Twenty five…a small number, but strong enough for a peaceful demonstration as well as attracting the watchful eye of international media.
Over the last couple of years, the Dawoodi Bohra community, or more so, its leaders have been in the midst of controversy with the right to accession to the post of Dai ul Mutlaq taking its toll on the very credibility as well as honor and belief on the title of Dai, which is accepted with unthinking conventional reverence.
This controversial situation was augmented recently by the FGM movement, against the FGM practice propagated within the community by the leaders – voices against which have reverberated across the globe. A doctor and team were recently arrested in US for allegedly carrying out the practice in secret – case pending in courts.
The community leaders continue to be in the news for all the wrong reasons and the strength of their platform was diluted to a great extent on 3rd August 2017, when a group of twenty five Dawoodi Bohra Reformists, holding placards demanding accountability and social justice, managed to upset Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin’s three day program in Birmingham, UK. Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin was due to inaugurate the newly built Saifee Masjid in the Hockley area of Birmingham. His plans to inaugurate the mosque, deliver a sermon and then lead the maghrib prayers were cut short by the demonstrators who had arrived by 7pm outside the mosque. Many from mainstream, particularly the young people, had never seen anything like this, let alone heard of any dissenting voices.
Instead of a grand entrance led by a band and a parade, Syedna Mufaddal was rushed through the back car park and quickly ushered in. He mentioned the protesters in his sermon and told the congregation that they should encourage them to cross over and join them. Through midnight, community organisers were re-working plans for the earlier planned UK-wide gathering on the following day. They rang people asking them not to attend and instead of the 3,000 registered attendees only about 1,000 were present. Coaches bringing people from around the country were cancelled. Two car parks, reserved and paid for the visiting guests lay empty, taxis and mini coaches were cancelled in the middle of the night. By now, photos and information about the demonstration was being conveyed around the world through social media. Even those sitting inside the mosque were receiving photos of the demonstration taking place outside.
The protesters turned up again on Friday morning and this time a BBC journalist and cameraman were also present. They reported the demonstration on the 1.30pm news and as a longer feature on the 6.30pm and 10.30pm news.
As a result of the second demonstration, even Saturdays program in place for the Syedna was curtailed to a bare minimum.
As per information provided, on Friday afternoon, Syedna Mufaddal sent a representative to visit Fazlehusein Kapasi a member of thereformist group and convey the message that Syedna was reaching out to the Reformists with love and wanted Fazlehusein Kapasi to present himself to him. By this time, Kapasi had asked Moiz Rajabali to join him in the discussions. Kapasi and Rajabali spent a couple of hours with the representative discussing the invitation. They made it clear that they were individually in no position to negotiate with the Syedna. Negotiations would have to be between Syedna’s nominees, who should have the power and authority to take decisions, and the representatives of the Reformists. The Reformists’ representatives would constitute delegates elected by Reformist organisations world-wide. Meetings should take place within a properly constituted forum with a clear agenda. Unfortunately Syedna’s representative seemed interested only in Fazlehusein Kapasi presenting himself to Syedna but Kapasi made it clear that he would not do that.
Reformists’ message was relayed to Syedna and by late night, Kapasi received a call from Syedna’s representative. Syedna was inviting him again to meet him. The following morning Kapasi rang the representative and declined the invitation. It was later learnt that the presence in the Majalis held by the Syedna was less than half of what it was earlier planned.
This fistful of strong and committed reformists are in a position to demand acceptance from the worldwide community and have reached out to all reformists and Dawoodi Bohras to take courage from their action as well as seize every opportunity to jointly express their grievance against the pseudo religious strong hold of the Dawoodi Bohra priesthood.
Contributed by: Haki Kapasi and Moiz Rajabali. With inputs from Fazle Kapasi – UK