Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) Kerala unit President, Panakkad Sayyid Sadiq Ali Shihab Thangal drew flak over his recent statement saying, “There is no need to protest against the construction of the Ram temple at Ayodhya as both the new temple and the proposed mosque would strengthen secularism in the country.”
A video of his speech addressing an event two days after the consecration of Ayodhya temple at Manjeri near Malappuram, went viral on Sunday for the aforementioned remark.
Thangal, a senior member of Kerala’s influential Panakkad family, said “We cannot go back from that. There is no need for us to protest against it. The temple came up based on a court order and the Babri Masjid is about to be constructed. These two are now part of India. The Ram temple and the proposed Babri Masjid are two best examples that strengthen secularism of our country”.
In the video, he was seen saying, “A major development has taken place in our country. Ram Temple, which the majority community of the country had desired, has become a reality. The country cannot now go back. That was a necessity of the majority community in the country. We need not protest that the temple has come up in Ayodhya. In a pluralistic society, everybody has freedom to go ahead as per their faith”.
“We should imbibe that. Both are best symbols of secularism. It is true that kar sevaks had destroyed the masjid and we had protested against it in those days. But Muslims in the country could face that situation with tolerance, especially in Kerala where Muslim community is very sensitive and active,” he added.
He also said that Indian Muslims dealt with it in a “mature manner”, during the demolition.
“When the masjid was demolished, Muslims in Kerala could show a model for the country. Then, the entire country and its political leadership looked down south to Kerala. They were keen to know whether peace was prevailing in Kerala. We never fall to provocations and temptations,” he said.
The widely circulated video has triggered a debate in political circles. IUML is a member of the Opposition Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) in Kerala state and an influential political party among the Muslim community.
A coalition partner of the ruling CPI(M) led-LDF government in Kerala, Indian National League (INL) has decried Thangal’s words as “welcoming Sangh Parivar’s agenda”.
Denouncing the remarks, INL asked IUML to clarify whether it stood with the interests of RSS or Muslims, saying “Secular parties and a majority of the people had opposed the demolition of Babri Masjid and are still opposing it. How can IUML, which claims to protect the rights of the minority Muslim community, take such a stand.”
INL Kerala State Secretariat Member NK Abdul Azeez in a Facebook post said that, political leaders are not ignorant of the fact that spiritual Hinduism is different from political Hindutva of RSS.
“They know that Gandhi’s Ram Rajya is different from the Ram Rajya of RSS. Yet they are making a fool of its ranks. It’s not possible to believe that the ordinary party workers of IUML will accept this position,” Azeez said.
While the INL lashed out at the IUML leader, the Congress party defended Thangal saying he was trying to stop the campaign of hatred and attempts to divide society.
Leader of Opposition V D Satheesan and senior IUML leader P K Kunhalikutty came out in support of Thangal saying his words were misinterpreted.
Kunhalikutty said BJP is trying to politicize the Ayodhya issue and Thangal was trying to warn people not to fall into that trap.
“Sangh parivar is trying to harass the Muslim community by triggering such communal issues. Thangal’s stand is clear – he urges the Muslim community not to fall for such traps. Such matters should be dealt with carefully,” he said.
Launching a scathing attack on the critics of Thangal, Satheesan said, “Sadiq Ali Thangal urged people not to escalate issues unnecessarily. What do they (his detractors) aim to achieve? Their objective seems to be to exploit divisions among people.”
“One should understand why he said so. Opponents aim for a campaign of hate. An attempt is being made to create division and take advantage in the name of religion. We are trying not to bring the issue to extremists on either side. At a time when extremists are trying to set water on fire, speaking out for peace is a big deal. And that’s exactly what Thangal intended,” Satheesan said.
#WATCH | On IUML chief Sayyid Sadik Ali Shihab Thangal's statement on Ram temple boosting secularism, LoP Kerala Assembly V. D. Satheesan says, "He is making a very balanced statement. We need peaceful co-existence among various religions in the state. I appreciate the statement… pic.twitter.com/oDzUGSsvQy— ANI (@ANI) February 5, 2024
As per reports, the temple has attracted an average of more than 2 lakh visitors every day, ever since it was opened to the public on January 23, following the Pran Pratishtha ceremony held a day before. Moreover, the half built temple has only the first phase ready. The second and final phase is expected to be completed by December 2025.