Waseem Rizvi: the man who filed a PIL against Quranic verse

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In the second week of March, a user posted a video on social media, however by the time it had gone viral, the man in the video had hurt the sentiments of millions of Muslims irrespective of sects.

The video was of Wasim Rizvi, the former Shia Waqf board president talking about his Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court of India demanding the removal of 26 verses of the Holy Quran.

This led to a wave of anger as clerics and locals from diverse sects demanded action against him and some went as far as seeking his death.

Among the first to react were top Shia cleric and general secretary of Majlis-e-Ulama-e-Hind Maulana Kalbe Jawad and Imam of Aishbagh Eidgah in Lucknow Maulana Khalid Rasheed Farangimahali, both condemned Rizvi for making controversial statements against the Quran.

Both the senior Shia and Sunni clerics unanimously demanded that Rizvi be arrested.

Both Shia and Sunni clerics have said that not a single word can be altered or tampered with in the original Quran, and no one dare do it in the last 1400 years.

“Rizvi should be arrested immediately for rabble-rousing. He is an agent of anti-Muslim forces and with the CBI investigating corruption in the waqf board, he is doing all in his imagination to hold on to their support,” Maulana Kalbe Jawad was quoted as saying by Times of India.

“If the government does not arrest him, it will be clear that it wants chaos and rioting too. Rizvi is neither a Shia nor a Muslim,” he added.

Addressing people before Friday prayers at the Eidgah, Maulana Khalid Rasheed Farangimahali said that the court should dispose off Rizvi’s petition which has hurt Muslims across the world.

“Allah has taken the responsibility of his Holy book and said that not even a letter or punctuation in it will change till Qayamat. Who is Rizvi then to make such tall claims? His petition should not be entertained, strict legal action be taken against him and the government should arrest him for breaching the peace,” he said

Kashmir also seethed at the blasphemous act of Rizvi who is known for his anti-Muslim views often facing ire from both sects.

In Kashmir people took to streets with scholars demanding strict action against Rizvi.

Karwan-e-Islami International patron Ghulam Rasool Hami said that in the past many people tried to change verses of the holy Quran but failed. “Allah himself is the protector of this holy book, which doesn’t teach violence by love and forgiveness. Quran is a complete way of living and will remain till Qayamah (doomsday). Muslims across the globe shouldn’t give much importance to Rizvi, who is a non-entity,” Hami said. He said no power on earth can change even one word of the holy Quran let alone Rizvi.

Similar views were echoed by other scholars and leaders from the valley, “We strongly condemn the statement. This man has become a tool of conspiracies of the enemies against Islam and Shiaism. Indian Muslims have already kicked him out and he has been excommunicated from Islam,” Masroor Abbas Ansari, head of the Itehadul Muslimeen, said.

The political parties of the valley also joined in and showed strong resentment against the Rizvi who was “excommunicated” for not heeding to a fatwa issued by Iraq’s top Shia cleric Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani in 2018 against handing over Waqf properties for the construction of a temple or shrine.

While the issue has garnered widespread condemnation from Muslims, interestingly though the right-wing Hindus came in support. #Wesupportrizvi was trending on Twitter.

As Rizvi’s blasphemous act and anti-Muslim statement came at a time when he is under scrutiny by CBI over embezzlement of funds of Waqf board, the reactions unified the clerics across the sects.

Rizvi’s statement also came at a time when Islamophobia is rising across the world and more so in India where, on 13 March, a 12-year-old boy was beaten for drinking water from a temple. Not to forget the frequent harassment and lynchings of the minority community.

While Rizvi’s video has led to a storm across the sub-continent, this however is not the first time he has been in news.

A critic of the BJP and admirer of the Samajwadis before 2017, Rizvi had done a volte-face overnight when Yogi Adityanath took over as chief minister of Uttar Pradesh and handed over the case related to the Waqf leader to the CBI. Rizvi became a hardcore supporter of Hindutva, Ram temple, Adityanath, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and a critic of madrasa education and Islamic customs.

While he used to earlier avoid the media, he began attending TV debates frequently and openly admired everything that the BJP and the RSS propagated.

He also wrote and produced a Hindi film titled Ram Ki Janmabhoomi in 2019 to support the Ayodhya temple issue. The movie also spoke against several Islamic customs including nikah halala and instant triple talaq and supported the demolition of Babri Masjid.

Although it remains to be seen what will be the fate of his PIL, for now he has created a mess that will take a while to die down.

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