Modi’s new admirer: Ahmedabad’s Imam

via http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/msid-4171018,prtpage-1.cms published on February 23, 2009

AHMEDABAD:
Mufti Shabbir Ahmed Siddiqui, the Imam of Ahmedabad’s biggest mosque, has found
himself alone among the city’s Muslim clerics. What has landed the 52-year-old
Imam in trouble in his own community is his admiration for Gujarat chief
minister Narendra
Modi.


Siddiqui,
a native of Sirsa in Bihar, has been living in Ahmedabad since 1982. The
hardliners in the community feel he is soft on the state government with which
he has been building bridges in turbulent
times.


But
Siddiqui is unabashed about his admiration for the CM and would like Modi,
already popular among Shia muslims, to gain acceptance among the Sunnis too. The
Jama Masjid Imam calls the 2002 riots an “atrocity” but adds that the
projection of the riots was “much graver” than what had actually happened. “The
time has come now to move on. It is seven years since the riots and people have
already started forgetting what had happened,” he told
TOI.


The
Imam says Modi has ensured peace after 2002 and feels the chief minister has
“lived up to the expectations”. “Muslims too have an opportunity to prosper in
the peaceful environment that the Modi government has created. Modi has provided
an atmosphere which is conducive for those who want to do business in Gujarat,”
he
says.


According
to Siddiqui, Modi does not need Muslim votes to win the elections. It is up to
the Muslims to make friends with the chief minister, he says. “Islam has in the
past befriended even bigger fundamentalists,” he argues, adding Muslims must
appreciate the performance of the CM, “if he is
good”.


He
is also happy that the spread of the hardliner Tablighis in Gujarat, who have
created numerous problems for him in recent years, has been checked by the Modi
government by blocking the influx of foreign funds through `hawala’. He says his
battle with the Tabhlighis for the control of mosques across Gujarat would be
won only if the flow of funds from abroad is stopped.

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