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Jeddah debate on Indian Muslims' patriotism a big draw
Thursday October 23, 2014 8:07 PM, Hassan Cheruppa, IINA

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's recent comments praising the patriotism of 180 million Muslims was the major highlight in an open debate organized recently by Jeddah chapter of the Indian Islahi Center.

More than 500 expatriate men and women participants made the debate lively by articulating their divergent views and positive suggestions to further foster communal harmony and peaceful coexistence with other sections of people in India's 1.25 billion pluralist society.

M.M. Akbar, a well-known Indian preacher and expert in comparative religion, stole the show in the debate titled "Muslims' patriotism: What prime minister has said is true."

Earlier this month, in an interview with CNN's Fareed Zakaria ahead of his US visit, Modi emphasized that Indian Muslims will live for India, they will die for India and they will not want anything bad for India.

"My understanding is that Al-Qaeda is doing injustice to the Muslims of our country. If anyone thinks Indian Muslims will dance to their tune, they are delusional", Modi had said.

Sheikh Saleh Dailami, head of the Dawa Center at the Old Airport area, inaugurated the open debate held at Impala Garden Sharafiyah. Abubacker Farouqi presided over the function in which Shihab Salafi Edakkara was the moderator.

A panel, comprising of Abbas Chemban, Abdul Hameed Panthallur, Shareef Bava Tirur, and Abdul Aziz Salahi, was in charge of organizing the debate. Nurisha Vallikkunnu welcomed the gathering while Shajahan Elankoor proposed the vote of thanks.

Several prominent figures including Dr. Ismail Maritheri of King Abdulaziz University, and K.C Abdurahman participated in the debate while presenting their visions and suggestions.

In his keynote speech, Akbar, who is also director of Niche of Truth Dawa organization, highlighted the fact that the recent comments of Modi is another testimony to the patriotism and remarkable contributions being made by Muslims to further strengthen India's secular fabric.

"What Modi was articulated is a historical fact and that gave us an opportunity to highlight this vital point. We have to rely fully on our constitution for our safety and protection.

"We can resist the Hindutva agenda of the Sangh Parivar forces through our constitution. While drafting the constitution, our great leaders and architects of constitution visualized the problems that the minorities might face in the country in future, and hence, they included all the provisions to ensure safety and protection of minorities in the Hindu-majority country", AKbar said.

Akbar cited several examples from history of Indian Muslims spanning over 14 centuries to highlight the fact that they have always been peace-loving and patriotic people.

"The history of Indian Muslims is the history of their heroic struggle against foreign invaders, starting from the Portuguese and ending with the British, as well as against external aggression especially during the wars fought with the Muslim country of Pakistan.

"Muslims who see patriotism and service to homeland as part of their faith, were the biggest losers in their struggle to protect the country and uphold its values and principles," he said.

Akbar emphasized the remarkable contributions being made by Muslims in safeguarding the country's secular and democratic system.

"Islam's spreading in India was nothing to do with any sort of invasion. Muslim preachers landed in Kerala, situated in the southwestern coast of the Indian Subcontinent, and were instrumental in spreading the religion.

"After spreading of Islam peacefully for over one century, Muslim invaders came and their aim was not to spread the religion but only safeguarding their vested interests," he said, while urging Muslims to adopt peaceful means to protect their rights enshrined in the country's constitution.

Akbar, who arrived in Saudi Arabia to perform Haj, underlined the need for using all available modern tools in confronting the attempts to saffronize India.

"Intellectuals and researchers have to play a vital role in highlighting India's pluralism and unity in diversity as well as to defeat the attempts to rewrite history and revise curriculum in line with the agenda of the Hindu nationalist forces. We have to use social media and other means of information to spread messages of peace and communal harmony", he said.

Referring to Dawa work in the new situation, Akbar said: "Our approach is to transform even negative situations into positive. There is a tendency to label propagation as a criminal act by raising fake slogans like "Love Jihad," and it is a dangerous signal. It is essential to have united efforts to defeat the Sangh Parivar's agenda against Islam and Muslims."

Akbar, a renowned orator, has been serving as director of Niche of Truth since 1992. The Cochin-based missionary organization's objective is to present Islam as a comprehensive religion in front of India's pluralist society.

"We use all modern facilities for Dawa work and these include correspondence courses, websites, dialogues, debates, and periodicals. We try to focus on the culture of dialogue and dispelling hatred of Islam.

"Open dialogue to remove misgivings is a major highlight of our work. We arrange venues for questioning Islam with an open mind, and always resort to inclusiveness of people of different religions in an amicable and cordial way.

"We focus on small gathering of debates at colleges than large gatherings. We arranged a program for district leaders of India's ruling BJP and it was a big success", he said.

Akbar also heads Peace Education Foundation, which runs 14 schools, of which one is in Jeddah. These schools focus on imparting excellent education in an Islamic environment and upholding Islamic identity, in addition to developing leadership qualities.

He was also in the forefront of establishing the Kerala-based International Institute of Islamic sciences two years ago.

Akbar, who is the editor of Sneha Samvadam magazine, has also authored 38 books, of which 20 are dealing with comparative religion. Seven books are in English.

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