Gurugram: A day after Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar said that Namaz should be offered in mosques instead of public places, the state’s waqf board has asked the administration to vacate the illegally occupied mosques in villages neighbouring the Gurugram district.
In a letter to the district administration, the Waqf Board said Muslims in and around Gurugram face a shortage of mosques to offer prayers and sought help to vacate around 20 mosques that have been encroached upon in the region.
"With members of other communities objecting to Muslims offering prayers in open spaces, it has become important to make available the mosques authorised for the same purpose. We urge the government to help vacate the illegally occupied mosques with due police protection. Haryana Waqf board will bear the cost of repair work and staff appointments of these 20 mosques once vacated," reads the Haryana Waqf Board letter.
In the past few days, there have several instances of disruptions during Friday prayers. The Haryana government also said that open spaces cannot be used for Friday prayers.
“We are of the view that namaz should be offered at mosques or ‘eidgahs’... In case of shortage of space, it should be offered at a personal place. These are issues which should not be put for public display... It should be avoided at public places for the convenience of all,” Khattar told journalists.
The diktat was not welcomed by the Muslim community in Gurugram and led to a debate about religious freedom. The Chief Minister's officer later issued a clarification stating that it wasn't the minister's intention to stop anyone from offering namaaz, but “it is the responsibility of administration and police to maintain law and order and the state government is bound to maintain peace”.
Haji Ahmed from Jama Masjid in Gurugram told CNN-News18 that Friday prayers are offered on the streets all across the country, not just Gurugram.
“Never has a state government issued such a diktat. We urge the government to understand our plight and provide space for mosques. There is a shortage and hence open public spaces were being used for years," he said.