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All India Ulama & Mashaikh Board’s notion of only a particular interpretation of a faith is not desirable

20 OCT, 2011, 06.21AM IST, ET BUREAU On the face of it, the All India Ulama & Mashaikh Board's (AIUMB) call to Indian Muslims to resist Wahabi in

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20 OCT, 2011, 06.21AM IST, ET BUREAUET

On the face of it, the All India Ulama & Mashaikh Board’s (AIUMB) call to Indian Muslims to resist Wahabi interpretations of Islam, stressing the ‘tolerant, peaceloving’ nature of Sufism as counterpoint , sounds sensible. That is, however, simplistic. For one, despite its professedly ‘apolitical’ nature, the AIUMB has openly opposed the Congress and declared it is thinking of putting up candidates for the UP assembly elections.
Add the opposition to other Muslim organisations , and the statements seem more like a declaration of political intent. The AIUMB has every right to jump into the political fray if it wants to. But the notion of only a particular interpretation of a faith being desirable, thereby demonising all other forms, is fraught with problems .
True, the strict, exclusivist Wahabi notion of Islam has historically fed intolerance, even fanaticism.
Equally valid is the need to counter those forms and for Muslims at large to speak out and make clear the distinction between their faith and those utilising it for extremist ends. It is also sorely desirable that progressive interpretations of all faiths be furthered to truly realise the vision of a genuinely liberal, democratic India.
But the stated notion of only a ‘Sufi Muslim’ as a desirable one falls into the ‘good Muslim/bad Muslim’ trope that becomes part of the problem in the larger context.
Islam is practised by its followers in various ways, though the basic tenets are the same. Sufism too, even in India, is a complex phenomenon, with its figures playing multiple, myriad roles – from poets to even warriors. Negating all other forms, sects and interpretations is tantamount to creating a monolith in reverse, a mirror exclusivist notion.
The problem is ideological, even nihilistic , violence across faiths, perpetrated by deploying/ inventing theological concepts with political projects as the larger aim.In India, what is needed is genuinely inclusive , emancipatory politics, which does not leave room for clerics to anoint themselves as political leaders. The issue is much more nuanced than what the AIUMB would have us believe.