New Delhi: Shahi Imam of Delhi's Jama Masjid Syed Ahmed Bukhari Thursday triggered a controversy by inviting Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as well as political leaders in India but not Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the anointment ceremony of his son on November 22.
19-year-old Shaban, who is pursuing Bachelors in Social Work at a private university, will be anointed as the 'Naib Shahi Imam' (Vice Imam) at a ceremony in the historic Jama Masjid which is expected to be attended by religious leaders including some from abroad.
"I have invited several Indian and foreign political leaders for attending the anointment ceremony of my son. Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has also been invited, but I have not sent invitation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi as Muslims have not forgiven him for the Gujarat riots," Bukhari said here.
Among those invited by him are BJP leaders Rajnath Singh, Harsh Vardhan, Syed Shahnawaz Hussain and Vijay Goel, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.
Justifying the decision of not inviting Modi, Bukhari said "It is not a personal fight. He does not like us and we do not like him. Modi never tried to reach out to the Muslims and kept the Muslims at a distance."
Reacting sharply to Imam's statement, the BJP said it was unfortunate and asked what message he wants to send out by his action.
"He is raising questions on himself. Indian Muslims are born in India and they love India and they would never ever think of Pakistan and what message Shahi Imam wants to send out," BJP national spokesperson Nalin Kohli said.
Shaban was picked for the influential post due to his "strong inclination" toward humanities besides his religious capabilities, said Bukhari who has been holding the prestigious post since 2000.
Shaban will be groomed under his father, who will remain the "Shahi Imam" for his life. Shaban will then take over the mantle from his father as 14th Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in the country.