Delhi's elite India Islamic Center to see most hotly-contested election

Story by  ATV | Posted by  Aasha Khosa | Date 01-07-2024
IICC President Sirajuddin Qureshi with actor Shabana Azmi and social worker Sara Abdullah-Pilot at a function in IICC
IICC President Sirajuddin Qureshi with actor Shabana Azmi and social worker Sara Abdullah-Pilot at a function in IICC


New Delhi

An intense battle seems to be on the cards for the control of the elite India Islamic Cultural Center (IICC) in New Delhi wherein Congress leader Salman Khursheed is contesting for the post of President and so is Dr Majid Ahmed Talikoti, the convener of the Muslim Rashtriya Manch, a RSS affiliate.

The forthcoming August 11 contest for electing an 11-member governing body of the IICC promises to be the most high-profile contest with 2034 persons – mostly bureaucrats and top-notch leaders – eligible to cast their votes.

While Khursheed is a former Minister, senior advocate, and veteran leader, Dr Talikoti is a reputed (Oncologist) cancer surgeon who has won many awards and accolades for his professional work.

Hailing from Karnataka, Dr. Talikoti is often seated next to Indresh Kumar, RSS leader and head of the Muslim Rashtriya Manch (MRM) on special functions.

MRM is trying to foster good relations between India's two major religious communities and has attempted to facilitate the interfaith dialogue in the past between the two communities.

Interestingly, Sirajuddin Qureshi, an industrialist who is the President of the IICC, is on the panel of Dr Talikoti. He refused to contest for the top post again due to health reasons.

This is not all; The Pasmanda Muslim leaders have picked the election time to question the IICC’s relevance and asking the government to convert it into a hospital.

Salman Khursheed and Dr Majid Ahmed Tilakoti

Dr Faiyaz Ahmad Fyzie, a prominent campaigner for the rights of indigenous Pasmanda Muslims wrote on social media that this elite club of Ashrafs should be closed and also likened it to “mini Pakistan Inside India.”

He questioned why about 72K square feet of State land in the posh Lutyens zone, has been given to the club which has mostly Ashraf members. “A large number of its Ashraf members live abroad. Although there are some Hindus also its members they are as poor as the Hindus in Pakistan.”

Asked what he meant by the “mini-Pakistan inside India” comment, Dr Fazie said it is an elite club and promotes Muslim exclusiveness – something that, he feels, created Pakistan and continues to foster anti-India feelings.

Continuing his campaign Fyzie wrote in another post: Why there is no India Sikh Cultural Centre, India Buddhist Cultural Centre, India Jain Cultural Centre, India Parsi Cultural Centre or India Jewish Cultural Centre? How long will this minority Ashraf class continue to get special privileges in the name of Islam and Muslims???(Sic)

On the other hand, Majid Talikoti, addressing his ties with the RSS, stated that he maintains relations with everyone. He is running in this election to promote religious harmony, bridge societal differences, and raise awareness on issues such as culture, education, and health. Sirajuddin Qureshi emphasized that this election is also about protecting the center from politicization.

The magnificent building of the India Islamic Cultural Center

The IICC was “established to promote mutual understanding  among the people of this country and to depict the true face of Islami which is tolerant, liberal, progressive, rational, and forward-looking religion besides being based on cardinal principles of human values irrespective of faith, caste, creed, and color.”

It holds elections for the governing body of 11 members every five years. This year's election is scheduled for August 11.

Salman Khursheed and Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan have also contested elections in the past.

The voters include former Union Ministers Mohsina Kidwai and Dr. Karan Singh, former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Ministers Farooq Abdullah and Ghulam Nabi Azad, MP Tariq Anwar, columnist Shahid Siddiqui, as well as various national and international leaders, bureaucrats, intellectuals, and industrialists. It has a sprinkling on non-Muslim members too and the elections would see 487 voters casting their vote online.

The IICC was founded in 1981 as part of the 1400 years of Islam and the turn of the Hijri century. The initiative for it was taken by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Hakeem Abdul Hameed, the founder of the Hamadard group, was its first president.

In 2006, the center was inaugurated by former Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi.

Yet another prominent candidate contesting for the post of IICC president is the former Bihar IAS Afzal Amanullah. Afzal Amanullah is the son-in-law of late MP Syed Shahabuddin.

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Located on 8000 yards of land, the building of IICC showcases Indo-Iranian architecture. The IICC has rooms for accommodation, two auditoriums, a coffee house, a restaurant, a library, and many other facilities.