‘Keep religion away from politics’

Communalism Combat gained access to an interesting correspondence between an Indian Muslim and the Islamic Supreme Council that recently endorsed the Pakistan/Kashmir Congressional Caucus in the USA. We are reproducing the same for the benefit of our readers. — Editors.

January 9, 2001
To: Dr. Hedieh Mirahmadi
Islamic Supreme Council of America Washington, D.C. staff@islamicsupremecouncil.org

From: Mohammed Ayoob

Dear Dr. Mirahmadi,

I have been pained to notice that on the website of the ISCA, which is supposed to represent all Muslims in the United States, you have endorsed the Pakistan/Kashmir Congressional Caucus and that ISCA is advising Muslims in the US to urge their Congressional representatives to join it. I strongly object to this as a Muslim of Indian origin for several reasons.

First, I do not think it proper for the ISCA to endorse any partisan groupings, especially in this case one which acts as a lobby group for Pakistan by encouraging anti–Indian sentiments. This is highly objectionable from the perspective of Indian Muslims residing in this country who consider anti–Indian propaganda as much directed against them as against other segments of the Indian community and the government of India.

Second, more Muslims reside in India than in Pakistan. There is a substantial Indian Muslim community in this country as well. By supporting Pakistani efforts to malign India on Kashmir and other issues, the ISCA hurts the interests both of the Indian Muslim community in this country and in India.

Finally, organisations representing religious communities should not get involved in international politics, especially since Muslims are spread over a large number of states several of which have tense or adversarial relations with each other.

Would your organisation feel comfortable supporting Kurdish positions against Iraq and/or Turkey or would it like to endorse Sudan’s positions against Egypt or vice–versa? Did you at any point get involved in a partisan way in the Iran–Iraq conflict by supporting one country against the other over the issue of Shatt–al–Arab? If you did not do so, then the same logic should apply to Kashmir and India–Pakistan disputes.

Such an endorsement by ISCA is, therefore, not proper, especially since there are more Muslims who are citizens of India than those who are citizens of Pakistan. You should be acutely aware of the fact that you are harming the interests of 130 million Indian Muslims when you endorse such partisan anti–Indian activities. Kashmiri Muslims, incidentally, form no more than two percent of the total Muslim population of India.

We have our own battles to fight to preserve the secular and non–sectarian character of the Indian Union and such stands taken by organisations purporting to represent Muslims in this country make our task immensely more difficult. Pakistan has never cared for the interests of Indian Muslims since the division of India in 1947. But the larger Muslim community, represented by organisations such as yours, has a religious duty to care about the welfare of one of the largest Muslim populations on earth.

More Muslims live in India than in the entire Arab world. You should put such issues in their proper demographic and political perspective and not be swayed by Pakistan’s self-serving propaganda. I believe that the least you can do now is to issue a statement in the press and on your website withdrawing your endorsement of the Pakistan/Kashmir Caucus as such endorsement is an insult to the large and vibrant Muslim community in India and harms the interests of Indian Muslims tremendously.

Mohammed Ayoob

University Distinguished Professor of International Relations
Michigan State University, USA


Dear Dr. Ayoob,

I read your comments about the Pakistan–Kashmir Caucus with great consideration and thought.  Most importantly, I want you to know firsthand that we never would endorse a partisan effort to malign one Muslim community against the other. It was never the intention of Congressman Owens or the ISCA to benefit Kashmir at the expense of the Indian Muslims. We sought only to endorse an effort by the US government to take an active role in regions of distress within the Muslim world.

Our vision of the Caucus was to seek resolution of the Kashmir crisis that has caused such tremendous losses on all sides.  We do not favour, nor do we succumb to propaganda by any side — we seek only peace and diplomatic resolutions to areas of conflict. We at ISCA respect your comments about us being a "religious" organisation and therefore should remain out of politics per se, which has in fact been a consistent policy of ours since our inception.

Quite frankly, it was not made aware to us that Indian Muslims would construe support of the Caucus as support against Indian Muslims; had we known that fact,our policy may have been different. Please, however, be assured that we mean no disrespect or ill will for the millions of Indian Muslims.  We sought only peace and good will for all. Accept our humble apologies for the misunderstanding and we will look into whether the organisation will continue to endorse the Caucus in light of your explanation of Indian Muslims’ sentiment on the issue.

— Dr. Hedieh Mirahmadi

Archived from Communalism Combat, February 2001 Year 8  No. 66, Document



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