The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cartoon minister ruffles clergy

Bhopal, Feb. 18: Uttar Pradesh minister Haji Yaqoob Qureshi’s offer of a Rs 51-crore bounty on the head of the Danish cartoonist who made a caricature of the Prophet has upset the Muslim clergy.

The Haj and minority affairs minister made the offer at a public meeting in Meerut yesterday.

Maulana Shamsuddin, a Bhopal-based member of the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board, today said the remarks were uncalled for.

“He is not the competent person to make such a declaration. If someone has to be tried under Islamic law for blasphemy, it can only be done in an Islamic state, by an Islamic court, in keeping with due procedure of law, such as trial, witnesses etc,” he said.

Kamal Farooqui, another board member, went a step further, saying Yaqoob should be tried and prosecuted under Section 115 for making an inflammatory speech. “He is not a religious person. Who has given him such a mandate'” Farooqui asked.

Similar sentiments were expressed by other board members Zafaryab Jeelani and Qasim Rasool Illyas.

The Muslim clergy is afraid that protests against the cartoons in the country may not remain peaceful. Several organisations like the Jamiat-e-Islami, Dar-ul Uloom, Deoband, Nadwat-ul Ulema in Lucknow and the board, are holding closed-door meetings to work out a joint strategy. While they are unanimous that a strong message should go out to Denmark and other western nations, the moderate Muslim leadership is equally determined that violence is not an appropriate response.

Some scholars have dusted up two instances from Prophet Mohammad’s life to stress on peace and tolerance.

The first is from the Prophet’s supplication in Taif, near Mecca, in Saudi Arabia.

With shoes full of blood, wounds all over his body and after having been insulted, ridiculed and abused by the people of Taif, where he had come to seek refuge, the Prophet had prayed, “ Allah! I complain to you of my weakness, my scarcity of resources and the humiliation I have been subjected to by the people' So long as you are not angry with me, I do not care'.”

The second episode dates back to the treaty of Hudabia, which the Prophet negotiated with Arabs who had been at war with him. He did not insist on the title “Prophet” being used in the document, a move that his companions considered sacrilege. Instead, he had his name written as Mohammad, son of Abdullah.

This placated the enemy and was essential to concluding the treaty, which gave the Muslims an extended period of peace, allowing them to publicise Islam.

The moderate leaders are hoping Muslims in India would reflect upon these two instances instead of expressing blind rage.

But if the Muslim clergy is upset with the minister, the Uttar Pradesh government is not. Instead, it tried to cover up for Yaqoob, with home secretary Alok Sinha saying: “This is a very sensitive matter and Qureshi was expressing the people’s sentiment.”

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