Mushawarat: sensible Muslim leadership for a trouble time

By Kashif-ul-Huda,,

Just hours after a social activist is arrested in Delhi, a press release by All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat (AIMMM) alerts rest of India about this arrest and puts pressure on the government to release him. Similarly, soon after Jamia Nagar encounter in which two Muslim youths were killed, a delegation of Muslim leaders under the leadership of Dr. Zafarul Islam Khan, president of Mushawarat visits the area and plans their next course of action.

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For Mushawarat which was established in 1965, it has always been a matter of principle to take action within the democratic and constitutional framework of India. It is remarkable that even with major incident that had shaken India and especially Muslims of India, the community had always believed in the rule of law and never taken law in their own hands.

Be it Babri Masjid demolition, Gujarat genocide of 2002, innumerable riots since 1947, or recent harassment of the community in the name of terror investigations, Indian Muslims have always affirmed their faith in the constitution, justice system, and process of dialog.

Mushawarat was established in 1965 as a result of challenges and frustration of Muslim masses and leadership. Early 1960s saw riots erupting in many parts of India. The idea was to have a strong core group to work with the government and political parties and also to guide and lead Muslims of India on social and political issues.

Famous heart surgeon of Lucknow Dr. Abdul Jaleel Faridi was the main force behind the inception of Mushawarat. He was able to bring professional Muslims and religious leadership under this platform.

Since Mushawarat was not ready to become a political party Dr. Faridi launched Muslim Majlis as a political party in 1968. It won three MLA seats in UP assembly elections of 1969. The peak for Muslim Majlis was 1977 elections when it won eight Assembly and two Lok Sabha seats. MM as a party still exist in UP but its last MLA was Fazlul Bari elected in 1984.

All these years, Mushawarat somehow managed to survive and get established within the community. They had some successes and some failures. Babri Masjid Movement Coordination Committee established in 1986 to lead the movement for restoring Babri Masjid back to the Muslims eventually collapsed leading Muslims questioning the political skill of their leadership. Still somehow Mushawarat survived, may be because there was a need for it.

In year 2000, a faction left Mushawarat because of differences over elections. This group led by Maulana Salim Qasmi has an office in Zakir Nagar area of New Delhi and still retains the same name. But the majority of the members remained with the original organization. Syed Shahabuddin was president from year 2000 to 2007 and was able to keep the organization alive through a difficult time for the organization.

Dr. Zafarul Islam Khan in Mushawrat office

Dr. Zafarul Islam Khan, editor of fortnightly The Milli Gazette was elected President and assumed charge in January 2008. His goal is to expand Mushawarat base by bringing in new blood and activate Mushawarat chapters in different states of India. He also hopes to establish Mushawarat at the district level.

Mushawarat works as a lobbying organization whenever an issue comes up, they try to bring all interested parties in one platform and champion the cause by issuing statements, protest marches and sit-ins, press conferences, meeting government officials and politicians. In a nut shell the premier Muslim umbrella organization of India chooses to work within the parameters of Indian constitution by using democratic tools available to all Indian citizens.

But it not all empty words, Mushawarat also has a Riots Relief Fund and whenever needed, help the victims of the communal riots.

In an interview with in March 2008, Dr. Zafarul Islam Khan acknowledged that there are some Muslim youths who are involved in criminal activities; but he was emphatic that whole community should not be persecuted for it. He agreed that SIMI is a fundamentalist and fanatic organization but there is no evidence that it as a group indulged in violence. Tales of its terror involvement are fiction created by the media.

Dr. Zafarul Islam Khan is the son of Islamic scholar Maulana Wahiduddin Khan. He studied in traditional madrasas and also has a PhD from University of Manchester. With his unique background he can talk to professional English educated Muslims as well as the religious leadership. He is mindful of the responsibility that he carries on his shoulders but fearless in articulating the points that need be made.

When I asked him what message he has for Indian Muslims, Dr. Khan’s message was that we do have some burning issues but we have to look at our long term problems like education and economy where Muslims rank among the lowest, as shown by Sachar Report.

Dr. Khan’s message to all Indians is simple – consider Muslims as ordinary citizen of the country. We have no agenda or scheme that runs contrary to India. Muslims in India are very happy to be here and happy with the freedom and democracy that we enjoy as citizen of this country. We don’t look at any other country including Pakistan for our problems. Just like other Indians, we are also trying to live in the Twenty-First century and want a part of the increased economic activity of India.

He pointed out that Islam has been part of India for more than a millennium and therefore Indians should not listen to those who have vested interest in maligning Islam.

Once again, there is lot of pressure on Muslims because of terror investigations which have destroyed many lives unfairly just on suspicions. Many have been jailed for months and years and never been able to regain their normal life back. As the recent Jamia Nagar encounter shows it is either a life living under fear or death in police encounters. Muslims of India are under intense pressure and looking at the able leadership of Dr. Zafarul Islam Khan.