A Muslim cleric on Sunday issued a “fatwa” against newly appointed Bihar minister and Janata Dal (United) leader Khurshid alias Firoz Ahmad for chanting Jai Shri Ram, saying his marriage would be terminated for his “mistake”, reported Hindustan Times.

An MLA from Sikta in West Champaran, Ahmad shouted the slogan, normally associated with BJP supporters, outside the Bihar assembly on Friday after chief minister Nitish Kumar won the trust vote he faced after breaking ties with the RJD-Congress alliance and joining hands with the BJP.

The fatwa, or a decree, against the only Muslim minister in Kumar’s new cabinet was issued by Mufti Sohail Quasmi of Imarat Shariah, which describes itself as a socio-religious organisation active in Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha.

“Islam teaches respect for all religions. If by saying Jai Shri Ram I can do some good for the Muslims, why is there such a hue and cry,” Ahmad, who has been given charge of minority welfare and sugarcane industries, told mediapersons.

He would not be cowed down by such threats, he said.

The minister later apologised for his statement, while talking to a TV channel.

“The CM told me if anybody felt hurt by my statement, I should apologise. My intention was not to hurt anyone. I have come to serve the people. My statement was distorted,” he told the channel after coming out of a review meeting of the minority welfare department with chief minister Nitish Kumar.

However, his phone was switched off when HT tried to contact him.

Upset over the slogan hailing Hindu god Ram, Quasmi said Ahmad’s marriage would be terminated and he would have to perform the nikah again after accepting his “mistake”.

Imarat Shariah general secretary Anisurrehman said the organisation had not issued a fatwa but it could be a personal opinion of Quasmi.

“I have not talked to him. I will try to find out what made him speak like this,” he said.

HT tried to reach Quasmi for comments but his phone was switched off.

“A Muslim is honest to his conscience. What wrong have I done? I have not divorced my wife. I don’t know how the fatwa was issued and for what,” said the minister.

The BJP came out in his defence. “Any fatwa on such issues is against the spirit and rich tradition of India, which has always epitomised diversity and respect for each other’s religion,” Bihar BJP spokesman Azfar Shamshi said.

Ahmad had taken forward the Indian tradition while the fatwa was against it. “The days are gone when Muslims were waylaid on sentimental issues. Now, they want solutions to their core issues,” he said.

Maryada Purushottam Ram was known as Imam-e-Hind (an ideal person), he said, adding Indonesia, which has the world’s highest number of Muslims, had named its national carrier named Garuda while several building were named Ramayan.

In Hindu mythology, Garuda is the mount of Lord Vishnu. Ram is an incarnation of Vishnu.

“It is the spirit of Ram that is important and there is no need to fan sentiments,” Shamshi said.

India has always been as a country of Ram and Raheem and there should not be any effort to create a divide, JD-U spokesman Neeraj Kumar said.

“Gandhi ji talked of Ram and Raheem in the same breath. Former president APJ Abdul Kalam observed both Ramazan and Navratra. Ahmad has just reflected the ‘Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb of the country,” he said.

As part of the so-called grand alliance, Nitish Kumar had worked hard to woo the Muslim community and his decision to join hands with the BJP is unlikely to go down well it.

His decision to go with the RJD and the Congress to oppose the “communal agenda” of the BJP saw the minority community support him in 2015 state election. Kumar had betrayed people of Bihar and joined hands with communal forces, his former allies have said.