Hours after an order was posted outside Delhi's Jama Masjid on Thursday, 24 November, banning the entry of lone women into the mosque, the Shahi Imam of the mosque has withdrawn the same after receiving a call from Delhi's Lieutenant Governor (LG) .
Earlier in the day, Syed Ahmed Bukhari, the Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid had told The Quint that "there is no such restriction on women" but added that lone women who wish to enter the mosque by themselves "will be scrutinised to ensure they are only here to pray and nothing else."
"It is only a measure to prevent those who treat the mosque like a park to meet their boyfriends and make TikToks with them," he had said.
But later, by Thursday evening, the board was removed from the mosque and the order was revoked, after Delhi LG VK Saxena intervened. "He (the LG) called me and requested that the order should be withdrawn. I also don't want unnecessary controversies so we have removed the board. Now it is for the people to try their best to preserve the sanctity and decorum of the mosque," Syed Ahmed Bukhari, the Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid told The Quint.
Earlier in the day, the Imam had explained the move saying, "Women can still very much come to the mosque to pray. They can come with their families, their husbands, their teachers. This isn’t an order banning entry of women in the mosque whatsoever."
On Thursday morning, pictures of a new message on a board posted outside the mosque was widely shared on social media. The board read ‘Jama Masjid mein ladki ya ladkiyo ka akela daakhla mana hai.’ (Entry of lone woman or women in Jama Masjid is prohibited).
“They (lone women) can tell the guards at the gate that they are entering the mosque to pray and not for any other reason. If a lone woman comes to pray, she will be allowed to enter but there will be some scrutiny on them to ensure they aren’t meeting a boy or making videos but actually here to worship. But it’s not as if they cannot enter," Imam Bukhari had told The Quint.
Imam Bukhari had further said this restriction is a result of “several complaints” that the mosque authorities have been receiving for a while. “We have been receiving complaints that women come and exchange roses with their boyfriends here. Or walk hand in hand and make TikTok videos. So we took this decision to curb all this,” he said.
In May 2019, the Jama Masjid authorities had banned the use of TikTok in the mosque, after several videos of youngsters from inside the mosque had gone viral.
On Thursday, Imam Bukhari had told The Quint, "Even as we speak right now, there are women inside Jama Masjid praying." When asked if lone women can come to pray, the Imam said “yes, but only if it is for prayer and worship.”
NCW And DCW Issue Notices Against 'Misogynistic' Order
The written order on Thursday led to backlash from many including the National Commission for Women (NCW).
"The Constitution of India guarantees citizens the right to religious freedom and associated cultural practices, and prohibits gender-based discrimination. The diktat of Jama Masjid is gender-biased and is a violation of fundamental rights of the women worshippers to pray," the NCW said in a press release.
Rekha Sharma, the NCW chairperson has written to the secretary of the Minority Affairs ministry as well as the secretary of Delhi government's Department of Social Welfare to "take appropriate action in the matter and to ensure the right of women to practice religion as enshrined in the Constitution." She has also written to Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal on the matter.
Moreover, Swati Maliwal, the chairperson of the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) also tweeted against the move.
“The decision to stop the entry of women in Jama Masjid is absolutely wrong. As much as a man has the right to worship, so does a woman. I am issuing a notice to the Imam of Jama Masjid,” tweeted Maliwal.
In the notice, Maliwal has sought the reasons for prohibiting the entry of lone women and also the details of the person responsible for the restrictions enforced. She has also recommended that this order be withdrawn. “Jama Masjid in Delhi is a historical mosque and women have been going there to perform religious practices without any restriction for ages. Preventing women to freely enter and practice their religion in the mosque is highly discriminatory and an extremely regressive practice as a place of worship should be open to everyone, regardless of their gender. Such an order is clearly misogynistic and against the ethos of the Constitution of India,” said Maliwal.
No Such Restrictions on Entry of Men in Jama Masjid
The Quint asked Imam Bukhari if there is a similar restriction on lone men as well, which he denied.
“By restricting entry of lone women who aren’t coming to pray but to do other things, we are generally trying to improve the atmosphere of the mosque and keep it pure,” he said.
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