The 9th State Conference of Kerala Nadvatul Mujahideen concluded with the message that the times of blind and extreme stances in doctrinal precepts and practices have come to an end and that tolerance and coexistence are key to survival in the modern world.
The leaders and representatives who addressed the conference - that became a celebration of the union of both the Mujahid groups after a 14-year long period of separation -, expressed joy in the reunion and cautioned against losing that spirit. The leaders made it clear that they were ready to seal all the loopholes that remained after patching of the fissures.
They advised the factions that still keep apart in ideological obstinacy, to return to the path of balance with an approach of give and take. The four-day conference was marked by neither the increased participation of foreign Arab representatives in way that for decades had tagged the religious reform endeavours of the Mujahid movement in Kerala to global Islamic trends, nor speeches that wouild have reflected the distinctness of the Salafi movement in its dogma and positions with a rigid disapproval of those who disagree. Instead the conference highlighted the Mujahid organization as a reform movement formed in the context of Kerala and also emphasized the importance of playing an active role in political activities and nation-building in line with changing circumstances.
In the backdrop of controversies related to terrorism and the Salafi thought stream that surfaced in recent past in Kerala, what makes the Mujahid conference noteworthy is its pronouncements of change in ideas and policy positions and formulation of action plans in keeping with the changing times. Instead of abstaining from, or adopting a conservative stance towards, material and political activities and educational, cultural and media domains, the organization announced at the conference the launch of Project ‘Vision 2022’ in an apparent run-up to its potential interventions in those areas. Given the plural nature of Kerala and India, an extensive program ranging from restructuring the teaching methods in pre-schools to running news channels, has also been designed and incorporated in the Vision project.
To be welcomed is the soul-searching of the conference that for religious reform activities to be meaningful in the changing circumstances, one should open the doors of cooperation within and outside the community and not turn one’s back towards the community and the society in the name of doctrinal distinctness. If this new style that was reiterated before the supporters during the different sessions influence the activities in the future, it would bode well not only for the organization and Muslim community but also for the social order of Kerala. The organization that displayed its willingness to sit with an open mind with all sections of the society in Kerala, gave space at the conference to all prominent political parties including the ones opposed by all in unison. If this generosity had been extended towards Muslim religious bodies, the prestige of the conference would have only been enhanced.
This move is laudable, particularly when dark politics of hate knocks on one's door, as one gets awakened by such a move and it can light a flame of amity. More so when not every one is yet to realize the murkiness of India's milieu. One example is the decision by the religious organization, Samastha Kerala Jameyyat Ul-Ulama to ask for explanation from Waqf Board Chairman Rashidali Shihab Thangal, and State Youth League President Munawwarali Shibah Thangal both of whom attended the Mujahid conference for accepting their invitation. Paradoxically, this was an extreme response of a certain section to the Mujahids who shed extremism. One can recall that during the Shariat controversy some extremists had expelled those who garlanded the Chairman of the Muslim Personal Board. The same organization which had expelled them are now being dragged into the issue of religious extremism. But all the same, 'Samastha' does allow its followers to participate in political activities.
If their organization had used that freedom to let both of them attend the conference, it would have added to its esteem. The role of religious organizations is to recognize the imperative of the present, and steer clear of the propensity of the overzealous to succumb to the temptation to bypass intellectual poverty by loathing of the other. In a period of crisis inside the dark tunnel with no light at the end in sight, it is incumbent on humanitarian minds not to extinguish the last spark of love and friendship, but to spread it to larger space.