Ninety-one Muslim lawyers, journalists, actors, social activists, businessmen and Islamic scholars from across India have opposed the decision of several Muslim litigants in the Ayodhya land case to challenge the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision in favour of a Ram temple at the disputed site.

Among the eminent signatories are actors Naseeruddin Shah, Shabana Azmi, journalist and human rights activist Javed Anand, film writer Javed Siddiqi, film-maker Shama Zaidi, and Islamic scholar Zeenat Shaukat Ali. They said the continuation of the dispute in court would fuel anti-Muslim propaganda, and Islamophobia, and aid communal polarisation. “On the other hand, in choosing not to pursue the matter further, Muslims stand to gain the goodwill and empathy of the non-communal millions from the majority community,” they added. “This will be in the best interests of the community and the country.”

The signatories said they “share the unhappiness of the Indian Muslim community, constitutional experts and secular organisations over the fact that the highest court in the land has placed faith above law in arriving at its decision”. But, they added, “while agreeing that the court order is judicially flawed, we strongly believe that keeping the Ayodhya dispute alive will harm, and not help, Indian Muslims.”

The All India Muslim Personal Law Board on November 17 decided to file the review plea, and refused to accept the five-acre alternative plot in Ayodhya to be allotted to Muslims to build a mosque. “The land of the mosque belongs to Allah and under Sharia law, it cannot be given to anybody,” said Zafaryab Jilani, the lawyer as well as the secretary for the Muslim group. “The board has also categorically refused to take five-acre land in Ayodhya in lieu of the mosque. The board is of the view that there cannot be any alternative to the mosque.”

The same day, the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind also decided to file a review petition, but changed its stance five days later. However, the organisation said it would not accept the alternative plot. A day after the verdict, Sunni Central Waqf Board Chairperson Zufar Farooqui had said the decision on accepting the five-acre land would be taken on November 26. He claimed that the board did not plan to challenge the judgement.

The signatories urged “fellow Muslims to ponder over what has been gained and what has been lost” in the course of the dispute. “Has it not meant loss of previous Muslim lives and countless property on one side and the meteoric political ascendency of the Sangh Parivar on the other?” they asked. “Have we not learnt through bitter experience that in any communal conflict, it is the poor Muslim who pays the price?”

They urged the Muslims to “move away” from the dispute “since it only helps to mask the real agenda of the Sangh Parivar: the replacement of our secular-democratic republic with a Hindu Rashtra”.