The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Faith threat to Salman

Lucknow, Sept. 20: Salman Khan has been living with the fear of losing his freedom. Now he seems to be in danger of losing his religion, too.

If a Bareilly cleric is to be believed, the actor — convicted of killing a black buck but out on bail — has ceased to be a Muslim for “offering prayers” at a Ganesh pandal in Mumbai.

Mufti Mohammad Farooq, who belongs to the Barelvi sect and heads a seminary in Bareilly, 250km from Lucknow, however, qualified his fatwa saying he was not particularly referring to Salman’s September 18 visit to the pandal when he was issuing his decree yesterday.

“I was asked what would be the status of a Muslim who offers prayers in a Hindu temple,” the mufti said today. “I said Muslim religion does not accommodate any other god except Allah. So my answer was such a Muslim would cease to be a Muslim, whoever he may be.”

Salman, whose mother Salma was born a Hindu, visited the Lalbaug pandal, which also drew fellow celebrities Sonu Nigam and Shilpa Shetty, and television channels showed him clapping and bowing his head. Later, some Bareilly journalists of Urdu papers approached the mufti for a fatwa.

The fatwa has led to sharp divisions among clerics in Uttar Pradesh and many maulanas have come out in the actor’s defence.

“When Hindus visit a mosque or a Muslim walks into a cultural festival based on a religion, it cannot be construed as a change of mind to betray one’s own religion. These visits foster a spirit of national integration,” said Maulana Khalid Rashid of Lucknow.

“I know hundreds of Muslims who visit Puja pandals in Calcutta. There is no law in Islam to stop a Muslim from being a part of religio-cultural activities,” said Mufti Hashim Quazmi of Saharanpur, about 450km from Lucknow.

Others, including Maulana Rashid, said Salman might have been putting on an act rather than praying.

Many clerics also feel that stars like Salman and Shah Rukh Khan should be exempt from the purview of fatwas as they are “cultural ambassadors from one religion to another”. Shah Rukh celebrates Diwali with his family and has a Ganesh temple in his house.

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