Bihar Muslim minister in dilemma over excise post

April 19th, 2008 - 3:29 pm ICT by admin  

By Imran Khan
Patna, April 19 (IANS) Bihar’s new excise minister, a Muslim, is under pressure to give up his portfolio following demands from religious bodies who say that Islam and liquor trade - a vital part of his ministry - do not go hand in hand. The All India Muslim Personal Law Board, the Patna-based Imarat-e-Sharia and the Idar-e-Sharia have asked Jamshed Ashraf to resign from the ministry.

Ashraf, in his 40s, was among 19 new ministers inducted by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar April 13.

Ashraf was given the registration and excise portfolio, considered important for generating revenue for the government from the liquor industry.

“He is under pressure not to join the ministry as liquor is haram (prohibited) in Islam,” a source close to Ashraf told IANS Saturday.

In view of the pressure from Muslim bodies, Ashraf has virtually gone underground.

“He (Ashraf) is taking rest outside Patna and his cell phone (is) switched off,” said an official attached to him. “He is likely to return here by Monday.”

It was widely reported in Urdu dailies here that All India Muslim Personal Law Board and Imarat-e-Sharia have asked him not to hold the ministry.

The board has also questioned the decision of Nitish Kumar to allot him the portfolio knowing Islam prohibits dealing with liquor.

“Jamshed Ashraf should prove himself a good Muslim by not holding the ministry,” said Imarat-e-Sharia spokesperson Anishur Rahman Qasmi.

Idar-e-Sharia said drinking, selling, manufacturing or dealing in wine were acts of evil. “Ashraf should relinquish his ministry immediately,” said a member of the Sharia.

Jamshed Ashraf, a ruling Janata Dal-United (JD-U) legislator, is regarded close to the chief minister.

Nitish Kumar had appointed him as chairman of the state Haj committee. But he resigned before being inducted into the council of ministers April 13. He was elected to the state assembly for the first time in 2005.

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