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India arrests man for reciting call to prayer at Mughal-era mosque

January 8, 2024 at 2:51 pm

A man in his 20s has been detained by Indian police on Saturday after reciting the Islamic call to prayer at a Mughal-era mosque in Uttar Pradesh [Screengrab/Twitter]

A Muslim man was arrested and sent to jail on Saturday in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, after reciting the adhan, or Islamic call to prayer, at a 250-year-old dilapidated mosque in Shamli.

According to the Times of India, citing the Shamli Superintendent, the individual was named as Umar Qureshi. He was arrested and accused of “promoting enmity” following a complaint filed by a representative of the head of a local village.

Qureshi is said to be in his early 20s. Going to the “unused site” on Friday to perform prayers, said the newspaper, violated a 1940 British order which stipulates that, “The structure should not be razed by Hindus… and Muslims should refrain from offering prayers at the site.”

A police officer was quoted as saying: “Though the structure, partly in ruins, still exists today, a section of the majority community [Hindus] associates it with Manahar rajas. Others [Muslims] claim it is a mosque.”

READ: India demolishes 500-year-old historic mosque to widen road

The status of historical mosques has become a contentious and political issue in India, ever since the notorious 1992 destruction of the Mughal-era Babri Mosque by Hindu nationalists linked with the current ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in the city of Ayodhya, also in Uttar Pradesh. The mosque named after the first Mughal ruler Babur was claimed to have been built on the birthplace of a Hindu god, Rama.

Following a Supreme Court order in 2019, an alternative site for the “Ayodhya Mosque”, also known as the Mohammed Bin Abdullah Masjid, has since been proposed. It will reportedly have its foundation stone laid by an imam from the Grand Mosque in Makkah.

A more recent controversy has surrounded the 17th century Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi, with campaigners alleging that it was built on the ruins of a Hindu temple. Later this month, a Varanasi district court will decide whether or not the Archaeological Survey of India’s (ASI) scientific survey report on the mosque should be made public. The mosque is among a list of some 3,000 targeted by Hindu hardliners who claim that the structures were originally temples.

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