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SIMI in Laden soup
By P.M. Damodaran, Lucknow

The activities of the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) have come under close scrutiny of Uttar Pradesh government in the wake of the statements by its leaders lionising Osama bin Laden, who the United States suspects was the mastermind behind the attacks in New York and Washington on Black Tuesday on September 11.

Some leaders of the SIMI made inflammatory speeches at a meeting in Bahraich five days after the terrorist attack on the US. The speakers had alleged that the Muslims in India would be under threat if the US attacked Afghanistan. The President of SIMI, Shahid Badar Falahi, in a press conference in Bahraich had opposed any assistance to the US by the Indian government. Falahi had openly stated that he admired Laden for his selfless service to Islam and that his organisation would hold prayers for the latter's long life. The SIMI had re-circulated in Kanpur its monthly magazine published last year in which a poem was written lionising Laden as the saviour of Islam. The poem has stated that "yesterday, the sun set on Russia, now it is America's turn."

The police and the intelligence department claim that they have seized audio and video recordings of the meeting held in Bahraich. The SIMI leaders had made similar speeches in some areas in Gorakhpur. The police also claimed to have seized provocative and objectionable posters and leaflets in Kanpur, Muzaffarnagar and other places.

The state government has taken a serious note of the inflammatory statements made by the SIMI leaders. In a crackdown on the organisation, the police have already arrested five of its leaders, mainly belonging to Bahraich, and filed FIRs against several others including its national leaders like President Mr. Badar. The five SIMI leaders were arrested for "promoting enmity between various classes." An alert has been sounded in the state in view of the situation.

The Principal Secretary (Home), Mr. Naresh Dayal, was candid enough to admit that the situation was causing concern to the government. Mr. Dayal said that suitable action would be taken against those who were indulging in inciting communal tension and promoting enmity between the religions. The official also disclosed that the state government has forwarded sufficient proof against SIMI and made a strong recommendation to the centre to ban the organisation.

The issue of the ban on SIMI was in the air for quite some time now. The BJP and its frontal organisations like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal had been the protagonists of the ban on the organisation for quite some time now as they felt that its activities were anti-national. But the Chief Minister, Mr. Rajnath Singh was unconvincing over the demand of the ban on SIMI as he felt that there were enough provisions in the present laws to track down its leaders.

But the issue of the ban on SIMI took a new turn last month when the Union Home Minister, Mr. L.K. Advani. at a press conference in Lucknow made it clear that the Centre was in favour of the ban on the organisation. Mr. Advani had also disclosed that the Centre was trying to collect as much proof as possible to make out a foolproof case against it. It was even mentioned that some other states, including some ruled by the non-BJP governments, had sought a ban on SIMI.

Meanwhile, though the terrorist attack in the US has come under strong condemnation by the clerics and Muslim organisations, they are watching the steps being taken by America to track down Laden with suspicion. There is apprehension among the minority community that the Muslims as well as Islam will now be described as perpetrators of terrorism. The minority community has, as such, cautioned the world, particularly the US, against targeting Islam and the Muslims.

There is also a common refrain among the Muslims that the US should be held responsible for encouraging terrorism. Some clerics have even cautioned Muslims against falling prey to the designs of the US. Naib Imam Maulana Khalid Rasheed, maintained that if the terrorist attack on US had a Muslim connection, it should not be linked to Islam. The Muslims dissociate Islam from any action which was committed by insane people.

A cleric Maulana Sajjad Nomani while describing the killing of thousands of people in America in terrorist attacks as deplorable, pointed out that the US had been the best example of state terrorism since 1948. He held the US responsible for the present state of affairs in Palestine, Bosnia, Vietnam. Turkey and Algeria. Another cleric pointed our that till now there was no concrete proof showing the involvement of Laden in the terrorist attacks adding that even if there was evidence of his involvement, Afghanistan of Taliban should not be targeted as a whole.

The Indian Muslim Political Conference (IMPC) while sharing the anguish of the Americans at the loss of lives, felt that the US should not treat this as an excuse to kill innocent people in Afghanistan. At a meeting in Aligarh, the IMPC, however, pointed out that the US had earlier stood as a silent spectator while thousands of people fell victims to the terrorist attacks in India and other third world countries. The meeting felt that some forces were trying to convert the anger against terrorism into a war against Islam. Meanwhile, the state president of the BJP's minority morcha, Mr. Ghairul Hasan Rizvi, has urged the clerics to openly condemn the terrorist attacks. He said that nobody should link terrorism with politics or religion
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