According to a report by TOI, on March 11, Salim, along with a friend, drove down to his girlfriend’s college to meet her. Seeing her, he stopped the car in the middle of the road, got out and rushed towards her with a rose and proposed the old-fashioned way, with friends cheering on and applauding. This beautiful moment was captured on video by a by-stander who posted it on social media.
Little did Salim realise that proposing and expressing his love for his girlfriend in public would land him in trouble. The nightmare began after the video of romantic proposal went viral. The self-appointed Dharam ke thekedar from Raza Academy threatened the couple and asked them to apologise. Shakeel Raza, secretary, Raza Academy, which forced the apology, told TOI, “We only made the couple realise their mistake and asked them to apologise for whatever they did publicly.”
Feeling unsafe, the couple had to flee the city. Speaking to TOI, the woman’s father said, “We are upset. My daughter has threatened to commit suicide if the harassment does not stop. It’s unethical of some people to react in this way over a silly mistake.”
Raza Academy has a history of acting as self-appointed guardians of religion. Back in 2016, an NGO put out an advertisement for sanitation workers from the people belonging to the unreserved general category – Brahmin, Kshatriya, Bania, Patel, Jain, Sayyed, Pathan, Syrian Christian and Parsi to apply for toilet cleaning jobs. This advertisement was put out by the Ahmedabad based NGO Human Development and Research Centre (HDRC), run by Saint Xavier’s Non Formal Education Society. Along with the outrage of Hindu right-wing, Raza Academy was also part of the outrage factory. In response to the aforementioned advertisement, Raza Academy had claimed that Sayyeds cannot undertake the job of cleaning as it is an “insulting job”. Raza acadamy had slapped a legal notice asking the agency to tender unconditional apology within seven days for job advertisement of sanitation worker.
In 2015, Mumbai’s Raza Academy has issued a fatwa against musician AR Rahman for being part of the Iranian movie Muhammad: Messenger of God. The fatwa was also against the film’s Iranian director Majid Majidi and others involved in the project.
In 2012, the outfit came in the spotlight due when a meeting it had organized in Azad Maidan in Mumbai had turned violent. A rally was organized on 11th August, 2012, by two outfits, the Madina Tul Ilm foundation from Kurla and the Raza Academy. The meeting was organized to protest the alleged killing of Muslims in Assam and Myanmar. While the police permission was sought for only 650 people, more than 15000 people had turned up for the meeting. The meeting turned violent leaving 2 dead and 63 injured.
From Babas to Maulvis, the self-appointed guardians of religion are as much a reason for tensions between various communities as political parties.