No religious sanctity for encroachments

While the Supreme Court's directive to States on removing all places of worship from roads, pavements or other public places has cowed the State Governments into submission, Muslim and Christian religious leaders feel the issue can be sorted out amicably if "little care" is exercised.

"The Islamic teachings about building a mosque are very clear. One cannot even put up a mosque on a leased land forget constructing it on an illegal one. Building it on a civic property is even gruesome," Maulana Qadeer Ahmad Ada-ul-Amiri, a prominent Barelvi scholar, said.

Concurring, Maulana Riyazur Rahman Rashadi, Imam, City Jamia Masjid, narrates an anecdote during Prophet Muhammad's time.

"When the Prophet migrated to Medinah in 622 CE, he planned to build what is now the Masjide-e-Nabawi in that City. For this, two orphans offered their land, but he
refused saying he would rather purchase it. Hence, if a mosque is built by encroaching on the public property, the land should either be purchased, else the structure should be razed," Rashadi asserts. According to the Maulana, whenever he is invited for laying the foundation of a mosque, he verifies the land's legitimacy.

As for mosques/dargahs that have come up by encroaching public property, Rashadi has an explanation. "These so-called illegal places were built years ago when most of the civic regulations were not in force. In many instances, only those shrines have been invalidated which obstruct road-widening. They were not built on illegal land, per se," he reasons.  On demolishing mosques or dargahs for civic works, Rashadi referred to a fatwa issued by scholars in Saudi Arabia. "The fatwa clearly states that places of worships can be demolished for civic works," he said.

Maulana Amiri, however, differs. "Once a mosque is built, its land cannot be used for any other purpose. The Government should itself regularise the structure by collecting the amount," he maintains. But there is a word of caution for the community. "We shouldn't be carried away by whimsical rhetoric.”

Paul Thangiah, Founder Pastor of the Bangalore's largest church, the Full Gospel Assembly of Good Pastor, too says such places should be legalised in the first place.

"People visit these places for finding peace, they don't cause nuisance to the society. But, if a church has to be demolished for civic work, the government should provide land to it somewhere else.

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