November 6, 2015 Special Dispatch No. 6212

MEMRI Scholar In Article Published By 'New Age Islam' Website: 'The Mumbai-Based Raza Academy Is A Soft Version Of Jihadism'

November 6, 2015
Special Dispatch No. 6212

An article by MEMRI South Asian Studies Project director Tufail Ahmad, titled "The Mumbai-Based Raza Academy Is A Soft Version Of Jihadism" was published September 15, 2015 by The following is the article:[1]   

"Islamic Theocrats Are The Modern-Day Barbarians Threatening The Modernity Of Our Age"

"If modern civilization is characterized by freedom of speech and individual liberty, Islamic theocrats are the modern-day barbarians threatening the modernity of our age. Among the numerous Islamic clerics who taunt the Indian republic and its rule of law is Saeed Noori, chief of the Mumbai-based Raza Academy - a Barelvi theocratic institution at the center of a fatwa (Islamic decree) against the Oscar-winner Indian music director A. R. Rahman and Iranian filmmaker Majid Majidi for their film 'Muhammad: Messenger of God.' According to a media report, the fatwa declared Rahman and Majidi 'infidel' and their marriages 'invalid' as per Islamic Shariah. It noted: 'It is nothing short of a crime to make a film on the Prophet, dramatizing his life and using non-Muslim actors... Making such a film is making a mockery of religion.'

"The fatwa was issued by Mufti Mahmood Akhtar ul Qadri, the imam of the Haji Ali Dargah Masjid, at Saeed Noori's behest. On September 12 [2015], Noori told a journalist: 'After we protested last week, we thought the people involved in making the film would apologize and recall this blasphemous film. Since there was no response from either of them or from the Iranian government, we are forced to seek a fatwa.'

"Technically, a fatwa is an opinion issued by an Islamic scholar and is not binding. But practically, a fatwa has legal force in the life of Muslims, and any Muslim can take it upon himself to implement it. Therefore, it is time the government acted against Noori and others for usurping the powers of the state by issuing fatwas and harming the life of Indian citizens. Noori impinges on the freedom of speech and activity, and threatens the liberty of Indians." 

Raza Academy Was "First To Get A Fatwa Against Salman Rushdie"

"Noori founded the Raza Academy in 1978. The academy boasts that it was first to get a fatwa against Salman Rushdie for his book The Satanic Verses. It notes: 'In 1988, the first fatwa against the ill-famed Salman Rushdie was issued by Raza Academy after obtaining it from Jaanasheen e Huzoor Mufti-e-Aazam [successor to Mustafa Raza Khan, son of the founder of Barelvi sect Ahmad Raza Khan] which was published in the Daily Hindustan on 11th November '88 and on 12th November in [the Urdu dailies] Inquilab and Urdu Times.'

"The Barelvi movement in Sunni Islam was founded by Ahmad Raza Khan (1856-1921) of Bareilly, a northern Indian town. The Barelvis call themselves Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, or the people of the Prophet's tradition. Raza Academy has branches in dozens of countries, including in Durban, Colombo, Johannesburg and Lahore. The Barelvi clerics routinely mock Shi'ites as infidels. The Durban-based Imam Ahmed Raza Academy notes on its website: 'Shias (Rawafiz) have commonly been known throughout the ages as apostates (Murtad) as has been clearly outlined in 'Raddur Rufaza' (a fatwa published in the form of a booklet by A'la Hazrat). It is not Halal [permissible] to have any form of contact or maintain any type of relationship with them in any manner that you would normally have with a fellow Muslim. It is Haram [forbidden] to maintain any form of social contact with them; accord them in any form of social etiquette...' In the past, even the leading Pakistani Barelvi scholar Tahir-ul-Qadri, who otherwise opposes jihadis, has described Shi'ites as infidels.

