Kerala bids farewell to Panakkad Shihab Thangal
Malappuram: The mortal remains of Panakkad Syed Mohammedali Shihab Thangal, the spiritual leader of a major section of Kerala Muslims and the unquestioned leader of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), were laid to rest here Sunday with full state honours.
Thousands of people from different walks of life thronged the Malappuram Town Hall and the residence of Thangal to pay their tributes.
Thangal, who was also an Islamic scholar, died following cardiac arrest at a private hospital near here Saturday night. He was 73.
He is survived by his second wife Ayesha Beevi, two sons and three daughters. Thangal married Ayesha Beevi in 2006 after the passing away of his first wife Shareefa Fatima Beevi.
Representing the central government, union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad attended the funeral, which was held at Panakkad Juma Masjid.
Earlier, Kerala Chief Minister V.S. Achuthananadan, Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan and other senior ministers paid tributes to the departed leader at the Town Hall.
Among union ministers to pay tributes were Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi and Minister of State for Railways E. Ahamed.
President Pratibha Patil, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Chairperson Sonia Gandhi condoled the passing away of Thangal.
In her message, the president said: "Thangal was a prominent social worker who took active interest in accelerating socio-economic development. In his death, the nation has lost an eminent public figure."
Manmohan Singh described Thangal as a leader "who championed the propagation and importance of education. He had the strong following of his community but framed his politics in terms of larger national issues and aspirations".
"I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing away of Panakkad Syed Muhammad Ali Shihab Thangal. He was one of Kerala's most prominent leaders and led the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) for many decades with great distinction. He was a nationalist who cherished secular values and a social worker and a powerful orator," the prime minister said.
Thangal always resisted pressures to take up plum postings in Muslim countries that had good relations with India and also preferred to keep away from the corridors of power.
For several decades he had been the fulcrum on which the IUML, the second most powerful ally of the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) in Kerala, stood steady.
Thangal, born May 4, 1936, was the eldest son of Panakkad Pookoya Thangal. The family claims to be descendents of the Prophet Mohammed.
Thangal's forefathers came to the state hundreds of years back and intermingled with the culture of Kerala.
His ancestors were known for their patriotism by taking a strong anti-imperialist stance during the British rule.
After his schooling in Calicut, Thangal went for higher studies on Islam in Tirur. In 1958, he went to Egypt for further studies and obtained a higher degree from Al Azhar University in 1961.
He continued his studies in Cairo University and pursued a doctorate in Arabic literature in 1966.
On the death of his father in 1975, he took over as president of the Kerala state committee of IUML, a post he held till his death.
After the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992, Thangal made a passionate plea to all the Muslims in the state to remain calm.
Achuthanandan lauded the role played by Thangal in preserving social harmony in the state.
Bharatiya Janata Party state president P.K. Krishnadas said Thangal's contribution in preventing the spread of Islamic terrorism in the state would be remembered for long.
State Congress president Ramesh Chennithala said the state had lost a spokesperson of secular values.
Malappuram district, which has the highest concentration of the Muslim population in the state, owes much of its development to Thangal. He was behind the proposal to start another campus of Aligarh Muslim University in Kerala.
Source: Indo-Asian News Service