By Danish Ahmad Khan
The three-member Delhi Minorities Commission has been constituted recently after Anil Baijal, Lt. Governor of Delhi, gave his assent. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has chosen controversial Muslim scholar Dr. Zafarul Islam Khan to head the state minorities body as its new chairman after recommendations from Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia. The other two members of the commission include Ms. Anastasia Gill and Kartar Singh Kochhar. The Delhi Minorities Commission shall function for a term of three years.
Dr. Zafarul Islam Khan, a PhD from Manchester University in Islamic Studies, is a renowned scholar and journalist, who also worked for several international organizations. Dr. Khan has authored and translated over 40 books in Arabic, English and Urdu including Hijrah in Islam (Delhi, 1996) and Palestine Documents (New Delhi 1998). He has contributed several articles to the Encyclopaedia of Islam (Leiden) on Indo-Muslim themes. He is a regular commentator on Islamic and South Asian issues on radio and TV channels, including Al Jazeera and BBC Arabic. His writings also appear in Arabic newspapers and magazines.
Dr. Khan is eldest son of renowned scholar Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, Chief Editor & Publisher of Al-Risala, who was famously known as “BJP Maulana” for his close association to Atal Behari Vajpayee government. However, on the contrary Dr. Zafarul Islam Khan is closely associated to Muslim right wing Jamaat-e-Islami Hind. Dr. Khan is the founder and chairman of Charity Alliance, an organisation involved in relief and welfare work in India. He was also President of the All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat, the umbrella body of Muslim organisations in India.
Dr. Zafarul Islam Khan’s personality has been somewhat controversial too. Dr. Khan founded “The Milli Gazette”, India’s first fortnightly English newspaper for Muslims, in the year 2000, but had to finally close it down in December 2016 after regularly publishing for 17 years citing gross community apathy and non-cooperation either through subscriptions or advertisements. The print edition has closed down since, but the online platform is being sustained.
Dr. Zafarul Islam Khan and his Milli Gazette courted controversy after accusing Government of India’s AYUSH Ministry of pursuing discriminatory policies against Muslims by not providing jobs as Yoga instructors. This had been despite the fact when earlier several Muslim organizations, including All Inida Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat of which Dr. Khan was President, had strongly opposed Yoga being imparted to Muslims. This also showed double standards of Dr. Khan and other Muslim organizations of first opposing Yoga as a Hindu practice, while later on accusing the government of being insensitive towards Muslims by not providing jobs to them as Yoga instructors in lines with government policy, which though had been vehemently opposed earlier by them itself. Dr. Khan was even served notice by Press Council of India and Delhi police authorities.
Dr. Khan has such a reputation in Arab world that he has very easy access to whos who there. His fortnightly Milli Gazette was a small newspaper, but he can boast of being the only indian journalist who has interviewed the big guns from the Arab world. Dr. Zafarul Islam Khan had visited Hezbollah’s Bir al-Abd headquarters in Beirut at the personal invitation of its chief Shaikh Hasan Nasrallah and published his interview in Milli Gazette’s 1-15 December 2002 edition. Dr. Khan is the first and only journalist to have interviewed Hezbollah chief. Dr.Zafarul Islam Khan had also visited the Damascus office of Hamas politbureau chief Khaled Mashal and conducted his interview in Arabic on 16 September 2007. This was also the first-ever interview given by a prominent Hamas leader to an Indian publication.
Shaikh Hasan Nasrallah is the chief of Lebanon-based organization Hezbollah, which claims to be fighting for an independent Palestine. Similarly, Palestine-based organization Hamas is waging a protracted struggle to free Palestine from Israeli occupation. It may however be noted that Hezbollah is considered a terrorist organization by prominent Arab world bodies such as GCC, OIC and Arab League. While on the other hand, Hamas, which rules Gaza Strip in divided, embattled Palestine, is being cited as one of the major reasons behind the recent Qatar crisis. Arab countries which imposed sanctions on Qatar are asking it to stop funding and providing sanctuary to Hamas leadership deeming it to be a terrorist organization.
Though being an influential Indian Muslim personality in the Arab world, Dr. Khan has done little for his own Muslim brethren back home in India. He has largely proved to be inconsequential like most of the so-called Indian Muslim leaders, and hardly did anything memorable while he was the President of AIMMM.
Being an scholar of high repute who had his reach in other parts of Muslim World as well, he could have done a lot for Indian Muslims. But, perhaps self-promotion was central in his scheme of things, and so he could not think beyond that.
With Dr. Zafarul Islam Khan now heading Delhi Minorities Commission, it remains to be seen as to how minorities, particularly Muslims, will be benefited given his controversial and ineffective past.
Government bodies such as Minorities Commission etc. are usually considered white elephant and a drudge on the taxpayers’ money. Even in the past these bodies have nothing worthwhile to show by way of achievements and benefiting those for whom they have been created. It will therefore prove difficult indeed for Dr. Zafarul Islam Khan to successfully steer Delhi Minorities Commission and set an example for his predecessors and those eyeing to adorn his position in future. Good luck to Dr. Zafarul Islam Khan!!
[Danish Ahmad Khan, a native of Gaya, Bihar, is Founder-Editor of India’s First Online Muslim Newspaper “IndianMuslimObserver.com”. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or contacted at 9990179721]