BY P.K. ABDUL GHAFOUR
SHANTAPURAM, Kerala – India is the citadel of religious freedom and its constitution does not insist that only individuals from a particular faith or race should become its president or prime minister, said Dr. K.T. Jaleel, minister of local administration, minority welfare, Haj and endowments, while stressing the need to safeguard the country’s secularism and religious freedom.
Addressing a mammoth convocation ceremony at the Islamic University (Al Jamia Al Islamiya) Shantapuram in Kerala, the minister urged the new graduates, including 60 girls who received their degrees on Sunday, to present the humanistic face of Islam to the society.
He commended Al Jamia for producing a large number of prominent personalities who have been working all over the world, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE and other Gulf countries as well as the United States and Europe, especially in spreading the message of Islam.
Prominent alumni include V.K. Hamza, chief editor of Gulf Madhyamam newspaper, O. Abdul Rahman, group editor of Madhyamam and Media One, Professor Siddique Hassan, founder of Human Welfare Foundation and Vision 2016, and V.P. Ahmed Kutty, a well-known scholar in Toronto.
Minister Jaleel and Muslim League leader P.K. Kunhalikkuty, former industry minister of Kerala jointly launched Al Jamia’s “Knowledge World” project, which aims to expand the university’s horizons and produce professionals in law, civil service, science and technology, social science, research and human resource development in addition to Islamic scholars.
In his keynote speech, Jaleel urged Muslims to make self-criticism and ask themselves whether their actions, attitude and approach had played any role in making the divine, moderate and peaceful religion of Islam the most misunderstood faith, which has been unfairly linked with terrorism.
“Islam is a global religion that accommodates all other faiths,” the minister said. “Muslims’ faith will not be complete without believing in religious scriptures brought by prophets who came before Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, other than the Qur’an. Muslims have to believe in all the Prophets and should not differentiate between them,” he said citing Qur’anic verses.
Jaleel added: “Religion and belief have never become a condition for holding important political positions in India. King Ashoka changed his religion from Hinduism to Buddhism but he did not lose his position. Muslims ruled India for 800 years but the country’s majority Hindu population did not tell them that you are not allowed to rule India.”
He also pointed out that Jawaharlal Nehru, an atheist, was India’s prime minister for 17 years. “When the Kerala state was formed in 1957 its first chief minister was EMS Namboothirippad, a communist.” India is more secular than the US and the UK, he added.
The minister said Al Jamia’s graduates have a big role to play in disseminating the humanistic message of Islam. “Extremism does not cope with Islam. The Prophet strongly criticized Muad Bin Jabal, a prominent companion, when he recited a long chapter of the Qur’an during prayer causing difficulty to those who were praying behind him, including women and elderly.”
He urged the thousands of men and women who thronged Al Jamia campus to promote communal harmony and should not follow the traits of communalists. “The attitude that ‘if they have attacked us we’ll reciprocate’ is absurd because our faith and culture are different from theirs.”
The minister also referred to the historic speech of Prophet Muhammad during his last Haj in Arafat and said human life, honor and wealth are more precious than Haj, Holy Kaaba and Ramadan in Islam. “We have to highlight this humanistic face of Islam to impress the world.”
Dr. Bilal Gokkir, rector of Yalova University in Turkey, inaugurated the convocation and commended Indian Muslims for their great contribution to Islamic knowledge. He urged graduates to treat members of other communities with high degree of generosity and tolerance.
“We should not leave Muslim extremists alone in their hideouts but try to correct them in light of Qur’an and Sunnah and bring them back to the mainstream,” he added.
In his speech, P.K. Kunhalikkutty called upon Muslims and secularist organizations to stand united in confronting fascism. M.I. Abdul Aziz, president of Jamaat-e-Islami Kerala expressed his optimism that Al Jamia would realize the hopes and aspirations of Muslims all over the world.
Dr. Abdussalam Ahmed, rector Al Jamia, urged Muslim businessmen and philanthropists to support his institution’s endeavors to become an international university. “We’ll introduce all academic courses to enable Muslim youth to hold key government positions in the country,” he added.
The two-day event included an intellectual discussion on “Deep state: Conflicts of secular India,” which was opened by K.E.N. Kunhahammed, a well-known writer and orator. Speakers including O. Abdul Rahman, group editor of Madhyamam and Media One, exposed the deep state that mainly targets Muslims and urged the community to question the state and its security apparatus without fear and join efforts to defeat communal and fascist forces. “We should become resurgent citizens and make democracy a strong movement to oppose and defeat fascist state and rulers,” said K.S. Madavan, former head of history department at Calicut University.
In another seminar, leading scholars discussed the issue of “Pronouncing divorce three times in one go,” which goes against the spirit of Islam and is considered a violation of human rights of Muslim women. Even though the four schools of thought in Islam have approved its legitimacy, the conference urged the newly formed Council of Islamic Scholars in Kerala to conduct a research on the issue and present it to the Muslim Personal Law Board to revise the existing law in order to avoid confusion. The Milli Conference, which was attended by leaders like Dr. Zafarul Islam Khan, former president of All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat, and Professor A.P. Abdul Wahab, chairman Kerala State Minorities Development Finance Corporation, called for strengthening Muslim unity.