| Saif-ul Islam
New Delhi, Sept. 10: Muslims had thought him to be Father Christmas, but 10 months have passed and there is no sign of the $8,00,000 promised by Saif-ul Islam, the son of Libyan dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, to the Indian Islamic Centre.
Gaddafi junior was in the capital in December, offering goodies to one and all. Under the aegis of Gaddafi Charities International, Saif pledged $8,00,000 to the New Delhi-based centre.
The centre is in desperate need of money. For the last 10 years, its ugly, unfinished structure in the heart of Delhi, next to Lodhi Gardens, has been waiting for funds.
An ambitious project on the lines of India International Centre and India Habitat Centre, the centre was to serve as a nerve centre of Muslims in India — a base for educational, religious, cultural activities.
Many important Muslim leaders, bureaucrats, intelligentsia and businessmen have been associated with the Islamic Centre but the task of raising Rs 4 crore has been beyond their reach.
It was in this background that the news of the Gaddafi’s son doling out the required amount of dollars excited everyone. As thanksgiving, a massive iftaar was arranged for him, with biryani, korma, firni, sherbet and other Mughlai preparations.
Gaddafi junior then went to Deoband and toured the country’s oldest Islamic seminary where he announced funding for a 100-bed hospital.
The Jamiat-e-Ulema, which was never warm to Gaddafi’s idea of Islamisation, suddenly warmed up to him. Today, Jamiat men are hugely upset, saying empty promises were against the tenets of Islam.
Saif had also made a third promise — 250 scholarships annually on a merit-cum-need basis.
Like the funding for the Islamic Centre and the 100-bed hospital, there are no signs of the money for the scholarships.
There were frantic calls to Tripoli for the release of funds.
Gaddafi senior instead invited a “good will” delegation of religious leaders, vice-chancellors of two universities, MPs and journalists.
The delegation was accorded a warm welcome but there was still no sign of the money. When a delegate mustered enough courage to inquire about Gaddafi junior, he was told that Saif was “somewhere in Africa” promising fantastic money in the war zones of Chad, Rwanda and Burundi.
Not all Muslim leaders have given up on Gaddafi. An old timer recalled how in 1974 the Libyan leader gave Pakistan a whopping $2 billion as part of a “tip”.
The occasion was the first meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Conference at Lahore where the Libyan dictator had relished dumpukht biryani and karori kebabs.
Pakistan’s then Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto had reportedly built a Gaddafi mosque and stadium with that “tip”.