The silence from Jama Masjid about the PIL in Delhi High Court challenging anointment of 19-year-old Shaban Bukhari as his father’s deputy was finally broken during the function on Saturday. The master of ceremony alleged that a conspiracy has been hatched against “the institution that has always spoken up for tortured Muslims”. He urged namazis at the historic mosque to “rise in unison against any attempt by the Waqf Board to foist an Imam or take over property”.
In an uncharacteristically sedate speech, Shahi Imam Syed Ahmed Bukhari recounted his family’s “400-year-old tradition”.
“I have been the Imam of this mosque for 14 years now, after my father and my grandfather. No force on earth has been able to stop me from talking about the injustices against Muslims. In anointing Shaban, I am only keeping up the nearly 400-year-old tradition of my family,” he said minutes before Shaban was formally inducted into the role and led the crowd for the Isha namaz.
Presiding over the function, Mohammed Salim Qasmi, an office-bearer of the Jama Masjid Foundation Trust, delivered a fiery defence of the hereditary imamat, choosing not to mention the Delhi High Court but taking on the Wakf Board and “communal forces”, who he said had together hatched a conspiracy to take over the mosque. Law, he said, is to be respected but “any law that interferes with our religion — be ready to kick such a law,” he said.
The anointment of Shaban has been challenged in the Delhi High Court. Three PILs have questioned the conversion of the post into a hereditary one when Jama Masjid is the property of the Delhi Wakf Board. The matter is sub judice currently but the court did not stay the anointment ceremony saying it is a private function without any legal sanctity pending a decision on the matter.
Qasmi said, “Wherever and whenever in India, Muslims have been victimised, it has been the voice of the Shahi Imam that has risen in their favour. Yet media is acting as if this is a new thing. If a doctor wants his son to be a doctor, an engineer wants him to be an engineer why not an Imam? Even the Sahabah (companions of the Prophet) designated their sons as Caliphs. What is the locus standi of the Wakf Board? Let it be known to the communal forces who have hatched this conspiracy that nobody but the namazis have the right to choose their Imam,” Qasmi said.