‘Communal polarisation strategy will not work in Karnataka. Rather, I hope it does not’
Interview: Moulana Sageer Ahmed Rashadi, Amir-E-Shariat
Moulana Sageer Ahmed Rashadi, Amir-E-Shariat of Karnataka, has taken the initiative to control the noise levels of azaan (call for prayer) from mosques over the past two years. Amidst Hindutva groups launching an aggressive campaign against azaan in Karnataka recently, and taking up many other issues targeting the Muslim community, he has called for communal harmony and peace. The Hindu caught up with the senior cleric.
Excerpts from an interview:
There has been a campaign against the use of loudspeakers for azaan from mosques. Now, the Karnataka Government has intervened and issued guidelines. You have been trying to persuade mosques to moderate noise levels for the past two years. What has been your experience?
Azaan has been made on loudspeakers for ages. It’s only for three minutes, and no one had any problem. But of late, there has been an effort to build prejudice against the community, which is why it has been turned into such an issue.
Two years ago, some people took objection to azaan in Saraipalya, and went to court over it. Then I came to know about the permitted noise levels. I called an engineer and asked if we could develop a device to moderate noise levels from mosques to ensure they doesn’t go beyond the permitted levels. Such a device was designed, and also demonstrated to the police. The device costs only ₹1,200. I requested all mosques to install that device. Some did, some did not. We neither want to break the law, nor want to inconvenience anyone.
When Hindutva organisations recently set a deadline to stop azaan, police ensured our safety. Who are these groups to set deadlines? We welcome the intervention of the State Government, which has brought in a licencing regime. There is a Supreme Court order banning use of loudspeakers from 10 PM to 6 AM, which will only create an issue for the 5 AM azaan. We will not violate the apex court order. We will soon hold a meeting to decide a way out.
How has the community taken the successive campaigns to criminalise many aspects of Muslim’s daily life, from hijab to halal and azaan?
The ruling dispensation wants to convert India into a ‘Hindu rashtra (nation)’. Not just Muslims, but Christians, Dalits, Adivasis are being threatened. Many in the Muslim community have become wary, are apprehensive of what the next campaign may be, and its impact.
There have been attempts to provoke the community in front of mosques on Rama Navami, and recently with azaan. Some of us have been appealing to our youths to have patience and not respond to any provocation whatsoever. We want peace and harmony in this land.
I have been telling the community to believe in Allah and stand firm because you have the right to be in this country as its citizen. Hindus, Dalits, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists... all of us have the same right as every other person in this country. We are just appealing to everyone to let us live peacefully here, like we have been all these years.
We have reached out to the government, and the Chief Minister has assured us. The police, on their part, have been cooperating with us.
Political analysts opine that the recent communal campaigns are part of a polarisation strategy for the upcoming Assembly polls. How do you see this panning out?
As we approach elections, these things happen. In Uttar Pradesh, they brought in bulldozers and targeted the community. They won the elections there. The situation in Uttar Pradesh and north India is different from Karnataka. We have lived very peacefully and in harmony here for centuries. I don’t think the communal polarisation strategy will work in Karnataka. Rather, I hope it does not.
These campaigns are mostly fueled by television media. There are so many lies, and hate speech against the community on television. Recently, there have even been FIRs against television anchors for hate speech against the community. Many times, this is the root cause of unrest. I appeal to them also for moderation.