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Kerala Sunni Factions Start Mediations After Three-Decade Fight

The two warring factions of the Samastha Kerala Jamiyyathul Ulama, led by Syed Jifri Muthukoya Thangal and Kanthapuram AP Aboobaker Musliyar, have appointed a team of four-member mediators to end a three-decade-long fight. Samastha, post merger, would be the most influential Muslim organisation in Kerala.

Asheem PK | News18

Updated:January 26, 2018, 7:27 PM IST
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Kerala Sunni Factions Start Mediations After Three-Decade Fight
File photo of a conference of the EK faction of the Sunnis - the Samastha Kerala Jemiyyathul Ulema. (http://samasthaconference.com)

From alleged ISIS exodus to the infamous Popular Front of India (PFI), Kerala Muslims have been at the centre of news for last few months. The Muslims in the state were unable to put their view out as the community was split in several factions. That may change soon with two warring factions of the Samastha Kerala Jamiyyathul Ulama, the largest Sunni organisation in the state, planning rapprochement.

Muslims constitute 28 percent of the total population in Kerala. Sunnis, followers of traditional Islam; Salafis, who are influenced by Wahabi form of Islam with its roots in Saudi Arabia; and Jamaate Islami, who follow the reformist ideas propagated by Abul Ala Maududi, are the major groups.

Sunnis are the dominant sect while Shiites and Ahmadis have a meagre presence.

Kerala Nadvathul Mujahideen and Ittihaadu Shubbanil Mujahideen — two Salafi organisations influenced by the ideologies of 18th century Islamic reformer Ibn Abdul Wahab — were the first to realise the need to be united.

After being criticised for their radical ideologies, the two factions of the Mujahideens led by Hussain Madavoor and Abdulla Koya Madani joined hands after a fight which lasted for more than 14 years.

Taking a cue from the Mujahideens, now two warring factions of the Samastha Kerala Jamiyyathul Ulama, led by Syed Jifri Muthukoya Thangal and Kanthapuram AP Aboobaker Musliyar, have appointed a team of four-member mediators to end a three-decade-long fight.

Samastha, post merger, would be the most influential Muslim organisation in Kerala.

Interestingly, the AP faction supports the CPM-led left Democratic Front (LDF) while EK (named after late EK Aboobaker Musliyar) Sunnis are traditionally supporters of the Muslim League who are part of Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF).

A united Samastha would get an increased bargaining power, especially with Muslim league, the fourth largest political party in Kerala. As for Muslim League, it is not in a position to endorse or disapprove any particular group since their vote bank is divided among both the groups, almost equally.

Both Samastha groups had parted ways in 1989 after differences among the 40-member Mushawara, the decision-making body.

The EK faction has control of over 9,500 of the total 12,500 madrasas in the Kerala. Around 12 lakh students are enrolled in these religious schools. Each group has formed their own mosques, madrasas, education boards and publications. Clashes between both the factions are quite common.

The major trigger for Sunnis to join hands is believed to be their opposition towards spreading of Salafi ideology, apart from the growing influence of religious extremist ideas propagated by Popular Front of India (PFI). They also feel necessary to stand together on issues like triple talaq and uniform civil code.

“We have decided that we are ready for talks on merger and will do whatever is needed from our side to ensure unity among Sunnis. We have also decided to set up a panel to go ahead with the talks,” said AP Aboobaker Musliyar.

EK faction leader Umar Faizy Mukkam told News18 that they are willing to go back to the pre-1989 state. “Hope the other faction would also agree on this. Both sides can compromise on certain matters for the broad benefit of the organisation,” he said. Faizy is also member of the mediation panel set up by EK faction.

Even though EK faction backs Muslim League, their leaders had locked horns with the party which has 18 representatives in the Kerala Assembly after two of its leaders attended a conference organised by KNM, a salafi organisation.

Sayyid Rasheed Ali and Munavvar Ali, members of the respected Panakkad family, despite warning from the Samastha. This led to an exchange of words between leaders from both the Muslim league and EK Sunnis and both leaders had to issue clarification eventually.

Both Samastha factions have a strong following in the Muslims community in Kerala. Political leaders often visit Samastha leaders.

Talking about recent talks, C Muhammed Faisy of the AP faction, said, “Samatha led by Kanthapuram has always stood for Sunni unity. Both the factions should work together to ensure unity among Sunnis. We are not working for the political gain of any particular party. We have to stand together against issues like terrorism with maligns the image of Islam.”

Faisy is the state secretary of Kerala muslim jamaat, a political offshoot of the AP Sunnis. Recently, the Congress had asked its leaders not to attend events organised by AP faction after alleged pressure from the Muslim league.​

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| Edited by: Huma Tabassum
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