Wednesday, June 30, 2010

‘Is sporting a beard in the city a crime?’

Civil Engineer Mohammed Saleem

Mateen Hafeez | TNN

A 42-year-old Muslim civil engineer was on Monday bundled off to a police station, detained and grilled about his identity for over four hours and then let off with an advice not to sport “such a long beard’’. He was picked up for his “suspicious movement’’ in front of the Israeli consulate.

Mohammad Saleem not only had to spend more than four hours at the police station and take two havaldars to his residence by taxi—to get his identity proof documents—and treat them to soft drinks and tea, but also answer “extremely humiliating’’ questions.

Saleem, working for a private construction firm, had gone to the Earnest House I-T office to submit some files on his employer’s behalf. He finished his work and came out of the building and was looking up some numbers on his new cellphone when his troubles started. Saleem did not know that the neighbouring building housed the Israeli consulate. “I was checking my new phone when a person came up to me and asked me who I was. He was joined by others who took me back to the I-T office to check if what I had said was true,’’ he added.

It was only later that he realised that the persons who had got hold of him were from the Israeli consulate. “An Israeli, too, was there and security staff took my cellphone to check if I had clicked any photographs,’’ Saleem said.

But, despite nothing amiss being found, the security staff called up the Marine Drive cops, who took Saleem to the police station. It was here that Saleem learnt that sporting “such a long beard’’ in the vicinity of the Israeli consulate was something that could land an Indian citizen in trouble.

“I repeatedly requested the policemen to allow me to make a call, but they did not pay any heed to my request. They recorded my statement, took my residential address, my office address and then allowed me to make one call to my employer who spoke to the cops on my behalf,’’ Saleem added. “What was more offensive was that an official from the Israeli consulate and a security guard abused me in front of the police officers,’’ he said.

Israeli consulate-general Orna Sagiv was in Bangalore and said she did not know of the case. “The cops will possibly be able to give you more details,’’ she added.

Two cops then took Saleem to his residence in a cab to check if he really stayed in Mumbai and it was only after they returned to the police station and gave him a clean chit that he was allowed to leave.

Additional police commissioner R K Padmanabhan said, “If required, I will ask for an inquiry into it.’’

The Times of India, June 30, 2010

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Maulvis excommunicate 5 Muslims in Malegaon, Punished For Being ‘Apostates, Infidels’

Mohammed Wajihuddin | TNN

Mumbai: A group of Malegaon’s maulvis last Friday summarily excommunicated five Muslims for allegedly being “apostates and infidels’’.

The clerics declared Fareedul Abedin, Sharief Cookerwalla, Yunus Trolleywalla, Iqbal Engineer and Yusuf Dalal were no longer Muslims after hearing many fellow Muslims who testified that the “accused’’, among other things, believed in and preached ideas and beliefs which went against Islam. One of the charges against the five is that they refuted Prophet Mohammed’s miraculous divine ride, also called Meraj, where he was taken to the Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem and given a guided tour of the heavens all in one night.

Critics of the move have said it reeks of “Talibanism’’ and the regressive approach of the Khaps of some parts of India but the maulvis have defended their position. “Their activities had created huge embarrassment for us. We invited all five to present their side of the story but only one of them, Fareedul Abedin, turned up. We pronounced them kharij-az-Islam (out of Islam) as reliable witnesses testified against them,’’ said Mufti Ismail, local MLA and head of the Jamiautul Ulema in Malegaon. Ismail added that a social boycott against the men had not been called for and the populace had been advised not to harass them.

Despite Ismail’s claims, however, a boycott is already in place as the excommunicated men are too afraid to visit the local mosque. And they are feeling the heat. “People taunt us as murtad (infidel). We fear for our lives,’’ said Cookerwalla (64), accused of brainwashing gullible Muslims in Malegaon. Denied the charges, he said, “I am a Muslim and believe in the finality of prophethood on Mohammed. Who has given them the right to excommunicate me?’’ He and the other four, fearing a physical attack, have filed a police complaint.

Cookerwalla, who runs a cookerrepairing shop in Malegaon, also gives discourses on the Geeta and the Quran. “I am as comfortable talking about Hindu scriptures in temples as I am quoting the Quran in mosques,’’ he said. “This angered some Muslims and they started a vilification campaign against me and my companions.’’

During the Friday meeting, Fareedul Abedin fielded a volley of questions from the maulvis and tried to explain his position but to no avail. Hafiz Mahfooz Rahmani, a cleric who was part of the excommunication panel, said, “The most dangerous thing that Abedin said was that like Haj and zakaat, Muslims could perform namaz just once a year unlike the divine command which said performing namaz five times a day was mandatory.’’

Interestingly, Abedin — a cleric himself — used to hold lectures on the Quran. A fortnight ago, he held one such lecture at Fateh Maidan in Malegaon which angered many Muslims who thought that, in the name of giving Quranic lessons, Abedin was propagating Bahaism and the faith of the Ahmadiyas. Liberal scholars and Urdu commentators are shocked at the excommunication. “India is not a theocratic state. People have religious freedom and this excommunication order by the so-called Sharia Panchayat violates that freedom,” said Islamic scholar Asghar Ali Engineer. “Islam doesn’t recognise priesthood and the option of choosing God should have been left to the individuals’ conscience.”

Urdu columnist-writer Sajid Rashid felt the excommunication would harm the image of Indian Muslims who — by far — practised a moderate, tolerant Islam. “Indian Islam is not Talibani Islam. Moreover, there is a law of the land. If the clerics of Malegaon felt that these five Muslims were threat to peace, they could have approached the court instead of passing a medieval diktat,” said Rashid.

The Times of India, June 2, 2010