By Sadaf Modak
Ambassador-designate to Saudi Arabia, Mumbai police commissioner Ahmad Javed, has his first task cut out even before he takes charge in Riyadh this February.
On December 24, Saudi Arabia deported about 2000 pilgrims from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and has also threatened to ban their entry into the country for life. Ostensibly this is because of a religious practice that goes against the Kingdom's own norm.
Reports from Saudi suggest that these pilgrims had converged in the holy city of Medina for Umrah, along with thousands others from all over the world during Milad unNabi which commemorates Prophet Muhammad's birthday. The Umrah, unlike the Haj, is a non-mandatory pilgrimage prescribed in Islam.
One of the practices among the Sunni sect of Islam is to say salaam and sing naats (poetry in praise of Prophet Muhammad) by his grave. Certain sects within the Sunni belief in Islam, believe in the holy power of the Prophet which goes beyond mortality. “The belief is that the Prophet may have died but has never perished and that he remains among his follower in spirit to guide us,“ said Mufti Manzoor Ziyaee of the Raza Academy in Mumbai which is now petitioning on behalf of the deported pilgrims. “Some of these pilgrims from the sub-continent who went there observed this tradition and offered salaams dedicated to the Prophet,“ he added. But the Saudis who practice a more severe form of Wahabi Islam and do not believe the Prophet should be thus invoked, found this offensive. The pilgrims, many of whom are from Mumbai, were at first verbally warned against this and when they persisted they were removed from the holy site and later deported.
The Raza Academy has compiled a list of the Indians who now additionally face a possible ban on re-entry into Saudi Arabia, and is taking the matter up with the Saudi consulate in Mumbai.
“I was told that the Saudi authorities have taken scanned images of their passports as well as their photographs as a matter of record. We fear that this will be used to ban them from entering Saudi again,“said mufti Ziyaee. The Counsul General of India in Jeddah could not be reached for a comment. Sources privy to the counsulate said that they had not heard of such drastic punitive action for such differences in the past. When contacted, ambassador-designate Ahmad Javed was non-committal saying he was not yet privy to any details on the matter.
Advocate Rizwan Merchant, who represents the Barelvi sect and is a trustee of various Dargah committees in the city said,
“Every person has the right to follow Islam the way they want to. Deportation from a country is in instances of having committed an offence. A differing ritual cannot be reason to prevent a Muslim from visiting the holy pilgrimage which happens to be in Saudi Arabia”.
Mumbai police Commissioner and Ambassador-designate to Saudi Arabia, Ahmed Javed, left Masjid-un-Nabawi in Medina.
Source: Mumbai Mirror