The Uttar Pradesh Anti-Terrorist Squad arrested Islamic scholar Maulana Kaleem Siddiqui in Meerut on Tuesday night on charges of alleged illegal religious conversions. Siddiqui is one of the prominent scholars from western Uttar Pradesh and the president of Global Peace Center as well as Jamia Imam Waliullah Trust.
Here are the responses of a noted authority on Muslim Minority Affairs in India, Dr Zafarul-Islam Khan to media questions about the arrest of Maulana Kaleem Siddiqui.
Do you know Kaleem Siddiqui saheb?
Yes, I know him as a respected community leader, a religious scholar who runs a madrassa in Phulat in UP. I know him for the last three decades at least. He is a genuine and extremely polite and civilised person. The arrest of such a popular and genuine Muslim scholar is tantamount to arresting a Shankaracharya.
What do you think about his arrest?
I think this is all part of the BJP’s efforts at polarisation. BJP is using the fake “conversion” claim as a means to instill fear in the Hindu community when the reality is that there is no such threat. If a few thousand people change their religion to embrace any other faith, out of their own choice, nothing is going to happen to the religious demography of the country. We continuously hear of Muslims embracing Hinduism and this is celebrated by the same BJP leaders. Why the Muslim community is not making any hue and cry about it.
Is helping somebody in conversion process is a crime under the constitution?
No, it is not. In fact, Article 25 of our Constitution says that “all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right to freely profess, practice, and propagate religion subject to public order, morality and health.” Hence what Umar Gautam or Maulana Kaleem were doing was perfectly legal.
Is getting some foreign funds for community welfare work is also a crime?
It is not, but the issue here is that the claim that foreign funding is coming to India to help spread of Islam is bogus. No Arab or Muslim country is interested in spreading Islam. This bogus claim is added to the police charge-sheet so that a legal activity could be proved illegal. This bogus claim will fall in courts but by that time the innocent victims would have spent years and years in jails which will destroy their lives and careers and ruin their families while the implicators will go scot-free. Perhaps this sadism gives satisfaction and pleasure to the some current rulers of the country.
Do you think that there is politics in such arresting?
It is pure politics. A gimmick to polarise society and create or consolidate the Hindu votebank. This is especially needed since state assembly elections are round the corner in a number of states especially in UP. BJP remembers these issues whenever elections approach.
Is BJP trying to polarise the election campaign by using such issues.
Is it an appeasement tactics for the BJP to divert the attention of the majority community from main issues?
Yes, the false claim about a conspiracy to convert Hindus and getting foreign funds for it is part of the BJP politics to harass Muslims and create a Hindu votebank by claiming that it is alert about core issues of the Hindu community.