By P. Sreekumaran
The recently-concluded Statewide ‘Friendship Yatra’, undertaken by President of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) Syed Sadiq Ali Thangal was a laudable initiative to promote communal harmony.
Not surprisingly, it has earned fulsome praise. The ‘Harmony meetings’, held as part of the Yatra, which witnessed the participation of various religious, spiritual, political and social leaders, came as a ray of hope against the murky backdrop of growing hate speeches and demonization of minorities, particularly Muslims, in the State and other parts of the country. The IUML president deserves praise for undertaking the Yatra, which started from Kasaragod on June 2. It covered various districts, and concluded with a “Souhrud Sadas’ (Harmony Meeting) in Kozhikode on June 23.
The Yatra also heard a passionate call to ensure communal harmony in the State. Sinister attempts to sow the seeds of religious hatred would not be allowed, thundered Thangal while addressing the Kozhikode meeting. He also made a strong pitch for teaching in schools the values of co-existence and harmony so that children imbibe these values at an early age. When Babri Masjid was demolished, there were calls to Muslims to arm themselves and seek revenge, Thangal recalled. But the then IUML president Panakkad Syed Mohammed Ali Shihab Thangal played a crucial role in defusing the tension created by the demolition. Thanks to Thangal’s soothing speech, in which he urged the people to exercise restraint, the state remained violence-free. Sadiq Ali Thangal also said slogans aimed at rending the fabric of communal amity in the State were being made. But such attempts would not succeed in the face of tolerance and maturity of the people of Kerala, a citadel of the secular ethos.
The Yatra also threw up excellent suggestions to promote communal harmony. First and foremost was the suggestion to set up a Union Ministry for religious tolerance and happiness and similar ministries in the States. Such ministries would help maintain the State’s secular tradition, Thangal said, adding that some Gulf countries have a ministry of tolerance while there are ministries of happiness in Scandinavian countries. The IUML MPs and MLAs would impress upon the State Government the need to set up such ministries. Expectedly, the Yatra received positive feedbacks from various parts of the State. The party should incorporate the suggestions in its future plans to ensure peace and religious harmony not only in the State but also at the national level. No less important is the formation of local committees across the state to widen the scope of the communal harmony initiative.
An important participant at the Kozhikode meeting was Sunni leader Kanthapuram AP Abubacker Musliyar who normally keeps away from IUML meetings. That clearly shows the acceptance of the commendable initiative taken by the IUML.
Other leaders who attended the meeting were Samastha Kerala Jaam-Iyyathul Ulema president Syed Muhammad Jiffri Muthukoya Thangal, lyricist Kaithapram Damodaran Namboothiri, Swami Gururatnam Jnanathapaswi, Thomas Mar Theethos Episcopa, Metropolitan Paulose MorIrenious, Vadakara MLA K K Rema, Kozhikode MP MK Raghavan, Muslim Education Society (MES) president Dr. Fazal Gafoor, Mujahid leaders TP Abdulla Koya Madani, Hussein Madavoor, writers KP Ramanunni, PK Parakkadavu, Jama’at-e-Usklanu assistant secretary Sheikh Muhammad Karakkunnu and actor Mamukoya.
The IUML also did well to defuse the tension created by the participation by former IUML MLA KNA Khader in an event organized by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)-affiliated organization. There were calls for stern action against Khader who reportedly did not take prior permission of the party to attend the function. Khader’s decision was criticized by a few IUML leaders, including senior IUML leader and MLA M K Muneer, as they felt it went against the party’s principles. The IUM chief, however, had the final word on the controversy. He sought an explanation from Khader and administered a warning to him. Khader and other IUML leaders should be careful in future while accepting invitations from various organisations.
The party should also introspect on an unfortunate incident which occurred recently. The unfortunate incident occurred during a recent inaugural ceremony of a new building of Darul Ulum Madrasa at Pathiramanna in Malappuram district. EK Samastha leader MT Abdulla Musliyar was seen publicly scolding the people who were standing next to him for inviting a Class X girl student to the dais for receiving an award for her educational excellence. His message was: girls should not be invited to share a stage with men! Musliyar was heard telling the organisers not to repeat this mistake. Instead of inviting the girl, they should have invited her guardian as Samastha does not approve of such acts, he said!
The shocking incident evoked criticism from various organisations. Care should be taken to ensure such retrograde acts do nor recur. They certainly militate against the concept of equality before the law. Intriguingly, IUML Malappuram district president Syed Abbas Ali Shihab Thangal, who was present on the dais, remained a mute spectator to the snub from the Samastha leader. The incident, expectedly, triggered a raging debate in the social media on the rights of women. Former national president of Muslim Students Federation (MSF) Fathima Thahiliya voiced her criticism against Musliyar. She urged religious leaders to encourage talented Muslim girls instead of keeping them away from public functions. Incidentally, the valedictory function in Kozhikode to mark the end of the ‘Friendship Yatra’ undertaken by the IUML chief saw the presence of a large number of women. It was a heart-warming sight. This should be the norm in future. Hopefully, the Malappuram episode is only a one-time aberration.
The Thangal initiative has lessons for other parties, too. They would do well to emulate it. The BJP, in particular, must undertake a similar yatra aimed at ensuring communal harmony in the State. The party should restrain its leaders from demonizing the Muslim community on the slightest pretext. They should also move in step with the spirit of the times and internalize the message of communal peace the State spreads. Will the party take the initiative to do so? Kerala is waiting for an answer. (IPA Service)