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Does the Shahi Imam have the authority to ban entry of women unaccompanied by male escorts?

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Photo : Muhammad Mahdi Karim

In a move with far-reaching consequences, Syed Ahmed Bukhari the controversial Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid in Delhi who claims to represent the voice of Indian Muslims passed a dictate banning the entry of women unaccompanied by male escorts and a day later retracted the stand when told to do so by V K Saxena, the lieutenant governor of Delhi.

To justify the ban on entry of women it was said that the decision was taken to “maintain purity” and prevent “wrong things” inside the premises of the mosque.

In a statement attributed to him, the Shahi Imam alleged that “the Jama Masjid is a place of worship but girls coming alone were waiting alone for their dates… which was not what the place was meant for.”

But the real issue here is — does the Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid have the authority to prevent anyone, especially women from freely entering and practising their religion on the premises of the mosque.

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“Jama Masjid mein ladki ya ladkiyon ka akele daakhla mana hai (The entry of a girl, or girls is not permitted in Jama Masjid),” read the notice pasted outside the three main entry gates of the monument that attracts thousands of devout as well as tourists.

Many women’s rights activists have described this as a highly discriminatory, regressive and unacceptable issue.

Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) Chief Swati Maliwal termed it a violation of women’s rights while the National Commission for Women too is understood to have taken suo moto cognisance of the matter.

The panel has sought details on the reasons for prohibiting the entry of women and girls “without male companions” in the Jama Masjid.

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“If the decision was taken in a meeting, please provide a copy of the minutes of the meeting. Steps taken by authorities now for removing the restriction imposed on the entry of women and girls,” the notice read.

However, some of the questions that need to be answered are – are women alone the source of everything evil and the cause behind the “wrong things” taking place inside the mosques? Also what is the guarantee that this would not happen when they are accompanied by male escorts – father, brother, husband or boyfriend? Another million-dollar question begging an answer is – are boyfriends allowed to wait alone for their dates… in religious places, and are there any restrictions when they do so.

Significantly Syed Ahmed Bukhari who succeeded his father Abdullah Bukhari in October 2000 as the 13th Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid also known as Masjid-i-Jehan-Numa built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, which happens to be one of the largest mosques in India — has always been in the centre of many controversies.

Syed Ahmed Bukhari the controversial Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid with Nawaz Sharif
Pic: Amjad Khan 

In 2014 Syed Ahmed Bukhari triggered a controversy when he invited Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as well as other political and religious leaders including Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi but deliberately did not send an invite to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the dastaarbandi ceremony of his son Shaban Bukhari as the Naib Shahi Imam. “He (Modi) does not like us and we do not like him,” he said defending his decision.

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Also Read:

The imam is a controversial concept in Islam

Does any religion permit (mis)use of public places?

It has been alleged that he has usurped the huge earnings amassed from the Jama Masjid and does not submit the statement of accounts to the Wakf Board despite being told to do so.

Further, there are allegations that he has allowed illegal encroachments in the Masjid premises and misused his position as Shahi Imam to issue fatwas, give inflammatory speeches and influence political developments.

Interestingly the Jama Masjid was built on a hillock, so the seat of God was higher than the seat of the Mughal emperor (Red Fort, which is just the opposite). Now it seems as if the Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid – a hereditary post, without any real significance in today’s world – has the right to decide who can pray to God and who can’t… or whose voice God Almighty should listen and whose voice he should ignore.

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Neeraj Mahajan
Neeraj Mahajanhttps://n2erajmahajan.wordpress.com/
Neeraj Mahajan is a hard-core, creative and dynamic media professional with over 35 years of proven competence and 360 degree experience in print, electronic, web and mobile journalism. He is an eminent investigative journalist, out of the box thinker, and a hard-core reporter who is always hungry for facts. Neeraj has worked in all kinds of daily/weekly/broadsheet/tabloid newspapers, magazines and television channels like Star TV, BBC, Patriot, Sunday Observer, Sunday Mail, Network Magazine, Verdict, and Gfiles Magazine.


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