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Abdul Rahman
continues, "We are not extremists.We are a secular party."

Are you saying that you can defend physical
onslaughts with mere words?

We are not lambs before a jackal. Defending oneself and attacking someone are two different things. If a person attacks me I have the right to hold his hand to prevent it. The law all over the world allows self-defence. For that you needn't build an organisation. What we want to convey through our activities, through our questioning, is that we will not take all that comes our way lying down.

Do you see a circumstance under which you need to take up arms against the RSS?

As an organisation, we don't think armed defence would be feasible. But as individuals of this country, yes. Everyone has the right to defend oneself. However, the NDF doesn't plan to organise our forces into such a fight. Still, we do convey the message not to be afraid of fascist forces or go down before them quietly. If you do go down, we teach our cadre to do so with their heads held high.

Are you saying the NDF is all about turning the other cheek to the person hitting you and politely asking why you are being hit?

E-Mail this report to a friend That depends on who hits you. If it is a drunkard I might not hit him. Because he doesn't know what he is doing. If I go and talk to him when he is sober he may even stop drinking. On the other hand, if it is a thug who hits me, I may retaliate. Because once he finds out that there is someone to hit him back, he will think twice before hitting another.

You see the RSS as a thug or a drunkard?

Neither. We see it as the owner of an ideology that is dangerous. An ideology that has a dangerous historical view, dangerous social view and dangerous political view.

It is alleged that membership to your party is reminiscent of that to a militant group. Is that true?

They say that we recruit people in a 'special way.' That is true in a sense. What we need are members dedicated to our cause. We take members only if we are satisfied about their credentials. Political parties call meetings and, on the strength of adrenaline-pumping speeches, get people to join. We don't do it that way. We first identify committed people and then call them for a meeting. We talk to them about our ideology and test their commitment.

What is the strength of your cadre now?

We have about 20,000 full-timers. Now we have a presence in all the districts of Kerala. Much of our strength, of course, is in the northern parts. The reason is obvious.

Where does your finance come from?

Mainly from the monthly contributions of our members. Each member contributes as per his income. The minimum is Rs 5. We get around Rs 250,000 to 300,000 per month thus.

Do you get any foreign aid?

No. We have not even discussed the matter.

What do you say to the allegation that you accepted Rs 25 million from representatives of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth last November?

Where did you hear the allegation? As far as I know the NDF has not received any such aid.

You project yourself as a human rights organisation. Isn't Kerala the wrong place to concentrate on?

We concentrate on Kerala because we are in Kerala. There are certain organisations that believe in responding to what is happening in Cuba or Angola. We believe in cleaning up our yard first before we move on to others.

You plan to expand your activities to other states too, that means?

Eventually, that is a possibility.

How does your party view Islam?

The NDF believes in accepting the good things about Islam and rejecting the bad. We believe that the tenets of Islam can bring about good social changes.

Does this mean that you take an orthodox view? Or do you interpret the Quran as per the progressive circumstances of today?

I believe that words like 'progressive' and 'orthodox' are relative. We feel that whatever is said in Quran doesn't need changes. There is nothing contradictory in it. The Quran doesn't need interpretation. Its text is perfectly clear and without contradictions. The Quran is in no way a block to the progress of the community.

You implied that Quran keeps up with the times. But doesn't it advocate taking up the sword against the enemies of the religion? Which is what the RSS is doing, according to you.

Well, the Quran also says more. That you should attack the bad with the good. That you should cultivate patience. Like the example of the drunkard, it depends on circumstances. If the circumstance call for hitting back, hit back. If the circumstance calls for speech, speak.

You said you believed in taking up the good and the progressive of the religion. If that is so, wasn't the NDF's stand in the Tasni Banu case wrong? Your outfit questioned her individuality and tried to stop her marriage. Was that progressive?

Tasni Banu's case is something that has been deliberately blown up to blacken the Muslim community and the NDF. It has now become progressive and fashionable to go for love marriages. Arranged marriages are behind the times. That we don't accept. At the same time, as two free individuals of India, Tasni and Nassar have the right to marry whichever way they like.

It is that right the NDF questioned.

I agree the right was questioned. But who questioned it? Not the NDF. We were not involved.

What do you say happened there?

Tasni Banu's parents are ordinary Muslims who wanted their daughter to marry according to Islamic laws. That hope was demolished. When that happened they objected to her marriage, as would any normal, ordinary parents. That's all.

Wait, the police and the locals of Malappuram say that Koya, the man who started the incident, belonged to the NDF. Are you denying that?

He doesn't belong to our cadre. He was a friend of the girl's father. When he saw her speaking to some boys at an odd hour he reported the matter to her father. Her father came down to the spot and took her away in an autorickshaw. Connecting the NDF with that incident is a deliberate attempt to show us in bad light.

If you don't have any connection whatsoever, why is it that everyone holds you responsible? Even Tasni, who doesn't have anything to gain from such an act, says you were involved.

Just because media reports came out linking us, that doesn't mean we are responsible. As for the reason, we need to study the matter. May be it is because many people feel that they are losing out to us. I can't see any reason other than that.

What about the attack on Tasni's rationalist friend, Jabbar?

We were not involved. That is part of the unified move to blacken us.

How about the Chekannur maulavi case? The Muslim religious teacher was killed for 'progressive religious' teachings.

The NDF had no connection with that whatsoever.

Do you also deny links with the murder of the Muslim siddha vaidya? He was hacked to death because he was practising a traditional Hindu form of medicine.

It is true that an NDF activist was involved. We took immediate action against him.

You had first claimed that he wasn't an NDF activist. You acted only after the media linked him undeniably with the murder.

When we made the denial we didn't know that he was NDF. We found that only when we conducted inquiries. And we acted against him promptly. But, as far as I know, that killing was an accident. He was a fraud and the locals had gathered to eject him from the area. His followers too arrived. He was killed in the ensuing clash.

You claim to be a human rights organisation with only the good of the repressed on mind. Then why is that you have been labelled an extremist group?

We deny that. We are not extremists or fundamentalists. We are a secular party.

If you are so harmless why does the CPI-M allege that you have extremist links? That you are running militant training camps?

Anybody can allege anything. One month ago the government stated in assembly that there was religious fundamentalism in Kerala but no extremism. Now they are saying that we are extremists. We see it only as a political statement.

Political statement? You yourself admit that you are no political strength. Why should a party like the CPI-M, with a very good political presence, be worried enough to fight you through political statements?

It is all a question of votes. Like they attack the RSS, they need to attack a Muslim outfit too. Then only they can project the image of fighting Muslim as well as Hindu extremism.

The allegation is that the NDF is running training centres under the guise of Karate classes all over northern Kerala.

Kerala has always given great importance to physical activities. There are many centres for Karate, Judo etc in northern Kerala. It is quite possible that there are some NDF activists learning them. That's their right. But there are no arms training as you say.

How true is the opinion that fundamentalism in Kerala has risen?

Kerala has never had fundamentalism. It is false to say that something that never existed has increased. There is no Muslim fundamentalism in Kerala.

The jihad within
Back to the series home page.

Tuesday, April 27, 1999
Palathody Abdul Rasheed, ostracised for learning a 'Hindu' dance form, believes "Kathakali doesn't have religion. It isn't Hindu or Muslim or Christian."

Wednesday, April 28, 1999
Tasni Banu, abandoned by neighbours and family for marrying outside the nikah ceremony, is still angry. "I haven't abused Islam. It's they who did that."

Thursday, April 29, 1999
V P Suhara is a feminist and crusader for Muslim women's right. "Can you show me where the Quran allows a man to throw his wife out at will?" she demands.

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