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Mumbai Muslim leaders, intellectuals slam 'hate speech, death threats'

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Mumbai, June 13 (Ajit Weekly News) Over a hundred Muslim leaders and other intellectuals, under the banner of ,Indian Muslims for Secular Democracy’ (IMSD), on Monday deplored the “divisive and hate-driven politics” of persons like suspended Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Nupur Sharma and also flayed death threats to her life.

The IMSD has also strongly condemned the terror outfit Al Qaeda for threatening retaliatory extremist acts as the fallout of Sharma’s statements.

The 112 signatories said that democracy is inconceivable without the freedom of free speech that is enshrined in the Indian Constitution, and all healthy democracies make a clear and principled distinction between the right to free speech and a bar on hate speech that impinges on the right to life and dignity of the marginalised.

“The right to free speech includes the right to critical, rational enquiry and healthy criticism of all forms of religious beliefs and practices. In a democratic state, there should be no place for any law on blasphemy as it has a chilling effect on free speech. We therefore categorically oppose the demand by certain Muslim/Islamist/Hindu/Hindutva organisations for a blasphemy law in India,” said the IMSD.

While the right to criticism includes the right to offend, as also the right of those offended to protest in peaceful and lawful ways, the offended have no right to silence the offender and “no god, goddesses, prophets or saints may be invoked to justify the killing of fellow humans”.

The IMSD also castigated the “bulldozer raj” in BJP-ruled states, especially Uttar Pradesh where the administration and police are delivering “instant justice” through an all-in-one role of judge, jury and executioner, and said it is high time the judiciary acted suo moto to call a halt to such mockery of the law by the custodians of the law.

Referring to the Dharam Sansad last December when Hindu religious leaders openly called for genocide of Indian Muslims, the IMSD said international organisations including Genocide Watch have warned that India is on the brink of a genocidal bloodbath, but, Prime Minister Narendra Modi continues to remain silent on this.

Similarly, the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom in its 2022 annual report says that “religious freedom conditions in India are taking a drastic turn downward, with national and various state governments tolerating widespread harassment and violence against religious minorities”.

Though persecution of Muslims has a long history here, the past 8 years have been relentless with daily threats, targeted violence, fear and intimidation, community members lynched in public, and the killings celebrated – all under the watch of the RSS-blessed, BJP-led governments at the Centre in several states, said the IMSD.

“Hindutva’s Hate Factory is working 24/7 to demonise Indian Muslims, vilify them and a complicit electronic media offers a ready platform for daily mud-slinging, verbal warfare under the pretence of debate. The IMSD would also like to call out the so-called Islamic scholars who are bringing disrepute and playing with the safety and security of Muslims by participating in such prefixed TV debates,” it added.

Many Muslim countries recently expressed outrage over the insult to the Prophet Mohammed though they kept silent in the past 8 years, despite repeated attacks on Indian Muslims and the recent call for genocide.

“IMSD is not the least surprised because these very governments have no respect for human rights and freedom of expression. We demand that these governments mend their ways, promote fundamental rights and freedoms of all citizens, in their own countries and across the globe. It is rather rich for these despotic regimes to teach us lessons in secularism and pluralism. But what can one say when our own government has created this unfortunate situation? Clearly the Modi government’s hardline Hindutva brand of politics has undermined India’s international standing and respect among the comity of nations,” said the IMSD.

The signatories appealed to all sections to maintain peace and religious harmony, and urged Muslims not to get swayed by the rhetoric of Islam in danger.

“The ongoing protests have already consumed precious lives and going by the past actions of the government, it will deplorably be followed by mass arrests and demolitions. Those howling from the pulpit will escape and the burden of proof, as always, will be on the shoulders of the poor Muslims,” the IMSD pointed out.

Some of the signatories include: Maulana Abdul Haq, Javed Akhtar, Adnan Siddiqui, Shabana Azmi, Afroz Pathan, Anand Patwardhan, Tushar Gandhi, Javed Anand, Anjum Rajabali, Ayyub Khan, Teesta Setalvad, Bilal Khan, Dilip Simeon, Naseeruddin Shah, Feroz A. Khan, Feroze Mithiborwala, Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi, Guddi Tiwari, Harsh Kapoor, Zakia Soman, Imran Khan, Irfan Engineer, Masooma Ranalvi, Munira Khan, Najma Kazi, Najma Parvin, Nimesha Faude, Ram Puniyani, Sandeep Pandey, Dr. Suresh Khairnar, Varsha Vidya Vilas, Yash Paranjpe, Zoya Begum, etc.

–Ajit Weekly News

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