The leading Muslim body Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind on Sunday said spreading hatred over religion should be a "national crime". It also welcomed the outreach of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Union government to Pasmanda Muslims.
These comments came in a message read by Jamiat President Maulana Mahmood Madani at the conclusion of the Jamiat's three-day 34th general session at Ramlila Maidan in Delhi.
The Pasmanda Muslims refer to the depressed class among the Indian Muslim community and include around 41 castes. The Modi government as well as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has lately focussed on this constituency.
Madani said, "Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind considers religious hatred and sectarianism as the biggest threat to the integrity of the country. It does not match our long-standing heritage and ethos."
He said any efforts to create a rift in the relations between people from different religions should be considered a "national crime".
In the message, Madani asked Muslims to remain vigilant against being targeted by "internal and external enemies" of the country.
He said, "The so-called organisations, which propagate extremist and violent tendencies in the name of jihad are not entitled to our cooperation and support in terms of the country's interest or the religion of Islam. Sacrifice, loyalty to the nation and patriotism are our national and religious duties."
On the Indian judiciary, the Jamiat said the Supreme Court and other courts of the country are the guardians and strength of India's democracy, but for some time, "there is a general impression that the courts are working under the pressure of the state".
The Jamiat said, "This situation is not acceptable at all. If the judiciary is not free, then the country also is not free."
Madani said the Jamiat does not have any religious or ethnic enmity with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the BJP, but its differences are based on ideology.
He said, "We welcome the recent statements of the RSS sarsanghchalak encouraging mutual harmony and national unity. According to Islamic teachings, a hand extended for friendship should be held firmly and strengthened. Therefore, we warmly invite him and his followers to forget mutual hatred and enmity and embrace each other and make our beloved motherland the most developed, ideal... and peaceful superpower in the world."
Madani said Islam teaches equality and racial non-discrimination, but despite this, the existence of Pasmanda communities amongst Muslims is a ground reality.
He said, "No doubt that there has been discrimination and bias against marginalised communities, which is religiously and morally wrong and also reprehensible from the humane approach.
"We take this opportunity to say that we are ashamed of the abuses that have been committed in the name of caste, and to remove it, we pledge to reform the Muslim community and would make every possible effort to establish equality among Muslims on economic, social and educational fronts.
"We congratulate the government of India for its recent statement to uplift the backward communities (Pasmanda) and hope that practical steps will be taken soon for the welfare and progress of the backward communities, irrespective of their religious affiliations."
Modi has lately asked his party workers to reach out to the Pasmanda Muslim community.
The Jamiat chief also appealed to the Muslims of India to enforce in practice the code prescribed by the Islamic Shariah. He also urged them to focus on ridding the Muslim society of evils such as the exclusion of women in inheritance matters, violation of Islamic injunctions regarding divorce and non-maintenance to the wife, and injustice to women in society in general.
He said, "There is a dire need for Muslims to conduct a mass movement across the country and take necessary steps for reforms so that there is no room for anyone to interfere in the Muslim Personal Law."
Earlier, Maulana Arshad Madani, who leads the other faction of the Jamiat, said that Hindus and Muslims have been living side by side in the country for 1,400 years. He stressed that there was never any difference between them. He added Muslims should spread the message of love.
Leaders of various religions and gurus also expressed their views at the event.
National Parliament of Religions head Goswami Shusheel Maharaj said that in the presence of leaders of different religions at the session was a big message for the country.
(With PTI inputs)