New Delhi (AsiaNews) - "Today the major duties of the elite of the Islamic Ummah is to provide help to the Palestinian nation and the besieged people, to sympathize and provide assistance to the nation of Kashmir, " to support the Muslim population "against aggression". This is the message sent by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme religious leader, on the occasion of the Haj pilgrimage. Indian activists and religious leaders have criticized this message as a possible incitement to fundamentalism.
The Kashmir region has been divided between Pakistan and India since the two states separated. Both countries claim the entire territory, while China in turn controls the provinces of Aksai Chin and Shaksgam. In the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir, a Muslim majority, there is a strong nationalist and secessionist sentiment and fundamentalist groups that are active and carry out attacks. In 2008 there was wide popular Islamic protest (over 500 thousand people took to the streets, with repeated clashes with police in Srinagar that left at least six people dead and 100 injured) because the government had donated land to the Hindu temple of Sri Amarnath to build a shelter for pilgrims. Following protests, the government revoked the donation, but this sparked protests by Hindus (the majority in Jammu), violence against Muslims and renewed street clashes that have caused more deaths and hundreds of injured.
Lenin Raghuvanshi, a well-known human rights activist, said to AsiaNews that while it is right "to defend human rights in the region, however," it is not a religious matter connected with Islam. Khamenei ‘s Haj message is religious fundamentalist way to look the issue of Kashmir ,which is going to support the Hindu Fascist forces in India in indirect way. Actually, Iranian Government wants to hide their own failure of rule of law in their own country, so they are using the way of religious fundamentalism. In Iran there is no freedom, not even religious freedom. There is no right of expression. Additionally, as the UN Security Council approves new sanctions against Iran over its suspect nuclear program, they are desperately seeking diversionary tactics".
"In their country - continues Dr. Raghuvanshi - [the authorities] have targeted minority groups and anyone who wants to express himself. There is an absolute regime of torture. Now they are trying to attract public opinion by claiming Kashmir as a religious problem. On the basis of fundamentalism, they are seeking the support of the Islamic world". "In a country entirely devoid of the right of expression, human rights and religious freedom, Khamenei only wants to raise populist sentiments for a religious platform that manipulates politics."
Father Paul Thelakat, spokesman for the Syro-Malankara Synod, told AsiaNews that "in the Middle East, Christians are persecuted by both the Islamic terrorism and Israeli violence. In Kerala [Indian state] there is the strange phenomenon that Marxists and Muslims are united against Israel and inactive against Islamic terrorism. Marxists attack Israel only because theyr are a U.S. ally. They continue their rhetoric against capitalism and the West, even though some of their leaders send their children to study in European countries or the USA”.
"This strange marriage between Marxism and Islam - continues the priest - I am afraid will pave way for recruiting terrorists from Kerala to Pakistan and for freedom of Kashmir as they see. Islamic terrorist can be recruited from Kerala and Kerala has become a seminary of Islamic fundamentalism, although the majority of Muslim are peace loving and respectful of other religions. However the majority seem to remain silent in the wake of fundamentalist tendencies increasing in the community.”
Even Sajan K. George, chairman of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) criticizes Khamenei’s words and "the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Kashmir." "On 21 November 2006, four years ago, the coordinator GCIC Tantray Bashir Ahmed was killed by Islamic militants in broad daylight as he spoke with Muslim friends in his village to Mamoosa, Baramulla district. He was a Christian who converted from Islam, but he was given a Muslim funeral and was buried in the Islamic cemetery, for fear of reprisals. "
"In India we see a rise of Islamic fundamentalism in October, a group of Muslims attacked a Christian pastor near Bangalore, a school was burned and destroyed in Kashmir after a rumor that pages of the Koran had been burned." "It is regrettable that Khamenei should make such inflammatory remarks, it is the duty of religious leaders of all religions to promote and work towards building of peace and mutual tolerance and understanding instead of sowing seeds of discord and division.”