“I have the right to choose my guest”, says Shahi ImamNovember 1, 2014
Trust Syed Ahmed Bukhari, Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid, to score a political point where none exists. The anointment ceremony of the naib imam, or the imam's deputy, is a religious function. But Bukhari has used it to create a political controversy by inviting Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif for the function on November 22 while ignoring Indian PM Narendra Modi.
Bukhari defended his decision by saying that he had the right to choose his guests. "Modi claims to be the prime minister of 125 crore Indians but conveniently and deliberately avoids addressing Muslims. He has shown he doesn't like us. He is the one who has been maintaining distance from the community. So, I too chose to maintain my distance," he said.
However, other Muslim leaders, including All Indian Muslim Personal Law Board member Kamal Farooqi, said such acts gave the entire Muslim community a bad name. They insisted that it was no longer a "personal function" when the Imam signaled that the Pakistan PM was preferable to the Indian PM. They stressed that Bukhari didn't represent Indian Muslims.
On his guest list for the anointment ceremony of Bukhari's 19-years-old son Shaban are Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, Ahmed Patel, Arvind Kejriwal, Akhilesh Yadav, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mamata Banerjee. He has also invited BJP leaders Rajnath Singh, Harsh Vardhan, former Chandni Chowk MP Vijay Goel and Shahnawaz Hussain. Religious figures from Tunisia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Bangladesh and diplomats from various countries are other invitees.
Sources said Rajnath Singh had not received the invitation till Thursday evening and he is likely to be out of Delhi that day.
The only notable omission from the list of 200 guests for the investiture ceremony (Dastaarbandi) of naib imam is Modi. Bukhari claimed the guest list was drawn up after consultations with a nine-member committee and each member was of the opinion that Modi still hasn't done enough to win the community's confidence.
"I had to heed the sentiments of Muslims. The community was never with Modi and only a miniscule section voted for him. Modi has not shown any remorse for the 2002 Gujarat riots. Rather than reaching out to the community, he has ignored us altogether in the last four months," Bukhari said.
On being reminded about PM's slogan 'Sabka Saath', Bukhari said "People voted for Modi for development, employment opportunities, controlling inflation and inclusiveness. But his conduct since taking over has been unbecoming of a PM. He has indulged in divisive politics and not controlled hate mongering."
The public investiture ceremony will be followed by three dinners at Bukhari's residence from November 22 to November 29. On the invitation to Sharif, Bukhari said, "I share a personal relationship with Nawaz Sharif. Maybe his visit to India can help normalize the relations between the two countries."
He added that he was willing to relent though and invite Modi if he "makes an open and frank declaration that he will look into injustice done to the community, promise jobs and development and assure that security agencies such as NIA will not be misused against us."
Shaban Bukhari, a 19-year-old student of Bachelor's degree program in Social Work, is Bukhari's second son from his second wife. He has been chosen as naib imam as elder son Arham had declined the position. After anointment, Shaban has to undergo strict religious and social training to take over as imam. Ahmed Bukhari was anointed as naib imam in 1973 and finally took over as the 13th imam of Jama Masjid in the year 2000.