Delhi Jama Masjid restricts entry of women, revokes order after row

Updated on Nov 25, 2022 12:01 AM IST

As the controversy escalated, the mosque’s Shahi Imam, Syed Ahmed Bukhari, on Thursday clarified that the order is not applicable to those visiting to offer prayers.

New Delhi, India - April 6, 2021: People flouting social distancing norms at Jama Masjid, in New Delhi, India, on Tuesday, April 6, 2021. (Photo by Amal KS/ Hindustan Times) (Amal KS/HT PHOTO)
New Delhi, India - April 6, 2021: People flouting social distancing norms at Jama Masjid, in New Delhi, India, on Tuesday, April 6, 2021. (Photo by Amal KS/ Hindustan Times) (Amal KS/HT PHOTO)
BySadia Akhtar

The administration of Delhi’s historic Jama Masjid on Thursday reversed its decision to restrict the entry of girls into the 17th century monument following widespread outrage on social media and after the city’s lieutenant governor Vinai Kumar Saxena stepped in and urged the mosque’s Shahi Imam to rescind the move.

“Jama Masjid mein ladki ya ladkiyon ka akele daakhla mana hai (The entry of a girl, or girls, is not permitted in Jama Masjid),” said a notice put up at gate number 2 of the mosque earlier this week.

The notice triggered a major row on social media, even as mosque officials on Thursday kept girls, single unaccompanied women, and some couples from entering. Guards at the gate asked them to go back or return with family. At the same time, many other married couples and groups of women were, however, allowed to visit the mosque after declaring their marital status.

As the controversy escalated, the mosque’s Shahi Imam, Syed Ahmed Bukhari, on Thursday clarified that the order is not applicable to those visiting to offer prayers.

“Anyone who wants to offer namaz or visit the mosque can do so. Our concern is that people should not start treating the mosque as a meeting point and indulge in activities that defy the sanctity of the place of worship. Even if a single woman says that she wants to visit the mosque, she is free to do so. However, we expect visitors to maintain decorum. There have been instances when women have used the mosque premises to meet their boyfriends, propose, or make videos. The mosque is not a designated meeting point for such individuals,” said Bukhari.

He said that lone women could inform the guards about the purpose of the visit and enter mosque premises.

However, later in the day, Bukhari confirmed that the order was scrapped after the LG’s intervention.

“The LG said that it would be better if the notice is removed. We have agreed,” he said

But, Bukhari continued, “Women and others should themselves ensure that they respect the mosque premises and not indulge in activities that are not suited for a place of worship”.

Meanwhile, Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) chief Swati Maliwal termed the notice a violation of women’s rights and said she was issuing a notice, even as officials in the National Commission for Women said the body has taken suo motu cognisance of the matter and is deciding on the action to be taken.

Also Read | 'Improper…': Jama Masjid bans unaccompanied women, DCW issues notice

Mehak, 18, who tried visiting the mosque with a male friend on Thursday evening said she was asked to return with her mother.

“Couples are not allowed, some officials told us. I have been coming to the mosque for years, but it’s the first time that they have not allowed me to enter. They said I should come along with my mother,” said Mehak, who prefers to use the first name.

Sneha Sharma, 20, a Delhi University student who visited the mosque for the first time on Thursday with a male and female friend, was not stopped from entering.

“We were not asked any questions or stopped from entering,” said Sharma.

Bukhari said the decision was taken after some “incidents” were reported on the premises of the heritage structure.

Ansar-ul-Haq, the mosque’s assistant public relations officer, said some women shot music and dance videos inside the mosque, “disrespecting its sanctity.”

“Entry is allowed for others who visit with family members for an outing or picnic. Even if a student or any other woman wants to visit, they are allowed to visit if they are respectful of the surroundings,” he said.

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