NEW DELHI, Aug 17: Indian actress Shabana Azmi claimed in an interview on Sunday that she and her celebrity husband Javed Akhtar had been unable to find a new house for themselves in Mumbai because they are Muslim.

“If Shabana and Javed Akhtar cannot find a house in the most cosmopolitan city you can imagine what must be happening with the ordinary Muslims elsewhere,” she said in a TV interview on CNN-IBN channel. “I have read a report about Saif (Ali Khan) being denied a house.”

While communal prejudices had forced Muslims to live in ghettoes, she said, India was a country of contradictions and Muslims were doing well too, “including all the Khans who rule the film industry.”

The actress has served as a nominated MP in the Rajya Sabha and is known for her outspoken views against religious bigotry, which are particularly aimed at the Muslim clergy. Her comments about communal prejudices are not dissimilar to the reasons sometimes given to explain why Pakistan has been unable to find an office for its consulate in the country’s business capital.

Pakistani film-maker Hasan Zaidi had faced a similar ordeal last year when he was asked to leave his hotel in Mumbai when they found he had a Pakistani passport. His Indian colleagues intervened to get him accommodation in another hotel.

The Bharatiya Janata Party lashed out at film-actress-turned-social activist for accusing the Indian polity of being unfair to Muslims, and termed her comments as uncharitable and irresponsible.

At a news conference in Bangalore, senior party leader M. Venkaiah Naidu termed Ms Azmi’s remarks as “very, very unfair and uncharitable comment against the nation and the majority community”.

In the TV programme, Ms Azmi had accused the Indian polity of being unfair to Muslims, making only “token gestures”, instead of addressing the real issues.

Mr Naidu said that Muslims have occupied high positions in India, including the post of President of India, Chief Justices of Supreme Court and captain of Indian cricket team. He noted that ‘Khans are ruling the Bollywood’ with people appreciating their work. — Jawed Naqvi

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