After a group of Bangladeshi tourists gained entry to Taj Mahal to offer prayers last Friday, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has banned foreigners from offering Juma namaz or Friday prayers at Mumtazi Masjid situated on the monument’s premises.
Syed Munawwar Ali, chairman, Taj Mahal Masjid Intezamiya Committee, which makes arrangements for the namaz in the mosque, has termed the ASI’s directive as discriminatory.
“It is very irresponsible on part of the ASI to discriminate between Indian and foreigner Muslims. One cannot divide Muslim community across the globe,” Ali said.
He also denied any security threat from the namazis. “You check namazis thoroughly and even ask us to remove our cap. On a regular day, security officials do not touch anyone even though security threat remains even on those days.”
“It is a direct attack on our religious duty and an attempt to prevent a Muslim to offer namaz when he is at Taj Mahal at the time of namaz,” Ali said.
On December 20, a group of Bangladeshi tourists offered Friday prayers at the Taj Mahal mosque. After the matter was highlighted, the police registered a case against their guide at Tajganj police station and ever since only local Muslims are being allowed to offer Friday prayers.
Superintending archaeologist (monuments), Agra Circle, N K Pathak said: “We issued a clarification after the last week’s incident. The facility is only for locals to offer the Juma namaz and foreigners will not be allowed.”
Earlier, Taj Mahal used to be closed on Mondays for tourists and allowed free entry to Muslims to offer namaz on Fridays. From 2001, the weekly closing day was changed to Friday but local Muslims were allowed free entry to offer Juma namaz between noon and 2 pm. Nearly 1,500-1,600 people assemble for the Friday prayers.
For remaining days, an imam leads the prayer three times a day at the mosque. Since the monument is opened between sunrise and sunset, namaz before sunrise and sunset are not offered. Usually, local staff and even tourists offer namaz at the mosque every day.
“Even foreigners are not stopped and many of them offer namaz at the mosque inside Taj Mahal on any regular day. We cannot stop them,” said Munazzar Ali, local in-charge, ASI.