Visiting Indian Muslim leader says new PM favors dialogue

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Sirajuddin Qureshi

Sirajuddin Qureshi

Sirajuddin Qureshi, who heads the New Delhi-based India Islamic Cultural Center (IICC), has launched a major initiative to ensure a fair trial for Muslims languishing in Indian prisons following his talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi.

“Modi, who spoke of inclusive growth, has pledged support to this initiative in his talks,” Qureshi said during an interview with Arab News in Riyadh on Thursday.

Qureshi pointed out that a number of human rights groups and community organizations have been alleging that a huge number of Muslim youngsters have been picked up over the last few years –- particularly in the wake of terror blasts -– and are behind bars without trial.

“Several recent terrorism-related cases against arrested Muslim youngsters failed to stand the scrutiny of courts,” said Qureshi, who has been invited to Saudi Arabia by prominent social worker Nadeem Tarin, chairman of the Riyadh-based Delhi Public School (DPS).

According to the National Crimes Record Bureau of India (NCRB), a government of India institution that works under the India’s Home Ministry, the number of detainees belonging to Muslim and Christian minorities is more than double the share of the two communities within the national population.

A recent Indian government report also confirms there is truth in the allegation, said Qureshi.

He pointed out that Modi believes in “dialogue” among people and communities to solve conflicting issues that have been tearing society apart.

To this end, Qureshi recalled and noted that “the Saudi initiative for interfaith dialogue launched by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah has garnered praise at several forums in India and abroad.”

The IICC chief, who frequently visits the Gulf states, including the Kingdom, has had a substantial business presence in the region, as he presides over a multimillion-dollar business empire known as “Hind Group,” which has its presence in over 50 countries across the globe.

“Modi is open to any idea, initiative or plan that can benefit Indians, including Muslim minorities,” said Qureshi.

Qureshi said he plans to hold a grand reception for Modi at the IICC, “possibly after Ramadan.”
“Modi needs to be lauded for this firm stance and surely, if this sensitivity can get induced in the political class, there could be better days for inclusive growth,” said Qureshi.

Besides being a successful businessman, Qureshi also plays a major role as a prominent social activist, while heading the IICC.

In fact, it was only in January this year that he won the keenly-contested presidential elections of the IICC, a premier Islamic organization whose construction was partly funded by Saudi Arabia. More than 100 IICC members who have been living and working in the Kingdom voted en masse for Qureshi through postal ballot. “The center has only 3,000 distinguished members currently working in different countries, including India and Saudi Arabia,” he said.

In fact, Saudi Arabia funded part of the construction of IICC within the framework of a memorandum of understanding signed between the Saudi Embassy in New Delhi and the IICC in 2007, said Qureshi.
Asked about the future plans as IICC re-elected president, Qureshi said that the IICC, a center with a mandate to provide a unified platform for promoting Islamic heritage and interfaith harmony, is planning to open regional chapters across India to give greater wingspan to its activities.

“The center also intends to work closely with Saudi institutions on Islamic and cultural projects,” he said.
Qureshi said “resuming civil service coaching classes for Muslim youth, launching vocational courses and opening up the center’s branches in six provinces across India are among our priorities.”

Qureshi said the center was planning to establish a university, for which they have already acquired 300 acres of land. “This ambitious university project is being promoted by me personally from my trust, but we can link it with the IICC,” he said.

Qureshi said Riyadh and New Delhi have been natural partners in the fields of trade and commerce.

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