Mirwaiz off to Iran for Islamic studies
22 July 2000
The Asian Age
Srinagar: Kashmir''s chief priest and leader of secessionist Hurriyat Conference, Mirwaiz Moulvi Omar Farooq, is saying adieu to both his birth place and politics which he reluctantly joined after the assassination of his father, Moulvi Muhammad Farooq, in May 1991. The parting would, however, be temporary. The young Mirwaiz is planning to visit Iran and Central Asian Republics to pursue his Islamic studies. He is leaving the country in a couple of days and would stay abroad for a few months. Announcing the decision at a Friday congregation at city''s grand mosque, the Mirwaiz said that both as an ordinary Muslim and religious leader it was his duty to seek knowledge. ''Our religion makes it obligatory for both men and women followers to seek knowledge even if one has to go through hardships in the way,'' he told his supporters who seemed unwilling to compromise with his absence. The Mirwaiz said that he succeeded his father at a stage when he was too young and ''inexperienced'' but it was the sincere cooperation from his people that helped him in living up to the expectations. ''Apart from fulfilling my political and religious responsibilities, I spared time to pursue my studies and now I''m going abroad to complete my research work on the life and work of Mir Syed Ali Hamadani,'' he said. The 14th century Central Asian Muslim preacher spread the message of Islam in Kashmir and as was put by the Mirwaiz ''We, the Kashmiris owe him a lot.'' He said that his effort would only be a tribute to the great work the preacher, popularly known as Shah-e-Hamadan in Kashmir has done. The Mirwaiz family claims to be descendants of the Shah-e-Hamadan. The Mirwaiz''s announcement came a day after Professor Abdul Gani Butt, the abstemious Kashmiri secessionist leader, was elected as chairman of Hurriyat Conference replacing ironman from Jamaat-e-Islami Syed Ali Shah Geelani. The Mirwaiz himself held the top post in the amalgam for two years. On Thursday, he had voted in favour of the other lone contestant Abdul Gani Lone who, however, lost to Mr Butt by solitary vote. The sources in the Hurriyat Conference said that the other executive member of the amalgam who cast his vote in favour of Mr Lone was JKLF''s Yasin Malik. Mr Lone had also been assured of support by the Peoples'' League''s Bashir Ahmed Tota but the outfit changed its mind at the last moment and instead favoured Mr Butt in the election. The other two votes he got were of Mr Syed Geelani and Shia cleric-politician Moulvi Abbas Ansari of the Itehad-ul-Muslimeen. It is pertinent to say that the election of the Mirwaiz for two terms and that of Mr Syed Geelani for a single term were done by consensus and it was for the first time that the executive of the amalgam decided to elect its leader through voting. Both the contestants had, on moral grounds and to set a good precedent, opted not to use their right to vote which is otherwise given to each executive member under the Hurriyat Conference constitution. The election followed some of the unruly scenes witnessed at the recently held meetings of the amalgam leadership, sources said. It is also learnt that the defeat of Mr Lone has left his supporters bitter which will have its impact on the future functioning of the Hurriyat Conference. ''Not at all,'' replied the Mirwaiz when asked if his decision to leave the country is related to the bickering in the Hurriyat Conference. He asserted ''And then there is no bickering there.'' The Mirwaiz told The Asian Age that he was enrolled at Kashmir University and his visit abroad was only to collect material for preparing thesis for M. Phil and Phdfs degrees and to attend a workshop in Iran. ''It will take me about a year and a half to complete my research out of which only a few months would be spend abroad,'' he said adding that the decision to go out of the country was taken several weeks ago and the same was in no way connected to Kashmir''s changing political scenario.