Kolkata: Imam Noorur Barkati -- known for his controversial fatwas or religious decrees and closeness to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee -- was sacked from his post at the Tipu Sultan Mosque in Kolkata today. The management of the mosque had warned him earlier against his political and anti-national comments. The termination letter was sent two days after the Imam's son allegedly led an attack on the office of an Urdu daily edited by a Trinamool lawmaker.
"You have made speeches that can incite people to violence. In view of that....you are removed from the employment of the Wakf estate," the letter read.
After news of the sacking spread, the Imam refused to step down. "I am only answerable to the people," he said, and waving at people gathered for prayers at the mosque, added, "The people are with me".
The management board of the mosque, he said, was "crooked". "They have fiddled with the estate's funds. Also, the whole thing is a conspiracy by two Trinamool MPs, Nadimul Haq and Sultan Ahmed" he added.
Nadimul Haq, the Rajya Sabha lawmaker, is the editor of the daily, Akhbar e Mashriq that was critical of the Imam's fatwas and anti-national comments. Mr Sultan Ahmed is a parliamentarian from Uluberia in Howrah.
Imam Barkati is known to be close to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and has often shared dais with her at various events. Recently, he had refused to remove the red beacon from his car despite a Central government order, claiming Ms Banerjee had approved the continuation of the British-era tradition. He complied only after intervention from the Chief Minister following public protests.
Anwar Ali Shah, the "mutwali" of the Wakf Estate board, today said the Imam had embarrassed Muslims with his comments. In a scathing critique of the Imam's comments, Mr Shah said, "He is not a political leader. He leads prayers. After prayer, he is part of the general public".
Mr Arif Ahmed, a trustee of the management board, said, "Comments about Jihad in India were the last straw. They are anti-national and completely unacceptable. If the Imam does not move out of the masjid offices within a week with all his effects, we will have to seek legal and police help".
Soon after demonetisation, which Ms Banerjee opposed, the Imam offered Rs 25 lakh to anyone who tarred Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Days later, he issued a fatwa telling Muslims in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh not to vote BJP.