Power struggle threatens split in Jamiatul Ulema-e-Hind

By Faraz Ahmad, IANS

New Delhi : A seemingly ordinary family feud over wresting control of the Jamiatul Ulema-e- Hind (JUH), a 90-year-old Sunni Muslim organisation, may have larger implications.

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Underlining the nasty spat between Arshad Madani, JUH president, and Mahmud Madani, his nephew and the organisation’s general secretary, is a volatile debate over Islam and whether it condones terrorism.

“I can’t say anything with certainty. All I can say is this is happening at a very inopportune moment. This could defeat the very purpose of the (Deoband) conference,” Arshad said.

Last month a massive conference at Deoband ended with a strong condemnation of terrorism dubbing it un-Islamic.

Deoband, the country’s leading seminary of Islam, has close links with the JUH. The JUH president is a leading scholar at Deoband and played a key role in delinking terrorism from Islam at the Deoband conference.

The JUH squabble is threatening to split the organisation. The warring Madanis are not willing to speak much on record. All that they are ready to say is that the JUH clash comes at an “inopportune time”.

Mahmud points a finger at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and a known BJP supporter, whom the uncle has appointed on the JUH working committee, for “engineering the rift”.

And Arshad believes the clash is aimed at belittling their anti-jehad campaign.

The differences between the two camps reached a flashpoint March 6 when the JUH working committee met in Masjid Abdul Nabi, a 350-year-old mosque in Delhi. At the top of the agenda was only one issue: the election of a new president.

“The first item on the agenda was a censure of the president,” said Mahmud.

Arshad too confirmed this. “I was surprised to see the second item on the agenda was a no-confidence motion against the president and number three was to elect a new president.”

He challenges the election. “Under the constitution, the working committee is not empowered to remove the president. As the president, I am empowered to appoint new members of the working committee,” said Arshad.

Mahmud is not yielding to this argument. The 5,000-strong general body of the JUH has been summoned to decide this issue here March 26. And both sides are busy mobilising their respective supporters for the final showdown.

The JUH was formed in 1919 by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Maulana Kifayatullah, Maulana Hifzur Rahman and Maulana Asad Madani, all associated with the Congress party and the freedom struggle of India.

Arshad was nominated Jamiat president after the death of his elder brother Asad Madani, whose son Mahmud was nominated general secretary of the organization.