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Muslims divided on PM’s Sufi show:Times of India

Mar 24, 2016   The recently concluded World Sufi Forum was Prime Minister Narendra Modi's magnum opus vis-a-vis the Muslim community. Spread ov

Mar 24, 2016


The recently concluded World Sufi Forum was Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s magnum opus vis-a-vis the Muslim community. Spread over four days, the conference had community leaders from across the country and abroad. It was a Sufi show of strength and none other than the PM of the country was throwing his weight behind them. He floored the murshid and mureed alike with his knowledge of the Asma-e-Husna or the 99 names of Allah, none of which, he claimed, is violent. But the conference was also a manifestation of a grave concern: that a sizeable section of Muslims would be alienated, while the others, who sought to ride the wave of “love” and “tolerance”, be embraced. At least, for the time being.

In Hyderabad, cracks appeared a month before the forum began. A visibly concerned All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) secretary Maulana Khalid Saifullah Rahmani, in an oblique reference, charged probable attendees of doing the community a “great disservice” even as he claimed that the government at the Centre was “unfriendly to the Muslims”.

It is no secret that Maulana Rahmani, a distinguished figure in scholarly circles, runs the Deobandi-leaning Islamic seminary Al Mahad al Aali al Islami in Pahadisharif. His concerns reflect those of a great number of Muslims who fear that the World Sufi Forum, notwithstanding its important resolution against terrorism passed on the last day, would widen the gulf between Deobandis and Sufis. The Sufis or Barelwis gravitating to the Centre as a ‘power centre’ would make the other Muslim group vulnerable. And, what if even a fraction of the innumerable followers of elite mashaikheen vote for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the upcoming Uttar Pradesh elections in 2017 and later in 2019? If so, it would set a precedent that would not suit the larger interests of the Muslim community.

 The other opinion is that while the attendance at the Forum was impressive, Muslims, though divided along sectarian lines, have “boxed” their religious beliefs and political affiliations separately. Therefore, in terms of electoral gains, the event will have little effect and Muslims will largely continue to oppose the BJP.
Even as these two points of view were being debated, delegates from the city reached the Forum, apparently without any political inhibition. Some associated with influential Sufi-leaning Islamic seminary Jamia Nizamia of the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) bastion in Old City even presented papers at separate sessions. Office-bearers, who did not wish to be identified, said that among other reasons, the seminary wished to have its “representation at such a large event”.
 Irrespective of intentions, there is unease among many Sufi Muslims on account of the Nizamia’s move. After all, the seminary has offered its support to the MIM, a party that opposes the BJP and Hindutva ideology tooth and nail on several platforms. In fact, the MIM leadership had recently slammed the PM for his remarks on Sufism and alleged that he was trying to divide the Muslim community on sectarian lines. Now, what has to be observed is whether there will be a change in the ‘more than cordial relations’ which Nizamia enjoys with the party.
It is an uncanny parallel. While the Congress still courts the Deobandi-leaning Muslims of the Jamiat-e-Ulama Hind, the BJP, on account of the Forum, appears to be extending its support to Sufis and Barelwis. What is to be seen is how long this new found friendship will last and whether it will trickle down from Sufi guide to disciple. More importantly, who it will benefit from and at what cost.