Kolkata Shopkeepers Urge Shahi Imam to ‘Talk Religion, Not Politics’


Kolkata: Talk religion, not politics in the four walls of the mosque is one of the messages going out to the Shahi Imam of Tipu Sultan Mosque in Kolkata from the surrounding shopkeepers.

On February 10, Maulana Noorur Rahman Barkati was about to address the press to issue a fatwa, for the third time. The ‘mutwali’ or the caretaker of the mosque, and the shopkeepers in the surrounding area protested, leading to a scuffle with Barkati’s son. The ‘mutwali’ was taken to the hospital after getting injured in the scuffle.

Taking the protest a step further, shopkeepers shuttered their shops for 24 hours on Wednesday. On Friday evening, however, they were willing to reach out to Barkati to ease the situation.

The shopkeepers want to avoid polarisation and believe fatwas issued by Shahi Iman Barkati from the mosque are political in nature and bring disrepute to the minority community.

The demands of the shopkeepers under the Shopkeepers Welfare Association are:
1) Maintain decorum in the mosque
2) Stick to religion, do not resort to politics
3) Do not issue threats to the people in the locality

The Secretary of the Shopkeepers Welfare Association, Sheikh Mohammad Islam told News18, “An Iman should talk about religion and not politics. A religious fatwa is fine, but a political fatwa is not done. It sends a negative message about the community. This communal polarisation is not good.”

In the last two months, Barkati has issued a fatwa against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and West Bengal BJP President Dilip Ghosh. The fatwa against Modi carried a reward of Rs.25 lakh for shaving off Modi’s beard and smearing ink on his shaved head, post the demonetization move.

The fatwa against Dilip Ghosh was for his derogatory comments against West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, stating Ghosh be stoned and kicked out of Bengal. While the first fatwa was issued before media, the second fatwa was issued from the Tipu Sultan mosque.
However, the surrounding shopkeepers didn’t agree with these fatwas. Unfazed by the displeasure of shopkeepers, Barkati hasn’t revoked any of his fatwas.

However, he says that he wants to maintain communal harmony and he is against communal polarisation. “Any fight will be bad for the minority community in West Bengal. I am here to safeguard communal harmony,” adds Barkarti.

He also says that nobody has reached out to him, but there were five shopkeepers who wishing to speak. to him

Barkati also made it clear that he doesn’t see any of these shopkeepers as his enemy and regards them as his own people.

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