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Critiquing the Culture of Irresponsible Statements among Kashmiri Religious Leaders

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By: Dr Shabeer Ahmad Khan

The recent surge in irresponsible statements by certain religious leaders in Kashmir has sparked widespread concern, prompting a critical examination of the implications of such rhetoric. These statements, spanning from questioning the beliefs of historical figures to making extravagant claims about academic achievements and encounters with supernatural entities, not only reflect poorly on the integrity of these individuals but also have broader societal repercussions.

One significant aspect of these statements is the questioning of the beliefs of esteemed historical figures, such as the assertion that Mir Syed Ali Hamadani (R.A) held an incorrect “aqeeda” (belief system). A moulana was seen addressing a gathering where he discussed Mir Syed Ali Hamadani (R.A), a Sufi saint, claiming that he did not adhere to the right belief system. According to the maulana, Allah still utilized him to spread Islam, despite his alleged deviations. However, the maulana suggests that those influenced by Mir Syed Ali Hamadani were only upgraded by God from kufr (disagreement or rejection of the commandments and prohibitions of Allah and Prophet Muhammad {PBUH}) to bid’ah (innovation). In his statement, he not only questions the belief system of the Sheikh but also makes a blunder by suggesting that Allah raises people from kufr to bid’ah. It is apparent in his statement that he also alleges God for any wrongdoing (nawuzbillah), implying that God is drawing people out of kufr into bid’ah. Such claims not only lack academic rigour and scholarly consensus but also disrespect the legacy of revered figures in Islamic history. The absence of substantial evidence to support these assertions undermines the principles of intellectual rigour and historical accuracy, which are essential in religious discourse. Additionally, such statements have the potential to sow seeds of doubt and division among believers, leading to unnecessary sectarian tensions and conflicts.

Another troubling aspect is the claim made in a video lecture by yet another maulana addressing a gathering, where the audience may or may not be well aware of the processes involved in obtaining a Ph.D., such as coursework, material collection, extensive reading, fieldwork, thesis writing, editing, proofreading, examination, and viva. The maulana asserts that he can obtain a Ph.D. in a mere 25 days, which not only defies logic but also undermines the value of academic qualifications and the hard work required to earn them. This kind of assertion promotes a culture of intellectual laziness and dishonesty, sending a detrimental message to impressionable minds about the importance of education and dedication in scholarly pursuits. Moreover, it fosters unrealistic expectations and diminishes the credibility of legitimate academic achievements.

Furthermore, attributing personal experiences, such as encounters with jinn, another Islamic scholar and maulana addressing the gathering claims to have met a jinn who purportedly has seventeen children. Additionally, the maulana asserts that this jinn is 125 years old and expressed a desire to meet him. According to the maulana, the jinn had been waiting to meet him and even came to pray Jumu’ah (Friday prayer). Furthermore, the maulana claims to have been called for a meeting convened by the jinns. In another video clip, the use of derogatory labels like “rafiz” (a derogatory term for Shia Muslims) is not only baseless but also perpetuates harmful stereotypes and prejudices within the community. By prioritizing superstition over rational inquiry, such rhetoric fuels sectarian animosity and further fragments an already delicate social fabric. These irresponsible statements not only breed distrust and fear but also hinder efforts towards fostering tolerance and understanding among different religious sects.

Despite some religious leaders issuing apologies and clarifications for their remarks, the damage caused by their initial statements cannot be understated. The circulation of these controversial statements through social media platforms has drawn significant criticism from the public. Many individuals have expressed dismay at the lack of wisdom and rationality exhibited by these leaders, and while apologies may offer some semblance of regret, they do little to reverse the harm already inflicted.

Addressing the underlying issues contributing to this culture of irresponsible statements among religious leaders in Kashmir is paramount. One such issue is the lack of accountability within religious institutions, where leaders often operate without oversight or scrutiny. Without mechanisms in place to hold these leaders accountable for their words and actions, they may continue to espouse harmful rhetoric with impunity.

Additionally, there is a pressing need for greater emphasis on education and critical thinking within religious circles. Religious education should not only focus on doctrinal teachings but also instil values such as intellectual honesty, empathy, and respect for differing viewpoints. By promoting a culture of inquiry and dialogue, religious leaders can foster a more inclusive and tolerant society.

Moreover, civil society organizations, media outlets, and governmental institutions can play a crucial role in addressing this issue. By amplifying voices of reason and challenging misinformation and bigotry, these stakeholders can help counteract the influence of divisive rhetoric and promote a more harmonious social environment. Efforts should also be made to hold individuals and institutions accountable for promoting harmful narratives and perpetuating sectarian tensions.

The proliferation of irresponsible statements by certain religious leaders in Kashmir is deeply concerning and warrants immediate attention from both religious authorities and broader society. The societal repercussions of such rhetoric are significant, undermining trust, exacerbating conflict, and hindering efforts towards social cohesion and progress. It is imperative that religious leaders are held accountable for their words and actions, and efforts are made to promote a culture of responsible discourse grounded in integrity, empathy, and mutual respect. Only through collective effort and commitment to positive change can Kashmiri society overcome the challenges posed by irresponsible rhetoric and strive towards a brighter future for all its inhabitants.

The writer has a PhD from AMU. Email: [email protected]

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