Debate among Indian Muslim thinkers on Islamic Heritage Conference which featured talks by PM Modi and King of Jordan

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Editorial Note:

One cannot forget the crowning event of King Abdullah’s visit to India and his address on Islamic moderation to a large gathering of top Islamic scholars and leaders of all sects, politicians and diplomats, including the High Commissioner of Pakistan in New Delhi at Vigyan Bhavan, where along with him, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also delivered a brilliant speech on the topic of “Islamic Heritage: promoting understanding and moderation.”

By all means what he said about intentional distortion of the truth about Islamic faith, its quintessential preaching of peace, kindness, tolerane and fraternal support of the needy is what will be gall to the radicals and fanatics who relentlessly preach that Islam must hate, must be aggressive and must be exclusive. Seldom do the Islamic scholars and ulema find opportunity of listening to scientific, rational and pragmatic elucidation of the reality of coexistence in peace and tranquillity on the globe as members of one family, as both the PM Modi and Jordan King explained.

King Abdullah said that when a Muslim meets a Muslim he greets him with aslamalaikum which means peace be upon you. How can such a religion be reckoned as religion of terror. There are some who misuse Islam for their nefarious designs. The two leaders confirmed that they would fight against terrorism tooth and nail.

King Abdullah sent a message of peace in a country which has the second largest population of Muslims in the world. Interestingly, people of all type of ideologies and viewpoints formed his audience. Obviously, his message to the Muslims of India should be something like a lighthouse for them in an environment of darkness. A large number of Muslim organizations in the country have strongly denigrated terrorism and violence as the enemy of mankind. They are keen to see that all religious communities in India live in peaceful coexistence as they have been doing for hundreds of years. A secular and democratic India is the best guarantee of freedoms of all sorts for the people, individual as well as collective. Abdullah’s reflections mark a new chapter in contemporary Islamic history. He has floated the idea of understanding the true Islam and discarding the negativism about it. India not only appreciates his bold initiative of putting the record straight but also hopes that the Muslim ummah of contemporary times will consider his words as beacon light to guide them in the future course of Indian history.

Responding warmly to the assertions of King Abdullah, Prime Minister Modi equated these truths to the teachings of great Indian minds like the Buddha, Nanak, Chishti and Gandhi. He said that “from Vedic times India has been believing in and upholding the axiom of “vasudevam kutumbkam”  – the world is a family, precisely what King Andullah has said. Prime Minister fully endorsed the views of King Abdullah that terrorism was not to be associated with any religion or community but that it is a peculiar mindset and we need to change that mindset.

Now, we produce below the views of noted Muslim Intellectuals on the Islamic Heritage Conference which featured wonderful talks by PM Modi and King of Jordan:

Syed Irfan Salim, Chairman of Sarvdaleey Muslim Action Committee

It was a welcome move by the King of Jordan to visit India to further the discussion over the spread of radical terrorism as Jordan is a country that is already in a tough position, trying to prevent the spread of these terror groups into its borders. Jordan shares its borders with several troubled countries of the Gulf region, including Syria and Iraq, and without international cooperation over curbing the menace of terrorism, it will be difficult for Jordan to control the terror groups like Al-Queda and ISIS on its own.
(Source: India Today)

Dr Syed Zafar Mahmood, President, Zakat Foundation of India

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech on the occasion of the Jordanian King‘s visit to India in the presence of a thousand plus Indian Muslims in New Delhi’s prestigious Vigyan Bhawan evokes an aura of a paradigm shift from his erstwhile perceived policy.
Modi admitted that many faiths have prospered in the Indian soil because of which the Indian message of peace and love has reverberated in the world. He relished basking in the unified ‘divine light permeating every particle’.
The PM fondly recollected Delhi’s Sufi backdrop and the Urdu origin of the capital’s name. He spoke of the socio-cultural diversity being the basis of India’s openness and the Indian national pride emanating from its mosaic legacy.
Modi juxtaposed the festive essence of the colorful Holi, the upcoming Good Friday and Buddha Jayanti as well as the not too distant month of Ramadhan followed by the festival of Eid-al-Fitr ‘that teaches us sacrifice and mutual bonhomie’. ‘Indian democracy is a celebration of our age old plurality’, he added.The fragrance of ideas and the sweetness of Mr Modi’s language used in Vigyan Bhawan do anesthetically soothe the Indian Muslim senses but before long the community rolls out of its ephemeral drowsiness and begins collating the present with the past before visualizing the future. Modi’s 1st March 2018 music to the ears is at wide-angled variance with his earlier pronouncements pitching Shamshans against Qabristans and, yet earlier to that, repeatedly and aggressively bundling up all Indian Muslims under the censorious and offensive epithet of ‘Mian Musharraf’.

