Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Muslim clergy demand their pound of flesh before elections

2009
Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, April 13: With just three days left for the first phase of polls, leading Muslim religious organisations have struck political deals with the ruling Congress and the main Opposition Telugu Desam.
The Telugu Desam on Monday accepted a charter of 15 demands presented before it by the All-India Sunni Ulama Board, which has a large following of imams of mosques across the State. On the other hand the United Muslim Forum, an umbrella body of several religious and social organisations, extracted half a dozen promises from Chief Minister YS Rajasekhar Reddy. They included that the Congress, if returned to power, would come out with legislation to punish police officials who falsely implicate innocent persons, and set up a special commission to probe Mecca Masjid bomb blast case.
Both the organisations have considerable following among the Muslim clergy including imams of mosques.
They have decided to mobilise the community towards the respective political parties using mosques as their forum in the next two days.
Moulana Syed Shah Hameed Hussain Shuttari, president of the Sunni Ulama Board, said Telugu Desam president N Chandrababu Naidu had promised to implement Supreme Court's directive on salaries to the imams of mosques. "Punjab and Haryana State governments have already implemented the salary scheme for imams. The TD leadership has also promised economic and political development of Muslims in the State," he
said.
The Board chief accused the Congress and the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen of "silencing" the voice of Muslim religious leaders through their political manoeuvres.
Rajasekhar Reddy issued a signed statement to the United Muslim Forum saying that he would consider the demands. Its president Moulana Hameeduddin Aquil Hussami said the chief minister sent the letter through APCC president D Srinivas.
Moulana Shuttari said Muslim religious leaders had decided to support Chandrababu Naidu because the Congress had allegedly failed to protect Wakf properties. UMF leaders, however, are all praise for the Congress for providing four per cent quota to Muslims in educational institutions and government jobs, and free education for Muslim students in professional courses.
"It is the right time to extract promises from political parties. Muslims make a considerable chunk of the electorate in a number of constituencies that go to polls in the first phase. The Congress had implemented the promises it made to us in the last general elections and we hope it will honour its promises this time too," said
senior religious scholar Hafiz Shujath Hussain.

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