A top body of Sufi followers has called for blocking author Salman Rushdie's visit to the country - a rare instance of the mystical sect speaking in the same voice as Darul Uloom in Deoband, the puritanical seat of Islam, Sufis tend to dispute.
Although Sufis are predominantly Sunnis, their differences with the influential Deobandi sect go beyond just name-calling. Orthodox Deobandis berate Sufis for "improvising" on traditional Islam and "deviating" from the texts.
The Sufis, however, said their position on Rushdie is "unacceptable" to them too for his "very mock and abuse" of Islam. The Satanic Verses writer is slated to make a scheduled appearance at the Jaipur literary festival.
The national secretary of the Lucknow-based, All India Ulema and Mashaikh Board - a flagship Sufi body - Syed Babar Ashraf, told Hindustan Times that its leaders met Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot on Thursday and sought a ban on Salman Rushdie's visit.
Ashraf said Rushdie also stood in violation of Section 295 A of the IPC (outraging religious feeling). He denied the Sufis' position on Rushdie undermined its "liberal" image in the popular imagination.
Conservative seminary Darul Uloom's demand to bar Rushdie has prompted similar appeals from many Muslims.
"If Rushdie has every right to say what he wants, then Muslims have every right to oppose him," Akhtarul Wasey, head of Islamic Studies in Jamia Millia Islamia University said.