Sacking of ‘pro-temple’ cleric bares divide among Muslim leaders over Ayodhya

Salman Nadwi
Salman Nadwi, cleric of All India Muslim Personal Law Board | Facebook

Salman Nadwi argued in favour of shifting Babri Masjid site, now says talks will matter more than SC judgment. AIMPLB insists Muslim community is united.

New Delhi: The sacking of influential Muslim cleric Salman Nadwi from the All India Muslim Personal Law Board has bared the widening cracks in the Muslim community over the thorny Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute.

Nadwi was thrown out of the AIMPLB Sunday for arguing in favour of shifting the site of the 16th century mosque, which was razed in 1992, to help resolve the dispute.

Over the last few months, several Muslim leaders have come out in support of building a Ram temple on the disputed site even as the matter continues to be heard in the Supreme Court.

“There have always been differences in the Muslim community. That’s why you have a different Waqf board for Shias, for Sunnis, for women… Since democratic principles of representation are not followed, and people are expelled for having a different point of view, that’s why there are differences,” Nadwi told ThePrint.

The Supreme Court, he said, should not adjudicate in the matter. “Just like the Allahabad High Court judgment became irrelevant, the SC judgment too will remain elusive. The only way out is talks,” he said.

‘We are united, it’s the BJP’s game’

AIMPLB member Qasim Rasool Iliyas, however, insisted that the Muslim community was united in its stand on the issue.

“It is the BJP’s political game at work here,” Iliyas said. Those holding ceremonial government positions are bound to toe the BJP line, thus giving the impression that there are cracks within, he said.

“The reason all Muslims support the AIMPLB’s position is that our stand is in line with the Shariat. A mosque is nobody’s property that an individual can offer to sell it or gift it to someone else,” he said.

Yet, the significance of a conservative Sunni leader such as Nadwi taking a public position in favour of a temple on the disputed site cannot be understated. “He had been a signatory to all of the board’s resolutions since 1991 over the issue. I don’t know what explains the sudden change in his stand,” Iliyas said.

Growing number of pro-temple voices

According to Waseem Rizvi, chairperson of the Shia Waqf Board, who has called for a ban on the AIMPLB, the change in Nadwi’s position reflects the real mood of Muslims on the ground.

“If someone who is considered as conservative as Nadwi can say this that means most secular Muslims definitely want peace. It is only those who have made a business out of the dispute who want to keep it alive,” Rizvi said.

While Rizvi often makes headlines with his statements that are perceived as anti-Muslim, he is not the only Muslim to argue in favour of the temple. Last month, Syed Ghayorul Hasan Rizvi, chairperson of the National Minority Commission said that Muslims should be more “generous” and give the disputed site in Ayodhya to Hindus.

“The Supreme Court will chart its own course, but Muslims themselves should come forward and give away the site which is so important to Hindus,” Rizvi, who rose from the BJP’s Minority Morcha, had said.

Iliyas, however, said that “stray comments” made by the BJP’s “yes-men” must not be taken seriously to conclude that the Muslim community is divided.

Sangh affiliate’s stance

The Muslim Rashtriya Manch (MRM), a RSS affiliate, has continued to galvanise support for the construction of a Ram temple at the disputed site, roping in Muslim groups to denounce their claim on the land.

Muslims never offered namaz at the disputed site as they considered it “naapaak (unclean)”, MRM patron Indresh Kumar had said last year.

Yasir Jilani, state convenor of the MRM in Delhi, said while the cracks may be coming out in the open now, the Muslim community had always been divided in India due to the low-level vote-bank politics played by the Congress.

“The AIMPLB has always been the Congress’s puppet, and now, the ordinary, betrayed Muslim is coming out in opposition to their cheap politics,” he said.


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