One tends to conjecture that the latest cosmetic change of track is caused by the recent electoral reverses and dwindling dividends of the policy of communal polarization – in multiple states – as well as the urge to salvage the tarnished world image of being anti-minority.

Nonetheless, Indian Muslim wishes that such conclusion is counter-factual and that there is genuine change of heart. In that case the community expects the prime minister’s candy-coated epilogue to be followed up by ground level actions. (Milli Gazette)

Sami Aghai, Bhartiya Muslim Vikas Parishad Chairman

Modi government’s policies to involve the Gulf countries into a dialogue over radical Islam based terrorism is a major achievement for the country’s foreign policy. The way the King of Jordan facilitated PM Modis Palestine visit and is now in India to continue the dialogue, it was clear that Jordan was interested in cooperating with India’s government over ending the menace of international terrorism.

Despite the apparent failure of a lot of economic policies, PM Modi excels in building relations with other nations and he has proved that during his recent Gulf visit, where he was welcomed in Jordan, Palestine, and Dubai. Although the Muslims of India were not happy with Modi’s Israel visit, he assuaged their grievances by visiting Palestine as well. (India Today)

Hindustani Biradari Vice-Chairman

The King of Jordan has already said in a recent meeting with Islamic scholars in Amman, which is popularly called the Amman Message, that true Islam forbids wanton aggression and terrorism, enjoins freedom of religion, peace, justice, and goodwill to non-Muslims. It is also a message of good news, friendship and hope to the whole world. If the Amman Message is truly practiced in its letter and spirit, it will put an end to the pernicious spread of violent extremism. (India Today)

Talmiz Ahmad, a former diplomat

Jordan shares borders with six countries — Israel, Palestine, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iraq — and thus is affected by developments in its turbulent neighbourhood. As the historic custodian of Islamic sites in Jerusalem now under Israeli occupation, it is also central to the Israel-Palestine issue, particularly since over half its citizens originate from territories that are now part of Israel or occupied by it.

The two leaders (PM Modi and Jordan King) exchange views on how youth can be protected from radicalisation and measures that states and societies can take to counter the allure of religious extremism. They will discover that the most effective instrument against radicalisation is sustaining a pluralistic society and providing inclusive economic participation to all sections to all its citizens, without discrimination.

The most effective instrument against radicalisation is sustaining a pluralistic society and providing inclusive economic participation to all sections to all its citizens, without discrimination (Hindustan Times)

Syed Ata Hasnain, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies

King Abdullah’s visit is an opportunity to showcase India’s statesmanship in a region where many of its core interests lie.

The demonstrated diplomacy in the recent weeks may give just an iota of hope against the traditional reticence that India has otherwise displayed in the past. It is with this hope that one looks at the visit of King Abdullah II. Can the goodwill and balance of the Amman Message be understood better and revived to send a message of reconciliation between various interest groups. Can India’s unique inclusive culture be used to add weight to the message? India is at a unique juncture of history and one of the only nations which comfortably straddles the political and strategic divide in the Middle East. Partnering the King as a virtual interlocutor it could perhaps be best guided towards that role.

So, while there may be despair over the negatives of our neighbourhood, it is an opportunity emerging to showcase India’s statesmanship in a region where many of our core interests lie. One time when the King was in India some years ago he spent time with the Skinner’s Horse, the affiliated Indian Army tank unit linked with his British Army unit, Royal Hussars. Can these links, the deep respect his father, late King Hussain had for India and the equation the current King seems to have developed with India’s Prime Minister be the harbinger for better things to come? The next few days should give us some inkling.

Faiz ur Rahman, an independent researcher and secretary-general of the Chennai-based Islamic Forum for the Promotion of Moderate Thought

Indian Islam is the best interpretation of Quranic Islam. Indian Muslims have always believed in Islam being syncretic. This conference is again the reiteration of that faith. Not long ago, the Prime Minister said that Indian Muslims are not at all radicalised. When the Modi government says there is no radicalisation among Indian Muslims, then there is also no room for talk of Love Jihad. “Islam in India is what real Islam is — syncretic and harmonious. It does not believe in compulsion or forcing religion on anyone. In fact, the whole narrative of Love Jihad falls flat on its face with no evidence to back it up with,” he said. (News18)

Ali Khan Mahmudabad, Assistant Professor of political science in Ashoka University

Comparing Islam in India to Sufism is “divisive”. To back up his claim, Mahmudabad recalled the World Sufi Forum of 2016 which brought people with a particular religious identity closer to the political power, earning them the mistrust of other members of the community. “The way the BJP and the RSS talk about ‘acceptable Islam’ creates further divisions among Muslims. It brings a particular group closer to power, or at least creates the perception that they are aligned with the government. This is far removed from history as Sufis have always maintained a distance from political power. In fact, they often rose up in rebellion against imperial and tyrannical powers.”

