Mumbai:The peace conference at Somaiya ground organized by the Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) has been termed as a farce by a very senior Muslim clergy who became a target of abuse and slander due to a communally sensitive act by one of the IRF volunteers at the international airport. A huge section of the clergy’s followers decided to boycott the conference due to this incident as well as because the organizers blatantly misinterpret the verses of the Holy Quran.
On Wednesday, Maulana Mohammad Saalim Qasmi the senior most clergy of the Darul Oloom Deoband (Waqf) had flown in from Turkey after attending an award ceremony to attend the conference. However, a volunteer of the IRF while escorting the clergy in a private rental car put a handkerchief on the statute of a Hindu deity that was on the dashboard. The driver turned back the car to the airport where the infuriated owner of the rental started abusing the 85-year-old clergy who was unaware of act of the volunteer.
“I realised that the matter would get ugly if Maulana sahab stayed around any longer and hence bundled him in another waiting car and took him to the hotel,” said Iqbal Chunawala, an eyewitness to the entire incident and a devoted follower of the clergyman. As word of the incident spread among the followers more than 300 scholars from the community met Maulana Qasmi and pleaded with him to boycott the conference.
“The scholars met Maulana and appraised him of the wrongful ways in which Zakir Naik had been interpreting the verses of Quran and misleading the Muslims. On hearing this he decided to give the conference a skip. The airport incident could also be instrumental in his decision to stay away from the conference,” said Uzma Nahid, the daughter of Maulana Qasmi. While the organizers have been citing mid-term exams for the low turnout, sources point out that Naik’s questionable theories on Islam could be ascribed as the reason for the lack of interest in the conference among locals.
Pointing to the futility of the “peace” conference in the face of the organizers themselves propagating communal intolerance Chunawala said, “We are shocked at the volunteers’ act. This is obviously the outcome of the training being imparted by the foundation which is poisoning the minds of the youngsters.” Nahid concurred with Chunawala and said that her father had traveled in many public vehicles in the past but had never objected to the statues of any deity present in the cars. However due to the misconduct of an IRF volunteer her father had to face humiliation.
A spokesperson of IRF denied that any such incident had happened at the airport. “The event has been organized at a very short notice as the conference to be held at UK had to be cancelled due to the ban on Mr Naik there. There have been 2,000 volunteers from different parts of the country and there could be some misunderstanding between the driver and volunteer but definitely not related to any communal spat,” said the spokesperson. Incidentally, last year both the Canada and UK government have banned Dr Naik from entering the country due to his alleged support for Osama bin Laden and terrorism. Even in India the Uttar Pradesh government has banned him entry in the state due to resistance from leading Muslim clerics.