Advani is a secular leader: Shahnawaz Hussain (Interview)December 30th, 2008 - 2:46 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi, Dec 30 (IANS) Muslims as voters or as respected citizens. It’s the dividing line between “secular parties” and the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani who views the community not just as voters but as respected citizens, says one of the party’s few Muslim faces, Syed Shahnawaz Hussain.The BJP’s lone Muslim Lok Sabha MP, who feels that India is going through a crisis and “needs” the leadership of Advani, said emphatically: “There is only one leader who can lead India in the right path at the time of crisis - that is Advani-ji.”
Criticising talk of Advani being portrayed as anti-Muslim, Hussain told IANS: “I have no doubt that Advani-ji is a secular leader.”
“For the leaders of the so-called secular parties, Muslims are voters. For Advani-ji, Muslims are respected citizens of India.”
Admitting that a large number of Muslims in the country are backward, Hussain, 40, said: “If a government under the leadership of Advani comes to power at the centre, it will take steps to make both Hindus and Muslims equal.”
“If the BJP and its leaders are anti-Muslim, how can I become the member of the BJP’s central election committee and Lok Sabha MP?”
“I was defeated during the 2004 general elections from the Muslim-populated Kishanganj constituency. But the party fielded me in Bhagalpur constituency during the 2006 by-election,” said Hussain, also the president of the party’s Minority Morcha.
Referring to Minority Affairs Minister A.R. Antulay’s controversial remark on the killing of Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) chief Hemant Karkare during the Mumbai terror attack, he asserted: “The Congress is playing vote bank politics by dividing the people as Hindus and Muslims.”
“Antulay’s remarks and the central government’s response to it reveal that the Congress is soft on terrorism. As a nationalist party, we cannot accept such approaches… or the double talk of the Congress. We will take the matter to the people,” said Hussain, who led the opposition’s attack against the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government on the Antulay issue, both in the Lok Sabha and outside parliament.
Hussain had become union cabinet minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government at the age of 32. He was earlier minister of state and was given a cabinet portfolio in 2001.
On the issue of terrorism, he said: “Terrorism is not a political issue. It is a national issue. But becoming soft on terrorism is a question which needs to be addressed politically. So, this issue would remain as one of the top agenda of the BJP in the coming Lok Sabha elections.”
Discussing the passage of two bills - the National Investigation Agency (NIA) Bill and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill - in parliament in the aftermath of the Mumbai terror attack, he said: “The unanimous passing of the two bills in both houses of parliament is a reflection and recognition of the BJP’s view.”
He described Pakistan as a “threat to the Muslim world” and as a “factory of terrorism”.
Hussain, appointed by Speaker Somnath Chatterjee as chairman of the Indo-Saudi Parliamentary Friendship Group, visited Saudi Arabia as an invitee of Saudi King Abdullah during the Haj pilgrimage this year.
Referring to the king’s speech to the royal invitees in which he said terrorism threatens the whole world and is attributed to the entire Muslim ummah because of the actions of a few, Hussain said: “The Saudi kingdom should pressurise Pakistan to eliminate terror infrastructure.”