Waseem Rizvi launches India’s first Shia Muslim political party

New Delhi: Uttar Pradesh (UP) Shia Central Waqf Board chairperson, Waseem Rizvi, launched country’s first Shia Muslim political party called Indian Shia Awami League (ISAL) on Monday.

The idea is to assert Shia identity and differentiate it from the Sunnis, said Rizvi adding “We are open to whichever party looks after the interest of the Shia community” ahead of the 2019 general elections.

“This is a political party and it is but natural we will fight elections wherever we can. Presidents have been appointed in 16 states so far and we will reach out to the people in our community,” Rizvi said at a press conference at the India Islamic Centre in New Delhi.

Rizvi who declared himself president claimed that registration process with Election Commission of India has been initiated.

Party’s logo – ISAL written in white on a black backdrop and an eagle at hunt and list of two other vice-presidents and 13 other people in the national executive committee have also been released.

Shia Muslims constitute around 25 per cent of the Muslim population in India, and are known to often vote differently from their Sunni counterparts. During the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, for example, the Shias are known to have thrown their weight behind the BJP.

“Traditionally, vote bank politics has only catered to the Sunnis in India, since we are in minority. But when there are riots in the country because of Sunni extremism, we also get targeted due to our Muslim identity,” he told reporters.

“The Shia-Sunni conflict is irreconcilable…They (Sunnis) don’t even consider us Muslims, but because of them our identity is under threat,” Rizvi said, adding that the party cadre is already in place across 16-17 states.

Even though Rizvi tried hard to project himself and his newly formed party as having the support of Shias across the country, influential voices from the community do not seem to reflect that kind of support.

Maulana Syed Kalbe Jawad Naqvi, who is one of the most influential leaders of Shia Muslims, for instance, had filed an FIR against Rizvi earlier this year. Rizvi was deliberately attempting to “create a rift between the two sects that would enable the government to marginalise the community as a whole,” the senior cleric had said.