As per the news report from Kolkata (India), Mr Salman Rushdie was not allowed to visit the city on 1st February 2013 for promoting the film based on his novel ‘Midnight’s Children’. The over-enthusiastic and “look-at-me Islamo-philic” Chief Minister of the Indian state, Ms Mamata Banerjee, has asked her police not to let Mr Rushdie enter Kolkata. The reason is obvious as Ulema consider Rhusdie’s writing to be blasphemous. Moreover, Rushdie is an apostate from Islam. The Sharia (Laws of Allah) is specifically cruel for such person. Some years back Ms Taslima Nasreen was bundled out of Kolkata for her blasphemous writings. The ruling dispositions of West Bengal have been too eager to pamper the Ulema. In both cases, decisions were taken so that Muslim sentiment is not hurt. Let us examine what that Muslim sentiment is.

Prophet said “Paradise is at the feet of mother”. But as per Islamic laws, this mother’s (women) testimony is half worthy of father’s (man). So how can one reconcile with this contradiction? The moment such question is posed, the Ulema behave in a century old stereotype manner. If the questioner is a Muslim he will called a blasphemous and death penalty will be imposed on him. However, if he is a non-Muslim then he will be reminded of being a kafir and enemy of Islam. The original question will never be addressed or answered. In stead, Ulema will instigate common Muslims for protests and violent activities to save Islam. But how Islam can be in danger in the face of a few basic questions? Mr Rushdie and Ms Taslima had raised some basic doubts and questions about the Allah sent religion in their writings. Ms Taslima was direct in her approach while Mr Rushdie was indirect. That is why they are personas non gratae in Kolkata.

Islam was not a straight jacket like this in its early phase. Ijtihad was in practice then. However, about two centuries following the death of Prophet, the door of Ijtihad was permanently closed by Ulema. The reason given was that no pious Muslim could ever be available to deliberate in Ijtihad. This self down-grading of Ulema served the political and imperialistic purposes of Islam. The Khalifas, who had expansionist zeal and motive needed early Muslims to be only like soldiers of Allah, i.e “they are not to make reply, they are not to reason why, they are but to do and die”. The Ulema who were sponsored by Khalifas came out with this solution. Islam no more needed intellectual contemplation on contentious issues. Islam needed unquestionable faith and muscle power. In the process Ulema also became very powerful. So it was a power game and had nothing to do with Qur’an, Hadith and Sunnah. In the instant case, sentiment of common Muslims is nowhere. It is the issue of ego satisfaction of power hungry Ulema.

In Indian subcontinent, we have seen many prominent Islamic scholars who tried to rationalize Islam through Ijtihad. They included Sir Seyd Ahmed Khan, Allama Iqbal, Abul Kalam Azad and Dr Zakir Hussain. Unfortunately, under the mounting pressure and criticism from the Ulema, all of them retracted back latter. Sir Sayd Ahmed was even called Kafir by Ulema.

In independent India, political leaders some time behave in most funny manner to ensure the supposed Muslim vote bank. Ms Mamata Banerjee has only done so. All sane people should condemn this foolish and short sighted action by the West Bengal Chief Minister.

We are really sorry and ashamed Mr Rushdie. Your right to visit Kolkata has been violated by some vested interests in much publicized but hollow cultural capital of India.