Deoband cleric’s statement on Modi triggers strong reactions

He has referred to “increased” acceptability of Modi among Gujarat Muslims

Published - February 19, 2013 02:14 am IST - NEW DELHI:

A recent statement by Deoband cleric Mahmood Madani referring to “increased” acceptability of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi among Muslims in the State has triggered strong reactions from the community. While some have called Mr. Madani “opportunist,” others argued that he has not said any thing new or wrong as Muslims in Gujarat don’t have any other option but to move on and rebuild their lives. But that should not be interpreted to suggest that the victims of 2002 post-Godhra pogrom either got justice or have forgiven the Modi administration for its alleged complicity in the communal carnage.

In an interview to a news channel, Mr. Madani, who is general secretary of the Jamiat-e-Ulema Hind, said: “In Gujarat, Jamiat workers on the ground told me that in several Assembly segments, Muslims voted for Modi ... There is a perceptible change as circumstances are different now … More innocent Muslims are in the prisons of Maharashtra than in Gujarat. The human rights record of several States with secular governments in power is deplorable and the economic situation of Muslims in West Bengal is shocking. These States don’t have a Modi at the helm.”

Talking to The Hindu on Monday, Mr. Madani repeated his arguments and said: “If Modi is communal, look what you are doing in Maharashtra, and Rajasthan, the two Congress-ruled States, which saw communal riots.”

Shahid Siddiqui, editor of the Urdu weekly Nai Duniya , said: “Muslims in Gujarat are neither pro-Modi nor anti-Modi. They are just getting their day-to-day work done through the local officers in Gujarat because they need to survive as well. That should not be interpreted as supporting Modi.”

Mr. Siddiqui, who was criticised by a section of Muslims and was also suspended by the Samajwadi Party after he interviewed the Gujarat Chief Minister, said there was no need to read too much into Mr. Madani’s statement.

“Can the Congress leaders whose names have been mentioned in the Sri Krishna Commission report on 1992 Mumbai riots be regarded as secular? Will Modi be considered secular if he joins Congress? I think these are few questions we ‘secular’ people need to answer?”

National secretary of the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind Engineer Saleem differed with Mr. Madani and said: “Mr. Madani’s statement does not reflect the opinion of the ordinary Muslims who would not only reject Modi but also anybody who is soft on him. People may like him due to their own personal interests, but the Muslim community and peace-loving democratic and secular Indian populace will never accept Modi.”

Another Deoband cleric Ghulam Mohammed Vastanavi, who lost his job as Vice-Chancellor of the Islamic seminary Darul Uloom at Deoband for saying that Muslims under Mr. Modi were prospering, was not surprised at all.

“The development I talked about is being referred by others who criticised me at that time,” he laughingly said. “Muslims are neither mine nor Mr. Madani’s vote bank. Some of them who liked Modi’s work voted for him and others who didn’t like didn’t vote for him. But I have always been arguing that the community should not become any party’s vote bank.”

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