Thousands of Indian Muslims signing up for Iraq

Updated 28 June 2014

Thousands of Indian Muslims signing up for Iraq

NEW DELHI: Thousands of Muslims in India have signed up to defend Iraq’s shrines and, if need be, fight militants in the country where the civilian death toll from the Sunni insurgents’ advance is estimated at least 1,300.
Denouncing the militants of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) as terrorists, these Indian Muslims have filled out forms, complete with passport-size photographs and photocopied identification documents, to travel to Iraq.
Leaders of Anjuman E. Haideri, the religious organization spearheading the effort, said they might march to the Iraqi embassy in New Delhi on Friday to deliver the forms.
A Shia cleric is leading the effort and the volunteers want to protect shrines venerated by the sect in Iraq, but the group’s leaders say their cause is not sectarian.
Already at the group’s headquarters located off Karbala Road in a leafy New Delhi neighborhood, picket signs of “It’s not Shias vs Sunnis (it’s) Iraqis vs Terrorists” have been prepared.
“They aren’t Muslims. Jihad means to defend. Jihad doesn’t mean to kill,” said Syed Bilal Hussain Abidi, a senior member of the group as he showed graphic footage on his cellphone of beheadings and bombs exploding in Iraq.
“We could travel to Iraq to form a human chain to save people from being tortured. We could fetch water and donate blood and do anything to save our shrines,” he said, surrounded by brightly colored files stacked with volunteers’ forms.
Even though Muslims are a minority accounting for only 15 percent of Indians, they still number about 175 million, making them the third-largest Muslim population in the world.
Whether the volunteers will be granted visas and allowed to travel to Iraq is not clear. Officials at the Iraqi embassy were not immediately available to comment.
India’s foreign ministry has said it will not allow Indians to go to Iraq because of the security situation in a country where 40 Indian hostages are being held in an undisclosed location and 46 Indian nurses are stranded in Tikrit hospitals.
But Syed Bahadur Abbas Naqvi, the group’s general secretary, said that since the Indian government does not plan to send forces to Iraq, the supporters have little choice but to head over there themselves.
So far, the volunteers, who range from engineers to students and police officers, have signed a form that says: “I firmly believe that terrorism of all kinds including the one which is being inflicted by known terror groups in Iraq is not only a serious threat to innocent Iraqis (irrespective of their religious beliefs) but is also a threat to the entire humanity.”
The group said it has 100,000 signatories from across India and has held several demonstrations “against terrorism” in Delhi and other cities.
The group wants to defend shrines spread across Iraq in the cities of Karbala, Najaf, Samarra and Kirkuk, but also stem the rise of crude oil prices that have shot up as a result of the crisis and could hit importer India hard.
“If they need help, we’re ready from Hindustan,” said Dilawar Abbas, a group member, using another name for India. If the ISIL is in Iraq right now, “tomorrow they can be in India.”


Priest who shared stage with Modi tests positive; India sees record number of cases

Updated 13 August 2020

Priest who shared stage with Modi tests positive; India sees record number of cases

  • Nritya Gopal Das, an 82-year-old Hindu priest, was the latest public figure to test positive
  • Television footage showed Modi holding Das’ hands and bowing before him

LUCKNOW, India: India reported another record jump in its surging coronavirus cases on Thursday with nearly 67,000 new infections, among them a religious leader who shared a stage with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a ceremony to launch construction of a grand temple.
Nritya Gopal Das, an 82-year-old Hindu priest, was the latest public figure to test positive after a string of Modi’s top cabinet colleagues were stricken with COVID-19, including interior minister Amit Shah.
With Thursday’s jump of 66,999 cases India now has nearly 2.4 million infections, according to the Health Ministry, behind only the United States and Brazil. For the last fortnight, it has been reporting 50,000 cases or more each day as it opens up the country after a months-long lockdown. Its COVID-19 death toll stands at 47,033.
Modi and Das were among 170 people who attended the Aug. 5 launch of the temple construction in the northern town of Ayodhya.
Dr. Murli Singh, director of information in Ayodhya, said Das had tested positive and was being moved to a hospital near Delhi. But he added that at the time of the ceremony the priest tested negative and so had not posed an infection risk to Modi.
Television footage showed Modi held Das’ hands and bowed before him. Modi’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
Singh said people invited for the launch were all clear of the virus at the time.
“Guidelines were sent to all that only COVID-19 negative people will be allowed in the ceremony,” he said, adding doctors on the ground in Ayodhya had run tests before the event started.
The planned temple at Ayodhya is on a disputed site where Hindu groups have campaigned for decades.
Separately on Wednesday, a government committee said that the country would utilize its large vaccine manufacturing capacity to urgently deliver any potential COVID-19 vaccine to its neighbors and low-income countries.