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‘We support PM, but he must deliver’: Times Of India

Ambika Pandit | Mar 20, 2016 The main objective of the World Sufi Forum, which concludes on Sunday at Ramlila Maidan, was to raise a voice against

Ambika Pandit | Mar 20, 2016


The main objective of the World Sufi Forum, which concludes on Sunday at Ramlila Maidan, was to raise a voice against violence and terrorism, says the president of All India Ulama & Mashaikh Board, Syed Mohammad Ashraf Kichhouchhwi. While criticising those who feel his invitation to PM Narendra Modi to speak at the forum was wrong, he tells Ambika Pandit that the onus of making the Muslims of India feel secure is squarely on the Prime Minister.

In your speech at the inauguration of the World Sufi Forum, you said that Muslims in India were living with a sense of fear. You asked PM Narendra Modi to do something to instil a sense of security in the minorities. What is the cause of this fear?

The pre-election propaganda about the Muslims being victimised if BJP or Narendra Modi came to powers continues after the polls. This has created an atmosphere of fear among Muslims. There are forces at work that do not Muslims to come in contact with the PM. When I met the PM for the first time, I told him we were concerned about terrorism and radicalisation of youth in different parts of the world while pointing out how Sufism could play a role in creating peace and tolerance. We have offered our support to the PM in combating terrorism. The onus now is on the PM to deliver.

What are your expectations from the PM and the BJP-led NDA government?

We have always felt that Sufis and Sufism have been ignored by the country. We requested the PM to promote the principles of Sufism. We form a significant section among the Muslims of India and must get our space. In the past, we pointed out to the governments at the Centre and in the states that Sunni-Sufis comprised 80% of the Indian Muslim population and yet we had never been given representation in the various government departments related to matters of the minorities. Only people of a certain ideology were appointed to those posts. Naturally, we felt ignored and complained that the government was doing nothing. That did not stop us, however, from expanding the footprint of the Sufism. So, the All India Ulama & Mashaikh Board was created in 2005. It is the result of those efforts that today the World Sufi Forum is sending out a global message against terror.

Various Muslim outfits and Sufi leaders in different states have objected to your association with BJP and PM Narendra Modi. They feel that despite the PM maintaining silence on grave issues affecting the minorities you are seeking his support.

I would like to first point out that I did not go to any political party. I approached the prime minister of India. Let me make it clear that a PM does not belong to any one party, he belongs to the entire country. I want to ask my opponents why they are making so much noise now. Weren’t the issues such as minority status for Aligarh Muslim University and Jamia Milia Islamia valid during earlier governments too? Why did they not raise these issues then? In fact, in my memorandums to earlier governments, I did request them to grant minority status to these two institutions. As far as the Gujarat riots are concerned, tell me were these the only riots that have taken place in the country? There is a history of riots during the tenure of other governments at the centre and in Gujarat. I would only like to say that the World Sufi Forum is not a political platform but a platform to make Sufism the mode for peace in a world afflicted by terror. I don’t want the same terror that has consumed other nations to reach my house, which is India. My focus is clear: I want the PM of India to give Sufism its due space so that we can spread the message of peace.

Your critics say there is nothing common between the Hindutva ideology that is associated with BJP and the principles of Sufism and Islam. What do you have to say?

The World Sufi Forum is a platform that has brought together Sufis from all over the world. It is a non-political platform against terrorism. With our coming to the fore to raise various issues, the Muslim faces in the Congress are feeling the pinch. They obviously fear that their future in the roles that they had acquired in the party is now in danger. There was an impression that the PM did not want to meet Muslims, but that is not true and this was proved by his presence at the inaugural session of the World Sufi Forum as well as his speech. Our message of peace aims to unite. I don’t want to isolate any group or outfit, including the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh. For me the message of peace has to be inclusive and is meant for everybody.