In an initiative to foster communal harmony, the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JIH) has been organising masjid darshan (visits to mosques) for non-Muslims, during Ramzan, at several places in the State.
In Bidar, lectures on Islam by imams are being organised in Hindu temples. This programme expands on the JIH’s earlier effort to serve iftar (breaking of fast in the evening) during the Muslim holy month. “I believe that this [initiative] is bringing different communities closer,” said Mohammad Altaf Amjad, JIH’s chief organiser of the events.
Basava Kalyan in Bidar is one of the taluks where the initiative is under way. “We have planned programmes in 78 places, including in villages and in Basava Kalyan town,” said Mohammad Aslam, JIH coordinator.
A masjid darshan typically begins with iftar . Village residents are invited to the local mosque and taken around the premises, including the prayer hall. A JIH resource person speaks to visitors on the importance of fasting and other Islamic traditions. Resource persons Kalim Abid, Zakir Hussain, Mohammad Zabiuddin, Mohammad Azhar and Mohammad Junaid speak in Kannada, while Mohammad Mujeebuddin and Sajid Azad speak in Marathi.“Wherever possible, we form joint committees to fight the evils of alcoholism and dowry. We have formed such committees in eight villages; most have women members,” said Mr. Aslam. “Some visitors told me that they had never visited a mosque though they had been curious about it all their lives. We would have served a great purpose if we succeeded in removing misconceptions of even one of the visitors in this month.”
Yadlagundi in Bidar is one of the villages that does not have a mosque.
Villagers have been inviting the faithful to break their fast at the Mahadev temple here for two years now. On Friday, a group led by temple committee secretary Jagannath Reddy, facilitated JIH members at the temple.
“Though this was planned as a Statewide programme, we have asked our office-bearers to choose villages and towns where there is least resistance. We don’t want to create any misunderstanding over pressurising someone to open their holy place for us, or making them feel compelled to enter a mosque,” said Syed Tanveer, public relations officer of the JIH’s State unit.
“Secondly, we have focused especially on places that have a history of communal disturbances. Our volunteers are meeting village elders at such places and inviting them to hold iftar s along with us, and to visit mosques. We are also exploring the possibility of sending to temples and mutts [elsewhere in the State, beyond Bidar] speakers on subjects like communal harmony, misconceptions about Islam, and the reasons behind the month-long fasting during Ramzan,” Mr. Tanveer said.
The JIH believes masjid committees should provide space to Muslim women for praying in mosques, and some mosques are already doing this. Entry of non-Muslim women to mosques as part of the masjid darshan initiative could inspire more of their own women [Muslim women of the local communities] to pray in mosques,” Mr. Tanveer noted.
“A lot of non-Muslims believe that mosques are exclusive places of worship for Muslims. Sadly, a considerable number of Muslims also hold such beliefs. Such programmes will clear misconceptions in both communities,” he added.
“We are not only opening up our places of worship, we are also hoping to open our minds.”