By Mohd. Naushad Khan

Azan row and Hanuman Chalisa in Maharashtra and in other parts of India is a new divisive tool derived from anti-Muslim mindset aimed at polarising the sentiments of the people and provoking one community against another, primarily for vested political interests. India, which was earlier known for its unity in diversity, has become so intolerant that today Azan has also become a problem for so people.   

The incident started when Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) president Raj Thackeray served the state government with an ‘ultimatum’ to remove loudspeakers from mosques by May 3. If the demand was not met, he threatened to play Hanuman Chalisa outside the mosques. The BJP agreed with this call. But the Uddhav Thackeray administration challenged the MNS move that would disturbed the social ambience.

As per figures available in public domain, in Mumbai as many as 72 per cent of mosques have stopped using loudspeakers for the morning Azan or prayer. It was because of MNS chief Raj Thackeray’s demand that loudspeakers on mosques in Maharashtra be removed by May 3, and because of the resultant political controversy in the state.

On the Azan controversy and the way forward, Dr. S.Q.R Ilyas, member All India Muslim Personal Law Board and President of Welfare Party of India said, “The controversy related to Azan has been raked up with no substance and appears to be politically motivated. On the use of loudspeakers, there is already a Supreme Court Judgment that it should not be used from 10 pm to 6 in the morning at public places and it is applicable not only to Namaz, but to all forms of use of loudspeakers like Bhajan kirtan , marriage and so on  during the prohibited period.

He added, “In Mumbai and in other places, Muslims have decided to abide by the judgment of the Supreme Court. By this yardstick only the morning Azan may get affected. Azan is basically a call for prayers and in the fast changing digital world and in the age of internet or App, Muslims are trying to send the voice of Azan to every household in order to serve the purpose.”            

Noted social and human rights activist, John Dayal said, “This year in particular has become tainted with a governmental push to islamophobia and targeted action against Muslims. While the BJP and Sangh Parivar’s political animus continues, governments at the state and city levels have started operations to injure the economy of the Muslim community and to bring suffering to the families.”

He added, “In Maharashtra, Delhi and several other states, town and cities, as political bay for the elimination of the minority communities, municipal corporations are razing houses and shops of Muslims. In the guise of acting against love jehad and forced conversion, young men are being targeted in stages as far away as Karnataka apart from Uttar Pradesh.”

On the loudspeakers, Dayal said, “One may not cavil against the removal of loudspeakers from places of worship irrespective of religion, if it was done in a fair and transparent manner. I wonder why police did not act to stop processions that deliberately passed by mosques while playing loud music.

“I would still appeal to the Prime Minister to find an occasion and say in no uncertain words that he, his government and his party will act summarily to end Islamophobia and targeted hate. Perhaps then, even the Supreme Court will bid bold and act.”

Professor Ram Puniyani, an academician and noted social and human rights activist, said, “Today Muslims are being suppressed and oppressed through various means and are being subjected to hate and violence. The Azan on loudspeakers and Hanuman Chalisa controversy in Maharashtra is a very dangerous thing for the society. We need to think that things have reached to such a stage where people have become intolerant against Azan and it is very harmful for our socially rich and diverse fabric. It is high time to talk about the core values of Islam which are peace, brotherhood, justice and welfare of mankind. If we can find out an amicable solution to such controversies through some flexible approach and without compromising our dignity and core values of Islam, it could be a way forward in the right direction.”

Advocate Anastasia Gill, former member of Delhi Minorities Commission, while sharing her perspective on the issue, said, “Personally I feel if loudspeakers have to be banned, it should apply to all. Not just for few communities. It’s definitely a conspiracy against few by the majority. These are only symptoms but deep rooted problems are much more serious. First, it was Hijab controversy and now it is loudspeakers. We have to raise bigger issues of targeting few in the name of religion. Fanaticism and Majoritarianism by RSS outfits seem to be the real problems for a democratic country like ours.”

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