LAHORE: The police have locked up a mosque in Garhi Shahu after a dispute between Barelvis and Deobandis over the proper procedure for various rituals and the types of religious events held there threatened to become violent.
Hundreds of Barelvis, including some Jamia Naeemia students, gathered at the mosque in the afternoon after hearing that some Barelvis had been kicked out of the mosque during Zuhr prayers. They squared off with several Deobandis, including activists of the banned group Jaish-i-Muhammad, trading insults and pushing and shoving. A large police contingent arrived at the scene before the situation got out of hand and closed the mosque. The police registered an FIR against seven Barelvis and seven Deobandis on public disorder charges under the Maintenance of Public Order Act and the Pakistan Penal Code. They also arrested three Deobandis and two Barelvis and detained them at Qila Gujjar Singh police station after getting their physical remand.
Tableegh vs naat
The mosque at the centre of the dispute is Jamia Majid in Railways Survey Colony, near Mayo Gardens on Allama Iqbal Road, and its prayer leader Qari Muhammad Aslam, who has been in his post for some 20 years.
Qari Aslam and Khalid Masood Awan recently moved an application to Garhi Shahu police complaining that Barelvis were spreading sectarian hatred in the area.
Deputy Superintendent of Police Khalid Mateen summoned both parties and after hearing them, scheduled an election for the mosque committee for last Sunday. SI Muhammad Amjad, a police guard at the mosque, said only Barevlis had participated in this election and hence their people got elected to the committee. On Monday, he said, after hearing the azan from the mosque delivered in the Barelvi style, Deobandi activists including Qari Aslam, Muhammad Salman and Yasin Qureshi entered the mosque and fought with the Barelvis.
Muhammad Yousaf, a Barelvi local, said that most people had believed Qari Aslam was a Barelvi when he became prayer leader 20 years ago, but a few years ago, he started inviting the Tableeghi Jamaat to proselytise at the mosque and discouraging certain rituals that Barelvis follow when saying their prayers and the azan. “Then they began stopping mehfil-i-naat and milaad conferences at the mosque,” he said.
He said that Barelvis were a majority in the colony and they had no objections to praying in the same mosque as Deobandis, but they should be allowed to hold their events there.
Yousaf said that the Garhi Shahu police station house officer had tricked both parties into providing names for the FIR. He said the SHO had told them to give him the names of their seven most prominent members, who he would then get together to resolve the issue. But instead of setting up a committee, he registered a case against the 14 names.
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The mosque is on some 15 marlas and most of its worshippers live in Railways Survey Colony and a Lahore Development Authority katchi abadi. There are 160 houses in both colonies. The prayer leader of the mosque gets a Rs1,000 per month salary and free lodging. Qari Aslam is also a senior teacher at the nearest government high school.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 20th, 2011.