Muslims to observe Ramzan from home, says Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, slams communalisation of Tablighi Jamaat incident

In a country as vast as India, some incidents of crime take place but to give a communal colour to each of these incidents is wrong, says Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi

Sanjay Singh April 24, 2020 22:10:07 IST
Muslims to observe Ramzan from home, says Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, slams communalisation of Tablighi Jamaat incident

Minority affairs minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi is only Muslim minister in Narendra Modi's cabinet. Known for his organisational skills, Naqvi has been a noteworthy member and one of BJP's key strategists when the party was in opposition. At a time when communal tensions are high, Naqvi's challenges as the minority affairs minister have increased.

In an exclusive interview with Firstpost, Naqvi speaks on a range of issues right from the Tablighi Jamaat incident, which has further heightened the communal tensions in the country to how the Muslims in the country are planning to observe the holy month of Ramzan. Edited excerpts from the interview:

The month of Ramzan has begun. These are critical times, how do you think Muslim community is going to observe it? Do you want to make any appeals to the community?

However, the month of Ramzan has begun at a time when the situation is adverse not just in India but across the world. All over the world, programmes which require people to gather at a place be it religious or otherwise has been banned — whether it is in a temple, a mosque, a church, or a Gurdwara. For example, in Saudi Arabia, the holiest of holy Mecca and Madina are closed for the past two months. Saudi Arabia has also not allowed 'Umrrah' (pilgrimage to Mecca) for the last months. In India, the mosques have not been allowing mass offering of 'namaaz' for about two months.

The month of Ramzan is very important for the Muslim community. It has been a tradition that Muslims go to the mosque to offer namaz and organise community iftaars.

Muslims to observe Ramzan from home says Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi slams communalisation of Tablighi Jamaat incident

File image of Union minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi. CNN-News18

Have you, as minority affairs minister spoken to community leaders and religious heads that this time, the month of Ramzan has to be observed differently?

Yes. Through video conferences, I have interacted with all Waqf Board chiefs. Under them, we have more than seven lakh mosques, Idgahs, Imambaras and other social and religious institutions where public namaz, ibadat, roza and iftaar used to happen during this month. I had requested that they talk to religious heads of these places and heads of social organisations and explain to them the issues relating to coronavirus and its containment, and that this time, ibadat should be done at home by following social distancing norms. I am happy that everyone accepted it. I have also spoken to religious heads and other influential persons in the community and they all were of the same opinion. The idea is of 'hifazat ke saath ibadat'.

The outbreak of COVID-19 has seen a section of domestic and international media, particularly western media, blaming the Narendra Modi government for creating communal divide, some even using terms like "genocide". What do you have to hay?

See we don’t have any issues with international media. What hurts is the fact that there is a section of people in our own country who consistently attempt to mislead and misinform the world. I would say that they are acting through a dubious plan, a conspiracy. Even more unfortunate is the way the brand new face of the Grand Old Party (Congress) is behaving at a time when nations stand united as one to fight against coronavirus.

The attempt to give a communal colour to this fight in present circumstances is not acceptable to people of this country. Secularism, tolerance and harmony is not fashion for us. It is passion for India and Indians. We have been working to this end with passion and continue to work with same passion. That’s what is unity in diversity in a nation as large as India.

Have the containment measures for COVID-19 further communalised the situation as some critics are saying?

That’s a blatantly wrong charge. The prime minister, the BJP and other concerned people are of the opinion that actions of an individual or a group’s crime can’t be seen as crime of the community. We also never discriminate between one community and another community.

How do you see the Tablighi Jamaat's actions? Would you agree that its leaders committed a crime, holding congregation in defiance with the government directives, hiding facts and becoming super spreaders?

Tablighi Jamaat's actions in such challenging times can be classified as criminal negligence or even as a criminal act. Their action can’t be acceptable to anyone. Therefore, if you see, most Muslim organisations, religious heads and other influential persons have condemned them and demanded action against them. It’s an act of crime and should be taken that way. It should not be given a communal colour.

Are you suggesting that their criminality should not be linked with the religion even through their actions turned them into super spreaders?

It’s not that the health of one community is an issue. It’s (an issue) for all people of all communities, for all the 130 crore people of the country. Tablighi Jamaat's action has harmed the fight against the coronavirus.

Should Maulana Saad be arrested?

The law will take its own course. No country would allow such offences to be taken lightly. The criminality committed, particularly under such critical times can’t be ignored.

Coronavirus cases are on the rise. How has India tackled it? Sections of media and political leaders have been critical of Modi's approach but then several world leaders and leading institutions have hailed his leadership. Your comments:

If you see, even today some countries have confusion on how to fight the novel coronavirus but Modiji always had a clarity. He began India’s fight against the novel coronavirus from December end, since the time the news about the virus in Wuhan became prominent. He started preparing for the challenge. How he began evacuating Indians stranded in vairious parts of the world, how Indian army and paramilitary forces began creating quarantine centers in January is all known. Then he undertook a series of measures, screenings at airport, compulsory self-quarantine for those coming from abroad, work from home, janata curfew and national lockdown I and II. It is because of these timely measures that we have so far succeeded in containing the spread of this virus. Modi’s leadership under these challenging times is most commendable.

You would remember how he transformed Gujarat, Kuchh, Bhuj and Anjar after a massive earthquake had completely devastated the region. He had taken over as chief minister immediately after that natural tragedy. He has the mettle and the vision. He is proving it yet again. He leads from the front.

Why do critics then keep accusing the Modi government of being divisive?

Anyone can make a sweeping statement. But let anyone bring specific charges. Let them come out with single instance when the Modi government in the last six years discriminated against a person of any minority community be it Muslim, Sikh, Parsi, Christian and or others on the basis of their religion. Modiji’s vision has always been development with dignity, development without discrimination.

The Muslim community has benefitted the most from government welfare schemes because most of its members were poor and underprivileged. You see 38 percent roads under PM Gram Sadak Yojna pass through villages which have high Muslim concentration, 32 percent villages electrified have Muslim concentration, same is true for PM Ujjawala Yojana and the Ayushman Bharat Yojana. Even in government services, the representation of minorities have gone up. We have done what was not done in last 70 years. Therefore, the critics and political rivals wouldn’t say 'economic discrimination', educational discrimination or discrimination in developmental activities. But they would make hue and cry about some stray incident in some part of the country.

In a country as vast as India, such incidents of crime take place but to give a communal colour to each of these incidents is wrong.

Now two Hindu Sadhus were lynched in Palghar, how would those critics categorise the crime. Some people in the country with completely prejudiced mindset keep on doing things which could paint India in a bad light. They would use social media, some newspapers and some digital outlets to present a twisted narrative.

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