Separatist leader? Say Dr Mirwaiz

Read more below

By MUZAFFAR RAINA
  • Published 1.11.10
  •  
Mirwaiz Umer Farooq

Srinagar, Oct. 31: Umer Farooq, the chairman of the moderate Hurriyat faction and Mirwaiz or the chief cleric of Kashmir, has earned another appellation: doctorate in Islamic studies.

Umer, 37, has completed his research on “Mir Syed Ali Hamdanis Dhakriratul Muluk: An Annotation and Translation” from Kashmir University.

As part of the research, Mirwaiz visited Hamdan in Iran, the birthplace of Sufi saint Shah Hamdan who is credited with introducing Islam in the Valley.

The doctorate is no mean feat for the top moderate voice among the separatists. At 17, he was orphaned when suspected militants killed his father, Mirwaiz Mohammad Farooq, forcing him to become the youngest Mirwaiz and lead his Awami Action Party.

Three years later, when the Hurriyat Conference was founded, he emerged as the unanimous choice of the separatist camp as its first chairman. Leaders like Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Abdul Gani Lone worked under him.

Alongside all his assignments, Umer continued to pursue higher education.

Since the 2008 Amarnath land agitation, he was put under house arrest on numerous occasions, which he now describes as a “blessing in disguise”. “It has been painful to sit at home but it gave me an opportunity to complete my research,” Mirwaiz said.

Umer appeared for the viva — experts from Jamia Millia Islamia quizzed him — under police escort this month because he was under house arrest.

An alumnus of the prestigious missionary school, Burn Hall School, he had wanted to become a computer engineer but his father’s sudden death forced him to change his plans. He graduated with English literature, political science and Arabic and then did his masters in Islamic studies.

Mirwaiz was getting ready to go abroad to study and had got admission in the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard but then the Amarnath agitation took off, and he had to drop his plans. “I have no regrets because my political commitments are more important,” he said.

Umer is married to Sheeba Masoodi, an American of Kashmiri origin, and the couple have a baby girl.

The Hurriyat leader gives the credit for his doctorate to his mother. “She always motivated me to go for higher studies,” he said.