'Bohrileaks': Massive data leak hits Bohri Muslims ahead of Moharram

Updated: Oct 11, 2016, 13:28 IST | Gaurav Sarkar |

Those behind the act say this exposes how personal details are not safe with the Dawoodi Bohra Trust, known for its cradle-to-grave databank of followers of the Syedna

Ahead of Moharram, a website named ‘Bohrileaks’ has released the Ashara attendance records of Bohri Muslims around the globe—including names, cell phones numbers—in what it claims is an effort to expose how poorly guarded the community’s personal data is.

Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin
Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin

The Dawoodi Bohra Fatemi dawat, the trust that governs the community and has the Syedna at the helm, maintains meticulous record of members in the eJamat card, which is issued at the time of birth and tracks members through their lifetime.

Insiyah Rangwala
Insiyah Rangwala

In recent years, the dawat had put in place a swiping attendance system, which lets them monitor whether cardholders attended Moharram prayers or not, and if they attended, whether they were on time. The ID cards also has names and personal phone numbers of community members, and these are stored in the Idaratut Ta’reef al Shakhsi (ITS) global database, in order to determine how “religiously pure” a member is.

Members of the Dawoodi Bohra community use the ID cards to access various mosques and amenities provided by the Syedna
Members of the Dawoodi Bohra community use the ID cards to access various mosques and amenities provided by the Syedna

According to Bohrileaks, “edicts have been sent to all Bohra centres worldwide taking their Ashara attendance categorisation one step further, exhorting that Bohras must be categorised daily into three groups: those who attended sermons BEFORE TIME, those who attended sermons LATE, and those who DID NOT ATTEND at all.”

Aim: To expose dawat
The hackers claimed they are making the data public to show that the central database, which covers multiple global cities, is not secure. The data that Bohrileaks made public on October 3 pertains to last year’s Ashara attendance, including ITS numbers, names, phone numbers, and the locality of the members. They have revealed records for UK, Pakistan, Dubai, Tanzania and India.

Four divisions of Mumbai feature in the leaks — Khar, Masjid Bunder, Kalyan, and Bhiwandi, with nearly 250 people being named as having poor Ashara attendance. The city-wise files also include the names of people (Musaid/Masool) who are “responsible for taking remedial action to ensure that the person attends in the future.”

Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin’s office and spokespersons were not available for comment despite repeated attempts. A member of the rival faction, Dr Aziz Qutbuddin, the youngest brother of the 54th Syedna Taher Fakruddin, slammed the ruling faction for the draconian measures.

“It is very unfortunate that such a leak can happen and that people’s data is not secure,” he said. “If the leak is indeed genuine, it is unfortunate that Shehzada Mufaddal Saifuddin is monitoring community members in such a way. Syedna Taher Fakhruddin believes there should be no compulsion and force in religion. Religion is about love and understanding.”

Community reacts
Community members reacted with alarm that their personal data had been made public. Another Bohri leader who did not want to be named for this report suspected that the data that has been revealed on Bohrileaks was just the tip of the iceberg. “There is a lot more information stored on the database, which too, can be accessed and made public,” he warned.

Another person whose data has been made public — a 61-year-old man who did not want to be named — said it was fortunate that the leaks did not feature details like bank account number, password, credit card number, etc.

“We are asked to bring our eJamat cards along with us to the mosque and swipe it when we enter so as to keep track of who is attending the sermons during the 10 days of Moharram,” said Insiyah Rangwala (26), whose name has been revealed in the leak. “Sometimes, your local amil will even try to convince those who aren’t coming, to attend. It is like an Aadhar card for Bohris. It is what we use to identify ourselves at the pilgrimage destinations in India. I am very unhappy about the leak…people’s full names and telephone numbers are all available publicly. This is ridiculous.”

The Bohri Aadhar Card

>> The Idaratut Ta’reef al Shakhsi (also known as ITS or eJamat) is the Dawoodi Bohra Department of Personal Identification and the ITS card has become a universal access system for Dawoodi Bohras almost like a religious passport.

>> From birth until death, every major and many minor life events are recorded in the system. From birth date, misaq details, nikah details, family tree information, death details, telephone numbers, email addresses, jamat clearance, to other sensitive personal data, all of this is included and is part of the ITS database.

>> Whenever Bohras follow Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin on his travels, the ITS database is the main source for organisation and allocation of resources to Bohras.

>> At a local level, Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin has issued edicts that at religious occasions, his followers must scan their RFID ITS cards when entering the mosque or place of worship so that a central database can be created of who attends which events. (As from the website)

No of people compromised in Mumbai region

Khar: 113

Bhiwandi: 69

Kalyan: 78

Masjid Bunder: 43

People named as having ‘poor’ Ashara attendance last year

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