Muslims from red light area plan own mosque

September 26th, 2008 - 11:17 am ICT by IANS  

Purnea, Sep 26 (IANS) Stung by a ban on their entry to the local mosque, Muslim men in a red light area of Bihar’s Purnea district say they will build their own.”We will build our own mosque if the ban on our entry into the mosque is not lifted soon,” Asique Rahmani, one of the dozens of men from the red light area near Katihar More in Purnea town, about 350 km from here, said.

A week ago, dozens of men in the area that houses about 100 families were shocked to find that the nearby Madina Khushki Bagh mosque had banned their entry on the ground that women in their families were engaged in sex work.

“We have no option but to build a mosque to prove to them that we are firm believers in Islam and true Muslims,” Rahmani told IANS.

Said Saleem Mian: “Islam is against discrimination; Islam teaches us to fight for justice.”

The men questioned the move of the powerful members of the mosque management committee not to permit their entry.

Munna Mian, who is also protesting the ban, said: “We are not in a mood to bow to unjust decisions and will give a fitting reply to them by constructing a new mosque.”

Rahmani said the foundation of the mosque would be laid either during Ramadan or soon after Eid. “A piece of land was donated by someone to us.”

The dispute has snowballed into a major controversy within the Muslim community in Purnea.

Last week, when the men from the red light area went to the mosque to offer Ramadan prayers, they were informed that a fatwa had been issued against them by Asghar Ali Zaidi, the imam or chief cleric of the mosque.

Zaidi said the entry of these men was banned on the ground that they were not Muslim as they celebrate Hindu festivals as well. Besides, the women of the family are involved in the age-old profession of sex trade, he said.

“We are against such people entering the mosque,” Zaidi said.

Rahmani, who is spearheading the campaign against this ban, said: “What hurt us was that in the fatwa we were described as ‘hypocrites’, not Muslim, by the imam.”

He said no one had barred them from offering prayers at the mosque during Ramadan last year.

“We were targeted this time on the mere suspicion that we and the women of our family are involved in sex trade. We and several families like us have nothing to do with sex workers… it is far from the truth,” he said while admitting that some residents of his locality were indeed engaged in prostitution.

Initially, Purnea district mufti Ahmad Hussain Qausmi had said it was wrong to restrict the entry of any Muslim to a mosque, but later he changed his stand and said the ban was justified.

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