Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat has, at a recent closed-door meeting in the national capital with representatives of the Muslim community, asked them to clear their stand on cow slaughter. He also questioned the use of terms such as ‘ kafir’ (non-believer) and ‘jihad’ (holy war) against Hindus and suggested that they be avoided.
The Muslim delegation, which had asked for the meeting in the wake of now-suspended BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma’s comments on the Prophet, in turn apprised the RSS chief of the growing sense of fear in the community in recent times.
The 75-minute interaction, an RSS source said, explored ways to foster brotherhood and promote the theme of religious inclusivity.
Prominent Muslim representatives in attendance included former Delhi Lieutenant-Governor Najeeb Jung, former Chief Election Commissioner S.Y. Quraishi, former Aligarh Muslim University Vice-Chancellor Lieutenant-General Zameer Uddin Shah (retd.), Rashtriya Lok Dal national vice-president Shahid Siddiqui and businessman Saeed Shervani.
“Bhagwat ji at the outset asked them to clear their stand on cow slaughter and all of them asserted that they are against it. He was told that Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, the founder of AMU, had banned beef on campus in deference to the sentiments of all communities,” the source said.
The RSS chief also questioned the use of word ‘ kafir’ for Hindus and was told that it means a person who is in denial (mostly about the existence of god). “How can Hindus be ‘ kafir’? They also have faith in god,” the RSS office-bearer quoted a member from the Muslim delegation as telling Mr. Bhagwat.
On jihad, the attendees reportedly told him that they never use the term and explained that it was being wrongly interpreted by “antisocial elements” intent on dividing the country. It is actually an inward journey of correcting the self, they said.
Freedom of expression
Taking the discussion forward, the representatives of the Muslim community shared the pain of being dubbed as deshdrohis (anti-national) for activities that are simply part of the freedom of expression.
Explaining the context of the interaction, RSS functionaries told The Hindu that Mr. Bhagwat keeps meeting people from various sections of society in every city he goes.
While Mr. Jung remained tight-lipped, Mr. Siddiqui said the meeting was held to promote peace among the people and ended on a positive note.
“We didn’t meet Bhagwat as the representative of any community but as concerned citizens. Things that happened in the country in the recent past have raised the temperature, We want to bring it down and bridge the gap between communities,” the RLD leader said.