Imam Umer Ilyasi, the Chief Imam of the All India Imam Organization, India, had met with Narendra Modi, the Indian Prime Minister and Rajnath Singh, the Home Minister. In his conversation with Firoz Bakht Ahmed, he talks about certain key issues that perpetuate and propagate both communal differences and communal harmony in India.
Q: What has Modi done for Muslims?
Ans: During my previous meeting with the PM, he assured that he will see to it that the ignominious Hindu-Muslim politics of majority-minority, pseudo-secularism and appeasement shall be put to an end. The PM is determined to treat Muslims on par with all the other sections of society so that they are into the mainstream. He will create better opportunities for jobs and self-employment for them as part of his policy of development for all.
Q: How can Modi fill the big wedge that has been there between BJP, RSS and Muslims?
Ans: True, the two sides have been locking horns against each other since time immemorial which is harming the plank of development. If the Muslims of India will get left behind, India too may not prosper. Need of the hour is that the prevailing deadlock must give way to dialogue as that’s the only way forward for both Muslims and the RSS rather than being in the confrontation and allegation mode. Both must sit quite often across the table and chart out a common minimum programme for India’s progress in this millennium.
Q: Is the PM going to make any inroads within the Muslim community as his trusted guards keep indulging in hate campaign against them?
Ans: Of course, the sporadic anti-Muslim rabble rousing is unfortunate and must be curbed once and for all. Having stated that, let me add that Muslims have faith in Modi and are looking forward to the Prime Minister with a lot of hope and expect that positive action on his part will do the needful for their achhey din.
Q: What did you discuss with Rajnath Singh, the Home Minister on the issue of ISIS recently?
Ans: I told him that ISIS has no stake in India as Muslims are patriotic. At the same time, I asked him not to spare those who have actually been indulging in terror activities, but there is no point detaining people on the basis of mere suspicious social media activity. Special care must be taken while detaining people for terrorist activities or suspected links with the Islamic State as the arrest of an innocent man may mar his and the family’s life. Besides, if a youngster appears to be getting attracted to the IS, he should be counselled and not just put behind bars.
Q: Do you think Ram Mandir and Babri Masjid imbroglio can be settled out of court?
Ans: With all due regards to the court procedure, I believe that it should be settled out of court amicably by the Hindu and Muslim clerics as the issue is near and dear to both. However, what is unfortunate is that it has been politically snowballed.
Q: What appealed to you the most about Modi and do you think his mere rhetoric will be transformed into action?
Ans: To me he spoke with resolve asking Muslims to hold “Quran in one hand and computer in the other,” to uplift the community out of the quagmire of illiteracy is dear to his heart. Besides, he also believes in “bhagidari” (equal participation). Of course, the speed is slow and not in tune with the pace of the promises made but as a citizen, I believe that we have to give him sufficient time for this.
Q: How do you assess the Prime Minister’s Pakistan policy?
Ans: In my view, the Indian Prime Minister has taken some quantum leaps while trying to improve relations with Pakistan. This Lahore detour proved that Modi is a statesman and a world leader who is the harbinger of peace and wants dialogue with Pakistan. However, what I lament is the helplessness of his counterpart Sharif across the border who doesn’t seem to have the kind of democratic hold and control over army and the ISI plus the other non-state players indulging in terror acts.