Kolkata: Shahi Imam of Tipu Sultan Mosque Maulana Nurur Rehman Barkati is not the usual nondescript maulana who we usually come across. The rakhi brother of West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, he is a flamboyant person who has good rapport with people in the corridors of power.
When brought face to face with Tarek Fatah, the rather infamous writer whose antipathy towards everything Islamic has made him a regular face on Indian television screens, Barkati was not expected to by coy.
He is intimidating to the core like Tarek Fatah, the Pakistani born, Canadian writer and columnist. Though he cannot be as articulate as Fatah, he is certainly as intimidating as him.
He is accused by the BJP of offering a huge reward of Rs 25 lakh to anyone who will “cut off PM Narendra Modi’s beard, shave his head and smear him with black ink”. He told this in a meeting that was held to denounce the impact of demonetization on the common people across the country.
There is no denying that the sudden ban of high value notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 has fatal consequences on common people throughout the nation. Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their jobs and farmers are badly hit as due to lack of currency in circulation demand for vegetables and fruits has dipped, therefore forcing many farmers to dump their products on roads.
The BJP leaders are calling it a fatwa though it was a comment made by the cleric in a press conference organized by a Trinamool Congress MP. “Everyday people are harassed and facing problem due to demonetisation…Modi is bluffing the society and the innocent people of the country through demonetisation and nobody wants him to continue as PM” the cleric reportedly said in the course of the press meet. Explaining why he had singled out Narendra Modi’s beard, Barkati said, “People who keep beard are mostly religious like maulanas, sadhus, sufis, sikh gurus.. But Modi keeping beard is bhondami (bluffing).” He went on to term Modi as “communal”, while positing West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee as the figure of “communal harmony”.
Later Tarek Fatah accused the same maulana of threatening to kill him on a live TV show. “Your throat will also be slit,” Syed Mohammad Nurur Rahman Barkati, the Shahi Imam of Kolkata’s Tipu Sultan Mosque, told Fatah while responding angrily to the latter’s statement that India has come a long way from the medieval practices when people’s throats were slit. After the show, Fatah demanded the Muslim cleric’s arrest by the Kolkata Police for threatening him. “Kolkata Mullah threatens me on live TV. Will Kolkata Police arrest him?” he said in Twitter.