By A Staff Reporter
NEW DELHI, December 26 - A number of intellectuals and writers have condemned the arrest of the editor of 'Voice of India', Mr. Sita Ram Goel, on December 19 for printing the Hindi version of a study - Understanding Islam through Hadis.
They pointed out, in a statement here today, that the English version of the study was printed abroad in 1982 and it had been reprinted twice in India.
The statement said the seizure of the Hindi version from the premises of the binder even before its distribution raises serious doubts over intellectual freedom in the country.
Among the 15 intellectuals and writers who have issued the statement are Mr. Dharampal, historian, Professors Daya Krishna and Gopal Krishna, Sheen Kaaf Nizam, Urdu poet, Mr. Jagat Ram Sahni, writer, Mr. Pradip Kumar, publisher, Mr. Rajiv Vohra, sociologist and Mr. Arvind Mohan, journalist.
The statement pointed out that the book's author, Mr. Ram Swarup, is well known for his deep philosophical and reflective thought on religion, informed by a concern for man's religious quest.
Moreover, the study on Islam through Hadis is based on sources held in high esteem by Muslim scholars. These sources are the Hadis collection by Muslim (the second most authoritative compilation according to Muslim tradition), Sirat Rasul Allah by Ibn Ishaq (the first authoritative biography of the prophet), Tarikhi-i-Tabri, by at-Tabri, and several other works listed in the bibliography appended to the book, the statement said.
The statement further said: "The resulting picture of Islam may or may not meet with the approval of all those interested in the subject, but the extent of approval a work enjoys has never been the criterion for determining its scholarly merits, not at least in a free society."
Lauding the government's efforts to establish a climate of mutual tolerance between communities, the statement, however, expressed doubts over whether a change could be brought about on the "foundation of ignorance" and "suppression of critical thought."
Also, the book needs to be translated into all the Indian languages and distributed throughout the country as it seeks to inform the readers on the aspects of Islam which ought to be elaborated on, according to the intellectuals.
The statement added: "The better we understand the major religious and cultural traditions of India, the better we might be able to pursue the goal of national integration, Without free discussion on religious doctrines or traditions we will never be able to promote national integration.