Abantika Ghosh: You have said that the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind is a religious organisation, but its workers can support political parties. You have decided to go to Varanasi. Is the Jamiat involved in this move or is it an individuals decision
The Jamiat is not just a religious organisation but a social one as well. Jamiat cannot support any political party. But its workers and leaders are free to support and join political parties. If I go to Varanasi and support or oppose any leader or party, it will be an individual decision and not that of the organisation. People allege that the Jamiat is the Congress B team because the organisations senior leaders have been affiliated to the Congress and have been members of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha from the party. Our leaders and workers are also in the BSP, SP, Left and other parties.
Abantika Ghosh: Earlier, you had supported Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modis decision to not wear the skull cap. How will you oppose him now
It has been more than two years since the charge of being a Modi supporter was slapped on me. There are three instances. Last year, there were municipal elections in Gujarat. There are a few wards in Jamnagar with 100% Muslim residents and the Congress and BJP had fielded Muslim candidates there. All 21 Muslim wards were won by the BJP and I had said that Muslims have voted for the BJP. But my statement was taken out of context. Secondly, when I went to Gujarat, due to threat perception, the ministry of home affairs gave me Z-plus security cover. People cooked up stories saying I was a state guest. The third instance was when I was asked about Modis refusal to wear the skull cap. I believe that in Indian politics, the so-called secular parties whenever I say so called, people say that I have become a Modi supporter whatever they have done is only symbolic. They have not dealt with the real issues. The problems that have not been addressed so far are not solely those of Muslims but also those of the SCs and other groups. As far as the 2002 riots are concerned, Modi should own moral responsibility for not controlling the situation. A majority of Muslims feel that it was an act of revenge and the government planned it. I do not disagree with them. Many people say that it should be forgotten. But I say that the uproar Indians raised over the 2002 violence was more than expected; even Muslims could not have been able to cry so hard over it. This is the strength of India. Regarding the skull cap, I do not believe in any act of symbolism. Those who do that are hypocrites. They make a fool of people by wearing such caps. I do not want Muslims or anyone to be fooled.
Maneesh Chhibber: But do you think Modi will prove to be good for the country
How can he be good for the country He can run a good government, but the stories he has spread about development are not hidden from people. Even if we agree with the development work that he says he has done for Gujarat, can development be complete without justice He is a failure as a ruler and definitely not good for the country.
Maneesh Chhibber: But Modis men say he has been given a clean chit by the court.
There may have been lacunae due to someone failing to put up a good fight.
Coomi Kapoor: Why is there a perception that you speak for both sides sometimes pro-Modi and sometimes against Modi The vice-chancellor of Deobandh was removed for saying that Modi has some progressive ideas.
There is a perception that I removed Maulana Ghulam Mohammad Vastanvi. I am not even a member of the governing council. I am merely a student of that institute and many of its people are members of the Jamiat. I have been asking him to give me proof that I acted against him. They keep writing about it and people think it is true, but it isnt. Recently, I was interviewed on TV and the anchor asked me about the skull cap. He asked whether I considered Modi secular, and I said that I consider him communal.
Muzamil Jaleel: If Modi becomes the prime minister, will it be dangerous for Muslims
I do not think in terms of Muslims. We should think as Indians. Muslims are the second largest majority. For the past many years, we have been demanding equal opportunities for not just Muslims, but all Indians. Take the case of scholarships in Gujarat. He (Modi) said that it will be distributed only if it is for everyone, otherwise return it. I want to ask him, Do you believe that Muslims are lagging behind in education compared to others If yes, then why not let them get the benefit. There are many conditions for scholarships marks, etc. If bright children get some money through affirmative action, they will be educated and will work for the country. The problem is not about Muslims but the country.
Manu Pubby: There are many leaders in the BJP who are doing good work. Will you support them in case the BJP is in a position to form the government
Reasonable people should be supported for reasonable work. I do not support Modi. But if he says a right thing and you ask me a question on it, what will I say We are talking about the country. If somethings right, its right.
Muzamil Jaleel: The UPA government made Batla House a political issue. Many arrests happened in Maharashtra where the Congress is in power. Why are you rallying behind
In a press conference held at Rajasthan, I said, Please do not ask for our votes by scaring us about others. Tell us what you have done for us and take our votes. We are not batasha that will melt when water is poured on it. All the questions that you have asked me, I too have raised them and that is the reason the Congress spokesperson said that I support Modi. Whoever opposes you, you call him a Modi supporter. This is blackmailing telling us that Modi ayega to khaa jayega.
