The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Fatwa against caste quotas

Hyderabad, June 20: Islamic seminaries in Andhra Pradesh have issued a fatwa against classifying Muslims into castes for providing reservation.

The advisory stands in sharp contrast with the bloodshed in Rajasthan where Gujjars went on the rampage demanding scheduled tribe status that allows more benefits.

The fatwa came in the middle of a drive by the Congress government in Andhra to implement caste-based reservation for Muslims in education and jobs.

Six powerful seminaries, which have influence among at least two thirds of the 68 lakh Muslims in the state, have said that all are equal in Islam and there is no caste system.

“Muslims all over the world are equal. There is no distinction of caste, colour or race among them. Therefore, creating distinction for reservations is improper under the Shariat,” said the fatwa from Jamia Nizamia, the 125-year-old Islamic university based in Hyderabad.

“Islam has no caste system and the government’s move is nothing but an attempt to divide Muslims,” said Moulana Hameeduddin Auqil Hussami, the chief priest of the Mecca Mosque, the scene of a bomb carnage last month.

The copies of the fatwa were released at a media conference addressed by leaders of Muslim United Action Committee, made of half-a-dozen religious, political and social organisations that had sought the opinion of the seminaries. Hussami is the convener of the committee.

The clerics said reservations should be provided to Muslims who are socially, economically and educationally backward without dividing them on the basis of any caste or “biradaries”.

The Andhra government is going ahead with a plan to introduce 4 per cent caste-based quotas for Muslims after the original 5 per cent religious reservation ran into legal hurdles. Religion-based quotas are not permitted under the Constitution. Besides, the 5 per cent quota exceeded the overall 50 per cent limit.

The government could have got around the problem by announcing quotas for only the socially backward Muslims — Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have done so. But a perceived attempt to favour some groups which support the Congress prompted the government to promise quotas to 13 “sub-castes” in the community. A committee last week identified the sub-castes, which include Siddis, Sheikhs, Labbi Qureshis and Borewalas.

The minority action committee’s campaign against the caste-based quota, too, is not entirely devoid of political colour. Some leaders associated with committee are known Congress baiters.

“The Congress came to power with support from the Muslim community. By taking this step, it will alienate itself from the Muslim support,” said Majlis-e-Tameer Millat president Abdur Rahim Qureshi, who is also the secretary of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board.

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