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Grand Mufti of Kashmir gives Fatwa: Army not to build mosques, shrines

New Delhi, Tue, 29 May 2007 Sadiq Ali

May 29: Kashmir and the controversy have always remained inseparable. Violence turned it into a nuclear flash point and now Army has stirred a religious controversy by renovating Muslim religious places.

After Muslims along with separatist leadership protested and compared it with an attack on the beliefs of faithful, the state’s Grand Mufti has issued a fatwa on Monday refraining people from accepting donations from non-Muslim. He declared that no donation can be accepted from a non-Muslim for the religious affairs, and urged people to pay Army back the money spent on the constructions.

In a statement issued in the summer capital of the state, Mufti Azam (Grand), Mufti Muhammad Bashir-ud-Din, Mufti Azam (Grand), Mufti Muhammad Bashir-ud-Din agreed on that the Shariat law does not allow that any person or persons other than Muslim(s) can do such an act.

“Therefore, I in my capacity as Mufti Azam Jammu and Kashmir state declare that this shall be treated as a verdict within the purview of Islamic Shariat: that no person(s), organisation(s) other than Muslim(s) can construct, reconstruct, renovate any mosque or shrine.�

“This action, if done,� he warned, “Shall be construed as a naked interference in the religious affairs of Muslim community.�

Hurriyat Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has also threatened to start an agitation if Army won’t stop the process of “renovation� and termed it as direct interference in the religious matters of Kashmiris.

In its effort to create bonhomie and improve the image among people, Army undertook a massive exercise to renovate/reconstruct religious places in many parts of the Valley particularly in north Kashmir.

According to Operation Sadhbhavana initiated under the title Jawan aur awam amun hai mukam (soldier and people, peace is destination), the army is trying their best to win the ‘hearts and minds of Kashmiris’ by undertaking various developmental initiatives in the remote areas of Kashmir. The latest initiative of religious sites failed to create the desired effect because of the resentment shown by the people.

The controversy took decisive turn when governor S.K.Sinha, former army general, inaugurated a Shrine in Budgam district on May 19. “We revere the Sufi strain of Islam, especially of the Reshi order in Kashmir,� he said while inaugurating the shrine of Aga Syed Mehdi at Budgam, which was renovated at a cost of Rs 18 lakhs. So far about Rs 55 lakhs have been spent on construction/renovation of 11 shrines.

Aga Syed Mehdi was a senior member of Peoples Democratic Party PDP, who got killed in a land mine blast suspected to be triggered by militants.

Islamic laws refrains Muslims from accepting the donations from non-Muslims for the construction of religious places like shrines and mosques or for any other religious affairs.

Grand Mufti has expressed strong resentment over the whole issue. He has reportedly said, “If the Army really wishes to help the people, they could build latrines and bridges instead of interfering in our religious affairs.�

Observers within the state are of the opinion that the Fatwa do have political overtone besides religious decree. Grand Mufti, who has been attacked by unknown gunmen during last decades of violence, is viewed as apolitical figure but his statement expresses more than that.

Grand Mufti was quoted saying, “This is not a denying fact that the Army and other security forces have inflicted maximum injury to the Muslim community in the state for the last about two decades. Therefore such steps (the renovation of shrines) by Army and other security agencies are nothing but a conspiracy against (the) Muslim community and shall be resisted with iron hands.

“I therefore appeal all the Muslims in general and Islamic clerics, scholars and imams to resists such plans by the (Army) by tooth and nail. The sermon has also been endorsed by Muslim Personal Law Board and Nudwat-ul-Ulema, Jammu and Kashmir, too.�

Meanwhile army has denied the allegation that they initiated any renovation process. While refuted the charges of political ambitions behind its campaign. Army spokesman in 15 Corp Srinagar, Lt. Col A.K Mathur was reported as saying, “Indian Army’s a secular force; we only help in renovation of the religious places when there is request from the people. If the people don’t want our help there’s no force from our side.�

The controversy might not end here because of the religious sensitivity. Now people are clueless if ever they will pool the money to give back to the army, will they accept? That might be just another controversy.

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