CAIRO – India’s Muslims have thrown their weight behind a Hindu activist’s campaign for stricter laws against rampant corruption in the south Asian country, the India Express reported Thursday, August 25.
“We must remember that this fight goes beyond religion and boundaries,” Allama Bunai Hasani, general secretary of the All India Ulema Board, said.
“And all Indians must unite.”
Muslim imams and leaders marched in south Mumbai on Wednesday in support of activist Anna Hazare, who began fasting to death for enacting stricter anti-graft laws.
The campaign by 74-year-old has united millions of Indians, including its growing middle class, against a Congress party-led government that has been beset by corruption scandals in its second term.
Political parties have united to ask Hazare to end the 10-day public fast that has drawn thousands of supporters to a muddy expanse of open ground in the capital, New Delhi, with increasing concerns about his health.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday appealed to the anti-corruption campaigner to end his public fasting, reported Reuters.
"He has become the embodiment of our people's disgust and concern about tackling corruption," Singh told parliament.
"I applaud him, I salute him. His life is much too precious and therefore, I would like to urge Anna Hazare to end this fast."
But Hazare has so far appeared steadfast in his hunger strike, despite growing criticism that he is holding an elected parliament hostage to his demands.
The government has offered some concession to an anti-corruption bill that Hazare has said was toothless, but negotiations ended on Wednesday without any progress.
Singh proposed on Thursday that parliament debate Hazare's bill as well as the government bill and a third piece of legislation on corruption to help forge a cross-party consensus.
Hazare was well enough to address crowds on Thursday. He has lost nearly 7 kg (15 lbs) since the start of his fast.
"I am sure I will not die until we get the Jan Lokpal (anti-corruption) bill ... I will keep fighting," he said.
Hazare's deteriorating health could force the government to decide on force-feeding him, a move that would risk sparking further protests against a fumbling government of elderly ministers widely seen as out of touch.
Muslims Against Graft
Muslim leaders reiterated their support for the anti-graft campaign by the Hindu activist.
“The main issue is to ensure that the Jan Lokpal Bill is passed,” said Hasani.
“We must not deviate from that.”
Muslim leaders rejected criticism of the campaign by a New Delhi imam, who criticized the campaign for using religious and nationalist slogans like Vande Mataram and Bharat Mata Ki Jai.
“Islam does not permit worshiping either the mother or the land, but that is not the issue,” said Hasani.
Many Indian Muslims share a similar view.
“Every Indian is suffering due to corruption - be it Hindu or Muslim or Christian,” Salim Alware, who was part of the rally, told the Hindustan Times.
“After Imam made his statement it was necessary for Muslims like us to come out and show our support to Anna."
There are some 140 million Muslims in Hindu-majority India, the world's third-largest Muslim population after those of Indonesia and Pakistan.
Muslims complain of decades of social and economic neglect and oppression.
Official figures reveal Muslims log lower educational levels and higher unemployment rates than the Hindu majority and other minorities like Christians and Sikhs.They account for less than seven percent of public service employees, only five percent of railways workers, around four percent of banking employees and there are only 29,000 Muslims in India's 1.3 million-strong military.
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