Imam slaps talks advocate
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- Published 15.10.10
Lucknow, Oct. 14: The imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid lost his cool and slapped a Sufi activist today after being repeatedly asked why dialogue couldn’t resolve the Ayodhya tangle, the face-off reflecting the discord within the community since last month’s court verdict.
The assault, in full view of media cameras, came soon after imam Syed Ahmed Bukhari had wrapped up a news conference at a Lucknow hotel and his supporters had tried to shout down the 42-year-old.
Bukhari also called Waheed Chishti, who introduced himself as general secretary of the Akhil Bharatiya Maha Sufi Sangh Seva Samity, a “traitor”.
Observers said the attack showed the growing divide within Muslims over the September 30 verdict of Allahabad High Court, which ordered a three-way split of the disputed area. One of the judges said the area under the now-demolished central dome of the disputed structure was Ram’s birthplace “as per faith and belief of Hindus”.
Bukhari has been urging Muslims not to accept a verdict based on faith. This afternoon, when Chishti asked him why Muslims “shouldn’t be allowed to build an atmosphere of peace and brotherhood by resolving the issue through dialogue”, Bukhari at first ignored him.
But Chishti, who said he brings out a newsweekly from Lucknow, wouldn’t give up. “I wanted to ask imam sahab what harm will it cause if we give up the land in Ayodhya for Hindus…. It’s time we made a new beginning,” he said.
Two minutes later, when Chishti stood up again, Bukhari shouted: “It is because of people like you that the mosque was brought down. You traitor, shut up.” Then he wrapped up the conference.
What provoked the assault was the media interest in Chishti that followed. Chased out of the conference hall, he was first slapped by Bukhari and then roughed up by the imam’s supporters.