The custodian of India's Ajmer Sharif Dargah — the shrine of Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer — defended the Modi government's campaign against cow slaughter, calling upon Muslims across the country to quit eating beef, the Hindustan Times reported.
Syed Zainual Abedin Ali Khan, the diwaan of Ajmer Sharif Dargah, was speaking at the closing ceremony of the 805th annual Urs held on Monday at the 12th-century shrine in Ajmer, considered to be among the holiest Muslim shrines in India.
Cows are considered sacred in Hindu-majority India, and their slaughter is illegal in most states. However, Modi's ruling right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which recently won India's largest state Uttar Pradesh in a landslide, has long campaigned for the protection of cows.
In a video shared on The Quint, Khan — a direct descendant of Chishti in the 22nd generation — said, "It is wrong to kill any animal, including cows, just for the sake of taste."
"Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) also discouraged eating beef. It will not affect our (Muslims) health if we give up the meat," Khan said.
"The way we can respect another religion is by ensuring none of our acts hurt anyone's religions beliefs," the diwaan said. "They (Hindus) revere cows as holy creatures so it is our responsibility [as Muslims] to give up eating beef".
"I appeal to the lawmakers to make a policy and ban cow slaughter so as to maintain peace and harmony in the country," the custodian said, adding that he is a strong opponent of consuming beef and discourages all visitors at the shrine from cooking it.
Millions from India's huge minority populations — including Muslims, Christians and lower-caste Hindus — eat beef, although it is not widely available. Cow slaughter is a hot-button issue in India, where even rumours of cows being transported can spark murderous reprisals and religious riots.
The BJP's new chief minister in Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, has also launched a crackdown on abattoirs since taking office in March, grinding the state's meat industry to a halt.
Hindu activists have long accused the Muslim-dominated meat industry of covering up the slaughter of cows and passing off the meat as buffalo, which are not revered as holy.
Squads of "cow protection" vigilantes are known to roam highways inspecting livestock trucks for any trace of the animal.