Prime Minister Narendra Modi is missing from the list of guests being invited for the investiture ceremony for 19-year-old Shaban Bukhari, who would be announced the successor of the present Imam, Syed Ahmed Bukhari, at a ceremony at Delhi’s Jama Masjid on November 22.
With Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on the list, the omission of PM Modi assumes importance as the ‘Shahi’ Imam of Jama Masjid, over the years, has acquired a political role and various political parties have tried to enlist his support.
“I have no personal issues with Modi. Our issues are only ideological. He is been the head of this country for four months, but the Muslims of this country are still not comfortable. He has always treated Muslims as second class citizens. There has been this great talk about development, but the Muslims are not included in it. He has never called to talk about the problems of the Muslim population,” Imam Bukhari told The Indian Express.
The Imam has, however, included senior BJP leaders like Rajnath Singh, Shahnawaz Hussain, Harsh Vardhan and Vijay Goel in his guest list. “Rajnath Singh is a very good man and the home minister of the country. There has not been a single irresponsible statement against the Muslims by him in the last four months. When he was asked about ‘love jihad’, he said he had no idea what it was. I have great respect for him, and I would love to have him at the ceremony,” Bukhari said.
The Imam’s list also includes Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee, former Railways minister Mukul Roy, Samajwadi Party head Mulayam Singh Yadav, UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav
Other than Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif, the Imam has invited Muslim religious leaders from Uzbekistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Bangladesh. “We have invited the prime minister of Pakistan as we have had relations with him since my father’s time,” Bukhari said.
In Islam, the Imam has a limited role of leading the prayers, and the priestly class has almost no role. But with the successive ‘Shahi’ Imams of Jama Masjid, the political manipulation has been open, with political parties of all descriptions, including SP, Congress and even the BJP having tried and succeeded in getting the Imam to be on board. Just before the recent elections in Delhi, the Imam came out openly in support of the Congress party, causing a stir in political circles.