cause that would please Allah. Islam says if you save a life, you’ve saved Islam. All these terror outfits are functioning against the tenets of Islam and Allah. It’s a shame and should be condemned by all, irrespective of religion, caste or sect.
(Debobrat Ghose is a Delhi-based journalist, who reports onnational and international issues, and can be reached at [email protected])