The Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, which advocates political Islam and was twice banned, seems to be ditching old beliefs.
On Saturday, for the first time, it told a court that it upheld India’s Constitution.
“Never espoused violence and have always expressed allegiance to the Constitution,” the Jamaat summarily replied to the Kerala High Court after the rival Kadimiya sect sought a probe into its ideology.
Teetering on the edge of Islamic fundamentalism, the Jamaat’s members are known to symbolically skip voting in elections, holding Islamic governance as the best model, like counterparts in Pakistan and Bangladesh.
That’s slowly changing. An aborted attempt last year to float a Muslim political party tied to the Left, and the decision of its women’s wing this January to field candidates in all reserved seats in local polls this September show a shift in strategy.
Jamaat secretary Mujtaba Farooque told HT: “Ideologically, we believe in the perfectness of God’s rule, but democracy gives Muslims their space and protects our rights. In any case, we have never disregarded the Constitution.”
Experts view the public endorsement as an important step in reconciling democracy and Islam, a key challenge.
“The Jamaat’s goals are more realistic now,” said Arshi Khan, a political science teacher in Aligarh Muslim University.
The Jamaat-e-Islami, however, continues to be watched by intelligence, having been associated with the outlawed SIMI before they broke off over serious differences.
Farooque said angry voices could still occasionally be heard among frustrated Muslim youth.
“But we explain to them that violence is unconstitutional and un-Islamic,” Farooque added.
Even the rival Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind was startled. “From not looking eye to eye, Jamaat’s members now share platforms with us. A huge change,” said A.H. Nomani, a Jamiat official.