Urdu Press : Azan controversy, incendiary remarks on Prophet attempt to instigate Muslims

Muslims follow Prophet who often chose low-decibel voice, but the issue here is growing intolerance in society

By Quamar Ashraf

Undoubtedly, noted religious leader Maulana Wali Rahmani’s death occupied huge space throughout the week in the shape of edits/articles/statements/obituaries, and it is continuing. Laudably,  Muslim clerics campaign to make marriage “simpler and easier” following suicide of Ayesha Bano – the Gujarati girl who recorded her video before jumping in Sabarmati river – have been receiving significant coverage. Edits/articles are published on daily basis, besides statements by various religious leaders calling the community people to abhor dowry and expensive marriages besides urging them to give property to women as stated in Islam.

As usual statements by Madanis (the chacha-bhatija duo Arshad Madani and Mahmood Madani) on every issues under the sky regularly featured on daily with mugshots. Notably, the Ishrat Jahan encounter case also got some spaces with many opinion pieces pointing out at the glaring loopholes in probe right from beginning. “It is not surprising in the Narendra Modi government as institutions have lost their credibility…Even a lay man knows it,” writes Shakil Rashid (Mumbai Urdu Times, April 4) and added that the victim’s family could go to the higher court.

Hindu priest spewing venom against Prophet (SAW)

The issue of Dasna temple priest Yati Narsinghanand Saraswati insulting remarks against the Prophet and Islam got huge coverage with obvious response in shape of statements, articles and edits, mostly urging Muslims to have patience and do not resort to any violence, even as expressing surprise over government’s inaction  in arresting the hate-monger. Disturbingly, some pieces underline that the boiling anger could lead to protest demonstration if swift action is not taken against the hate-monger. “While FIR has been lodged, the police have not taken action against the uncouth priest.  It seems that the provocative comments were deliberately made to instigate violence and unrest in a bid to deflect people’s attention from the ongoing farmers’ protest, rising unemployment, slump in economy…”, writes Shakil Hassan Shamsi (Inquilab, April 6). He further says that the such people cannot muster the courage to openly make incendiary comments without the support from the people in power.

Kaleemul Hafeez (Inquilab & Rashtriya Sahara Urdu April 7) in an Op-Ed piece calls it in “act of frustration”, throwing challenges to all such forces to bring to fore any “any ambiguity or loophole in the character” of the personality whose “unmatched principles and guidelines” enlightened the world. “He was born in the age of reason, so everything is historically recorded, even though if  anyone needs clarification on any of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) actions, he should consult any book on his life or any Muslim, writes Hafeez. A civilised society cannot allow such a person to spew venom, says RSU edit (April 4). Aamir Saleem in a write-up (HS, April 6) criticises Press Club of India for allowing such programme at its facility, highlighting Saraswati’s background, taking on heavily on the “spineless management” which failingly hides under the shelter of “freedom of expression”.

Controversy over Azan, a sign of intolerance 

While the issue of azan on loudspeaker was not new, this time the bogy of hate-mongers gain support a section of Hindu community triggering an element of astonishment in coverage, with many questioning the logic of Allahabad University V-C who complained to the district magistrate that the early morning prayers’ call disturbed her sleep. Broadly, the criticism has been on the “selective approach” of the Allahabad V-C who suffer little disturbance on bhajan and kirtan which go on round the clock not only in Allahabad but across the length and breadth of the country. Earlier, in 2017, singer Sonu Nigam had tweeted, “I am not a Muslim and I have to be woken up by the Azaan in the morning. When will this forced religiousness end in India.” Fahim Anwar Azmi in his article (ST, April 3) says it is an act “religious oppression and persecution”, violating national rules and international norms. In the light of the issue, several edits/articles referred to India’s poor performance on democracy and human rights fronts which reflect in various reports of international agencies.

However, Maulana Khalid Saifullah Rahmani, General Secretary of Islami Fiqh Academy, in an article (Hindustan Express, April 9) cites Islam’s fundamental principle: “no prayers at the cost of disturbing your neighbours”. He writes that Prophet Muhammad (SAW) would keep his voice low in saying salam to his companions so that “if anybody is sleeping, he doesn’t get disturbed”. The Maulana suggests a slew of measures in the light of jurisprudence to placate the concerns. They are:

  1. Only one mosque, say big one, should use loudspeaker for azan. The smaller mosques can use loudspeakers for people who are inside the mosques.
  2. If any loudspeaker is facing non-Muslims localities, it should shifted towards Muslim locality
  3. Avoid sermons on loudspeakers.
  4. Instead of waiting for muezzin call, Muslims should use watch, alarm to reach mosque
  5. No use of loudspeaker for religious sermons, of any sorts, in public places

Coronavirus issue: Discourse changing due to deaths, side-effects

The discourse on coronavirus is gradually changing in the wake of post-vaccination deaths and rising cases of side-effects. Earlier, several Muslim clerics aggressively issued appeals to shun fears and take vaccine, but the tone has fallen mild after the death of Maulana Wali Rahmani due to coronavirus despite taking a jab. While no paper specifically carried any story based on his death in this regard, the edits/articles underline the fact more often. The tone also changed partly due to lockdown fears and reckless approach of the union government. The Hindustan Express edit (April 7) highlights the doublespeak of Union govt saying “paradoxes and ambiguity” are order of the day in the current dispensation as differing views emanate from ministries. PM, ministers and ruling party leaders address rallies in poll-bound states, but they passionately call for adherence to the Covid protocols in other states. BJP leaders strain out a small fly but swallow a camel. The edit calls night curfews “a cosmetic approach. Echoing similar views, Shahabuddin Saquib writes (Inquilab, April 8) that Modi govt’s approach in fight against coronavirus has been full of paradoxes – holds video conferences for inaugurating projects and other official works but recklessly address poll rallies.

In past, mostly opposed lockdowns and called for precautionary measures, inoculation and allowing sale of vaccine in open markets. While lockdown may arrest surge, it will ruin economy and push millions of people into penury, says edit in Mumbai Urdu News (April 3). Musharraf Shamsi in his piece (Mumbai Urdu Nees, April 3) suggests for expediting vaccination. The AEM edit (April 3) suggests Centre to give free hand to states for inoculation drive.  Some pieces, however, positively appeals to the people to take the issue seriously. Alizey Najaf (Inquilab, April 8) urge people to shun conspiracy theories even as raised question on scientists for groping in the dark for over a year on Covid origin. The edit in SKA (April 9) smells foul in the face-off between Centre and some states over vaccine shortage, pointing out at that pharma firms might try to mint money by creating unnecessary havoc on depleting vaccine stocks. However, the reason behind the shortage is said to be due to export of vaccine. Notably, 18.1 million doses of India made vaccines have reached to poor nations through COVAX – a global initiative aimed at equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines led by UNICEF, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the WHO and others.

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