Syed Zafar Mahmood made a power-point presentation whose focus was the BJP’s ideological opposition to Muslims

A conclave of young leaders organised by a local NGO, and attended by Narendra Modi here on Saturday, took a controversial turn, with one of the invitees using the platform to pose sharp and critical questions to the Gujarat Chief Minister on the BJP’s attitude towards Muslims

Syed Zafar Mahmood, formerly Officer on Special Duty with the Sachar Committee, made a power-point presentation whose focus was the BJP’s ideological opposition to Muslims. Mr. Mahmood, who also runs the Zakat Foundation, was one of about 50 prominent Muslims invited to the meet by NGO Citizens for Accountable Governance. Former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam delivered the key-note address at the conclave and later he and the Gujarat Chief Minister participated in a joint interactive session

Mr. Mahmood began by saying that he was not seeking any personal favour from any government but that “I do value and cherish every bit of justice and constitutional rights for the deprived Muslims of India.”

He said worldwide there were 56 Muslim countries and another 20 where Muslims formed the dominant minority. And yet the essays featured on the BJP’s website were uniformly “anti-Muslim”, and one of them titled “Hindutva: The Great Nationalist Ideology” was “full of hate and provocations against Muslims.”

A second essay, headlined, ‘Give us this day our sense of mission’ and written by MV Kamath was a “call to Muslims to adopt Hindu names and [for] Muslim women to wear the mangal sutra.”

Mr. Mahmood pointed out that there was a third essay, titled `Semitic Monotheism’, that saw Muslims and Islam as a problem. He quoted from the essay: “We must realize that we have a problem on hand in India, the problem of a stagnant and conservative Islamic society. A national effort is called for to break Islamic exclusivism and enshrine the assimilative Hindutva.”

Mr. Mahmood said: “Any citizen with normal human compassion would not take kindly to such a sweeping [and] patently anti-Muslim approach.”

He went on to demand that the BJP show its sincerity towards Muslim by actually implementing measures that would help in their uplift. He placed before Mr. Modi a list of demands, including the full implementation of the Sachar Committee’s recommendations and help in the passage of a string of pro-Muslims laws. He wanted the BJP to support a resolution in Parliament towards creating a Indian Waqf Service.

Mr. Mahmood pointed out that Gujarat was among the few States that had not implemented the scholarship scheme for minorities recommended by the Sachar Committee and currently being overseen by the Union Ministry for Minority Affairs. He also said that Muslim neighbourhoods in Ahmedabad were neglected.

The Hindu had learnt that many of the Muslim scholars invited to the meet had dropped out. One of them, Mufti Aijaz Arshad Qasmi, a member of the All-India Muslim Personnel Law Board, and a former spokesperson of Darul-Uloom, Deoband, confirmed to the paper that he would not be attending the meet. However, Zafar Sareshwala, a local industrialist associated with the BJP, and one of the volunteers at the youth meet, said only a few of the Muslim invitees had opted out.

He claimed that a Kashmiri Muslim youth sought development akin to Gujarat in Kashmir. According to him, the youngster told Mr. Modi, “We are also a part of India and want job opportunities.”

Mr. Sareshwala said some 200 young people from all over the country had taken part in the event, including some 30-odd Muslims. According to him, some of the Muslims were eminent Islamic scholars.

“While some Muftis from Deoband and UP were pressured into not attending the event, others like Maulana Mohd Hussain Qasmi and Maulana Omar Abedeen Madani from Hyderabad did come over,” he said.

“For the first time Muslims spoke out freely and frankly before Mr. Modi and he heard their problems in rapt attention,” he said.

(This article has been corrected for a factual error)

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