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HindustanTimes Tue,25 Nov 2014

Minority support: a bridge too far for Narendra Modi

Sunita Aron, Hindustan Times  Lucknow, October 29, 2013
First Published: 00:23 IST(29/10/2013) | Last Updated: 11:27 IST(29/10/2013)

Every solution they come up with seems to create more problems than it solves – at least it looks like that when it comes to some Muslim clerics’ attempts to build bridges with Narendra Modi.

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Even before the BJP prime ministerial candidate urged Muslims at his Sunday rally in Patna to fight poverty jointly with Hindus, clerics such as Maulana Kalbe Sadiq and Maulana Mehmood Madani had called for a soft approach to him – even though he is largely blamed for the 2002 Gujarat riots that left about 1,200 Muslims dead.

But the clerics’ move to engage Modi has always backfired, as the community’s anger will take more time to cool off, if it at all does so. An indication of exactly how the Muslims think of Modi can be gauged from comments by Muslim leaders.

Mohammad Salim Engineer, national secretary of Jamaat-E-Islami Hind said, “The genocide in Gujarat cannot be compensated with progress or apology. Often, Muslim leaders or clerics realise their blunder when they face their own community after issuing such unwarranted statements for their own personal gains.”

Recently, Shia cleric Maulana Kalbe Sadiq, a member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, said he was willing to ignore Modi’s past if he reinvented himself. But he had to make a hasty retreat.

His son, Kalbe Hussain, national president of Muslim Jagriti Manch, issued a statement two days later. “While corruption and inflation can be controlled, a person with communal a mindset, irrespective of his religious leanings, remains ever faithful to his ideology of hate.”

Another Muslim Personal Law Board member Jafaryab Jilani said a random survey of its 250-odd members would reveal 90% disfavoured any concessions for Narendra Modi. This explains why the 10% find it hard to speak up when it comes to building bridges with Modi.

Maulana Kalbe is not the first cleric to go back on his pro-Modi comment. Maulana Mehmood Madani had to hurriedly issue a clarification – apparently under community pressure – immediately after saying that more Muslims died in Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan and more were in the jails of Maharashtra than in Gujarat.

The maulana later tried to explain why he had retracted his statement: it was immediately, but wrongly, “inferred as my support to Narendra Modi”.

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More than two years ago, Ghulam Muhammad Vastanvi, then vice chancellor of the Deoband seminary, was removed after one of his statements was interpreted to have favoured Modi. He told HT in October 2013: “I had only said Gujarat has progressed without even taking his name.”

At a meeting held in Delhi last week, the Jamaat-E-Islami Hind decided to create countrywide awareness on the threat to the Constitution and pluralistic society after BJP projected Narendra Modi as its prime ministerial candidate and Modi’s “issue-less and value-less politics”.

It said, “We will take our agenda to all the political parties, except for the BJP, and the public, telling them to press the NOTA button in case they found a vacuum of good candidates.”

But Sunni cleric Maulana Khalid Rashid wants to be at a safe distance from politics – Modi or no Modi. “We, as religious leaders, should keep away from politics because any open message in favour of a political party consolidates the communal vote bank.”


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