The showdown between Saudi Arabia and Iran has taken a sectarian turn in Lucknow with the city’s Sunnis asking Shias why they had protested the execution of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.
On Sunday, Shia Muslims of Lucknow had marched in protest against Saudi Arabia, burnt an effigy and called for a “social boycott” of Saudi Arabia besides holding a candlelight march against the execution.
On Monday, Sunni cleric Maulana Abdul Aleem Farooqui described the protests as “interference in the internal security matters of another country”. If such protests do not stop, he said, Sunnis will stage a huge protest against the killing of members of their community in Iran and Syria. Another Luckow-based Muslim organisation, Al Farooq Foundation, has announced it will not allow any Iranian official to enter Lucknow as they are “involved in mass killings of Sunnis”.
The exchange caused tension in the old city of Lucknow.
“They (Saudi Arabia) hanged him as per the law of their land but they (Shias) are protesting here. It would be the same if protests were organised in other countries against Ajmal Kasab’s hanging,” Farooqui said. “Yet there is not a single word for Iran which is killing Sunnis. If they continue with their protests, others will react to killings of Sunnis in Iran.”
Farooqui heads Majlis Tafaffuz Namoosa-e-Sahaba and is general secretary of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind. He is a senior cleric and also member of Majlis-e-Shura, the apex body of Islamic seminary Darul Uloom Deoband. He is also convener of the annual Juloos Madhe-e-Sahaba in Lucknow that is attended by lakhs of Muslims.
Al Farooq Foundation, a youth organisation, has announced it will not allow any Iranian delegation to visit Lucknow. “We will oppose visits by any Iranian delegation to Lucknow. They are behind such protests in our country. What if we present the list of hundreds of Sunni clerics hanged in Iran?” Abdullah Bukhari, general secretary of Al Farooq, told The Indian Express.
Many of the top Shia clerics of Lucknow have been educated in Iran.
Shias, meanwhile, continued their protest against the hanging of Sheikh Nimr Monday by staging a protest march from Chhota Imambara to Bara Imambara, led by Maulana Kalbe Jawwad.