Exclusive interview with Abdus Samad Pookotur, state secretary- SYS, Kerala. Apr 07 2002

The popular media, both online and offline, has not missed a single opportunity blemish the image of Islam and its followers. The topics range from issues of faith to that of practice. For some time, it was the issues such as polygamy. At another time, it was the lack of intellectual freedom in the creed of Islam. And more recently it is the issue of terrorism.

And it is surprising that such accusations are coming from the lands of Columbus who massacred countless Indians in the Newfound land or from nations who cherished never-ending greed to colonize the rest of the world. The nation that developed and used the atomic weapon and thus became the role model for others to follow is now issuing fatwas on defining what is terror and how to deal with it.

The aftereffects of Sept 11 has been widespread. Or at least Uncle Sam made sure it is perceived so. After all such a task is not difficult when it can easily dictate to the parrot-like media houses.

Today’s media has created more confusion than any other institution in the social fabric. The biased historians only distort the past. But these publishers and broadcasters are distorting the present. Even in traditionally harmonious societies, the new generation is becoming victims of biased media.

To create confusion is easy,
A little mist, and eyes get hazy.
But to rectify it is a Himalayan task
Which involves a lot of risk!

Jaihoon came across such an effort that is being made in the South Indian state of Kerala, traditionally known for its communal-free psyche. In no point of history has the state become a ‘laboratory’ for a particular ideologue as in the case of the western state of Gujarat. Neither in politics nor in cultural leadership has any prachaarak taken the reins. Thanks to God.

A massive campaign has been planned to create awareness abut the distortion by media and to strengthen the existing communal harmony. Such a move is initiated by the Samsatha Kerala Jamiyyathul Ulama (the body of Muslim scholars in Kerala).

Abdus Samad Pookotur, (who hails from the town of Pookotur which was among the historic spots for the Khilafat movement in Kerala in mid 1920s) the state secretary of SYS (the youth wing of the scholars body) shared some interesting facts about the to-be held conference for celebrating the platinum (75th) anniversary of the Samastha.

Held under the three slogans- Comprehensive, Current and scientific- the conference is spread over the months of April and May.

Prior to explaining the details of the conference, the secretary gave a quick comparison of the Muslims in North and South of the region. He said that despite 700 years of Muslim rule in North, their condition is still pitiable with neither political nor spiritual leadership. The masses have poor religious background with no organized form of religious education.

In contrast to this, the Muslims’ state in Kerala is different. They enjoy strong political leadership with sufficient training in religious learning. According to this visiting scholar, there are 11,000 madrassas of which 8000 are run under the direct control of Samastha. Muslims make 23% of the state population.

Kerala has the maximum number of mosques and madrassas than any state of India. Yet it is the state with the minimum number of communal clashes. This proposition is especially relevant in the present scenario when the right-wing hardliner government in the capital is accusing the madrassas of inciting violence and hatred in the nation.

Mr. Abdus Samad Pookotur is of the opinion that the credit of such an achievement goes to the Ulama leadership that teaches the community what exactly religion is and what is not. Islam is not a creed of sentiments, rather a lifestyle of prudence.

He said that Samastha is founded on three principles- Unity, Consciousness of God and educational qualifications. He challenged those who label the Ulama body as conservative as its constitution promotes worldly education if it doesn’t tamper with religious education.

Among the recent changes initiated to face the challenges of the modern times is the introduction of the computer training and tuition for school subjects in the Madrasa building after 9am. Traditionally, the Madrasa buildings used to remain idle assets after the classes get over.

In a question posed by Jaihoon about extending the Samastha’s activities outside Kerala, he replied that attempts are being made to translate the present Samastha syllabus into Urdu. But he reminded that already the students of Darul Huda (an educational institution in Kerala that runs an Urdu syllabus) are going to North Indian states such as Uttar Pradesh during their vacations to deliver religious lectures in Urdu.

About the conference, he said that it would provide training camps for religious lecturers and seminars on the causes for Muslims’ backwardness would also be held. Awareness programs about the attempts of some to rewrite history in a distorted manner would also be highlighted. He very firmly asserted that Islam is NOT terrorism nor communalism.

When asked about the utility of Information technology for the propagation of Islam, he said it was his personal belief that in the coming future the availability of the Net would be a necessity in the mosques, especially for referring the various commentaries in Quran and Hadith.

On a final note, he expressed pleasure at the efforts such as Jaihoon.com in spreading the message of peace and tolerance due to the vast audience available in cyberspace.