Holding namaz as show of strength wrong, says Haryana CM Khattar

“No member of any community should hold regular religious programmes in open public spaces,” Khattar said in the Vidhan Sabha after Congress member from Nuh assembly Aftab Ahmed raised the issue of Hindu groups opposing Friday prayers in open places in Gurugram
Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar. (HT Archive)
Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar. (HT Archive)
Updated on Dec 22, 2021 04:48 AM IST
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By, Chandigarh

Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar on Tuesday said it was “inappropriate” to hold Friday prayers in open spaces as a “show of strength”, advising all communities to avoid organising such routine religious programmes in public places.

“No member of any community should hold regular religious programmes in open public spaces,” Khattar said in the Vidhan Sabha after Congress member from Nuh assembly Aftab Ahmed raised the issue of Hindu groups opposing Friday prayers in open places in Gurugram.

The chief minister said whenever people want to organise such routine religious activities, they should hold them in temples, mosques, churches and gurdwaras,

“Displaying a show of strength is not good as this provokes the sentiments of another community,” Khattar said even as the Congress MLA reminded the chief minister that latter was the custodian of the state, and the protector of the people of all faiths.

This was the second time that the issue was raised in the House after the winter session of the Vidhan Sabha began last Friday. Earlier, Congress MLA Mamman Khan from Ferozepur Jhirka of Nuh district also raised the matter, objecting to Khattar’s recent remarks over namaaz being held in public places. Both Ahmed and Khan demanded that chief minister should withdraw his statement.

However, the chief minister said it was the responsibility of all to ensure that there was no social confrontation and the peace was maintained. He said people of all faiths hold prayers at designated religious places such as temples, mosques, churches and gurdwaras, and that permissions are given to organise big festivals and programmes in open public places.

“Gurugram is a symbol of development. What message is being sent out from Gurugram when one cannot offer prayers as per one’s choice?,” the Congress MLA said, adding that “some elements” were repeatedly disrupting Friday prayers.

“The Constitution gives the right to practise one’s religion. No one has the right to disrupt prayers,” the Congress legislator said.

The chief minister said people have agreed to hold Friday prayers at certain places in Gurugram, till new arrangements are made. “The good thing is that some places have been identified as per a consensus till new arrangements are made. When consensus is breached and some people hold prayers outside the agreed upon spots, it leads to confrontation,” Khattar said, advising the opposition MLAs not to flare up this issue as this can breach communal harmony.

In a press statement on Tuesday, the Gurgaon Muslim Council, that is leading the demand for namaz sites, said, “Muslims of Gurugram are extremely pained to hear that our CM in Haryana Assembly has said that Muslims offering their obligatory weekly prayers is a show of strength. Instead of stopping such horrifying attacks on Muslims by far-right wing groups, CM has put the blame squarely on us.”

On December 10, Khattar, when he was in Gurugram, said that performing namaz in open spaces cannot be tolerated, and asked the Hindu and Muslim groups and the district administration to discuss and resolve the issue. Following Khattar’s remarks the district administration withdrew permission for Friday prayers at 20 designated sites. Fresh sites were yet to be assigned.

Hindu right-wing groups have been protesting against Friday namaz in open public spaces in Gurugram for the last three years. In 2018, the administration designated 37 sites for Muslims to perform the Friday prayers. However, the number of sites were cut down to 20 in November after members of the right-wing groups and locals continued to protest and disrupt prayers. Muslims have maintained that they were forced to use public spaces since there were not enough number of mosques in the city.

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