J&K Waqf Board ‘mutes’ Palestine issue from sermons, prayers to contain protests in Valley

Security personnel are on alert, monitoring prayers and sermons as part of the effort, say preachers

November 01, 2023 04:24 am | Updated 04:24 am IST - SRINAGAR

Preachers in Kashmir Valley have accused the J&K Waqf Board of disallowing any mention of Palestine, which has been witnessing a fierce conflict for the past 24 days, in sermons or duas (special prayers), in an apparent bid to contain any street protests against Israel.

Several preachers, who presided over the religious rites, during the 11-day Urs at the shrine of saint Sheikh Syed Abdul Qadir Jeelani in Srinagar’s Khanyar, told The Hindu that the Palestine issue was not mentioned during sermons or prayers, unlike the instances in the past three decades when Palestine and Israel saw flare ups resulting in civilian deaths.

“There were verbal instructions from the Board to avoid mentioning the Palestine issue during the Urs. Security personnel were also monitoring the sermons being made and had also conveyed against arousing passions over the subject,” two preachers told The Hindu on the condition of anonymity.

Most of the Board-run shrines and mosques in Kashmir Valley have avoided sermons or speeches on the current situation in Palestine. The Board runs major shrines, including major shrines of the Dargah Hazratbal, the Shah Hamdan and the Sultan-ul-Arfeen in volatile Srinagar.

Valley chief cleric Mirwaiz Umar Farooq was also disallowed to deliver a sermon on October 25 at the Khanyar shrine. The Mirwaiz has been disallowed to attend the Friday prayers at the historic Jamia Masjid after the bloody conflict broke out between Israel and Palestine on October 7, because of the apprehensions of street protests in favour of Palestine.

The Board is run by senior BJP leader Darakhshan Andrabi. The Hindu contacted Ms. Andrabi and awaits her comments over the allegations made against the Board by the preachers.

The Board this year centralised the recruitment of preachers in mosques and shrines. Ishtiyaq Mohi-ud-Din, the Board’s Executive Magistrate Tehsildar, earlier this year, started centralised recruitments of preachers, saying “the Board was facing a shortage of well-qualified imaams, khateebs and muezzins”.

Security agencies are on alert in Kashmir over the current situation in Palestine and growing protests in Muslim countries against Israel.

Top officials of security agencies recently held a meeting at the Army’s 15 Corps in Srinagar “to coordinate and strategise security in the UT in the backdrop of the ongoing Middle East crisis”.

Kashmir has a history of street protests over the issue of Palestine in the past. However, no protests were recorded in the Valley except for one organised by Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti. Official sources said fresh deployments in Srinagar have been made in the past one week to contain such protests.

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