As MNS leader Raj Thackeray blamed “Muslims from Bangladesh and other areas” for last week’s violence, political observers wondered how Muslim workers of the party would respond. But it seemed that Thackeray’s utterances had resonated with all his partymen, religion notwithstanding.
Haji Arafat Sheikh, president of Maharashtra Navnirman Vahtuk Sena, said he was grateful to Thackeray for maintaining his secular stand. “Some Muslim organisations were spreading rumours of him adopting the Hindutva ideology, but they were proven wrong today,” he said.
Sheikh claimed around five to six thousand Muslims participated in Tuesday’s rally. Shariff Deshmukh, another Muslim MNS leader, said the MNS chief’s stand will attract more Muslim youth to the party. However, certain groups dubbed the rally and speech as a political gimmick. “By organising a protest at the same spot [Azad Maidan], Thackeray is playing with our emotions,” said Aamir Edresy of Association of Muslim Professionals.
“Thackeray’s rally was organised to challenge the unity of minority groups in the city,” said Mirza Kamran, president, Student Islamic Organisation , Mumbai division.