ucanews.com reporter, New DelhiUpdated: May 09, 2019 02:49 AM GMT
An Indian Muslim leader presenting a sapling to Cardinal Oswald Gracias on May 4 in the Archbishop's House in Mumbai, after the Catholic leader signed a joint statement with Maulana Mahmood A. Madanai, general secretary of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, opposing religious violence. (Photo provided)
Indian Catholic and Muslim leaders have spoken out against the targeting of innocent people by regional religious terror groups.
Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, a prominent body of Islamic scholars, and the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India in a joint statement denounced ongoing attacks in India and other parts of South Asia.
They said associating terrorism with any faith was sacrilegious in itself.
The statement was issued on May 4 and signed by bishops’ conference president Cardinal Oswald Gracias as well as Maulana Mahmood A. Madani, general secretary of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind.
Madani was a member of the Indian parliament's upper house, the Rajya Sabha, for six years until 2012 and is an avowed critic of extremists' misuse of Islamic terms such as Jihad.
The joint statement comes as tensions remain high in Sri Lanka in the wake of the bombing of hotels and Christian churches that killed more than 250 people.
The international terror outfit Islamic State claimed responsibility for the Easter carnage.
On May 5, Christians and Muslims clashed in the Catholic stronghold of Negombo, near Sri Lanka's capital, Colombo, resulting in the imposition of a police curfew.
The joint Catholic and Islamic scholars' statement called on all faith leaders to "cleanse society of this evil."
It added that terrorism became all the more gruesome if carried out under a cloak of religion.
The bishops and scholars said attacks on religious places and festivals were aimed at dividing people of various faiths and they stressed the need to work cooperatively against such tactics.
Indian author and columnist A.J. Philip said there was a dire need for the unified stance of Christian and Muslims amid mounting fears of communal strife.
Christian leader A.C. Michael told ucanews.com that the joint statement constitutes an open message to Islamic State that its "nefarious plans" revealed in Sri Lanka would be resisted in India.
Christians are a tiny minority of about 27 million in India's 1.2 billion predominantly Hindu population.
Muslims, although also a minority, number some 170 million, making India the third largest Muslim country in the world after Indonesia and Pakistan.
The joint statement comes after reports that on April 29, Indian police arrested a Muslim man in southern Kerala state accused of having links to Islamic State. Police told media representatives that he admitted to be as follower of Sri Lankan bomber Zahran Hashim and to having a plan to to attack religious sites in India.
Aaqib Saleem, a renowned Indian Muslim historian, said the joint statement would help ease tensions and bring minority communities together.
"There are chances that the poison could spread in India too," Saleem told ucanews.com.
Therefore, it was necessary to segregate the version of Islam propagated by Islamic State from the Islam followed in India, he added.
Saleem predicted further efforts aimed at enhancing interfaith unity.
Michael said a message had been spread that the Christian and Muslim communities would stand by each other in the current trying circumstances.
This came as concern deepens over widespread political support in India for hardliners who want to establish a Hindu theocratic state, where members of minority faiths such as Christianity and Islam would be treated as second class citizens.