Lone Muslim minister in Nitish Kumar cabinet Khurshid Ahmad faces fatwa for chanting Jai Shri Ram, apologises
The fatwa was issued against Khurshid Ahmad by Mufti Sohail Qasmi of Imarat-e-Shariah, a prominent socio-religious organisation, calling for ostracising him from Islam and terminating his marriage.
PATNA: Khurshid Ahmad alias Firoz, the only Muslim minister in Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar’s newly formed cabinet, faced a fatwa on Sunday for chanting ‘Jai Sri Ram’ on the Assembly premises, and he apologised after much persuasion from his JD (U) colleagues and advice from Kumar himself.
The fatwa was issued against Ahmad by Mufti Sohail Qasmi of Imarat-e-Shariah, a prominent socio-religious organisation active in Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha, calling for ostracising him from Islam and terminating his marriage. Qasmi said a Muslim who chants ‘Jai Sri Ram’ and believes in worshipping Lord Ram or Rahim is ostracised in Islam.
But Ahmad, a JD(U) legislator from Sikta in West Champaran district known for his initiatives towards fostering religious harmony in his constituency, first defied the fatwa and said he would not apologise. “I refuse to be cowed down by such decrees. Islam teaches respect for all religions. Why is there such uproar over my chanting Jai Sri Ram?” asked Ahmad, who took oath on Saturday as a minister and was given the minority welfare and sugarcane industries departments.
Soon after Nitish Kumar’s new JD(U)-BJP alliance government won the trust vote in the Assembly on Friday, Ahmad was seen merrily chanting ‘Jai Sri Ram’ outside the Assembly while having a loud exchange with an Opposition RJD legislator, Arun Yadav. Ahmad had said he worships “both Ram and Rahim” and visits holy places of all religions. “You are a fake Muslim,” Yadav told him, and the whole episode was caught on media cameras and aired on TV.
Even as BJP leaders condemned the fatwa and RJD slammed Ahmad, JD(U)’s minorities cell was uncomfortable about the minister’s statements and held a meeting at the CM’s residence to discuss the controversy. The meeting, in which both Ahmad and the CM were present, was marked by raucous opposition from JD(U)’s Muslim leaders to Ahmad’s stance.
“I will not back down from chanting ‘Jai Sri Ram’ for Bihar’s progress and social harmony,” said Ahmad at the meeting, sparking protests from JD(U)’s Muslim leaders, who urged him to publicly apologise for his statements. Nitish Kumar also asked Ahmad not to get too emotional and hurt the sentiments of people from his community.
Ahmad, who was also a minister in the previous grand alliance government, finally apologised at the meeting and then repeated it while speaking to a TV news channel.
“I apologise if my statements have hurt anyone. My statements were distorted. My intentions were not to hurt anyone’s sentiments,” said Ahmad, adding that Nitish Kumar asked him to apologise in order not to hurt anyone’s sentiments.
Abdul Ghafoor, RJD legislator who was minority welfare minister in the previous government, described the entire episode as “political drama,” saying Ahmad “sold his conscience to bag a ministerial berth”.