ISLAMABAD: A group of clerics on Wednesday opposed the construction of a Hindu temple and one ally of the PML-N even accused former prime minister Nawaz Sharif for going against Sharia by allotting land for a temple in the capital.

The clerics, who are from seminaries of the Deobandi and Ahle Hadith schools of thought, held a press conference at the National Press Club where they warned the government not to allow the construction of a temple in the city.

Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl Emir Maulana Abdul Majeed Hazaravi said they would “not allow the construction of temples in Islamabad” and that the government should refrain from building a temple in the city “otherwise there will be a severe reaction”.

He also claimed that building a temple violated the teachings of Islam and the ideology of the country.

“This government does not know what it wants to do with the ideology of the state - open the corridor for Sikhs by investing Rs14 billion, now a temple in Islamabad,” Mr Hazaravi said.

He said they would take the matter to the Federal Shariat Court and added that the government should have asked senior clerics or the Council of Islamic Ideology before making a decision in this regard.

Markazi Jamiat Ahle Hadith Islamabad Emir Hafiz Maqsood Ahmed criticised the previous PML-N government for allotting land for the temple in 2017, and the current PTI government for releasing funds for its construction. He claimed that the ideology of Pakistan was being violated.

When the clerics were asked if the former prime minister’s decision to allot land for the temple were wrong, Mr Maqsood claimed it was against Sharia.

Reporters at the presser pointed out that both the JUI-F and the Markazi Jamiat Ahle Hadith were allied with the PML-N government, and the leader of the Markazi Jamiat Ahle Hadith Senator Sajid Mir was elected to the upper house on a PML-N ticket.

Mr Maqsood then said that Islam does not deny religious minorities rights, but then criticised the government for building a temple using tax money for Muslims and said this was “illegal in light of decrees by various scholars”.

Jamaat-i-Islami Islamabad Deputy Emir Kashif Chaudhry said that the capital’s Hindu population should be given the existing temple in Saidpur village for worship. He criticised the government for spending money on gurdwaras and temples instead of mosques and seminaries.

When the JI leader was asked whether there were similarities between their demand and the policies of the right-wing Modi government in India, the clerics said they were against the destruction of old places of worship belonging to non-Muslims, saying these should be renovated and handed over to those communities.

Mufti Abdul Salam from Jamia Muhammadia in F-6 said that the Hindu community should build the temple at their own expense with the government’s permission, saying this is how Muslims fund the construction of mosques in the West.

Published in Dawn, July 2nd, 2020

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