BENGALURU: The top Muslim cleric of Bengaluru city, Maulana Mohammed Maqsood Imran Rasheedi, has started a massive public reach out to students and senior members of his community in Karnataka, alarmed by the arrest of fellow cleric Maulana Anzarshah Qasmi, who allegedly made hate speeches at a mosque in the city and the picking up of several young Muslim boys from across the state by the National Investigation Agency ( NIA) for reported ISIS links.

The cleric, who heads the Jama Masjid in Bengaluru sent out a circular in November asking members of the community to be vigilant against the lure of ISIS for youngsters.

The cleric, who heads the Jama Masjid in Bengaluru and controls about 6,000 mosques across Karnataka, had sent out a circular in November asking members of the community to be vigilant against the lure of ISIS for youngsters. Since then, he has been setting up local level peace committees in the communally volatile Dakshina Kannada district on Karnataka’s coast, home to the city of Mangaluru of the pub attack fame.

The Maulana welcomed the move by Union home minister Rajnath Singh to hold talks with the Muslim community to find ways to avoid homegrown terror and said: “We have to sit and talk and work out ways. That is the way forward for us. I welcome the Union minister’s move,” he told ET.

The peace committees that he has set up include prominent members of the Muslim, Hindu and Christian communities, with specific representation for Dalits also. “I am making speeches at masjids, meeting students, talking at every possible event about the problem. We love our country, we want everyone to live in peace here. We cannot allow ideologies like the ISIS to take root here and I am doing everything possible to alert my community and all others to the danger,” he explained.

The Maulana has also held talks with police representatives at various levels to sensitise them on the problems faced by his community members and the youth in particular, when picked up for questioning in terror related events. “If there is any genuine suspicion, I myself will facilitate the picking up and questioning of the suspects. But I am requesting the police and the government not to release names of suspects till they are convicted in the cases against them. Many an innocent family has had to suffer grave injustice because their children were picked up on suspicion. Even when courts release them, they continue to suffer,” he contended.

The cleric and his team are currently putting together a book of such victims of terror suspicion, who suffered despite being exonerated by courts. He gives the example of Mufti Abdul Qayum Ahmed Hussain Mansoori, a cleric who was picked up by the Gujarat police on suspicion in the Akshardham attack, released 11 years later after the Supreme Court exonerated them. “We need to avoid this,” he said.

This is a good beginning. Maulana Mohammed Maqsood Imran Rasheedi’s efforts must be applauded. More than any other voice, it is that of a respected and popular community leader that will be effective in reaching out to groups likely to be radicalised or being attracted to terrorist groups like the IS. But this effort cannot be limited to an outreach. The conversation has to be two-way, allowing for the identification of the causes of enchantment/disenchantment, especially among the young. (economictimes)