New Delhi: A day after influential Islamic seminary Darul Uloom Deoband issued a fatwa that it was not proper for Muslims to chant "Bharat Mata ki Jai", the Indian Muslim leadership stood divided on the issue.
While most leaders and religious scholars agreed with the edict's basic premise - that Muslims cannot worship India as a deity despite their deep love for the country, some questioned the timing and political relevance of the fatwa, while one took a contrary stand.
Without commenting on the fatwa, Jamiat-e-Ulema Hind president Maulana Arshad Madani took exception to the view that it was improper for Muslims to chant the slogan.
"I don't think there is anything wrong in chanting 'Bharat Mata ki Jai' as this is similar to saying 'Jai Hind', which Muslims do without hesitation," Madani told IANS from Deoband.
Elaborating on his contention, he said: "See, this is about perception. The Hindus perceive India as a deity, a devi. Muslims should not see it as a deity and see Bharat Mata as their motherland. Then there is nothing wrong in saying 'Bharat Mata ki Jai'."
Madani, a widely-respected Islamic scholar who teaches hadith (Prophet's traditions) at Darul Uloom, argued what would be the position of Muslim scholars if Hindus make a picture of Allah and start worshipping it.
"Would you stop calling Allahu Akbar then?" he said.
However, other Muslim scholars and leaders did not take Madani's arguments kindly.
"Firstly, I don't understand what Maulana Arshad Madani is saying. To me calling Bharat as Mata - a deity - is shirk (polytheism). Secondly, I find the whole debate around this issue unnecessary and uncalled for," said Jama Masjid Delhi's Shahi Imam Maulana Ahmed Bukhari.
Bukhari also questioned the timing and politcal relevance of the fatwa.
"Although I agree with the jist of this fatwa, its timing is ill-conceived. The Darul Uloom muftis should have weighed the ramifications of it. It comes when a number of crucial states are in the midst of elections. And this fatwa can be used to polarise the electorate in the poll bound states," Bukhari told IANS.
Slamming Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi for his "irresponsible" statement on the issue, the he said that Muslim religious scholars and leaders should guard themselves from being dragged into "unnecessary and uncalled for arguments" on this issue.
Nevertheless, many others agreed with the fatwa.
"The fatwa is right and we support it. Muslims cannot worship anyone but Allah. Those who are raising questions on Muslims' patriotism, let me say that Muslims are far more patriotic than they are," Jamaat-e-Islami Hind president Maulana Jalaluddin Umari told IANS.
"We love India as it is our country and we need not prove it before anyone. Chanting 'Bharat Mata ki Jai' cannot be the only benchmark for patriotism. We can love our counrty without making it a deity and worshipping it," he said.
All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat president Naved Hamid too agreed with Umari's views.
"Please note that we are not Muslims by compulsion but by choice. We have ourselves chosen India to be our country. So there is no question of proving our loyalty to this country through a slogan that goes against our religious beliefs," Hamid told IANS.
"Secondly, it is not just about Muslims but also about other monotheistic faiths such as Sikhism. Will Sikhs agree to worship Bharat as a deity?" he added.
Hamid also said that doubting Indian Muslims' love for their motherland was only an attempt to create divisions in society.
(Mohd Asim Khan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)