At least 100 shops near the Tipu Sultan Mosque had gone on strike on Wednesday protesting the various controversial statement by its chief priest, Shahi Imam Nurur Rehman Barkati. The protest was organised by the Shopkeeper’s Welfare Association of the Tipu Sultan Mosque.
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Anwar Ali, the mutawali or caretaker of the mosque said, “He (Barkati) has become a regular at these press conferences, where he makes outrageous demands. He has the right to have a political opinion. But he can’t keep… making comments on behalf of the community. He is a religious leader, not a political one.”
Protests against Barkati aren’t new, but rarely has the Muslim community collectively raised their voice against the controversial leader. In January, Barkati had issued a fatwa against PM Narendra Modi and offered a reward to anyone who would shave his beard and smear his face with black ink. He also argued women from across religions should wear veils and threatened to behead Pakistan-born Canadian writer Tarek Fatah, who is alleged to have made statements against Muslims. He also called Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee as the “most secular leader” in the country.
“Muslim vote in the state are said to be around 30 percent. But in reality, it’s closer to 40 percent. This means that elections in Bengal are always decided by the minority vote. Barkati knows this. He gets protection from Kolkata Police and even though Mamata Banerjee has asked him to rein in his comments, he knows he can get away with it,” said a TMC leader.
But to those who work around the mosque, feel it was time that this stopped.
“He makes inflammatory and irresponsible statements that harm us all. People feel that we think like him, which is not the case. My daughter doesn’t wear a veil and I would never ask her to,” said Azim Ali, a shopkeeper and a member of the association.
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