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Fatwa accompli

Fatwa accompli

Author: Editorial
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: May 4, 2002
URL: http://www.indian-express.com/archive_full_story.php?content_id=2022

Introduction: There is no role for religious clerics in Indian politics

Those who thought the age of the fatwa was over were taken aback when Maulana Mufti Abul Irfan of Firangi Mahal issued one for a ''complete social boycott'' of the Muslim MLAs of the Bahujan Samaj Party. He has called them ''traitors'' and asked Muslims not to offer prayers in mosques with them.

A Shia cleric, Maulana Kalbe Jawwad, has also threatened to punish these MLAs, while the All-India Muslim Forum has sought their excommunication. One of them has reminded the legislators that it was his 'fatwa' in favour of the BSP that saw them through the elections. These announcements are disturbing because they lend credence to the propaganda of organisations like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad that Muslim politics is controlled, not by their elected representatives, but by the Maulanas. It seeks to strengthen the stereotype of the Muslim politician as one who cannot look beyond the vested interests of his community.

Also, that the community votes as Muslims and not as citizens of a free, democratic country. Fatwas have no place in a civil society and they deserve to be treated with utter contempt.

It is a measure of the secular credentials of the BSP that it fielded a large number of Muslim candidates in the recent elections in Uttar Pradesh. So did the Samajwadi Party. As the results showed, it was a gamble that worked - 14 Muslims were elected on the BSP ticket. But by no stretch of the imagination can it be claimed that they were elected only on the strength of Muslim votes.

Presumably, people of all communities and castes had voted for them. So the very assumption that they are there by virtue of their religion is patently false. Even the claim that a fatwa was issued in favour of the BSP is totally unacceptable. Successive elections have proved that the manner in which Muslims vote vary from state to state and person to person. The effect of a 'fatwa' is more in the realm of the imagination than of reality.

In any case, Muslim voters do not need any fatwa to decide whom to vote for and whom not to vote for, as they are sensible enough to decide the issue for themselves. Those who issue unsolicited fatwas are, therefore, doing a great disservice to the community. More often than not, the fatwas are cited by critics as proof of the Muslim politician's subservience to the clerics.

Significantly enough, although talks between the BSP and the BJP for a coalitional arrangement in Uttar Pradesh have been going on for quite some time, there has been no protest from any of the Muslim MLAs. They know that the BJP and the BSP had contested against each other in the last elections and that the only way a popular government could be formed was by forging an alliance between the two parties.

Even in the BJP there are many MLAs who are unhappy with the present arrangement. But they know that in the larger interests of the state, certain compromises have to be made. That is why the Mayawati government is in place in UP. The job of the elected representatives is to ensure that the state is governed in accordance with the Constitution. There is no need to bring religion into governance. Those who issue fatwas need to know that in a democratic society it is the rule of law that prevails and they themselves are completely out of tune with the larger reality.

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