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Sonia to look into Muslim shrines' neglect: Sufi leader

world Updated: Jul 14, 2009 15:01 IST

Congress president Sonia Gandhi has promised to look into allegations that the pilgrimage sites of Muslim saints in India do not get the same attention from the government as those of other religious groups, says a visiting Sufi leader.

"The meeting with Soniaji was a follow-up to an acknowledgement in parliament by the home affairs minister to a Sufi Federation of India delegation that Sufi dargahs in India are a major point of national integration," Hazrat Syed Muhammad Jilani Ashrafi of the Spiritual Foundation in Kichocha, Uttar Pradesh, said in Johannesburg before returning home on Monday.

The Muslim leader had come to Johannesburg to launch the new home of the Foundation's Africa office, which will provide social, welfare and spiritual services to all those needing them, irrespective of race or creed.

"Millions of pilgrims of all faiths come to seek blessings and the intercession of saints for the fulfilment of their desires at the shrines (of Muslim saints in India) every year, yet we find that these places do not have proper facilities," said Ashrafi.

"A place like Ajmer, which attracts 16 crore pilgrims from all over the world annually, needs to have its own airport; its own university; and the government tourism agencies need to market it in the same way that they do the holy places of other religious groups."

Ashrafi said Gandhi had been surprised when told that the Muslim sites were lacking proper facilities and had promised to look into the matter.

"She told us that it was the first time she had heard about this, and we informed her that this was probably because the advisors in her office for Muslim affairs were not supportive of Sufi objectives."