India: Muslims Protest Hindu Activist’s Slur

Masuma Parveen

2015-12-15
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muslim-protest-620 Indian Muslims protest statements by Hindu activist Kamlesh Tiwari against the Prophet Muhammad, Dec. 11, 2015.
AFP

Thousands of Muslims in India have joined nationwide rallies to protest derogatory remarks against Islam’s founder by a self-proclaimed Hindu activist.

The protests were sparked by a press note from Kamlesh Tiwari, who claims to be a member of a right-wing group called Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha (ABHM). The note, which was released on Nov. 30, stated that Prophet Muhammad was homosexual.

The demonstrations by members of India’s largest religious minority kicked off in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh on Dec. 2, and have gradually spread to other parts of the country, although ABHM has denied that Tiwari is affiliated with it.

Large-scale rallies have also taken place in the states of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir over the past two weeks, with thousands of Muslim protestors demanding the death penalty for Tiwari.

Tiwari was arrested on Dec. 2 hours after the protests erupted.

Police sources told BenarNews that Tiwari was charged under the stringent National Security Act of 1980 (NSA) on Dec. 10 on the directive of state Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, adding that he was being held in a prison in Lucknow, U.P.’s capital.

The NSA, which is used mainly against hardened criminals and terrorists, allows detention of up to a year without trial or other rights.

During a press conference in Lucknow last week, Tiwari’s supporters said he had issued the press note in response to comments made by the state’s Minority Welfare Minister Azam Khan days earlier. The minister had said that many members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological mentor of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), were single because they were homosexual.

Religious attacks are new low

Analysts opined that political parties’ practice of targeting people’s religious sentiments to take jibes at each other is in bad form.

“While Tiwari’s remark is factually incorrect, it marks a new low in Indian politics,” Maidul Islam, a political science professor at Kolkata’s Presidency University, told BenarNews.

In his view, Muslims were overreacting.

“I understand the comment may have hurt them deeply, but they could have ignored it because it is factually unfounded,” Islam said.

Sabir Ahmed of the Pratichi Institute, a Kolkata-based research institute, agreed.

“(Tiwari’s) remark may appear to be a stray one. But it must be seen in perspective. The present political environment has given legitimacy to such remarks.

“While the comment is certainly condemnable, Muslims must not get carried away. They would be better off in the long run if they choose to channel their energy toward demanding better education, health care and employment opportunities,” Ahmed, one of India’s leading Muslim activists, told BenarNews.

Muslim rallies bring arrests

In a letter to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yadav, Rabey Hasan Nadwi, chief of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), warned that Tiwari’s statement would generate strong reactions from Muslims across the country.

Uttar Pradesh-based Naresh Tikait, who heads a union of farmers in India, said that while he condemned such hateful statements, the mass protests by Muslims had the “potential to instigate full-blown riots.”

During a rally in Karnataka’s Hubballi town on Monday, some 3,000 protestors clashed with police after they were prohibited from marching on the road.

Ten people, including two police officers, were injured when police “retaliated with batons to disperse the stone-hurling crowd,” a police official requesting anonymity told BenarNews.

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