AGRA – Following the Indian Supreme Court’s decision last July barring non-local Muslims from praying at Taj Mahal mosque, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) issued on November 4 an order banning daily Muslim prayers at the historic mosque, Latestly reported.
“The authorities asked me and the staff of the mosque to organize only the Friday prayer. Prayers can only be offered on Fridays and that, too, by local residents only,” said angrily, Syed Sadiq Ali, the imam of Taj Mahal mosque.
ASI has restrained Muslims from offering prayers at the mosque and locked the ablution site where worshippers wash themselves up before prayers.
The ban would allow local Muslims solely to offer Friday’s noon prayer only at Taj Mahal premises.
The management of the mosque views this new ban as a product of an “anti-Muslim mindset of the government”.
Syed Ibrahim Hussain Zaidi, president of Taj Mahal Intezamia Committee, said: “there was no reason to ban daily prayers at Taj Mahal mosque.”
Before this ban, tourists were allowed to buy tickets and offer prayer at the mosque except on Fridays. Only local Muslims of Agra city were allowed to pray the Friday noon prayer without paying any entry fee.
Zaidi rejected the prayer ban and presented a petition against it to the supreme court.
“Restraining Muslims from offering their prayers at the mosque inside Taj Mahal was illegal and arbitrary,” Zaidi’s petition expressed.
“There is no logic behind closing the doors of a mosque for the faithful,” one student who came to offer prayers on Sunday told Times of India. Other students called the move “anti-secular and retrograde.”
Taj Mahal in Agra, North India, is an Islamic complex that contains the centerpiece mausoleum of the Mughal Empress Mumtaz Mahal, but it also includes a mosque and a guest house.
The landmark was commissioned in 1632 by the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan when India was a Muslim country during the reign of Mughals which lasted for over three centuries.
The UNESCO designated the landmark as a World Heritage Site in 1983 for being the best landmark of Muslim Mughal architecture in India. This year, Taj Mahal is ranked 6th in world and 2nd in Asia’s most visited landmarks.
According to the Zee News, the prayer ban was requested by the Hindu right-wing previously-banned organization, ‘Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’ (RSS), which is the parent organization of the current ruling party of India, Bharatiya Janata Party.
Last year, the history branch of RSS, Akhil Bharatiya Itihas Sankalan Yojana (ABISY), demanded banning the Muslim Friday prayers at Taj Mahal mosque.
In a related controversial speech before the Supreme Court’s ruling, the National Organization Secretary of RSS, Dr. Balmukund Pandey, was quoted by Zee News saying: “If Muslim prayers are allowed, then Hindus should also be granted permission to perform Shiva prayers at Taj Mahal because it’s a national heritage site.”