A section of Muslims in Uttar Pradesh are in no mood to abide by a government directive that 'Vande Mataram' be recited in all educational institutions on September 7, claiming that the national song is 'anti-Islamic'.
"We consider recitation of 'Vande Mataram' by Muslim students as un-Islamic and I have no hesitation in advising members of our community to shun it," said prominent Islamic cleric Maulana Khalid Rasheed, who heads one of India's leading Islamic institutions, popularly known as Firangi Mahal.
Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh had written to all Chief Ministers to ensure that the first two stanzas of the song are recited in all educational institutions across the country on September 7 - the day marking the culmination of year-long centenary celebrations of the song.
The song, composed by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee in 1876, was adopted as the national song at the Varanasi session of the All India Congress Committee on September 7, 1905.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav, who has sent a formal consent to the central government, has also issued a circular to all concerned departments on the matter. However, Maulana Khalid Rasheed's announcement has put the Chief Minister in a tight spot.
Of late, Yadav has been busy trying to retain his literally slipping Muslim vote bank.
Asked why he considered recitation of 'Vande Mataram' as 'anti-Islamic', Rasheed, also a member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, said, "Well, the song tends to equate the nation to god and Islam does not permit this. Even Prophet Mohammad cannot be placed on an equal pedestal with Allah, the almighty."
He went on to clarify, "Our opposition to 'Vande Mataram' must not be construed as any kind of disrespect to another religion. It is simply because our religion does not allow any Muslim to bow his head before anyone other than god, the almighty."
He wondered, "How a secular government like the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance had not cared to consider the sentiments of Muslims while issuing such a directive across the country."
The Maulana added, "In fact, even the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government had to eventually withdraw its order whereby recitation of 'Vande Mataram' was sought to be made mandatory in all educational institutions across the country."
He proposes to mobilise public opinion among Muslims on the issue.