“Their views on radicalisation show their uni-dimensional understanding of terrorism. It is as much the result of socio-economic, political, geo-strategic, psychological and class factors as it is of religion. The approach of solely holding religion responsible for terrorism is reductionist and shows the shallow understanding such people have of modern-day terrorists and radical groups. Such an approach can never solve the problem and in fact will only exacerbate it,” Mahmudabad added. (News18)

Maulana Azad University Jodhpur V-C Akhtarul Wasey

Disagreeing with Ali Khan Mahmudabad, Prof. Akhtarul Wasey said the conference wasn’t just about Sufi or Salafi Islam. “It had representatives from all streams of Islam — Barelvi, Salafi, Sunni etc. There was nothing about promoting any single philosophy of Islam. And all participants came together unanimously against terrorism, radicalisation and violence. In this global village, the only model of Islam which can be workable is that of India because Islam in India is basically operating for last one thousand years in multi-cultural set up. It is syncretic.”

Kanthapuram A P Aboobacker Musaliyar,  Sunni leader and general secretary of All India Sunni Jem-Iyyathul Ulema

(He met King Abdulla II bin Al-Hussein when he delivered a talk on ‘Islamic heritage’ at Vigyan Bhavan in Delhi on Thursday. The Sunni leader also met Prime Minister Narendra Modi)

A significant development at the function was the release of Urdu translation of the book ‘A Thinking Person’s Guide to Islam’ authored by Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad, King’s cousin and Islamic scholar. Experts in the field of counter-terrorism believe that the book which contains a chapter on ‘crisis in the ISIS’ will help the de-radicalization efforts in India. Security agencies in India believe that the Islamic State (IS) cadres, who have been fighting in countries like Afghanistan and Syria, will be forced to return to their country after the fall of the IS strongholds. The new phenomenon will pose a fresh threat to the country and the government agencies are busy preparing plans to face the emerging situation.

The deliberations in Delhi and the sharing of the experience of countering terrorism between India and Jordan will have a reflection in the state too, feel security analysts in Kerala. (Times of India)

Maulana Asghar Ali Imam Mahdi Salafi, President, Ahle Hadees

The world is passing through its worst phase of history and bloodshed and hatred against each other in the name of religion and sect has become the order of the day. In this context, the Jamiat has decided to hold its 2-day annual conference on this theme as the Jamiat is committed to the promotion of peace, humanity, and unity. We expect that this conference too like in the past will serve the larger purpose of humanity and will help in bringing peace and stability in this war-torn world.

Referring to Jamiat Hadees fatwa against “terrorism”, Maulana Salfi said the gathering of Ulema from across the world will be helpful to convey the message of peace and “enlighten people about the deep-rooted conspiracy of the ISIS and other similar organizations that are working to disrupt the social harmony and brotherhood everywhere and tarnish the image of Islam”.

In response to a question, Jamiat Ahle Hadees chief defended his presence in the recently held conference on Islamic heritage at Vigyan Bhawan which was addressed by the Jordan King and the Prime Minister Narendra Modi. When asked why none of the religious leader present did not ask any questions to the PM on the security of the minority, he said he did not get the opportunity to speak. (Rising Kashmir)

Maulana Mahmood Madani, General Secretary of Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind

Introducing the Urdu translation of a book, A Thinking Person’s Guide to Islam, written by Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad, Maulana Mahmood Madani highlighted the value of love and tolerance. He remarked that India’s unity of existence is not merely a political strategy, but it is a cultural practice embedded in the historic soil of Hindustan. Referring to Islam as a religion of peace and as a weapon to fight against terrorism, Madani invoked the teachings of Sufi saints, Sant Kabir, Guru Nanak and Ram-bhakt Tulsidas who sang songs of love. Quoting a Prophetic tradition, he said that the Muslim is identified as a person who is never a threat to anyone’s life.

M Reyaz (an assistant professor of media communication at Aliah University, Kolkata)

In the closing remark of the programme, Maulana Mehmood Madani, general secretary of Jamiat Ulama-e- Hind, had tried to nudge the prime minister. With PM Modi sitting on the dais, he said, “To counter communalism in the country and in our society, national interests must be made supreme over interests of any one community.” He further highlighted the crucial role played by Muslim leaders such as Maulana Mahmood-ul-Hassan Madani and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad in the freedom struggle and in shaping the secular and democratic fabric of the country. Shiekh Hind Maulana Mahmood-ul-Hassan had spoken of “composite nationalism” and opposed Partition.

Muslims who stayed in India believe that their well being is in the larger good of the nation. But they continue to remain backward on all human development indices, and are one of the most deprived and disadvantaged groups. Despite few cosmetic moves and hallowed promises, little has changed in their lives.

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