|Narendra Modi at the Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu on Monday. (PTI)
New Delhi, Aug. 5: Muslim leaders today blasted the Congress and the Trinamul Congress for making an issue of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s religious and social choices, saying such facetious focus would only serve to divert attention from economic and social concerns.
In Parliament today, Trinamul had raised Modi’s visit to Pashupatinath temple in Nepal and asked why he did not show the same enthusiasm during Id. The Congress asked why the practice of the Prime Minister hosting an iftar had been discarded by Modi. ( )
But the Muslim leaders said economic and social development were the priorities for the community, not the “facade” of iftars.
The Opposition parties, they said, should work together to protect the country’s secular foundation and ensure the government continues to safeguard the interests of minorities instead of focusing on such “drama”.
“The Congress is just extending lip sympathy… the party had failed to deliver on its promises towards the community during its last two terms of governance. This facade of iftar will not work for it any more,” said Zafaryab Jilani, a member of the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board.
Education, social uplift and employment are the main issues concerning the Muslim community, he said, but no political parties are bothered.
“Both the Congress and the Trinamul Congress need to refrain from tokenism and work for the genuine development of the community. They must understand that the politics of iftar is not going to help any political parties any more,” Jilani said.
Political iftars go back to the 1970s when Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna as chief minister of Uttar Pradesh started the practice. The Congress leader brought the tradition with him to Delhi when he joined Indira Gandhi’s cabinet. Indira quickly took to it and Prime Ministers have since either hosted iftars themselves or had a minister host one. This year, no one in the Union government did.
In 2009, the country’s oldest Islamic seminary, the Darul Uloom Deoband, had issued a fatwa against iftars hosted by political parties, saying these go against Islamic tradition. “The iftar has no place for lies, hypocrisy and politics,” said the fatwa, discouraging Muslims from attending such gatherings.
Zafar Mahmood, president of the Zakat foundation, the country’s largest Muslim charity, said the Congress and Trinamul should raise the genuine issues and problems faced by the community.
“This (protest) is just a mindless exercise signifying nothing. Hosting iftars is the discretion of any individual or government and nobody can force someone to throw iftar parties. Why are they making an issue of it if the Prime Minister visited a temple? It is a very personal matter,” said Mahmood, a former Indian Revenue Service official who had worked in the PMO in 2005-2006 under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Mahmood had last year participated in a conclave in Gandhinagar, organised by an NGO as part of Modi’s outreach towards the minority community, where he was critical of the BJP’s attitude towards Muslims.
Last week, he wrote to Modi asking him to start programmes for the uplift of the Muslim community. Mahmood, who was the main interface between Manmohan Singh and the Sachar committee that Singh had appointed to examine the social, economic and educational condition of Muslims and make recommendations to mainstream the community, reminded Modi of his promise of inclusive development.
The Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid, Maulana Syed Ahmed Bukhari, said political parties of all hues held iftars to attract the community’s votes and network with its leaders. “Muslims should boycott these political iftars. The purpose behind such gatherings is nothing but political,” he said.
“It would be against Islamic tenets if the source of money behind these lavish parties is the liquor business or interest from loans,” he said. “Islam says what you eat for iftar must be from halal kamai (honest income).”
“Politicians think hosting iftars will help them reap political gain in elections. So they wear the skullcap and get themselves photographed. But they dump the community as soon as the show is over. Unfortunately, photographs of politicians instead of rozedars (those who are fasting) get published in newspapers,” Bukhari said.