The national executive meeting of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, the largest organisation of Muslim religious leaders, was held in Deoband recently. Here, the Jamiat strongly opposed the Uniform Civil Code and termed it a violation of the right to religious freedom enshrined in the Constitution. They’ve also resolved to continue fighting legal battles within the purview of the Constitution on the disputes being raised regarding Gyanvapi, Mathura’s Shahi Idgah and various other mosques. While they did advise the government to leave mosques and historical buildings alone, they also appealed to Muslims to have patience and not to antagonise Hindus during “these difficult times”.
Based on what was said on the Jamiat stage, it seems that the group is focusing on protest and resistance rather than confrontation.
The national executive meeting of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, the largest organisation of Muslim religious leaders, was held in Deoband recently.
At the meeting, the Jamiat took a strong but firm stand and condemned religious discrimination against Muslims in India.
In response to the ongoing hate campaigns against Muslims, they have decided to hold 10,000 ‘sadhbavna sansad’ (goodwill meets) across the country. Influential figures from all religions will be invited to these.
The question that is bound to arise is just how much influence does the Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind have on Muslims? Does this organisation really represent Muslims across the country?
'We Won't Leave'
In the softest of words, the organisation issued firm condemnations for the constant threats being issued by Hindu organisations against Muslims. Jamiat chief Maulana Mehmood Madni, while asking Muslims to have patience, also addressed extremist Hindu organisations:
“We are not strangers. We are from this country. Let's be very clear, this is our country, too. Whatever our responsibilities are towards the nation we will fulfil them. There will be no compromise with those. Our religion might be different. Our style might be different. Our culture and values might also be different. Our food habits are also different. If you can’t tolerate that you are welcome to leave.”
Further on, while addressing Muslims, he said, “No one has to be sent. Because at the slightest of things they say, ‘Go to Pakistan’. You may not have been given the option of going to Pakistan. We were given the option. But we rejected it. So, we are not going anywhere. The ones who keep asking us to go are welcome to leave the country and go somewhere else.”
'Sadbhavna Sansad' in Response to 'Dharam Sansad'
The Jamiat conference is even more important amidst the atmosphere of hatred against Muslims in the country. The Jamiat has taken a firm stand that the response to hate cannot be hate; they are not going to fight fire with fire.
The Jamiat has also appealed to the United Nations to declare 14 March as the ‘International Day for the Prevention of Islamophobia’ to help spread the message of mutual harmony, tolerance and peace among all religions, castes and communities. Also, a common pledge against racism and religious discrimination is planned for this International Day.
The Jamiat's Four Resolutions
The intention was to pass seven resolutions on various subjects in the two-day conference, though only four were ultimately adopted. Here is a brief summary of each:
Currently, there are multiple ongoing campaigns against various mosques across the country, including Gyanvapi and the Shahi Idgah of Mathura, which have damaged the peace, dignity and integrity of the country. These controversies are being used for political gains, but reviving these old conflicts won’t benefit the country in any way. Notably, the Places of Worship Act (1991) has already decreed that the status of places of worship as of 15 August 1947 will remain intact.
The Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind expressed concerns that a series of hate statements, articles and slogans are being spread in the name of Prophet Muhammad. This is clearly a result of a well-thought-out strategy. The Jamiat has demanded that the government pass a law that ensures respect for important entities of all religions. An appeal has also been submitted to the Supreme Court regarding this.
The third and most important resolution was regarding the Uniform Civil Code. It stated that regulations included in the Muslim personal law regarding marriage, divorce, inheritance, etc, have not been fixed by any society or individual, but rather come from religious orders taken from the Qur'an and Hadith and are very much part of a person’s religious freedom. Interfering in these will be the same as changing the basic tenets of Islam.
Governments in various states are talking about implementing a common civil code with the intention of abolishing personal law. The Jamiat said that such interference will not be accepted.
“We demand that the government issue instructions regarding the protection of Muslim personal law keeping in mind this basic feature and guarantee of the Constitution of India.”
The Jamiat has felt the need for a campaign to correct misconceptions about Islamic teachings in the country. It appealed to Muslims to post messages on social media that bring out the virtues of Islam and to ensure the provision of appropriate material to new learners. Meanwhile, efforts need to be made to inculcate Islamic knowledge among Muslim children. They proposed organising regular quizzes, etc, on the teachings of the Quran and the Prophet.
'Provoking Muslims': Sangh
The Sangh has strongly objected to the proposals passed in the two-day conference, though it has not directly commented on this. The ‘Rashtriya Muslim Manch’, which is associated with the Sangh, had called the resolutions a proposal provoking Muslims. It has opened a front against Jamiat by putting forward their Saharanpur district coordinator.
Rao Musharraf Ali, the District Convenor of the Muslim Rashtriya Manch, Saharanpur, said the Jamiat was trying to incite Muslims of the country, which will further the atmosphere of hate in the country. He also said that the comments on Mathura, Gyanvapi and Qutub Minar are not right and that since the matters are in court, they need to wait for the decision. Ali further added that the current government was trying to “correct the wrongs perpetrated by the Mughals when they demolished temples to build mosques”.
What Is the Jamiat’s Influence on Muslims?
The question that is bound to arise is just how much influence does the Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind have on Muslims? Does this organisation really represent Muslims across the country? Until now, it was largely Asaduddin Owaisi speaking on behalf of Muslims on issues like Gyanvapi and Mathura. He was being accused of playing politics with Muslim sentiments. Now, the Jamiat has also joined in.
The Jamiat is not a political party, it's a social organisation. Even though it is basically a Western Uttar Pradesh organisation, it has a nationwide existence. Most of the Ulema studying with the Darul Uloom Deoband are associated with this organisation.
One faction is headed by Maulana Arshad Madani, while the other is run by Mahmud Asad Madani. This conference was organised under the leadership of Mahmud Asad Madani, but Arshad Madani also participated in it.
It has been said that the uncle-nephew pair worked together after 14 years. More than 1,500 Ulema from 25 states had come to participate in this conference. Most of the ulema associated with the Jamiat are imams and clerics who teach in madrassas. They have direct contact with common Muslims, and thus, their words have an impact on Muslim society.
How much impact will this Jamiat convention have on common Muslims and will it affect the politics of the country? As of now, we don’t have an accurate idea. But what is certain is that Muslims, who are constantly being intimidated and threatened, have now got an assurance that there are people who will fight the social and constitutional battle on their behalf.
However, history shows that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has gained political mileage from clashes on religious issues related to Muslims. The Jamiat is also aware of this, and that's probably why they are being so cautious this time.
(This article was translated from Hindi by Mariam Shaheen. This is an opinion article and the views expressed are the author's own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)