Embracing Faith: Ex-Imam Defends Voluntary Conversion to Islam; Challenges Waqf Board’s Decision

Embracing Faith: Ex-Imam Defends Voluntary Conversion to Islam; Challenges Waqf Board’s Decision

Srinagar: Questioning the ‘authority’ of the Muslim Waqf Board for barring him to stop discharging his religious duties, the former Imam-o-Khateeb of the revered Hazratbal shrine, Dr Kamal-ud-Din Farooqi Tuesday said the man who embraced Islam did so ‘voluntarily’ and not under ‘duress’.

Following allegations of forced conversion of a Hindu man from Haryana in April this year, Farooqi was barred from leading prayers at the Hazratbal shrine.

He said the Waqf Board accused him of presiding over the meeting of the alleged forced conversion, causing total chaos and confusion among the people. “Accepting Islam by choice is not forced conversion. My family has been discharging the duties of Imam-o-Khateeb of the Hazratbal shrine for the last more than three centuries and I am not an employee of the Waqf Board. Forbidding me from offering and leading prayers at the shrine is unjustified and unacceptable,” Farooqi said, addressing a news conference at his residence here.

Besides receiving a notice from the Waqf Board, Farooqi, a retired professor and chief scientist at Sheri Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences Kashmir (SKUAST-K), was called in by the police and questioned for over three hours regarding his role in forcible conversion.

“But for treating me justly, the cops, especially SP and SHO Hazratbal, have my gratitude. They performed their duties effectively, recorded my statement as well. The individual embraced Islam of his own free will, and not duress, I informed the investigating officer,” he added.

As a religious priest, he granted the Haryana man’s request to guide him in reciting the ‘Shahaadatayn’, or Declaration of Faith.

“What crime I committed. Why was I blamed for forced conversion if someone chose to convert to Islam of his own free will before two lakh worshippers including the police and the administrators of Waqf Board? I have led prayers at the Hazratbal shrine for a long time, and I adhere to the core tenets of Islam. So why would I coerce people to convert to Islam against their will?” he questioned.

Jammu and Kashmir police lodged an FIR against one Anayat Muntazir for alleged forced conversion of his domestic help Sandeep Kumar at the shrine during Jumat-ul-Vida (the last Friday of Ramzan).

Refuting the allegations that anti-national chants were raised during the conversion, Farooqi claimed that no sooner the man converted to Islam in front of two lakh devotees, including the police and Waqf Board administrators, the shrine reverberated with the chants of ‘Nara-e-Takbeer, Allah-o-Akbar’.

“This is what transpired that moment; he was hugged and kissed by the worshippers who were happy for his conversion. Little did I know that the matter would turn into a major controversy,” he added.

“I got a copy of the FIR from the court, but my name wasn’t mentioned on it. I appreciate the cops’ kind conduct at the police station, but I also contest the Waqf Board’s authority to stop me from carrying out my religious obligations,” said Farooqi.

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