Bishop’s ‘narcotic jihad’ sermon roils State politics

BJP throws its weight behind the prelate, CPI(M), Cong. warn against divisive speech

Pala Bishop Mar Joseph Kallarangatt’s ‘cautionary’ sermon on radical Islamists ‘using narcotic drugs’ to corrupt Catholic and non-Muslim youths has roiled Kerala politics.

The Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), Congress, CPI(M) and CPI have warned that the Bishop’s speech about ‘narcotic jihad’ against non-Muslims by Islamists could lethally polarise Kerala’s largely secular society into competing religious groups acutely mistrustful of each other.

However, the Left Democratic Front (LDF) seemed caught off guard when Kerala Congress (M) leader and Kottayam district panchayat president Nirmala Jimmy publicly backed the bishop’s view. Her statement contradicted Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s rejection of the spectre of ‘narcotic jihad’ on Friday. (KC(M) is an LDF ally).

In Thiruvananthapuram, Union Minister of State for External Affairs V. Muraleedharan threw the Centre’s weight behind the bishop. He said Indian politics had shifted seismically since 2010 when the jihadist attack on Newman College professor T.J. Joseph for blasphemy had elicited a muted response.

Mr. Muraleedharan urged the moderates in the Muslim community to rally behind the bishop. He slammed the CPI(M) and the Congress for obliquely supporting jihadists by damning Mar Joseph. The BJP would not allow the parties to punish the prelate for professing the truth, he said.

CPI State secretary Kanam Rajendran said that spiritual leaders should not lend credence to the divisive political agenda of the Sangh Parivar.

The controversial pulpit speech has also triggered a fierce debate about the fine line between free speech and hate speech. The State police have reportedly flagged a worrying torrent of provocative messaging related to the subject on social media.

The government has reportedly asked the police to prosecute persons who push the envelope of free speech to cause enmity between communities.

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