UP minister defends his call for killing Danish cartoonist
New Delhi, Mar 25 (UNI) Uttar Pradesh Minority Welfare and Haj Minister Yaqoob Qureshi, who made an explosive statement of rewarding Rs 51 crore for killing the Danish cartoonist who caricatured Prophet Mohammad, today said he still stood by his statement and announced launching of an ''Insaniyat Rath Yatra'' in the state by April-end.
''I am even willing to be hanged but will not flinch from my avowed stand,'' Mr Qureshi told reporters here.
He said the decision to take out the 'Rath Yatra' was taken in the wake of terror attacks on the Varanasi temples and propagate ideals of brotherhood, peace and amity.
When pointed out that his bounty on the head of the Danish catoonist contradicted the objective of 'Insaniyat Yatra' and the message of Islam, the minister said there was no contradiction between the two.
''I am deeply devoted to the Prophet and any punishment for showing disrepect to him is inadequate,'' he asserted.
He, however, clarified that his statement should not be taken as a 'fatwa' as he was not entitled to issue such a decree. ''Only a qualified Islamic scholar (mufti) can issue a fatwa. My statement only shows my strong feelings as a Muslim.'' Replying to a query, the minister said Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav had nothing to do with his statement on the cartoon controversy.
''However, I had urged Mr Yadav to raise the issue with the Centre and seek recall of the Danish ambassador,'' he said.
Mr Qureshi also denied that his Yatra, which would start from Lucknow and meander through the entire Uttar Pradesh, was in response to the BJP's Rath Yatra, to be taken out by Mr L K Advani and Mr Rajnath Singh next month.
''But my rath yatra will outshine those of the BJP leaders,'' he said, adding that all parties were welcome to participate in his yatra.
He said the objective of the Rath Yatra was to create awareness among people against those who projected Islam in bad light. ''It is not a political programme but a social mission.'' On Monday, the Supreme Court had dismissed a PIL against Mr Qureshi seeking registration of a criminal case against him for allegedly inciting communal passion by his controversial statement.
A three-judge Bench, headed by Chief Justice Y K Sabharwal, criticised petitioner Vijay Kumar Tiwari for approaching the court.
''Every statement and counter-statement on a controversial issue does not become an issue for approaching the courts with a public interest litigation,'' the Bench observed.
While dismissing the PIL, the court said if the petitioner thought it fit, he could file a criminal complaint in the matter before an appropriate forum.
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