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Bohra leader Saifuddin branded anti-Semitic by US-based family member

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A U.S.-based member of the ruling Dawoodi Bohra family has condemned the self-proclaimed leader of the Dawoodi Bohra community, Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin, for his alleged obscurantist views, which is out of tune with the needs of modern times. Taizun Shakir, a member of the Dawoodi Bohra family and is a U.S. national, told IndiaFacts from Las Vegas, Nevada, Wednesday, “Mufaddal Saifuddin is coming to the USA to spread his anti-Semitic, anti-women, and anti-western venom to the historically peaceful community.

The split in the ruling family that has been ongoing for more than a decade but took an ugly turn after the death Dr Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin in Mumbai last January at the age of 102 years. Burhanuddin headed the mostly business-minded one-million community for half century.

The Dawoodi Bohras are Fatimid Shi’a based in India for the last 600 years.  The historically peace-loving, educated, and prosperous community was torn apart after the death of the 52nd Da’i (leader) last year in India. The 53rd Da’i who was the rightful successor, Syedna Khuzaima Qutbuddin, has been shunned by the priestly class even though he was the second in command “Mazoon” of the Syedna Burhanuddin and is his rightful successor, Shakir said.

According to the Indian Express, supporters of Muffadil Saifuddin Syedna Qutbuddin clashed at Raudat Tahera mausoleum in Bhendi Bazaar on February 18 when a group of over 30 supporters of Khuzaima Qutbuddin reached the mausoleum to mark Qutbuddin’s birthday. The Burhani guards work under the administration of Mufaddal Saifuddin.

Shakir said Mufaddal claims that he is the successor as he is the son of the 52nd leader.  “Mufaddal’s medieval attitudes never before seen in the one-thousand-year history of the Dawoodi Bohra leadership, has cast a big shadow upon the community.  Mufaddal has gangs who prevent the faithful from visiting or even declaring allegiance to the 53rd Da’i in Mumbai, India,” said Shakir.  “We, the followers of the 53rd Da’i respectfully request the leaders of the United States not to recognize Mufaddal.”

On its part, the Muffadal’s camp also accuses the Qutubuddin camp of being against women rights.  According to Mumbai Mirror the infighting in the ruling family as divided Bohra families across the community: Marriages are being called off, divorces are taking place, and brothers are turning against each other as the community stands divided between those who support Saifuddin and those favoring Qutubuddin.

According to Mumbai Mirror, one of Qutubuddin’s daughter Arwa is married to Saifuddin’s son Taha and the couple has five children. Qubuddin’s second daughter Fatema is married to Saifuddin’s nephew Ibrahim and the couple has four children. The nine children were spirited out of the family’s Saifee Mahal residence in Mumbai by their mothers after Burhanuddin’s death last year and flown to Bakersfield, California, where a family court ordered joint custody of the children to the parents.

[pullquote]The split in the ruling family that has been ongoing for more than a decade but took an ugly turn after the death Dr Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin in Mumbai last January. [/pullquote]

Inspite of the family rift and succession battles in court, Syedna Mufaddil Saifuddin has been consolidating his position and met Prime Minister Narendra Modi early this year. In addition to spiritual power and political prestige, the question at stake is who will control Bohra community global estates worth billions of dollars all over the world. This correspondent was the first to break the story of split in the Dawoodi Bohra family 12 years ago in a Mumbai newspaper.

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Ahmar Mustikhan

Ahmar Mustikhan is a senior journalist based in the USA who has previously contributed to Mid-Day and The Week.