‘Neither French Beheading, Nor Provocation Is Justified’

Mufti Mohammad Israfil, 52, says France must learn from India how to peacefully co-exist in a plural society. The Mufti from Kanpur, UP, also believes that state and religion must remain separated

What happened in France last month was abominable, from both sides, though as President, Mr Emmanuel Macron should have handled the matter with some cool-headedness and grace, as is expected from top leaders, instead of making this an emotional issue.

I still remember the first time the image of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) was published in the Danish newspaper, Jyllanden Post in 2005. It was a provocation then, and it was a provocation when Charlie Hebdo published it. Provocation is neither journalism, nor art. Cartoons are meant to give food for thought, not hurt a popular sentiment.

We in India, before 2014, knew how to not cross one another’s boundaries. Different religions have co-existed peacefully for a long time here. Perhaps the world could learn from the pre-2014 India on how not to cross the line.

Religion is fluid –or at least its interpretation is fluid, while government is a stable structure in the sense that even a single change needs to pass through multiple bodies. Common people keeps moving between the two in their public and private spheres. Governance and religion must remain separated. I do feel unhappy about the people running Charlie Hebdo or other similar provocative publications; and I feel equally miffed when artists like MF Hussain take the liberty of drawing the objectionable images of Hindu gods and goddesses. It takes so much time to understand your own religion, how can you make fun of another religion that you don’t even understand?

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Samuel Paty, the teacher who was killed, needed to understand that it was a contentious topic he was teaching. And as far as I have read, the matter had been stretching on for some time with the school authorities.

The Mufti from Kanpur says none of the party is entirely blameless in France’s case

Strict legal action should be taken against those guilty, but the government also needs to ensure that age-appropriate topics are introduced in the correct manner. Even wise men in government offices have been unable to solve such issue, as was seen in the Denmark case. Therefore with children, we require extra care in dealing cross-cultural issues. I am not justifying what happened, but none of the party is entirely innocent.

Islam was perhaps the first religion to bring law into social dealings. Many other religions might have had laws but people were being governed according to the whims and fancies of the kings or heads of state. Islam tried to give powers to the common man and you could say the Quran and Hadees are books of law.

The maulana, mufti, qazi interpret law and serve justice. Islam is never about spreading terror, but about spreading love for yourself, your neighbours, to the less fortunate. I would say ‘religious pollution’ has put important social issues on the backburner. If I were to tell you who is responsible for this atmosphere of ‘dharmik unmad’ (religious hysteria), I would say Israel and the US.

ALSO READ: Agenda To ‘Liberate Islam’ Has A History

As the pandemic has shown us, we are all in this together. We need a world that knows how to come together. In India we have co-existed peacefully, more or less, despite diverse language, food, and clothing with every few kilometre. The world needs to see and learn from us that there is a solution to the situation the world is in today.

Mutual respect is the key in handling sensitive issues. Prophet Mohammed, Jesus, Moses, Krishna are all revered figures and Islam says respect (especially for the leaders of others) is the pillar on which a society stands. I wish there is neither more provocation, nor more bloodshed as a response to that provocation. Restraint is the currency of a peaceful society.

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