A leading Islamic seminary in Pakistan has issued a religious edict slamming the construction of a state-sponsored Hindu temple in capital Islamabad. The fatwa from Lahore-based Jamia Ashrafia madrasa comes nearly a week after Prime Minister Imran Khan approved a grant of 100 million Pakistani rupees (US$597,000) on the recommendation of the federal religious ministry to build the temple. Some Muslims have taken to courts and social media platforms to register their protests. “It is permitted to repair the prevailing houses of worship of minority communities in an Islamic state so that non-Muslims practice their faith freely but with certain limitations,” the June 27 edict said. “However, according to Sharia laws, it is not permitted for non-Muslims to build their new worship places or rebuild those which had no longer been in use. This is a sin in an Islamic state.”
The fatwa questioned the government’s decision to spend taxpayers’ money on houses of worship of minority communities. The temple also faces a legal challenge in Islamabad High Court, where a petition has been filed with a plea to halt its construction. “If we allow Hindus to build their temples today, tomorrow other minorities will come up with similar demands,” the petitioner argued, adding that the land allotted for the temple was a violation of the Islamabad Masterplan. The court dismissed the plea to halt the temple’s construction but issued a notice to the Capital Development Authority to explain whether the land allocation was a violation of the Islamabad Masterplan. “Minorities are entitled to practice their faith the same way Muslims do in Pakistan,” the court observed. Kesoo Mal Kheeal Das, a Hindu member of parliament, regretted the propaganda being faced by the temple. “The land had initially been allotted by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif not only to Hindus but also to Christians, Parsis and other minorities to build their community support centers in Islamabad,” Das told UCA News on June 30. “Islamabad is the capital of Pakistan. All minorities have the right to have their community centers or worship places in accordance with the religious freedom guaranteed by the constitution. It’s also important for the soft image of Pakistan globally.” Das reminded the nation of the promise made by the founder of Pakistan to minorities. “Whoever opposes it [the temple] in fact opposes the very idea of the founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, regarding the establishment of Pakistan,” he added.
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