The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Besieged, minorities reach out
No bias, please: A Muslim woman in Delhi on Sunday. (Reuters)

Aug. 20: A confused and divided Muslim leadership today got together in New Delhi to defend itself from growing incidents of “Indian Muslim involvement” in terrorism, asserting that the perpetrators should be treated as “criminals” without a reference to their religious affiliation.

The Muslim clergy said it was more than willing to cooperate with and assist the government to weed out the “bad blood” from society.

In a significant development, the Muslim leadership called off the general body meeting of the All India Muslim Personal Board that was scheduled to be held in Chennai on August 25.

Ostensibly, the meet has been deferred due to board secretary Maulana Nizamuddin’s indifferent health. But board insiders said the “conditions” prevailing post-Mumbai blasts may have played an important role.

Several minority leaders are said to be of the view that instead of addressing religious and “in-house” issues, the community should make a public display of its disapproval of the cult of terrorism.

Over 150 muftis, maulvis and scholars drawn from seminaries across the country held a lengthy discussion and urged the Centre, states, intelligence and security agencies and “civil society” to refrain from “branding” Muslims.

They said such a perception, if it goes unchecked, would result in far-reaching ramifications and affect the social fabric of society. At times, tempers rose and accusing fingers were pointed at the UPA regime, particularly on a perceived reluctance to take an anti-Bush administration stand and condemn the Israeli “aggression” in Lebanon.

The presence of various theological schools and factions under one umbrella was significant, betraying deep-rooted anxiety and disquiet among the country’s largest minority.

However, the conference suffered a last-minute setback when Jamat-e-Islami decided to stay away. Its leader Shafi Moonis said a conference on terrorism must involve all communities, not the Muslims alone.

The personal law board’s chief, Maulana Rabey Nadvi, was also conspicuous by his absence. Sources close to Nadvi told The Telegraph that he saw little wisdom in the Muslim clergy identifying with an issue that falls in the sole domain of law and order and the rule of law.

At today’s session, Muslim leaders expressed concern to union information and broadcasting minister Priya Ranjan Das Munshi over the “negative image of Islam” being projected.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Union home minister Shivraj Patil are expected to interact with the Muslim leaders tomorrow.

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