ABHAY KUMAR | Clarion India
JUST a tweet by Dr Zafarul Islam acknowledging Kuwaiti government’s concern for Indian Muslims, under attack from communal elements from the majority community, was enough to raise hackles in the Hindutva forces. All hell broke loose against the head of Delhi Minority Commission soon after.
There has been a tirade against Dr Zafarul Islam ever since. Aided and abetted by a partisan media under a friendly ruling dispensation, he was subjected to choicest invectives and abuses. There was a rush to crucify him declaring him an antinational without listening to his version of the story.
As a simple bureaucrat that he is, Dr Islam might not have anticipated that an innocuous post on his Twitter account could raise such a storm in a country that boast of democratic values.
If a person of Dr Zafarul Islam’s stature can’t speak up his mind, who will? What then is the relevance of freedom of speech, the bedrock of our constitution.
Obfuscating the reasoned argument in favour of Dr Islam, Hindutva zealots, both within and outside the media, allege that he threatened to take up the issue of discrimination against Indian Muslims with the Arab world. His vehement denial of the allegation was ignored.
In fact, the diatribe against him is politically motivated. Even those who are indulging in the smear campaign against Dr Islam know well that he is being singled out for abusive attacks owing to his identity. If this is not the case, why then those who openly given calls for violence were spared.
What seems to have prompted the communal elements to bay for the blood of Dr Zafarul Islam is the urge to stop his efforts towards peace and harmony in the society as the chairperson of the minority commission. The divisive forces obviously saw in his mission death knell for their own cause. The relief work he is carrying out in the marginalised sections of the society amid the lockdown was another provocation them.
Dr. Zafarul Islam Khan is a great journalist, an author, a translator and an expert on Islam. Above all, he is a great human being and ambassador of communal harmony.
I have not seen a person who could speak and write as fluently in several languages as Dr Islam does. While editing stories for “The Milli Gazette”, the English fortnightly which he edited for decades, he could receive a call and talk in fluent Arabic.
I have not seen a person who works so hard as Dr. Zafarul Islam does. In his office, I could see him working day and night. He was among few editors and intellectuals who respond to the mail every time you send.
I have not seen a person who maintains so harmonious a balance between faith and reason and tradition and modernity. He offers namaz five times a day yet remains a critic of several positions of the traditional ulama including the one on triple talaq. Once he told me: “Women used to pray at mosques. This practice was in vogue not long time ago.”
I have not seen a person who works so painstakingly to document issues and events of people’s concern as Dr Zafarul Islam does. In his office, newspaper clippings are maintained every day. He encourages young scholars to learn the art of documentation. He keeps publishing reports concerning the issues of marginalised sections. “Does our writing make any difference,” I once asked him. He replied positively. “Yes, it does. Do your research and writing and put it in public domain. Someone will definitely take notice of it”.
I have never seen a person who understands issues so holistically as Dr Zafarul Islam does. He is a great advocate of coexistence, tolerance and freedom of expression. Once I had written a hard critique of a scholar whose books have been published by him. “Sir, would you like to publish an article in which I have criticised severely the author who is associated with your publication,” I asked him over phone. His reply was worth mention. “The author is my friend as you are my friend. The idea should not be suppressed.”
Above all, Dr Zafarul Islam is a kind human being. Here is an example to highlight this aspect of his personality. A friend of mine had no money to pay his registration fee at JNU a few years back. Left with no option, I sought his help. He readily agreed to give a contribution. Next day when we reached his residence, we found him waiting for us. He kept the contribution in a white envelope with pockets of juice for my friend and myself.
Dr Zafarul Islam is a great scholar of Arabic and Islamic history. He is also a well-known translator. He has translated his father’s work into Arabic and brought him closer to the Arab world. Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, the great Islamic scholar, is his father. But the father and the son do not agree on many issues, particularly those concerning politics.
Dr. Zafarul Islam Khan is an eminent journalist writing in Arabic and English. He has worked with several prominent newspapers of the Arabic language. Needless to say, he is very popular in the Arab world and is a great ambassador of the country.
As a chairperson of Delhi Minority Commission, he has done his job as per the rule of the law and the Constitution. He has always discharged his duty within the framework of law. His tenure has brought great relief to minorities. This has failed several designs of communal forces who have now leading a campaign of hate against him. There are clear evidence as well as pattern that they are being backed by the powerful people at the top.
This is what the communal forces do not want him to continue. That’s the reason why they are targeting him. Their charge that he acted against the interest of the country is baseless. Who does not know that the social media campaign against Islamophobia has been going on for several days, predating the tweet of Dr Zafarul Islam.
I have much to say about this great son of India, but the space does not allow me. The main point should not be forgotten that the attack on him has much to do with his identity and his work. We must not let communal forces succeed in their game plan. We must stand with Dr Islam. He has fought for our rights. He has worked for peace, harmony and justice. At this critical juncture, we cannot afford to leave him alone.
Abhay Kumar has recently submitted his PhD at Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. A regular contributor to newspapers and web portals, Kumar has been working on the broad theme of the Indian Muslims and Social Justice. You may read his other writings at abhaykumar.org.