It is with shock, dejection and almost a sense of shame at the trite standards that your journalistic practices have fallen to these days that I write to you this evening.
I was highly impressed by your advertising campaign - I Am Mumbai - last year which seemed to project your newspaper as a truthful, honest, real representative of the people of Mumbai. To a large extent, I believed it too with flashes of doubt depending on the quality and nature of articles you published over the past one year.
However, the sensationalist, ill-informed, poorly researched, largely opinionated, allegation-hurling and fact-starved article headlined "A Perilous Transition" on the front page (with extensions on page 6) of your tabloid today has forced me to not just review my positive opinions about your editorial standards but actually discard them altogether.
In the garb of presenting a fair observation, it is quite clear through the language and content of the article that it was not just influenced by a group of people discussed in the article, i.e., a small number of personally frustrated people who consider Khuzaima Qutbuddin to be the successor of the Late His Holiness Dr Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin, but written with deliberate bias and almost a hint of vendetta against the Dawoodi Bohra community and its new spiritual leader.
As a newspaper that is read widely and held in high regard, I was appalled that your editorial team would even allow such a poorly written article to be published in the first place. Considering you'll have high standards in place, the publishing of this article, therefore, clearly reflects that this was a considered attempt at being sensationalist, drawing unnecessary attention to a non-issue and maligning the hard-earned and globally respected reputation of the Dawoodi Bohra community and its new spiritual head, His Holiness Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin.
It's also in poor taste from a humanitarian point of view because it has been published at a time when the Dawoodi Bohra community over the globe is in mourning and still trying to recover from the unexpected loss of the beloved Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin.
Instead of offering sympathies and condolences to the community or paying a much-deserved tribute to the impeccable and prolific achievements about the late Syedna who was a beacon of peace and progress in India and a globally consulted stalwart for wisdom and developing human potential, your newspaper chose to talk about an issue that is hardly a subject for discussion in any Dawoodi Bohra household. Even more so, it chose to adopt an intellectually bereft stance and demonstrate journalistic lewdness in doing so.
I'd like to argue my case on a few facts -
1) Your article does not shed any light on the actual investiture process (nass) from one Dai-el-Mutlaq (Vicegerent to the Imam) to the next and makes its own assumptions about what happened 49 years ago or 3 years ago without any evidence or facts.
In the first place, how can any ambiguity about the new Syedna arise because Khuzaima Qutbuddin has never presented any evidence regarding the investiture he claims was made to him 49 years ago. Moreover, as a regular, practising Dawoodi Bohra who has had the privilege to attend many sermons of the late Syedna, never in the past 49 years did the Syedna ever refer to Khuzaima as his successor. Nor does he have any witnesses to his investiture whereas there are witnesses to Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin's proclamation in London and Mumbai.
Any doubts about this historic event can only imply that the doubters believe that the alive and conscious Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin was not in charge after his stroke and leadership issues were being handled without his consent. Is that what Khuzaima's associates are suggesting? If so, then their own faith in the late Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin can be called into question and, more importantly, their trust in their own senses and intellect can be questioned because there have been countless instances in the past 3 years where the late Syedna has appeared publicly with Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin as his successor.
Moreover, even after Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin fell ill in London 3 years ago and appointed Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin as his successor, never did Khuzaima Qutbuddin ever stake a claim or mention to the late Syedna that he was being denied or being wronged. After all, as part of his faith, he would believe that the Syedna would do justice and listen to his plea if he merited a hearing.
2) Without any evidence, it portrays the benevolent and benign Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin as a "radical hardliner". On what basis?
I'm sorry to say this but the article's author suffers from the most basic of flaws when making an objective argument - selective perception. How can such an article be published?
For instance, how can a dignified, respected leader holding a legal, constitutionally recognised office be morally assaulted without any proof? How can a leader under whose administrative guidance - for the first time in human history - women were institutionally freed from the domestic chores of cooking as a result of the "community kitchen" be portrayed as someone who advocates limited educational access to women?
How can a leader who personally supervised de-addiction and rehabilitation programmes be labelled as having a divergent school of thought in Islam?
Moreover, he personally beseeched and facilitated Dawoodi Bohras in Yemen to avoid growing 'khat' (a flowering plant that is classified by the WHO as a drug of abuse and has damaging physiological and psychological effects) and take up organic fruit and vegetable farming practices instead for the benefit of society at large. How can he not be a moderate, progressive liberal with a humanistic aspect of Islam at the heart of his teachings?
How can a leader who personally preaches women's rights within a family and propagates non-violence and fair treatment of women at home have hardline views on gender?
The issue here is not just of journalistic callousness but of a planned systematic attempt at publicly demeaning the Dawoodi Bohra community and its new spiritual leader. The issue here is grave as your article is based on blatant lies and claimed representations of opinions such as "He is seen as a right-wing radical ...", "Dawoodi Bohras faced with having to select from two individuals..."
In the first place, a Dawoodi Bohra, by definition of his faith, would unconditionally accept whoever has been handpicked by the late Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin as his next leader. And those who doubt his decision, are by definition, not Dawoodi Bohra and, hence, have no moral or legal right to comment on this decision.
And in the past three years or even now, never has a Dawoodi Bohra been faced with a choice as the late Syedna never suggested that there was a choice to be made. Hence, this article lies. Spiritual leadership is a highly responsible and serious task and is not some trivial game show where there is a draw of lots or choices to be made without fundamental and complete knowledge.
A big lie in the article is that the late Syedna was unable to utter a word in front of a large assembled gathering in Mumbai after he appointed Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin. I was personally a witness to that ceremony (over a live telecast) and can clearly remember the late Syedna pronouncing his successor's name.
Another glaring lie in the article is that "Mufaddal Saifuddin claimed...". Never can a Dai-el-Mutlaq claim his succession. He can only accept the investiture made in him by his predecessor in front of witnesses. Mufaddal Saifuddin was publicly appointed by Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin. Whereas the reality is that it is Khuzaima who is staking a "claim" and has no witnesses.
In fact, here are a few facts that haven't been mentioned in the article -
1) Against people's wishes and without their consent, members of the Dawoodi Bohra community are being sent text messages and emails and being coerced to give up their faith and acknowledge Khuzaima Qutbuddin as their leader. A key pillar of a Dawoodi Bohri's faith is her/his allegiance to and unconditional belief in the Syedna. Since Khuzaima was never officially anointed or appointed by the late Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin, choosing Khuzaima as her/his leader would mean giving up a lifetime of faith in the late Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin himself and adopting an un-Islamic belief system.
2) Khuzaima Qutbuddin's family members are forcing people (especially young children) to renounce Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin as their leader and sending MMS videos of such forced renunciation to people (again, without consent).
3) Khuzaima Qutbuddin's history has rarely been saintly. He has been linked with various traits and activities that do not befit a spiritual leader and certainly not one who can uphold the faith of a million-strong community.
Therefore, I sincerely request and, in fact, demand an unconditional apology from Mumbai Mirror for publishing an article that lacks objectivity, malevolently maligns the reputations of a highly respected global leader and the entire Dawodi Bohra community at large and, by virtue of indulging in such a tawdry and unprincipled standard of journalism, has brought the highly reliable Indian press into disrepute.
[As received on common forum]
[As received on common forum]
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