Addressing thousands of Muslim scholars who gathered in the capital for the National Integration Conference organised by Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind, the Congress leader said, “We have seen that among Muslims too, those who have become the reason for death and destruction in Muslim countries… even if there are some powerful nations behind it, why are Muslims joining this? We are opposed to organisations like IS as much as we are opposed to the RSS.”
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He added that the situation in the country was being made to look like a fight between Hindus and Muslims, but is actually a fight between sectarianism and secularism.
“If among us, someone does something that is not correct, they are no less than the RSS. This is why, whether it is Hindu sectarianism, Muslim sectarianism or Sikh sectarianism, we have to fight sectarianism in all its forms, because it is cancerous to the world and to our nation,” he said.
Azad also read a message from Congress president Sonia Gandhi at the gathering. In her message, Sonia expressed concern over the spread of hatred by the “powers that be.” She said the country is passing through a critical phase and “communal forces, under a deep-rooted conspiracy, are damaging the unity of the country.”
Maulana Arshad Madani, president of the Jamiat, said the situation in the country was “extremely destructive”. He added: “India has been divided once before based on hatred and if hatred continues to be spread in the country, it can get divided again.”
He added: “MPs are saying that ‘if terrorism has to end, Islam will have to end.’ How can this government not rein in such members?”
Reacting to Azad’s remarks, the RSS said such statements showed the Congress’s intellectual bankruptcy. The organisation’s all-India prachar pramukh, Manmohan Vaidya, and later its sah-prachar pramukh J Nandkumar issued statements condemning the Congress leader’s remarks.
“Mr Azad comparing ISIS with RSS exhibits the intellectual bankruptcy of Congress… and its unwillingness to deal with fundamentalist and cruel forces like ISIS,” Vaidya was quoted as saying in tweets by the Sangh’s official Twitter handle.
Minutes later, Nandkumar repeated the statement before journalists in Nagaur, where the Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha, the Sangh’s highest decision making body, has gathered.
The BJP, too, demanded an apology from Azad. The party said it was “unfortunate” that Azad had made such comments and asked Congress president Sonia Gandhi to disassociate from his remarks and take action against him if he does not withdraw them.