News Brief

'Targeted' Killings Of Islamic Clerics In Uttar Pradesh? Misinformation Spreads On Social Media

Swarajya Staff

Jun 13, 2024, 04:54 PM | Updated 04:52 PM IST

A mosque. (Representative image)
A mosque. (Representative image)

On Tuesday, in the Shamli district of western Uttar Pradesh, a 58-year-old imam (namaz leader) of a mosque, was found brutally murdered. 

The decapitated body of Mohammed Fazal-Ur-Rehman was discovered in a forest near the Balla Majra village.

The following day, investigations led to the arrest of his son, Mohammed Junaid, who police say is mentally unstable. According to authorities, Fazal-Ur-Rehman had gone to the forest in search of Junaid.

See a post on X by Shamli police below:

The same day, a cleric was found dead in another district of UP. Maulana Mohammad Akram, 40, was found with bullet wounds in the early hours of Tuesday in Moradabad’s Bhensia village. 

He was the imam of Badi Masjid in Bhensia. His body was discovered by a neighbour in an abandoned building adjoining his house.

Police are yet to identify the killer in this case. They suspect that Akram was called outside his house in the night and shot dead.

These tragic incidents have been widely discussed on social media, accompanied by unfounded claims suggesting a series of targeted, communal killings of Muslim clerics in Uttar Pradesh. 

The trigger for this narrative is a week-old case from UP’s Pratapgarh district where an imam was killed by an acquaintance from the Hindu community.

Maulana Farooq, 67, general secretary of Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind in Pratapgarh, was found dead on 8 June in Sonpur village of Pratapgarh. Police arrested Chandramani Tiwari for the murder, saying it was related to a land dispute. 

However, one of Farooq’s sons, Mufti Mamoon, told the media that there is no communal angle to the incident and the two had known each other for long.

Despite the police's clarification regarding the nature of the arrests in the Pratapgarh and Muzaffarnagar cases and ongoing probe in the Moradabad one, social media is rife with posts that Islamic clerics are being targeted in hate crimes across UP and that Muslims are in danger in UP.

For instance, see these:

Fanning this narrative are prominent Muslim leaders and journalists.

Asaduddin Owaisi, president of Muslim party All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), posted that "Muslims are being attacked after elections results", citing murders of "two Maulanas" in UP, among other cases.

Shaukat Ali, the UP head of AIMIM, posted on X (formerly Twitter) that “three out of Maulanas have been killed in three days”, implying that the clerics were killed as part of a pattern.

Salman Nizami, former spokesperson of Congress party, posted on X, “Another Molana killed in UP. As I said, the celebrations over a few seats will turn into misery. In the end, Muslims won’t get a ministry or come into power. Neither will those they voted for speak for them. But they will face the brunt and suffer!.”

Meer Faisal, a journalist with Qatar-government owned Al Jazeera, posted, “Following the incidents in Pratapgarh and Moradabad, another lifeless body of the mosque's imam was found in Shamli.”

See the post below:

Their posts insinuating that these killings are connected have sparked a false narrative on social media about ‘targeted’ and ‘communally motivated’ killings of clerics in UP in the wake of Lok Sabha election results where the Bharatiya Janata Party has come to power for the third time in a row, albeit through alliances.

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