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Sunday, September 09, 2007

Indian imams to work with Israel for peace - Faithwise Review of the Week

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    The All-India Organisation of Imams has entered into an agreement with the Chief Rabbinet of Israel to “work together” for peace. Funded by the American Jewish Committee, a group of maulanas led by the general secretary of the Organisation of Imams, Mr Umer Ahmed Ilyasi, spent eight days in Israel and found commonalties with “our cousins, all sons of Ibrahim” to a point where they have decided to help enthuse other Indian Muslims to visit Israel.
    The American Jewish Committee's Rabbi David Rosen (seated, second from right) in India in February 2007.
    The visit sparked off a storm of protest here with the Urdu media in particular highlighting the controversy in detail. Most other Muslim organisations attacked the visit, maintaining that Mr Ilyasi and others in the delegation had basically supported the Israeli position on Palestine. Mr Ilyasi, however, termed the opposition as motivated, saying that those opposed to the visit were working to foster fundamentalism. He held the view that he had communicated in Israel to a Washington Post reporter, who asked him about Osama bin Laden and jihad, that the mission of the delegation to Israel for peace was “Islam’s real jihad”.
    President Peres with Indian Muslim clerics (photo: Yisrael Noy)
    Jamiat Ulema Hind secretary Abdul Hameed Naumani did not even want to speak of the visit, seeing it as highly condemnable. Muslim leaders pointed out that the delegation went to make peace with those who were at war with the Palestinians and did not share Mr Ilyasi’s optimism that he could work as an effective mediator between the two sides. The maulanas, accompanied by three journalists from the Urdu media, were given a grand reception and participated in several high-level meetings during their visit to Israel.

    They spoke at length on terrorism with their Israeli hosts with both sides condemning this in no uncertain words. It was not clear, however, whether these maulanas looked upon the Palestinian struggle for their own land as terrorism. This is the first Muslim group from India that has had such an extended stay in Israel. Mr Ilyasi’s father, Khwaja Iftikhar Ilyasi, had earned some fame for tying a turban on the late Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao after the demolition of the Babri Masjid. Mr Ilyasi was contacted by members of the American Jewish Committee, who arranged a meeting for him with Israel’s chief rabbi, Yona Metzel, at a five star hotel in Delhi earlier this year. The Australian Jewish Council was also involved with their members visiting India and meeting Muslim leaders like Mr Ilyasi.

    Mr Ilyasi was particularly happy with his visit where he reminded almost everyone he met that Muslims and Jews were “cousins”, both being sons of “Ibrahim (Abraham)”. He said he had suggested that visas should be made easily available for Indian Muslims to encourage them to visit Israel. The government leaders he had met, Mr Ilyasi said, were amenable to the idea. He is now waiting to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi to apprise them of the visit, and communicate to them the new understanding that had been forged between his delegation and those they had met in Israel. He appeared to think that this was going to be a long-term relationship where “both sides have developed a lot of affection for each other”.
    [source: Deccan Chronicle]
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