Pakistan preacher's visit to city draws flak

MUMBAI: A section of Muslims is opposing the scheduled Mumbai visit of Pakistani Islamic preacher and Sufi scholar Tahirul Qadri next week. Qadri, who is on the hit list of the terrorist outfit al-Qaida for his anti-terrorism fatwa in 2010, now lives in Canada and is currently touring India. However, Raza Academy, a Sunni Muslim group, calling Qadri a "threat to peace", has asked the state government and the Union home ministry to prevent him from visiting Mumbai. Qadri will deliver two lectures on Islam's message of peace and compassion at Birla Matoshree Hall, Marine Lines (March 15) and at Somaiya Ground in Sion on March 17. While the programme at Birla Matoshree is strictly by invitation, the Somaiya Ground session is open to all.

Qadri is in the eye of a storm for three reasons. His detractors say that during his recent lectures in Gujarat he praised Narendra Modi and he reportedly asked Muslims to forget Gujarat 2002. However, Qadri has clarified that he had only thanked Modi for providing him Z-plus security. "He has said that it was his moral responsibility to thank a state government which made elaborate arrangements for his security. He never asked Muslims to forget the 2002 massacre in Gujarat," said Aijaz Ahmed, secretary (Maharashtra) of Minhaj-ul-Quran, an organization established by Qadri. Mohammed Salim Sarang, another supporter of Qadri, maintained that some Sunni scholars were jealous of Qadri's growing popularity in India as his lectures are drawing thousands.

Raza Academy's Saeed Noorie who organized a small anti-Qadri protest at Bhendi Bazaar on Friday said his organization was opposing Qadri also because of his controversial remarks on Kashmir. "Qadri said Kashmiris should be given the right of self-determination which is against India's stand on the Kashmiri issue," said Noorie.

Though Qadri's supporters claim the preacher follows the principles of Sunni Islam, his detractors maintain that Qadri has forfeited this status because he attended a multi-faith convention in England some months ago. Clips of Qadri sharing the stage with preachers of other religions like Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism and Sikhism are being circulated.

"He shared the stage with other dharma gurus to uphold peace and harmony. What is wrong with that?," asked M A Khalid, a die-hard fan of Qadri.

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