Narendra Modi at the World Sufi Forum in New Delhi on Thursday. Picture by Prem Singh
New Delhi, March 17: Prime Minister Narendra Modi today asserted that “diversity” should never be “a cause of discord” as he inaugurated the World Sufi Forum in the presence of Sufi scholars from various countries.
“Diversity is a basic reality of nature and source of richness of a society, and it should not be a cause of discord,” the Prime Minister said.
In the Indian context, he said: “All our people – Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Jains, Buddhists, the micro-minority of Parsis, believers, non-believers – are an integral part of India.”
Modi also lent a Sufi touch to his slogan of ” sabka saath, sabka vikas” (development for all), saying that it borrowed from Sufism’s advocacy of the highest human values.
In his 34-minute speech, rendered entirely in English, Modi sought to de-link terrorism from religion.
“We must reject any link between terrorism and religion. Those who spread terror in the name of religion are anti-religious,” he told the audience, which seemed to have a fair share of his admirers, going by the occasional “Modi, Modi” chants.
Earlier, he had asserted that: “The fight against terrorism is not a confrontation against any religion. It cannot be. It is a struggle between the values of humanism and the forces of inhumanity.”
Quoting the Prophet, he said “there is no compulsion in religion” and underlined that “this is in harmony with the soul of the Bhakti saints’ saying in the Hindu tradition, ‘into the bosom of the one great sea flow streams that come from hills on every side”’.
Modi stressed: “When we think of the 99 names of Allah, none stand for force and violence, and that the first two names denote ‘compassionate’ and ‘merciful’. Allah is Rahman and Raheem.”
He described how Sufism “became the face of Islam in India, even as it remained deeply rooted in the Holy Quran and Hadis”.
Sufism “helped strengthen the inclusive culture that is our great nation’s immense contribution to the cultural tapestry of this world”.
Some of Modi’s remarks appeared to have been framed keeping in mind critics who accuse his government of being suspicious of Muslims.
“It is this spirit of Sufism, the love for their country and the pride in their nation that define the Muslims in India…. They are steeped in the democratic tradition of India, confident of their place in the country and invested in the future of their nation,” Modi said.
He referred to various Sufi poets and saints such as Bulleh Shah, Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, Jalaluddin Rumi and Baba Farid.
“We need not just constitutional provisions or legal safeguards but also social values to build an inclusive and peaceful society, in which everyone belongs, secure about his rights and confident of her future,” the Prime Minister added.
The four-day conference is being organised by the All India Ulama and Mashaikh Board and has been billed an effort to “reassert India’s position as one of the global centres for moderate ideology in Islam”.
Modi had earlier applauded Sufi culture during one of his monthly Mann ki Baat radio broadcasts last year.
He had stressed the need for the world to get the true picture of Islam which, according to him, is well portrayed by Sufism.