West Bengal

Senior Bengal Minister’s Open Call To Convert Non-Muslims To Islam Is Deeply Problematic

Jaideep Mazumdar

Jul 06, 2024, 04:17 PM | Updated 04:16 PM IST

Kolkata Mayor Firhad Hakim
Kolkata Mayor Firhad Hakim
  • Hakim, who holds the urban development, housing, and municipal affairs portfolios in the state cabinet, repeated what many radical Islamists tell their folks: only Muslims can go to "jannat" (heaven).
  • Mayor of Kolkata Firhad Hakim, who is also a senior minister and a close aide of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, gave an open call to Muslims to convert non-Muslims to Islam (watch this video). 

    Speaking in Kolkata earlier this week at a Tilawat (recitations from the Quran) organised by the Quraner Alo Foundation, a body dedicated to the spread of Islam, Hakim termed non-Muslims as ‘blighted’ people who needed to be converted to Islam. 

    Converting even one non-Muslim to Islam will assure a Muslim’s path to "jannat" (heaven), he said.

    Hakim, who holds the urban development, housing, and municipal affairs portfolios in the state cabinet, repeated what many radical Islamists tell their folks: only Muslims can go to jannat.

    The programme, held at a government auditorium, was attended by a large number of Muslims and had preachers from other countries, including Malaysia, reciting the Quran

    Praising the Foundation for holding the Tilawat, Hakim called upon the organisers to hold more such programmes so that the meaning and message of Islam can be conveyed to non-Muslims. 

    “The blighted (or unfortunate) ones who are not Muslims and who have not been blessed by Allah need to be made aware of the teachings of the Quran. Even if one non-Muslim can be converted, then the path to jannat will become absolutely easy,” said Hakim. 

    “We are fortunate to be born into Islam. We have grown up as Muslims. But we have to extend the invitation to Islam (extend dawat-e-Islam) to the unfortunate who have not been born into Islam and have not embraced Islam. Doing so will make Allah happy,” he explained to the gathering amid loud chants of Allah-u-akbar

    Clenching his fists, Hakim said that the sight of thousands of Muslims wearing skull caps in front of him makes him “feel good.”

    “It feels so good. We feel so strong and powerful to see thousands of people wearing (skull) caps. We feel that Islam is united, and nobody can suppress us,” he said to loud cheers from the Muslims present. 

    Hakim’s speech and call for conversion to Islam have elicited strong reactions.

    The video of his 3 July speech went viral on 5 July and was shared on social media by tens of thousands of people. It drew condemnation from many who asked how a minister can describe non-Muslims as ‘unfortunate’ and call for their conversion to Islam. 

    Sharing a clip of the video, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)'s Information Technology (IT) cell and co-in-charge of Bengal, Amit Malviya, posted on X: “MC heavyweight and Kolkata Mayor Firhad Hakim openly acknowledged this ‘underlying agenda’, by brazenly advocating the conversion of ‘ill-fated non-Muslims’ to Islam to ostensibly please ‘Allah’. These flagrant incidents portend an ominous future, where the TMC’s policy of appeasement will intensify, heralding a day not far off when West Bengal is wholly converted into a ‘Muslim Rashtra’ under ‘Didi’s Anuprerona (inspiration).”

    Social media users lambasted Hakim, and some even asked him if he considered his ‘boss’ (Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee) ‘unfortunate’ since she is not a Muslim. 

    “Such an open call for conversion is completely unbecoming of a minister. And assertions that non-Muslims are a blighted lot exposes his intolerance and his majoritarian thoughts. One would expect only a radical Islamist to say such things,” said sociologist Dev Lahiri. 

    This is not the first time that Hakim has made such statements that reveal his Muslim majoritarianism. Speaking at a programme a few months ago, he said a day will come when half the population of Bengal will speak in Urdu (watch this video). 

    That remark was also seen as an open call to make Bengal a Muslim-majority state. Some, while condemning his statement, compared Hakim to Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, better known as the ‘butcher of Bengal’, who gave an open call to cleanse Kolkata of all Hindus on 16 August 1946. 

    That call for ‘direct action’ led to an attempted genocide of Hindus; thousands of Hindus were butchered in the city by Muslim mobs. The killings stopped only when Hindus under Gopal Mukherjee (read this) organised themselves into resistance groups to repulse the murderous mobs. 

    During the 2016 assembly election in Bengal, Hakim described the Muslim-majority Garden Reach area of Kolkata as a ‘mini Pakistan’ to a visiting journalist from a Pakistani newspaper.

    “Come, let me take you around the mini-Pakistan of Kolkata,” Hakim told the journalist, who was on his campaign trail. 

    Hakim, thus, is a serial offender who seems to nurse a desire to make Bengal a Muslim-majority state and convert non-Muslims, whom he views as ‘blighted’ and ‘unfortunate’, to Islam. 

    What difference is there, then, between Hakim and radical Islamists who view non-Muslims as "kafirs" to be converted to Islam? While Hakim boasts of Garden Reach being a ‘mini Pakistan’ and wants Bengal to be a Muslim-majority province, Islamists harbour ‘ghazwa-e-Hind’ ambitions. 

    “If the minister can be so blatant about spreading Islam, terming non-Muslims as blighted, and calling for converting them to Islam in public, one shudders to think how radical he must be in private,” said Lahiri. This view and concern are shared by many others. 

    Though Hakim did not speak of forcible conversions to Islam, some felt his call could encourage radical Islamists who use force to convert non-Muslims to Islam.

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