Kolkata: Syed Noor ur Rahman Barkati, the controversial Islamic cleric, who has recently been in headlines over issuing fatwas and lal batti refusal will soon face dismissal as the head of Kolkata’s Tipu Sultan mosque.
“He is a blot on our community,” Shahezada Anwar Ali Shah, the head of the mosque’s trustee board, said on Tuesday while confirming that Barkati’s sacking will likely be announced on Wednesday evening. Barkati headed the mosque for 28 years.
He fell out of favour with Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, one of his strongest backers once, last week after he warned of a ‘jihad’ if India was declared a Hindu state and also refused to take off the red beacon from his car.
“We are at the final stage of discussion with our advocates. The announcement of his termination may be made at a press conference on Wednesday afternoon. Through his anti-national comments he has done disservice to the nation and the community, and we feel that he has no right to continue as imam of the mosque,” Shah said.
Barkati also grabbed headlines in January when he issued a fatwa against the Prime Minister over the November decision to ban high-value currency notes. He had then been given police protection by the state government.
But the relation took an ugly turn after Barkati’s jihad comments. Banerjee sent on May 13 urban development minister Firhad Hakim to chastise him. On the same day the library minister in her cabinet, Siddiqullah Chowdhury, also held an agitation against the imam outside his mosque and called him an RSS agent. Echoing the library minister, Shah said on Tuesday that Barkati encouraged fundamentalist forces like RSS through his anti-national comments.
He said the mosque received a flood of complaints against Barkati, prominent among which is the false claim of a shahi imam. According to Shah, a shahi imam is one who administers namaaz to the royal families, or is appointed by a royal family. “Barkati is the second generation imam from his family after his father. He took over the charge as the Imam in 1989,” he said.
If Barkati is finally removed on Wednesday, it will bring an end to the term of one of the most controversial clerics of the country. He regularly attracted attention for issuing fatwas against a number of persons including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasrin and Canadian columnist Tarek Fateh.
The trustee board chief also said that a police complaint has been filed against Barkati for forcefully snatching away the keys of the rooms of the mosques including the record room.
There are also complaints against Barkati for misusing the mosque complex for press conferences and running personal businesses like conducting marriages. The imam also faced police complaints for his ‘anti-national’ remarks on May 9 when he took on both the Union government and the judiciary in front of TV cameras.
In another development on Monday, Farah Khan, wife of Nadimul Haque, Trinamool Congress Rajya Sabha member and executive editor of Urdu daily, Akhbar- E- Mashriq filed a police complaint saying that on May 15 (Monday) a group of about 30 men armed with deadly weapons entered their home and office “shouting and abusing me and my husband and threatening our office staff of dire consequences if our newspaper keeps reporting against Noorur Rehman Barkai.