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Cleric ruffles minority feathers

Mahmood Madni

April 21: Noted cleric Maulana Mahmood Madni’s statement that he saw nothing wrong in Narendra Modi’s refusal to wear a skullcap has led to disquiet among Muslims.

Madni, who heads the Jamiat-e-ulema (Hind), told a TV channel: “I take no offence to Modi’s refusal to wear the traditional Muslim skullcap. If someone tries to put a tilak on my forehead, I will refuse. Does that make me anti-Hindu?”

The Rashtriya Lok Dal member of the Rajya Sabha till 2012, who hails from the Deoband Islamic seminary in Uttar Pradesh, said: “We (Muslims) want real work instead of symbolism and empty talk. I am glad Modi did not pretend sporting a Muslim topi. Let him follow his religion as I follow mine.”

Asked if it was wrong of some Muslims to have reservations about Modi because of the 2002 riots, Madni said: “It has been 12 years. And now if he becomes something, we will have to judge him on the basis of what he does or does not do.”

Madni’s comments triggered instant reactions. Maulana Khalid Rasheed Firangimahli, a Lucknow-based imam, said: “What Madni has said is unfortunate, objectionable and against prevailing Muslim sentiments. I feel he is politically inclined and his desire to return to the Rajya Sabha is fashioning his thinking.”

Khalid Rasheed, a member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, declined to comment on Modi.

Masoom Muradabadi, editor of the Urdu daily Jadid Khabar, said Madni has been in “political wilderness” for a while. “Team Modi is looking for prominent Muslim clergy who can endorse the Gujarat chief minister. Madni’s remarks should be seen in this context,” he said.