Kumar Abhishek: Youre going to Varanasi. The environment there is already polarised whether its due to the Muzaffarnagar riots or Modis campaigning. Dont you think that religious leaders be it from the Hindu community like Baba Ramdev or the Muslim community will add to this polarisation
We were debating the same thing that by going to Varanasi, will we end up aiding those were trying to harm. I look religious. Looking religious has its pros and cons. For instance, I was going to the airport and a child told his mother, Look, there is bin Laden. However, a religious leader is also a citizen of India, and is entitled to his opinion. To snatch away a religious leaders right to an opinion is wrong. But there is a threat that people with vested interests will use this to polarise the atmosphere. Some will say Hindutva is in threat, others will say that Islam is in threat. But the reality is that neither Islam nor Hindutva is in threat. If there is any threat, it is not from outside but from within. If Muslims truly follow Islam, 90% of their problems will be solved. The same is true of the Hindus. If they follow their religion and culture based on peace and open-heartedness I use the word culture because Hindus dont think of Hinduism as just a religion 90% of their problems will
Maneesh Chhibber: You said religious leaders have a right to express themselves. But our Constitution and our electoral laws say the use or misuse of religion in politics is a corrupt practice and you can lose your seat because of that. What do you think of the Shahi Imams statement or that of Baba Ramdev
This needs a long debate. I dont think its wrong (to express your opinion). Whether its Ramdev or Bukhari or someone else, if they speak foul language, its wrong. Religious leaders should be more careful. But when it comes to supporting a political party, I dont think it
Vandita Mishra: If Modi becomes PM, hell be your PM too. What is the one thing that he can do to remove this mistrust and fear
Justice. But its early to make assumptions (about who will come to power). The NDA will not get more than 206 seats. This is my guess. If he becomes the PM, well sit down and think about what all we should make him do to ensure that everyone benefits. He hasnt spoken about Hindutva too much during his campaigns and this has appealed to the moderate voters.
Krishna Uppuluri*: In Tamil Nadu, Muslims vote for either the DMK or the AIADMK and neither of these parties is driven by religion. Why is it that the rest of the country votes on communal lines
If Muslims voted on the basis of religion, they would have formed their own party. Muslims have their political parties, but they are very few, very limited. If Muslims unite and vote for their community, they can form their government through political alliances. But Muslims arent ready for that. They have voted for Mulayam, Mayawati, the Nehru family. We need an honest political party that has representation from the Muslim community as well as others. In Tamil Nadu, the Muslim League ties up with either of the two main parties.
Muzamil Jaleel: You give legal support to those arrested on false charges. Tell us about your experience.
We believe that the law enforcement agencies are trying to hide their ineffectiveness. Once a king said 16 criminals should be hanged. One convict escaped and when the king asked about him, a search was started. Soon, a very fat man was brought in. The executioner looked at him and said, If you had to bring an innocent to be hanged, at least look at the size of his neck. This is what is happening with the Muslims. In some cases, people are let off due to technical reasons the way Modi was let off in the Zakia Jafri case. The cases were fighting around 70 of them might see them let off technically. Id urge you to go through the cases, make a group of 10 and after going through them, if you tell me that this person is the culprit, I promise to appeal that he be punished. Ninety-nine per cent of the cases are fake. In Delhis Mahavir Vatika, a Kashmiri youth was arrested and the court asked the Delhi police to arrest the officers who had fabricated the case against him. A blast takes place, 11 die, three are arrested, a story is fabricated, and media goes with that version and it is accepted as truth. Ek corrupt society mein mulzim (accused) aur mujrim (convict) mein farq nahin hota. When theres a bomb blast, people are scared. A mother is scared that my son is going to the market, if theres a blast only his corpse may return. But a Muslim mother has two fears either hell die in the blast or hell be arrested. In the Ishrat Jahan case, a senior home ministry officer told me that I had done such a bad thing by taking her corpse to her home. I replied, saying even if we assume shes a terrorist, what wrong have I done by sending her body home to her mother I was told that I had shamed the Jamiat. Its now been shown that she could be innocent. Why she was killed or who killed her is a separate story. But now Kapil Sibal says that due to political reaction, the correct decision in the matter wasnt taken then. He and his party will have to answer
Coomi Kapoor: Do you think the Muslim vote is united because of the Modi factor
It is divided, at least in western UP.
Irena Akbar: Imam Bukhari has said that Muslims should vote for the Congress and youre going to Varanasi. How seriously does the common Muslim take political advice from religious leaders
The common man doesnt take their advice seriously. I am going only for myself. I know that no one will listen to me. No one listens to others. But its our duty to talk to people. Otherwise, people will later turn around and say that we told them nothing.
Shubhajit Roy: Do you think Priyanka Gandhi would have been a better choice as a candidate than Rahul Gandhi
Perhaps. Choosing candidates is a partys internal matter. Priyanka could have been a better candidate, but the difference wouldnt have been that significant. People are fed up with this government. Rahul speaks under pressure, speaks in a low tone. Priyanka, in comparison, has the strength to fight, is more aggressive and understands things better. Rahul is more concerned about holidaying. When I met him, I wanted to tell him, You like scuba diving, so do I.
Aleesha Matharu: Do you think that if Modi comes to power, wed be reading some different kind of history in textbooks In Madhya Pradesh, history textbooks were altered after the BJP came to power.
Absolutely. Muslims and some other communities, like those associated with the Naxals, feel alienated. When a young person reads such textbooks, he doesnt find the role of Muslims in the creation of the country, in its struggle for independence or afterwards. When he doesnt see this in his textbooks, his interest in Muslims or his sympathy for them fades. And every day, through the media, he only hears wrong things about Muslims. Secondly, when Muslims themselves dont get to know about the sacrifices made by their ancestors in the making of the nation, they dont connect with the country the way they should. Muslims should be made to feel a part of the mainstream; they should be informed about what their ancestors did and the sacrifices they made while fighting for the country. It would be better for both Muslims and Hindus if the role of Muslims isnt altered in textbooks. The way its taking place in MP, you are betraying the country. Traitors dont come from outside, but from within. The main threat is from within, not from outside.
Transcribed by Pragya Kaushika & Aniruddha Ghosal