During a meeting with AIIO chief imam, RSS chief was referred to as a ‘rashtra pita’

He met eminent Muslim community members here at RSS headquarters a day earlier, including former chief election commissioner S Y Qureshi and former Delhi L-G Najeeb Jung. Mohan Bhagwat met Imam Umer Ahmed Ilyasi, chief of the All India Imams Organisation (AIIO), on Thursday. He was dubbed Rashtra Pita (father of the nation) by Imam Umer Ahmed Ilyasi.

As Ilyasi stated, they “meet often,” but RSS insiders claim the meeting came about because both sides “felt a need for dialogue.” It is because of this need for dialogue that Bhagwat has “increased his meetings” with the Muslim community.

AIIO claims to represent half a million imams in 3 lakh mosques across India. They also claim as one of the “largest Muslim organisation in India”.

Ilyasi told me, “It was a great privilege for us that Bhagwat ji was invited to tea in the early morning. …. Woh Hamare Rashtra pita hai Desh Ke Rishtriya Shishi hai (he is the father of India’s nation as well as its principal saint).”

When asked if the issues of the community and questions like a survey of government officials of the UP administration on the madrasas and the Gyanvapi mosque issue, and other issues, were discussed. Ilyasi declared, “Why should we focus on the negatives? It is not necessary to focus on the battles (controversies) rather be focused on creating peace between communities in addition to the affection that is shared.”

In the statement, RSS prachar pramukh (communications head) Sunil Ambekar said, “Sarsanghachalak connects people from every walk of life. It’s part of the ongoing general “Samvad” (dialogue) procedure.”

Without divulging the details about the meeting that lasted around an hour and a half, Ilyasi, who became the head the imam for AIIO at the end of 2009 explained: “We had only one motive behind the meeting -to foster peace and love and enhance the connection between both communities. The way we worship differs, as does our faith but the greatest faith can be said to mean that everyone is Indian. Woh paigam-emohabbatlaye (he sent his message of love) — not only for the imams or Muslims but, across everyone Indians.”

Ilyasi is not new to having meetings with the members of the ruling party. He has had meetings with Prime Vice-President Narendra Modi on a number of occasions following their first meeting in the year 2018. He has also had a meeting with Home Minister Amit Shah. Ilyasi also has had talks with spiritual leaders, such as Jagadish Vasudev (Sadhguru) along with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, as well as others.

The RSS is a source within the Sangh stated that it has been trying to reach people in the Muslim communities since which means there’s “nothing new” in this gathering. “What is happening now is the result of 20 years of hard work. Of course, it is true that both RSS as well as Muslim organizations feel the need to have a dialogue more often and that is the reason we’re witnessing more meetings with the RSS head,” the source in RSS stated.

The Muslim Rashtriya Manch was launched following the 2002 Gujarat violence under the direction of the former RSS Chief K S Sudarshan with an intention to reach out the minorities.

Ilyasi told me, “On July 23, we organized a conference that saw around 1000 Muslim representatives present and they all admitted to having Hindu roots. In July last year, Bhagwat-Ji pointed out that DNA in every person who lives in India is identical, promoting the idea of one India and one nation. If problems arise, the dialog is the only way to solve these issues. If you don’t meet the issue, how do you solve the issues?”

Although Ilyasi hasn’t said any mention of having discussed concerns that affect minorities The AIIO website does highlight certain of these issues such as the under-representation of the minority community, its inequity of literacy, its illiteracy, as well as “unequal distribution of wealth”.

The website states: “None can deny that Muslims are the largest minority and second-largest majority in India face such an issue. Muslims generally do believe that they aren’t being properly represented in their specific spheres…on one hand, certain special interests try to grab their religious spaces, while in the opposite, they do not have an opportunity to be equally involved in the development process.”

The website further asserts that the government as well as authorities and organizations are not equally considerate in their treatment of Muslims and have been the most important reason for Muslims not getting what they deserve.

Other Muslim organizations The AIIO declares on its website that “…various organisations are trying to spread the fundamental tenets of Islam and put in their best efforts in achieving their goals, however to our dismay there isn’t one common forum. We’re slamming each other and pointing out faults to justify our existence. We are experiencing different opinions instead of one …”

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