Syed Shahabuddin

Indian politician
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Syed Shahabuddin (4 November 1935 – 4 March 2017) was an Indian politician and diplomat from Gaya, Bihar. He began as a diplomat working for the Indian Foreign Service, but later became well known as one of the most articulate Muslim politicians of independent India. He switched careers after the Emergency, at the time when the Congress began its decline and Hindu nationalism first started its ascent to power. He served three terms from 1979-1996 as a member of the Parliament of India. He was known for his leadership of the Muslim opposition to the Shah Bano case and the Demolition of Babri Masjid. He died in March 2017 of long-term asthma, at a hospital near his residence in Delhi, India.


  • The law protects the Babri Masjid even if it was constructed on the site of a temple after demolishing it, but in the interest of communal amity, as a one-time exception, the Muslim community is willing to make the offer, as a moral gesture, in accordance with the Shariat.
    • Quoted from Elst, K. (2002). Ayodhya: The case against the temple.
  • If it is proven that the Babri Masjid has been built in forcible replacement of a Hindu temple, I will demolish it with my own hands.
    • Quoted from Elst, K. (2002). Ayodhya: The case against the temple. Also quoted in Paul Teunissen's review of 'Ram Janmabhoomi vs. Babri Masjid' by Koenraad Elst in India Nu, January 1993.
  • Syed Shahabuddin's Muslim India (27.3.89) declares: "They (Aryans) don't belong to India and hence, don't love India. They are foreigners, the enemy within. As Aryans, they are also India's first foreigners. If Muslims and Christians are foreigners, and must get out of India, as India's first foreigners, the Aryans are duty bound to get out first."
    • Syed Shahabuddin's Muslim India (27.3.89) quoted in Talageri, "The Aryan Invasion Theory and Indian Nationalism"

Quotes about Syed Shahabuddin

  • The Ayodhya dispute and the Rushdie affair are indeed connected. The ban on The Satanic Verses was part of a package of concessions by the Rajiv Gandhi Government to calm down Syed Shahabuddin, who had threatened a Muslim “march on Ayodhya” on the same day when the VHP would hold a rally there.
    • Quoted from Elst, K. (2002). Ayodhya: The case against the temple.
  • Could Syed Shahabuddin be a communalist? After all, he played a key role in the three main "Muslim communalist" issues of recent years: the Babri Masjid campaign, the Shah Bano case and the Salman Rushdie affair (it is he who got The Satanic Verses banned in September 1988). Surely, he must be India's communalist par excellence? Wrong: if you read any page of any issue of Shahabuddin's monthly Muslim India, you will find that he brandishes the notion of "secularism" as the alpha and omega of his politics, and that he directs all his attacks against Hindu "communalism". The same propensity is evident in the whole Muslim "communalist" press, e.g. the Jamaat-i Islami weekly Radiance. Moreover, on Muslim India's editorial board, you find articulate secularists like Inder Kumar Gujral, Khushwant Singh and the late P.N. Haksar.
      • Elst, K. in India's only communalist. A short biography of Sita Ram Goel [1]
  • The 'progressive' people in this country show a remarkable eagerness to see communalism even in the most harmless observations of [Hindu] religious leaders, while overlooking such outrageously communal and provocative statements as the one made by the former government official Syed Shahabuddin, that contact with the Hindus debased the Muslim, or the one by Syed Abdullah Bukhari, the Imam of the Jama Masjid in Delhi, that the Muslims would resort to a civil war.
    • Subhash Chandra Sarkar, The Independent, 7/11/1990. Quoted from Elst, Koenraad (1991). Ayodhya and after: Issues before Hindu society.


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