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New Delhi: On November 4, a former chairman of the Shia Waqf board, Wasim Rizvi, released a book titled Muhammad from the Dasna Devi temple at Ghaziabad in the presence of militant Hindutva leader, Narsinghanand Saraswati.
The book, written in Hindi, presents prophet Mohammad as a murderer, womaniser and a madman. It also claims that Mohammad wrote falsehoods in the Quran, the holy book of Muslims. The Wire has examined a copy of the book.
The book’s cover depicts a naked woman in front of a man, understood to be prophet Mohammad.
Rizvi has claimed that the book will “expose Islam and its prophet” and help Muslims to “return to humanity.” He has also claimed that the book explains how terrorism was born, the ways in which extremism can be countered and that it will stop religious conversions.
The release of the book was met with outrage amongst Muslims across India, particularly from the Shia sect, because in all his videos with Narsinghanand after the book launch, Rizvi is seen presenting himself as a Shia. Several such videos have gone viral. Rizvi, in the videos, also calls upon all Shia Muslims to leave Islam.
“All Muslims are extremists. There is no difference. Anybody who believes in Mohammad and Islam is the same,” Rizvi is heard saying in a video.
“I respect you for saying this truth,” Narsinghanand is heard replying.
Rizvi is also heard saying that “until Muslims believe in the Quran and the word of Mohammad, every man in this world who believes in another religion will be in danger.”
In the viral videos, there are also dog-whistles and open calls to arms.
Throughout the video, Muslims are referred to as traitors and “snakes in the sleeves” who are trying to capture India and slaughter Hindus.
“I am not undermining the importance of social media, however real battles are not fought on social media…real battles are fought with weapons, that’s my responsibility…murders will be done with bullets and the necks of jihadis will be cut up with swords,” Narsinghanand is heard saying in an interview with Rizvi by his side, to a Hindutva social media channel called ‘Hindu First.’
In another interview to far-right YouTuber Neeraj Atri, Rizvi claimed that any party which comes to power after getting Muslim votes will harm the country.
“I have trust in the present government. I am showing a mirror to Muslims who became demons from humans 1,400 years ago,” he is heard saying.
Rizvi also justified beef vigilantism and mob lynchings, calling them a strong message to ‘extremists’.
“Whether anybody was beaten or killed, the message to extremists is loud and clear: if you do this then it can happen to you also,” he is heard saying.
At a press conference at the Haridwar Press Club on November 12, Rizvi reiterated that if a political party wins through the votes of Muslims, it will be a disaster and that Hindus will have to “pay the price with their blood and lives.”
In the same meeting attended by prominent Hindutva leaders from Uttarakhand, Narsinghanand said, “Islam is an organised gang of criminals. Either the government can fight it or one gang can fight another gang, however, no government in India is ready to do that so we will have to create a gang to fight it. We will destroy every such book [referring to the Quran]. This is not a fight for just Ayodhya or Kashi or Haridwar, we are fighting to even take back the Shiv Mandir in Mecca [referring to the Kaaba].”
In March 2021, Rizvi had filed a petition in the Supreme Court for the removal of 26 verses of the Quran, which he claimed were promoting terrorism. The Supreme Court had dismissed the case and imposed a fine of Rs 50,000 on Rizvi.
In January 2021, in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Rizvi had urged that madrasas be shut down in India. “If primary madrasas are not closed down quickly, then in 15 years more than half of the country’s Muslims will become supporters of ISIS’s ideology…there [madrasas], extremism is taught in the name of Islam,” the letter, originally in Hindi, read.
Like Rizvi, Narsinghanand Saraswati has been in the news for violent statements against Muslims. He was booked earlier this year for abusing Islam and threatening violence against Muslims and separately, for making vitriolic comments against women in politics.
The Ghaziabad SSP Pawan Kumar had called Narsinghanand a threat to law and order and moved to book the far-right leader under the Gunda Act. SSP Pawan Kumar had told PTI that police had initiated action in view of Narsinghanand’s anti-social activities, like manhandling, attempts to murder, use of derogatory language and obstruction of police checks outside the Dasna Devi temple.
‘Attempt to promote sectarian and communal violence’
Meanwhile, multiple Muslim groups have lodged criminal complaints against Rizvi. Videos of men walking over posters of Rizvi have gone viral on WhatsApp.
In a press conference, members of the All India Shia Personal Law Board slammed Rizvi’s statements against Islam and Muslims. Demanding his termination from the Shia Waqf board, Maulana Saim Rizvi of the All India Shia Personal Law Board blamed the government for protecting Rizvi from legal action.
“Why does the government remain silent when Rizvi disturbs peace in the state and country? The government arrests people on minor law and order issues, but Rizvi has been off the hook even though several FIRs are lodged against him. If the government maintains silence, it will be responsible for whatever happens next,” the Maulana said. AISPLB has called for peaceful demonstrations and protests against Rizvi on November 16.
Maulana Kalbe Jawad, a prominent Shia cleric in India, told The Wire that this was an attempt to provoke sectarian violence between Shias and Sunnis and communal violence between Hindus and Muslims. “Rizvi is not a Shia anymore [Shia clergy had denounced Rizvi earlier] so there’s no question of this incident being labelled as ‘Shia Muslims abusing the prophet’. We have refrained from any protests and demonstrations since that will only give him what he wants. We want the government to arrest this man for creating tension in the society,” Jawad said.
General secretary of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, Maulana Khalid Saifullah Rahmani, also asked for legal action against Rizvi. “The government should enact a special law regarding respect for sacred personalities and objects of religions. Muslims also must tell the people about the life of the Prophet Muhammad,” he added.
In April 2021, too, several protests were held by Muslim groups demanding the arrest of Narsinghanand and Rizvi. In some of these protests provocative slogans and calls to violence were allegedly made. In Kanpur, posters demanding that the duo be beheaded had surfaced.
“This is all part of the strategy to keep the anti-Muslim cauldron cooking. Now a rabid Hindu hate-monger has found a Muslim who can spew venom against Islam, the prophet and the entire community. No surprises this is happening just before elections. Keeps the pot of hate cooking. If they believe in the constitution, the Uttar Pradesh regime should ensure this individual is booked for hate speech and insult to a religion,” said author and journalist Saba Naqvi.
Naqvi said that the fact that an individual like Rizvi is “sheltered and pandered to in India” and is also seen as a Shia has implications elsewhere, in countries where fundamentalist Sunni groups attack Shia minorities.
“Rizvi is getting attention now because it suits the overall political tactic of abusing Muslims. And who better than another Muslim to do so?” she added.