On the face of it, why should anyone object if Imam Syed Ahmad Bukhari wants to invite X but not Y for the function anointing his son, Shaban Bukhari, as the next Naib Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid? After all, Imam Bukhari claims that this “dastaar bandi” (turban-tying ceremony) is his private function. If so, he should have the autonomy to choose the guest list.
The problem is that Imam Bukhari decided not to make this into a private event. He turned this into a public event and sought to make a public statement via his guest list. He unsuccessfully tried to claim that: (1) he represents Indian Muslims, (2) Muslims are unhappy with Modi, (3) Muslims have a higher regard for Nawaz Sharif than for Modi.
Given the criticism the “guest list” has been subjected to, this move seems to have backfired, quite badly if I may say. Eventually it is like, “Choube jee bane gaye the chabey, per rah gaye dubey.”
Whether or not he regrets his decision, we will probably never know. But Imam Bukhari’s guest list politics has raised important issues.
If Indians dislike Vanshvaad in politics, why should Vanshvaad be tolerated in religious matters? This issue needs to be examined and confronted, especially by the Muslim community. For a while, the Bukhari family has been in conflict with the Delhi Wakf board regarding Jama Masjid and its management. In the 1970s, the conflict became violent which led to rioting and deaths. Imam Bukhari’s father was arrested during emergency. When he was released, he had become a political figure (in some measure, with HN Bahuguna’s help) and even started issuing fatwas on elections. Hence, the claim of the Imam that he has the implicit authority to articulate the preferences of Indian Muslims is of a recent vintage. This claim should be and has been contested.
I am very pleased to see that several prominent Muslim leaders have unequivocally criticized the guest list politics and the coronation of the son (incidentally, the custom is that the elder son is appointed the Naib Imam. Imam Bukhari decided to ignore his elder son and appoint his 19 year old son who does not have the requisite training in theology). They have also criticized the invitation to Nawaz Sharif and not to Modi. The Imam’s own brother, Yahya Bukhari, put it eloquently: “After being ignored by Muslims of the country, he is trying to make a comeback to the media notice. By not extending invitation to PM Modi, he is trying to become messiah of Muslims. But he must understand he cannot make Muslims fools and it was proved when the community did not pay heed to his call to support Congress in the general elections… If he likes the Pakistan PM so much and dislikes our prime minister, he should hold the coronation ceremony in Pakistan.”
Well put. I am happy to see how the mood in India (especially the younger generation) towards communal politics is changing. People are now less tolerant of the hate speech of Togadia, Raj Thackeray, and Bukhari. In contrast to the condemnation reserved for hate politics, Swatch Bharat Abhiyan has attracted participation from Indians across religions. This is the way of the future. We need leaders to build bridges, not walls.
I’d be curious to see who eventually attends the coronation ceremony. Here is my guess.
Sonia and Rahul -– probably not.
Digvijay Singh — probably yes.
Akiliseh Yadav -– may be? (given the need to keep Mohamamd Azam Khan happy)
Laloo Yadav — probably yes.
Sharad Yadav — probably yes.