"In Sunni Islam, Barelvi clerics propagate extremely obscurantist views among Muslims and are responsible for keeping the community backward. They have closed the Muslim mind, preventing any innovation in Islam. The Barelvis are known for excessive love of Prophet Muhammad and disallow even minor criticism of the prophet's historical role - which is why they oppose the Iranian film. In recent years, some writers have argued that the Barelvis represent peaceful Islam because they oppose the Taliban-like jihadis. In truth, the Barelvis hold theocratic views similar to those of jihadis, the only distinction being that the Taliban are Deobandis and, unlike the Barelvis, do not permit music and dancing at Sufi shrines. Also, the Barelvis hold murderous views that are identical to those of the jihadis who attacked the headquarters of the French magazine Charlie Hebdo last January." 

It Has "Emerged As An Extra-Constitutional Organization"

"Over the past decade, Raza Academy has emerged as an extra-constitutional organization, determining not only the life of the followers of the Barelvi doctrinal movement but also trying to govern the thoughts and expression of others. The group has forced The Times of India newspaper and Yash Chopra Films to issue apologies. It is extremely sad that A. R. Rahman, the gifted music director of Slumdog Millionaire fame, is being ordered by this extra-constitutional Barelvi organization to apologize. Mufti Mohammed Manzur Ziyaee, also of the Raza Academy, thinks he has the legal authority to force Indians like Rahman to submit to him. Ziyaee said: 'Rahman must apologize for his mistakes. I want to request the government to ban the movie completely in India and especially in Maharashtra, as it will hurt the sentiments of Muslims.' From the statement, it is clear that Ziyaee thinks himself the self-appointed leader of all Muslims.

"Rahman, who is known for religiosity as his family converted to Islam, issued a statement on Facebook: 'I didn't direct or produce the film. I just did the music. My spiritual experiences of working on the film are very personal and I would prefer not to share these. My decision to compose the music for the film was made in good faith and with no intention of causing offense.' However, surrendering to the Raza Academy's dictates, Rahman was forced to cancel a music show in New Delhi that was scheduled for September 13.

"Most Indians have not even heard of the Iranian movie on the Prophet Muhammad, but it is clear that Barelvi clerics are dictating thinking and writing, music composition, and filmmaking. They are legislators and cops ruling India's streets. Liberal Muslims invited to parties at the U.S. Embassy will not condemn the Barelvis.

"For some time now, Raza Academy has been emerging as a troublemaker. In August 2012, at a public rally in Azad Maidan of Mumbai, organized by the Raza Academy, Barelvi clerics incited young Muslims, leading to violence in which two young people were killed, some 45 policemen were wounded, and public property was damaged. Raza Academy, along with another religious group, the Madinatul Uloom Foundation, was ordered to pay Rs. 2.74 Crore, but the sum appears to remain unpaid. It also protested against liberal Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen. In 2012, it threatened Salman Rushdie when he was to visit Jaipur for a literary event, issuing a statement: 'Raza Academy announces reward of Rs. 1 Lakh to anyone who hurls a slipper at Salman Rushdie's face during his visit to Jaipur. We also undertake to appoint a lawyer for him.'" 

"Raza Academy Is An Early Stage Of Cancer That Will Ultimately Produce Jihadi Terrorists"

"In the medical world, cancer proceeds through different stages before chemotherapy becomes inevitable. Raza Academy is an early stage of cancer that will ultimately produce jihadi terrorists. It is using the tool of fatwas to threaten law-abiding Indian citizens and to destabilize the democratic order of our society.

"At least at the administrative level, there is an urgent need for the government to monitor Islamist groups like Raza Academy that radicalize Muslim youths. In Britain, where radicalization through peaceful means has become widespread, the British government has realized that counter-radicalization efforts should check both peaceful and non-peaceful groups. In his landmark speech in Birmingham on July 20, British Prime Minister David Cameron noted: 'As we counter this ideology [of Islamic extremism], a key part of our strategy must be to tackle both parts of the creed - the non-violent and violent.'"


[1] The original English has been lightly edited for clarity.

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