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A good Hindu will not hurt the feelings of Muslims - The Times of India

Firoz Bakht Ahmed ()
February 9, 1998

Title: A good Hindu will not hurt the feelings of Muslims
Author: Firoz Bakht Ahmed
Publication: The Times of India
Date: February 9, 1998

hen I entered the Bandra residence of Bal Thackeray, I was
mentally prepared to meet a person who has been branded as a
communalist and as someone baying for Muslims blood, " says
Firoz Bakht Ahmed, "but Mr Thackeray came across as a nationalist
and a patriot that any Indian Muslim could have a dialogue with."
Excerpts from an interview with Mr Ahmed, who is an educationist
and a grandson of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad.

Q: Is it because of the elections that you have changed your
stance against Muslims?

A: People know that I have always fulfiled my promises not at the
time of elections, but between elections! I was never against
Muslims. I have always sympathised with them for they have been
cajoled, exploited and treated as mere vote banks by politicians.
This beleaguered community has been exploited by the Congress for
almost 50 years.

Recently you declared at a press conference that a monument
should be built at the site of the Ram Mandir along with a mosque
and a temple on either side. Will it not anger your "Sangh
Parivar allies?

I know that the matter is sub judice, but of what use is the law
if it does not take the right line of action. If this case is not
settled soon, it will remain a bone of contention between the two
communities, and opportunist and communal leaders will keep
running their political shops. If someone has proof that there
was a temple there, let it be presented in the court and the
temple be built. If someone has proof that there was no temple
there, let the mosque be erected. The best solution is to build a
monument with a mosque and a temple. It will not segregate me
>from any member of the "Sangh Parivar", as a prompt and sane
decision in this regard has to be taken. With me, Hindutva is a
personal force, imploring me to be a better Hindu. A good Hindu
is one who doesn't hurt the feelings of the members of other

What is the root of the Hindu-Muslim problem?

According to me the Hindu-Muslim problem is a gift of the English
after 1857 and more so, basically in 1921. It was they who took
steps to divide Hindu and Muslims, Hindu and Sikh, "upper castes"
and "lower castes", "Aryan" North and "Dravidian" South. They got
maximum success dividing the Hindus and Muslims. For them
communal riots were games to be relished. Today this game has
been played by the politicians and we have to see through this
game and work steadily for firmly cementing Hindu-Muslim
reconciliation on the unexceptional principle of "justice for all
and appeasement for none".

What you are talking now is quite appealing and sensible but what
happened to you at the time when Babri Masjid was being raised to
ground on December 6, 1992?

Who wants to hurt the religious sentiment of others? We were
provoked by Muslim leaders. Literally, they challenged us to
break the mosque. I think generosity on the part of our Muslim
brethren would have been the right choice and so much bloodshed
would not have taken place. I am absolutely against bloodshed no
matter what the religious or social problem happens to be. The
best alternative is that the place be occupied by a suitable
monument and members of both the communities hold fraternal

How do you say has the Congress exploited the Muslim community?

Over the last 50 years the politics of opportunism and
appeasement has taken not only Muslims but the entire country to
the brink of collapse. They have been appeasing a handful of
Muslim leaders while the common Muslim is still languishing in
his ghetto. The Congress has treated this community as their vote

Why am you seen by many as an enemy of Muslims?

It is not true. Muslims in all the Shiv Sena constituencies are
happy with me. Recently at a big ijtemah (religious gathering of
Muslims) in Mumbai, all the arrangements were made by our Shiv
Sainiks. Even at Charkhi Dadri where the unfortunate disaster of
two aeroplanes colliding in mid-air took place, all the work
including the last rites and digging of graves was done by RSS
and Shiv Sena task force. I have always desired that Muslims must
join the mainstream. In Maharashtra we have launched a social
upliftment scheme, "Taleem, Tijarat Aur Tarbiyat" (education,
commerce and training). One Muslim girl has recently topped in
the civil services exam recently from our state.

There is a charge against you that thousands of Muslims have been
detained under the TADA?

This is an example of irresponsible journalism. The truth is that
only 186 Muslims are detained under the TADA. Most of them are
involved in the bomb blasts cases. I'll release them, but not
before there is concrete proof of their innocence. Had I been
involved in the quagmire of appeasement politics, I would have
released all the 186 Muslims under TADA for political mileage.

If you have to gab the confidence of Muslims, you have to dilute
your Hindutva stance. Will that not distance you from staunch
supporters of Hindutva?

Never, Hindutva is always at the core of my heart. Tell me what's
wrong in being a staunch Hindu or Muslim? Hindutva has
unfortunately been interpreted as a movement to annihilate
Muslims. It's not so. Hindutva doesn't mean fighting Muslims or
driving them out of India.

But earlier you have indulged in a lot of Muslim-bashing,
accusing them of being outsiders and not patriotic.

You see, I have never been against patriotic Muslims. But it
hurts when sweets are distributed and crackers burnt after India
is defeated in a cricket or hockey match against Pakistan. This
is not patriotism. I still maintain that those Muslims who side
with Pakistan need introspection since India is their homeland. I
am really proud of Indian Muslims like Brig Abdul Hameed who
sacrificed his life by destroying five Pakistani tanks. I am
proud of Azharuddin who scored a century against Pakistan in
Dhaka and got us victory. I am proud of Prof Abdul Kalam for his
defence research. I am proud of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad who tried
everything to stop the vivisection of the country and warned
Muslims of leaving India.

How according to you can Muslims join the mainstream?

Honestly speaking, to a "Sangh Parivar" member an Indian Muslim
appears to be aggressive, belligerent, intolerant, fanatically
rooted to the past glory, resistant to any change and a drag on
the nation's march to the 21st century. This unfortunate image
has been given by their representatives in the Parliament and
assemblies. They need to come out of their ghetto mentality. The
educated, progressive and secular Muslims must come forward to
lead the community for a broad world view is needed for the
Indian Muslims through which Hindu-Muslim relations in multi-
religious, multi-cultural India can be reconceived. Hindus and
Muslims of India are linked with each other and communal harmony
without leaving one's identity, should be the watchword today.

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