The shooting of a commercial advertisement featuring tennis star Sania Mirza at the historic Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad has sparked a row with the minorities welfare department seeking a report from the mosque officials.
The ad was shot on Monday without the permission of the department, which is responsible for the upkeep of the 17th century mosque. The shooting also evoked protest from the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM), a powerful Muslim political party in the Muslim-majority old city.
MIM and some locals objected to the shooting and Sania Mirza's participation in it.
The advertisers had informed the police about the shooting and Sania's arrival but did not bother to take permission from the minorities welfare department. The police reportedly used mild force twice to disperse locals objecting to the shooting.
The mosque employees said the attitude of some of the members of shooting unit was also objectionable. They were reportedly wearing shoes when they entered the mosque and pushed away a mosque watchman who tried to stop them.
Sheikh Karmeeullah, the district minority welfare officer, Hyderabad, has sought a report from the superintendent and manager of the mosque on the incident.
Khaja Nayeemuddin, superintendent of the mosque, said he had no information about the film shooting. The two-hour shooting was over before the mosque custodians could reach the spot.
The mosque officials pointed out that the shooting of films and commercials was not permitted in the mosque premises.
MIM has protested to the minorities welfare department. "This is an attack on the sanctity of the mosque and it has hurt the religious sentiments of Muslims," said MIM legislator from Charminar Ahmed Pasha Khadri.
He said while Sania was free to act in any commercial, the mosque could not be used for such activities.
The mosque, located in the heart of the city, is a major tourist centre. Tight security is in place at the mosque since the May 18 bomb blast that killed nine people. Muslims constitute 40 percent of the city's seven million population.