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INTERVIEW: Maulana Shafi Moonis
‘Nothing has changed in Jamaat’ 

Maulana Shafi Moonis is one of the senior most ideologues of the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind. He joined the Jamaat only three years after its launch in 1941 by Maulana Syed Abulala Maududi when there were only around 250 members all over the undivided nation. He has been part of the re-organization work of the Jamaat following the division of the country and creation of Pakistan. At the time of partition he was the Qayyime Halqa (president of areas comprising Western UP, Punjab, Haryana and Delhi). He has also gone to jail several times for his association with Jamaat. First time it was in 1954, when he along with former Maulana Abullais Islahi (the then Ameer-e-Jamaat), Maulana Yusuf (another former Ameer-e-Jamaat), Maulana Hamid Ali, Maulana Sadruddin Islahi, Maulana Abdul Hai was put in jail. At an age when most people prefer to confine themselves in the four walls of their homes this old guard in the Jamaat is still going great and is one of the most active leaders of the organization. The Maulana is Naib Ameer (vice-president) of Jamaat. Syed Ubaidur Rahman talked to him in the sprawling lawn of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind office in New Delhi.


Is Jamaat-e-Islami still following the same thoughts of Maulana Maududi when the Jamaat was founded?

Jamaat-e-Islami is not following Maulana Maududi. It is following Islam. At no point of time Jamaat-e-Islami said that it was following Maulana Maududi. We have made our policies and goals clear and these are based on teachings of Islam.
When Jamaat was founded people had confined Islam only to rituals and we were being taught that Islam is a personal matter. Islam covers the whole life of a person and includes ones’ social, individual and political lives. In those circumstances was formed Jamaat. There is no difference between the Jamaat of that time and now. Everything is same.
The only difference is that Jamaat had to re-organize itself in the country in those turbulent times in the post partition scenario. Jamaat-e-Islami Hind was formed as a separate organization following the partition. The people who migrated to Pakistan formed their own organization. Ours is a totally different and separate set up.

Is Jamaat-e-Islami anything different from when it was formed?
I do not see any change in Jamaat then and now. We are pursuing same policies. Our constitution is same as we had adopted at that time. We did not need to make any change in that following partition. 
Do you have any idea of any change? I have seen Jamaat-e-Islami since I joined it in 1944 and have seen all the times. I do not find any change having occurred in the organization.

Earlier, Jamaat was averse to participation in polls. Despite great internal differences Jamaat decided to participate in political process in the country. Isn’t it a change?
In India there are elements who are averse to our separate identity. Now those very people who do not want to tolerate your separate identity, your separate religion and your separate thoughts are in power. It has become clear that there is great need to contain these forces and help those secular people regarding whom we know that they want to preserve the secular identity of the country that guarantees freedom to keep one’s identity intact and guarantees freedom of religion and thoughts.
And I should make it clear that we have not decided to enter in politics. We have just allowed our cadre to vote if they want to. And we have made it clear as to what sort of people they should vote for. 
Our policy towards election is negative. We do not participate in elections and have just allowed our people to vote.

It is said that Jamaat does not tolerate differences. It was seen during the time when discussion on participation in elections was being decided. 
Jamaat has never been averse to differences. Difference of opinion is always welcome. We have never tried to suppress difference of opinion in the organization and have always seen it as a positive aspect in reaching a right decision. It is vital for healthy functioning of an organization.
What was witnessed during discussion on allowing our members to vote was not differences. It was more a kind of misunderstanding. A number of people thought that Jamaat was going to be politically active. It was a thing that we had not even dreamt of. When we made it clear in meetings with our central leadership and local cadres and leadership everything was in place. Any opinion reached at without knowledge will create misunderstanding. There was no such difference that could create rift in the Jamaat.

What about the internal bickering on formation of Forum for Democracy and Communal Amity? It was also largely opposed by Jamaat cadre.
It was a well thought out strategy to fight growing menace of communalism in the country following Babri Masjid demolition. But the whole Jamaat was not to get involved in it. We had assigned the Forum to three people. I was one of the three members of the committee. We tried to work with people regarding whom we knew that they were against communalism and were known for their commitment towards secularism.
But later with death of one important member of the committee ( Maulana Yusuf, former Radiance editor) and severe trouble at home with another member, we slowed down a little bit on that count. We are still seeking some bright young men to work in the same direction. The work will continue.

Wasn’t it true that Jamaat was trying to reorient itself?
No. We have never tried to change ourselves and have been following the same policies and programs. I do not see any reorientation. Even when the Jamaat allowed its cadres to vote in elections, there were conditions as to what sort of candidates our people should vote. And that was an effort to check the increasing menace of communalism.

It is being said that Jamaat has not been able to retain the intellectual touch once it was famous for. Is it a sign of degradation in the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind?
Give me names of three genius people in Jamaat in its early days. Maulana Sadruddin Islahi Islahi was a real genius but no one knew him in the country. It was Maulana Abullais Islahi who organized the Jamaat in those turbulent times in the post partition era when no one could dare to take the name of Muslims and Islam. He was not a genius but a great organizer and leader. Jamaat has the best workers that any organization can imagine. It is not a claim that I am making. It was admitted by former Prime Minister Chaudhary Charan Singh. He said after attending a function that was also attended by Jamaat workers that Jamaat has best workers.
When we started no one knew us. We did not have very qualified people with us at that time either. What we did was to use our members’ abilities in right direction.. 
And who says we have not been able to retain intelligent minds these days? It is just an imagination. You will see the bright young chaps in Students Islamic Organization (a students wing of Jamaat) evolve in great leaders and workers of the Jamaat and the community. 

Could you recall some important phases for Jamaat in the country?
When we started nobody knew us. At that time ulama opposed us tooth and nail. It introduced Jamaat to a large section of people. Their opposition proved a boon for the nascent organization and a large number of ulama as well as common people tried to understand Jamaat and joined it. It gave us some of the brilliant ulama of the time. 
Only a few years later senior Jmaat leaders were jailed by the UP government. It was in 1994. At that time those ulama who were opposed to us came to defend us fervently. Our year-long-detention and subsequent rejection of charges by the court also gave the Jamaat great media coverage in the country. 
The Madhya Pradesh riots in 1960 introduced us to a vast chunk of common people. We worked with Jamiatul Ulama-e-Hind for relief work that had a large base all over the country at that time. It helped us immensely.
Emergency was also an important event in Jamaat history. Though we were in contact with almost all the political parties, we had no contact with RSS. During emergency we spent months and years together. It was an important incident for us.
Every adverse incident has helped Jamaat so far and we have come out more strongly from every such incident.

Also read: Jamaat-e-Islami: where it stands today?
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