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Gurugram Namaz: Looking for Space and Dignity to Pray in Millennium City

Why has offering namaz in the open become a dread for muslims in Gurugram? we followed Altaf Ahmad on a friday.

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Video Editor: Rajbir Singh

Camera: Shiv Kumar Maurya

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"Is this not our country? Do we not have freedom ?" asks a visibly enraged Altaf Ahmad, a 45-year-old resident of Gurugram. He is watching a short clip of the Jumma Namaz being offered at a open site in the city, and is disgusted by how it's interrupted by members of the Hindu right-wing outfits.

As members of the Muslim community reach the open open sit, a man, later identified as Dinesh Bharti, lunges at an elderly Muslim man, and yells namaz nahi hogi yahan (Friday prayers will not be offered here.) The man is then dragged away by the Haryana police.

Ahmad, co-founder of Gurgaon Nagrik Ekta Manch, says that he is saddened to see how Friday prayers, which he says are an integral part of Islam, are being attacked repeatedly. Hindu right-wing groups have been demanding that Namaz in the open be stopped since 2018. These objections have only grown louder since September 2021.

Ahmad explains that a majority of those who offer Namaz in the city are migrant factory workers, who often give-up their lunch, just to offer Friday prayers at open sites in the absence of close-by mosques.

"Can they not solve this problem by giving us spaces to offer Namaz? Town planners have built a new city and there's so much land here that they have allotted to build temples and gurdwaras but they are not giving us land to build mosques."
Altaf Ahmad

Ahmad had originally planned to visit an open Namaz site in sector 44 but as news of disruptions by right wing groups poured in, he decided to go to the Eidgah instead.

Aware of his privilege, Ahmad says that while he can take out time and drive to a mosque a bit far away, many migrant Muslims in Gurugram's industrial sectors don't have that option.

Branded a Pakistani. In the 3rd Grade.

Every time Ahmad steps out to offer namaz, a sense of fear takes over his wife Henna. Fearing that something may go wrong, she makes a note of the mosque her husband is going to and where he would go next.

She recalls an incident when her younger daughter came back home from school, in tears.

"She came to me with tears, saying that her friends called her a Pakistani in the school bus just because she is a Muslim." Their daughter was in class 3 at the time."
Henna

While Henna doesn't blame the children, she does find fault in the larger media narrative which she feels has increasingly become Islamophobic. Ahmad believes the solution lies in a united resistance to such disruptions.

"If our Hindu, Sikh, and Christian brothers form a human chain, then let them come and bother us," he adds.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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