By: Shuriah Niazi – OnIslam.net Monday, 02 June 2014
Days after Narendra Modi’s ascension to power, Muslims in India are facing a threat to their religious freedom with some Hindu organizations pitching for a ban on use of loudspeakers during Fajr adhan (prayer call from mosque at dawn).
“This is something unacceptable to us. How can you take away our fundamental right to follow our religion?” Maulvi Shees, a Muslim scholar based in central India, told OnIslam.net.
“Today they are calling for ban on Adhan and tomorrow they will ask us to convert to Hinduism. Such things create insecurity in the minds of Muslims.”
Troubles erupted last month when a Hindu outfit called Rashtriya Hindu Andolan organized a protest in Mangalore city in the southern Indian state of Karnataka demanding a ban on morning adhan.
Protesters claimed that the Muslim call to prayer at dawn disturbs people of other faiths.
Vijaylakshmi, an activist of another Hindu outfit Sanatana Dharma, said, “We believe that no community should misuse religious freedom in such a way to disturb other communities. India has granted freedom to every community to practice their religion in whatever way they want but their way of practice should not cause inconvenience to others.”
The demand has caused uproar among Muslims who asserted that morning prayer is very important for them and the government shouldn’t give in to such demands.
They also expressed fears that such a demand, which has originated from Mangalore city of Karnataka, could spread to other parts of the country.
Muslim fears were materialized after the Hindus in Thane district in Maharashtra state followed those in Karnataka and staged a protest demanding ban on use of loudspeakers in mosques for morning prayers.
They even collected signatures from people against the use of loudspeakers and submitted a memorandum to the district officials to prohibit use of loudspeakers by the Muslims in the morning.
The Adhan is the call to announce that it is time for a particular obligatory Salah (ritual prayer).
The Adhan is raised five times a day.
Majority of Hindus in India believe that the previous Union governments, led by the Congress, had always been sympathetic to Muslims and pursued policies to appease them.
They feel the pacification of Muslims would end with the formation of Narendra Modi-led BJP government.
“The Muslims of this country have been given undue concessions. They should realise that they are in minority in this country and cannot rule on the majority Hindus,” said Ashutosh Jaiswal of Bajrang Dal, a Hindu hardliner organization.
“There has to be a limit and you cannot do whatever you want to. It must end.”
Another Hindu leader Ishwar Singh shared a similar opinion.
“Morning prayer disturbs us. Which religion teaches you to cause trouble to others? It has to stop. After all the demand is genuine,” he told OnIslam.net.
Restrictions facing Muslims religious freedoms were not limited to fajr call to prayer.
Right wing Hindu groups such as Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Bajrang Dal and Shiv Sena have been campaigning in central India for the last few years to stop Muslims from offering prayers in the open on Fridays and on some special occasions, when all the Muslims can’t be accommodated in mosques due to large number of participants.
Muslims’ tense relations with the Hindu nationalist started after the bloody massacre of more than 2000 Muslims in Gujarat in 2002.
Many Muslims fear that Narendra Modi could end several schemes meant for minority community launched by the Congress government.
After the formation of a Modi-led BJP government, some Muslims believe that such demands are inevitable, seeing efforts by extremist Hindu organizations to create bitterness between the majority Hindus and minority Muslims.
“They just want to make sure that Muslims realize the fact that they are living in a country where Hindus are in majority and they should not dare to follow their religion in a way they wish,” another Muslim scholar Shah Mohammed told OnIslam.net.
Some feel that these are only pressure tactics after the formation of the BJP government and nothing is going to happen.
“I strongly feel that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has an agenda and that is the development of the country,” said Tasleem Khan, an executive with a private bank.
“He is not going to waste his victory by going deeper into such contentious religious issues which have no meaning,” he added.
Nevertheless the demand has to an extent created fear in the minds of Muslims. They feel that it is the beginning of their struggle in the present regime.
“The administration should not take such demands seriously. Loudspeaker is used for only a minute or two during Fajr Adhan. It doesn’t cause noise pollution,” said Asad Iqbal, a local leader of Maharashtra.
“At the time of Hindu festivals, loudspeakers blare loudly for the whole night and not a single Muslim organization ever complained about it. There is no point in raising such issues which create rift between the two communities.”