Unhappy with the alleged misuse of their influence, religious places and educational institutions for political gain during elections, Muslim clerics have decided to distance themselves from political parties this poll season.
The well-known Islamic seminary Darul Uloom of Deoband was the first to make public its intention to avoid party leaders ahead of the upcoming state polls. Mohtmim Abul Kasim Nomani of the school clarified that no one from the institute would officially interact with political parties and candidates during the election season. Explaining the decision further, an official of Darul Uloom said political leaders could enter the premises but institute officials would not interact with them till the elections were over.
He said the decision was taken to prevent possible misuse of the institute during polls, as had been the case in the past. Muslim voters play a decisive role in many west UP constituencies and parties claim familiarity with the in a bid to woo Muslim vote.
A Darul Uloom official claimed that Mulayam Singh Yadav had visited the institute in 2007 to meet the then mohtamim (administrator) Murgubur Rehman. A picture of the cleric blessing Mulayam in accordance with traditions had made it to the front pages of many newspapers forcing the Darul Uloom to clarify its stance vis-à-vis the polls. Indira Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Amar Singh and Baba Ramdev are a few other personalities who have visited the institution in the past. Asraf Usamni, former spokesperson of the institution, said, “We are an educational institution and have nothing to do with politics.”
Maulana Arif Ul Haq, Imam of the prestigious ‘Phoos ki Masjid’ in Baruat, met Imams of 262 mosques in the tehsil under the jurisdiction of the masjid on Sunday. The religious heads decided in the meeting to keep political leaders at bay during the 2017 UP elections. The Imam said, “Religion and politics should not be mixed. Politicians mislead people in the name of Imams and exploit religious leaders for their political gain during polls.”
The Imam and his staff are now busy sending letters to Imams of all associated mosques advising them to not accept donations from political parties during election season.
Mukti Zulfikar, state president of All India Imam Association, while supporting the decision of Muslim clerics said, “It is true that party leaders many times use innocent religious persons for their political benefit and unfortunately religious heads end up earning a bad name in the process.”