Salim Khan, Bollywood's legendary scriptwriter and father of megastar Salman Khan, has denounced Muslim clerics who have issued a fatwa against him and his family for celebrating Ganeshotsav, the popular Hindu festival, in their home, asserting that worshipping Lord Ganesh is in his son's blood as his mother is Hindu.
"They claim to be speaking for Islam, but actually what they are doing is anti-Islamic. And I am relying on the scriptures of the Holy Quran, which says my religion is with me, yours is with you. Don't force your religious beliefs on others," Khan told IANS in an interview in Mumbai.
Khan was responding to Wednesday's fatwa - an Islamic religious edict - against his entire family issued by Mufti Manjar Hassan Khan Ashrafi Misbahi, the chief of Darul-Uloom Hijaziya Chishti, Mumbai.
"What is the locus standi of these people? Who are they to question people's religious beliefs? They have never considered issuing such fatwa against any terrorist who butchers innocent people. They only pick on secular Muslims," he pointed out in an emotion-charged voice.
Referring to his comments before a TV channel, Khan claimed that more than 96 percent of the viewers have wholeheartedly supported his "free and frank views".
"Why should we then bother about this minuscule, less than four percent, of the rest?" he demanded.
Justifying his family celebrating Ganeshotsav at home, Khan explained to IANS: "We are born in India, it is our motherland and it is our duty to respect the sentiments of the people of this country, partake in their festivities, joys and sorrows.
"How can a handful of these people decide who will go to heaven and who will not? Have they already reserved their places in heaven?"
He recalled an incident last year when a Hindu youth rescued a young Muslim couple stranded on the rocks at the Bandra .Bandstand. The couple was sitting on the rocks when the high tide on the Arabian Sea caught them unawares.
He said that the youth, unmindful of consequences, jumped into the raging sea and rescued the couple, but lost his life.
"This is a symbol of humanity and love for fellow beings, irrespective of religious beliefs. These persons (clerics) must remember that the Holy Quran has termed killing of innocent persons equal to killing humanity. Do any of these people speak out against this?" Khan asked.
The scriptwriter - who along with Javed Akhtar penned the scripts of Bollywood blockbusters like "Sholay," "Zanjeer," "Seeta Aur Geeta," "Deewar," and "Trishul" - said that Islam is a religion of peace - and even the Quran preaches peace throughout.
He urged Muslims to respect the sentiments of the majority community. "Those who cannot do this have no right to live here," he declared.
Khan emphatically added that India's 145 milllion Muslims survive because of the "goodness" of the majority community, so it is the duty and responsibility of every Muslim to remain grateful to this country.
Justifying the decision to celebrate Ganeshotsav with family last week, Salim said that his wife Sushila was forced to change her name to Salma after marriage by hardline Muslim clerics.
He pointed out that his wife being a Maharashtrian Hindu, "worshipping Lord Ganesh is in the blood of her son, Salman."
He mentioned that one of his employees, a Muslim, runs a family business of making beautiful idols of Lord Ganesh, and there are many Muslims all over Mumbai and other parts who celebrate Ganeshotsav and other Hindu festivals with devotion.