Zia Haq, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, July 25, 2008
For Israel, reaching out to Indian Muslims is a new initiative. On Friday, it launched an official website in Urdu, ostensibly aimed at Indian Muslims, whom Israel is trying to increasingly engage with.
“India is known for its moderate and forward-looking religion of beauty that is Islam. There is no reason why we should not address a large section of a strong community,” Israel’s Ambassador to India Mark Sofer said on Friday, launching the website along with one in Hindi.
Urdu is spoken by around 10-12 per cent of India’s population, mainly Muslims.
Recently, Maulana Illyasi, the chief of the apex body of imams in India, the All-India Association of Imams, had visited the country.
Many at the imams’ association had asked him to reconsider his decision, saying if he went ahead, he could be ostracised. But Illyasi would have none of it and set foot on Israeli soil on February 21, becoming the first practising cleric from the Muslim world to do so.
“The Muslim world does not want to recognise the Jewish state. What is the use of living in denial? My message was that, unlike others, Indian Muslims believe in resolving issues through dialogue,” Illyasi, who is the cleric of a New Delhi mosque, told HT.
Illyasi had been hosted in Israel by Project Interchange, a wing of the American Jewish Council, which is an inter-faith dialogue organisation based in New York.