Preacher Mufti Salman arrested for hate speech, supporters protest

The controversy erupted after a video of an inflammatory speech attributed to Azhari went viral on social media. The Junagadh Police subsequently arrested two individuals, Malek and Habib, who had organised the event where Azhari spoke.

| Updated: 05 February, 2024 11:48 am IST
Muslim cleric arrested for 'hate speech', sparks protest at Mumbai police station

NEW DELHI: In a joint operation conducted by the Gujarat Police’s Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) and Mumbai Police, prominent Islamic preacher Maulana Mufti Salman Azhari was arrested in Mumbai on Sunday. The arrest follows investigations into a hate speech case, with Azhari currently held at Ghatkopar police station.

The controversy erupted after a video of an inflammatory speech attributed to Azhari went viral on social media. The Junagadh Police subsequently arrested two individuals, Malek and Habib, who had organised the event where Azhari spoke. The duo had obtained police permission under the guise of promoting religious discourse and de-addiction awareness, but Azhari’s speech deviated into contentious territory.

The video, recorded at an open ground near the ‘B’ division police station in Junagadh on January 31, prompted the registration of a First Information Report (FIR) against Azhari, Malek, and Odedara under Indian Penal Code sections 153B and 505(2) – charges related to promoting enmity between religious groups and making statements conducive to public mischief.

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As news of Azhari’s arrest spread, hundreds of his supporters gathered outside the Ghatkopar police station, demanding his immediate release and causing a traffic standstill. Mumbai Police assured that the situation was under control, urging residents to remain calm.

Azhari, despite the gravity of the allegations, urged his supporters to refrain from protesting. In a statement, he asserted, “Neither am I a criminal nor have I been brought here for committing a crime. They are doing the required investigation, and I am also cooperating with them. I am ready to be arrested if it is in my destiny.”

Amid the uproar, legal perspectives on the case diverged. Azhari’s legal team emphasised that no religious sentiments were harmed in his speech, claiming that his arrest was prompted by a demonstration staged by VHP and RSS activists outside a police station.

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National spokesperson of All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, Waris Pathan, defended Azhari, stating that he did not deliver any provocative speech. Pathan emphasised the need for justice through due legal process and questioned the lack of government action against actual hate speeches.

In the controversial speech, Maulana Mufti Salman Azhari made statements such as, “Abhii karbalaa kaa aakhirii maidaan baakii hai, kuchh der kii khaamoshii hai, phir shor aaegaa… aaj kutto ka vakt hai, hamaaraa daur aayegaa!” (The final battlefield of Karbala is yet to come. There is a momentary silence, and then the uproar will arrive. Today is the time of dogs; our turn will come!)

Azhari’s lawyer, Wahid Sheikh, raised concerns about the arrest procedure, highlighting that Azhari cooperated with the police but was detained without following proper legal protocols. “He has now been detained illegally,” Sheikh asserted.

In response to the unfolding events, the Gujarat Police secured a two-day remand for Azhari from a Mumbai court, allowing his transfer to Junagadh. Azhari’s lawyer, Arif Siddiqui, reported that the police had sought transit remand, which was granted.

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