Mirwaiz Mohammad Umar Farooq (born 23 March 1973) is the Mirwaiz of Kashmir. He is the chairman of the Awami Action Committee, one of the two key factions of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference in the Indian union territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
In October 2014, Farooq was listed as one of The 500 Most Influential Muslims by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre, Jordan. The report is issued annually in cooperation with Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University in the United States.
As the Mirwaiz of Kashmir and chairman of the Hurriyat Conference, Umar Farooq has an important religious as well as political role in the Kashmir Valley. He is seen as the spiritual leader of Kashmir’s Muslims.
Early life: At the age of 17, following the assassination of his father by unknown gunmen, Mirwaiz Maulvi Farooq, the leader of Awami Action Committee, Farooq united 23 Kashmiri pro-freedom organizations into the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC). Mirwaiz Maulvi Farooq’s funeral procession on 21 May 1990, witnessed the bloodshed near the Islamia College, wherein 72 people, including four women, were killed; his body being dropped in the middle of the road. This roused public sentiment and gave leverage to Mirwaiz Umar Farooq’s political work in the valley. He has constantly tried to raise awareness about the Kashmir issue internationally. He was also shown among the Asian Heroes by Time magazine. He maintains that dialogue must take place with India and Pakistan, so long as the Kashmiri aspirations are heard as well.
Career: He became the 14th Mirwaiz (Kashmiri term for the traditional preacher of Muslims in Kashmir) on 30 May 1990. Rediff On The NeT’s Chindu Sreedharan interviewed him in 1997, in which he described the role of Mirwaiz in Kashmir politics:-
“My family played a major role in evolving politics here. The first party, the Muslim Conference, was established in the valley in 1931. My great grandfather, the then Mirwaiz headed it. In fact, it was he who introduced Sheikh Abdullah to the people. Later, Abdullah formed the Jammu & Kashmir National Conference and my grandfather was exiled to Pakistan where he died.
My father then took over. In 1963, he formed another party – the People’s Action Committee — which stood for giving people their basic rights. Till 1990 when he was assassinated, he was campaigning for that cause. So all along, the political role has been present in the institution of the Mirwaiz.”
Education: Before joining Kashmir politics, Farooq was an alumnus of Burn Hall School in Srinagar. He had interests in computers and wanted to become a software engineer. He holds a postgraduate degree in Islamic Studies called ‘Moulvi Fazil’, and a PhD in the same from Kashmir University, on the topic “Politico-Islamic role of Shah-e-Hamdan”, a 14th-century Islamic scholar who introduced Islam in the Valley.
Personal life: Mirwaiz Umar Farooq is married to Indian-American Sheeba Masoodi, youngest daughter of Sibtain Masoodi, an Indian doctor of Barzulla locality of Kashmir, which is famous for its Bone and Joints Hospital, settled in Buffalo, New York, in the United States, migrating in the early 70s. Mirwaiz is father to two daughters, Maryam and Zainab; and a son born on 11 February 2017.
He is also the Mirwaiz Mufti or high priest of Jama Masjid, Srinagar. Mirwaiz Omar Farooq enjoys popular support in Kashmir, as the Mirwaiz of Kashmir and head of the Hurriyat playing two important roles as a political and religious leader. He took on the challenging role of Mirwaiz at the age of 17 when his father, Mirwaiz Maulvi Farooq was assassinated. Omar Farooq united 23 Kashmiri militant organizations into the All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC), a loose conglomeration of 23 Kashmiri separatist parties, which claimed itself to be the legitimate voice of the Kashmiris in the region and demanded to be included in any talks on Kashmir.
He maintains that dialogue must take place with India and Pakistan, so long as the Kashmiri aspirations are heard as well. Hurriyat Conference, which represents the right-wing forces in Kashmir. Young, modern, and pragmatic Ismalic leader, Omar is considered by many to be Kashmir’s last and greatest hope.