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Why visit of Muslim World League head can reset inter-faith ties in India

The confluence of Islamic moderation and Indian tradition of tolerance and wisdom will steer the religious discourse to counter extremism. The message, disseminated jointly by National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and Muslim World League secretary general Mohammad Bin Abdulkarim al-Issa on Tuesday at the Indo Islamic Cultural Centre, was well received by a huge gathering that included Muslim leaders and ulema of almost all hues.

Prior to the function, he had called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi–a sign of the importance that New Delhi has imparted to his visit.

On Wednesday he also called on President Droupati Murmu at Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Dr. al-Issa in his address said that both the Arab world (the cradle of Islamic faith) and India share civilisational values that naturally promote respect for varied faiths and ways of living. “There is a famous dictum ‘unity in diversity’,” said al-Issa, hinting that this creed of Indian life is the bedrock of harmony among people world over.

He emphasised that such principles should not be left merely to remain concepts and should be put into practice so that their purpose may be manifested fruitfully.

Doval, in his address, made it clear that the desire for peace, harmony and co-existence are kernels of Indian philosophy. “No religion is under any threat as a “proud civilizational state, India believes in promoting tolerance, dialogue, and cooperation to deal with the challenges of our time,” he said.

In his speech, he shared rarely known fact that Khadija, wife of Prophet Muhammad, had expressed her liking for Indian silk and Kashmiri shawls, highlighting that India’s ties with Islamic personalities and lands date back to the very beginning of Islam.

Reception and Salience of Message

Among those who gathered to listen to Doval and al-Issa were several ulema, students (even from madrasas), community leaders and prominent personalities. A group of madrasa students, who belong to a Sufi organisation, were upbeat that now Sufis are descending to listen to a Saudi scholar which was unheard only till very recently.

“Though Dr al-Issa has a reputation of being a moderate, we have not been enthusiastic about hearing from scholars from Saudi Arabia. But, when we heard that he is touring India with a message of bridge-building not only among Muslims, but among all the communities, we came to hear him. He mentioned that he communicates with Hindu scholars and spiritual leaders like Sadguru and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar to know their viewpoints on world peace. It is very heartening to know that as we Sufis believe in dialogue and respect for all,” said Ashraf Jamei, a madrasa student from Old Delhi.

Shakeel, another madrasa student who is a pass-out of Jamitatul Falah, Azamgarh, said that he was also hopeful that al-Issa’s visit will pave the way for more such dialogues among Indians.

Jamiatul Falah is run by the Jamaat e Islami. It is interesting to note here that two prominent Muslim outfits – Jamaat e Islami and Jamiat Ulema e Hind – have stayed aloof from welcoming al-Issa.

Renowned Muslim scholar Khwaja Iftikhar Ahmad was also among the audience. He succinctly summarised the visit of Dr al-Issa. “It has brought Muslims of the world, Muslims of India, and the Indian state on the one platform. This is the most significant message of his visit. He is very close to Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman; the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia and it means that his words and interactions carry almost official weightage. He clearly said that India is a harmonious place for Muslims. It was reciprocated by Doval,” he said.

Columnist and researcher on Islamic issues, A. Faizur Rehman, also expressed positivity on the message of moderation brought by al-Issa. “The picture of Saudi Arabia as a hardline supporter of extremist views is completely changing now. I have always kept moderate views close to my heart and welcome moderation of Muslim thoughts completely,” he said.

Shujaat Ali Quadri, the chairman of pan-India Muslim Student Organisation (MSO), said that al Issa’s message of moderation clubbed with Indian tolerance will not only impress peace-lovers, it will open the way for wider world dialogue for peace. “His rigorous six-day tour will not only focus on interfaith harmony, it will connect Indian political and religious leadership with the leading body of the Islamic world,” he added.

Also Read: Head of influential Muslim World League seeks India’s backing for an Alliance of Civilizations