Why Raza Academy’s ‘peaceful protests’ in Maharashtra invariably turn violent and take communal colours
To understand the mindset of those running this Academy, one has to look into the exclusivist Sunni-Barelvi ideology
Three protest rallies taken out in Maharashtra on Friday to condemn the alleged violence on Muslims in Tripura turned violent in Amravati city, Nanded city and Malegaon. In Nanded, stones were hurled at police vans, injuring two cops. In Malegaon and Amravati, protestors set ablaze shops and police vehicles, prompting the riot squad to be dispatched to thwart the turmoil.
As per Maharashtra home minister Dilip Walse Patil, Raza Academy was one of the main organisers of these rallies in numerous locations to submit a memorandum to the authorities, albeit the protests took a violent turn. It’s not the first time this Islamist group’s rally has turned violent.
Raza Academy rose to prominence after a 2012 morcha at the Azad Maidan (Mumbai) turned violent, forcing the police to open fire in retaliation. The demonstration was organised in protest against the Burmese Army’s alleged atrocities against Rohingya Muslims.
This time too, in the name of alleged violence against Muslims in Tripura, innocent people in distant Maharashtra were subjected to violence, and shops and vehicles were torched.
As per reports, Raza Academy was founded in 1978 in Mumbai to publish and propagate the work of Sunni leader Ahmed Raza Khan, who lived in the 20th Century. Interestingly, its founder and president Saeed Noori did not even receive a formal Islamic education. He was into the sewing thread business when he decided to become a leader of Sunni Islam.
The academy is a self-proclaimed Sunni Barelvi organisation.
“A Sunni Barelvi organisation of the Indian Sunni Muslims which promotes Islamic beliefs through publications and
research,” reads the academy’s bio on Instagram. Its acts have, however, not been confined to publications and research.
Is it, therefore, any surprise that the same organisation has demanded a blasphemy law inspired by the Sharia, the arrest of Wasim Rizvi for suggesting reforms in Islam, and even protested against the Saudis for opening cinema halls in Mecca and Medina? Last year, this very outfit had demanded that Muslim countries issue a fatwa against French president Emmanuel Macron after cartoons on Prophet Mohammed by Charlie Hebdo were projected onto government buildings.
To understand the mindset of those running this academy, one has to look into the Sunni-Barelvi worldview. The Sunni-Hanafi sect accounts for 80 percent of the Indian Muslim population, and the Barelvis, or Ahl-e-Sunnat or Ala-Hazrat, is one of two Islamic teaching centres in India, the other being Deoband.
The Fataawa-i-Razvia of Barelvis enunciates the exclusivist, separatist, and supremacist idea of Islam and gives sanction to armed jihad; for it is the duty of every Muslim to ceaselessly strive for Dar-ul-Islam (house of Islam), when he lives in a land of infidels, called Dar-ul-Harb (house of war). They believe that no Muslim should be ruled by a non-believer and certainly not by a mushreek (idolator).
Looking back into history, Barelvis had also bolstered the Muslim League and the British for India to be partitioned on religious lines. The likes of Raza Academy hail and venerate the Barelvi school of thought.
It’s ironic to see this Islamist outfit not receiving the kind of flak it deserves from both the government as well as the liberal block. The academy has been vocal about its exclusivist ideology and despite that no serious effort has been put to question its Islamist worldview and curb its spread. There has been no liberal intellectual challenge to this exclusivist ideology, especially among the Muslim community.
How do such Islamist organisations manage to not just survive but also thrive in democratic India? Is it because of the innate tolerance and generosity ingrained in the Bharatiya culture? Is our eclectic outlook helping them have a free run across the country?
The fake narrative mobilised in the name of Tripura violence, followed by vandalism in Maharashtra, raises a big question on why India continues to suffer the wounds of the Barelvi ideology that had created Pakistan.
The writer is an educationist and social activist from Surat. Views expressed are personal.
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