Construction of new
mosque in Ayodhya
to begin in May;
says Muslim group

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AYODHIA: As Hindu devotees prepare to inaugurate a grand temple to one of their holiest deities, India’s Muslims plan to begin building a new mosque in the same city later this year, hoping to make a fresh start after a bloody, decades-long dispute.

Haji Arfat Shaikh, the head of the development committee of the Indo-Islamic Cultural Foundation (IICF) that is overseeing the mosque project, said this week that construction would begin in May, after the holy month of Ramazan, and the mosque would take three to four years to build.

A view of a site that was allotted by authorities for a new mosque, about 15 miles from the Hindu Ram Temple, in Ayodhya in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, India, on November 23, 2023.
A view of a site that was allotted by authorities for a new mosque, about 15 miles from the Hindu Ram Temple, in Ayodhya in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, India, on November 23, 2023.

A Hindu mob destroyed a 16th century mosque in the northern Indian city of Ayodhya in 1992, triggering riots that killed about 2,000 people across India, most of them Muslims.

India’s top court said in 2019 that the razing of the mosque was unlawful, but ruled that evidence showed there was a non-Islamic structure beneath it. It ordered that the site be given to Hindu groups to build a temple and Muslim community leaders be given land elsewhere in the city for constructing a mosque.

While construction of the $180 million temple began within months and the first phase is set to open on Monday, Muslim groups have struggled to raise funds and begin work at a desolate site about 25 km (15 miles) away. “We hadn’t approached anyone … there was no public movement for it (funds),” said Zufar Ahmad Faruqi, the president of the IICF.

Hindu groups aligned with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) began seeking donations more than three decades back and have collected more than Rs30 billion ($360 million) from 40 million people in India.

The mosque project was delayed also because it had to be redrawn to add more traditional elements in the structure, like minarets, said Athar Hussain, a secretary at the IICF. A 500-bed hospital has also been planned in the complex.

A crowd-funding website is expected to be launched in the coming weeks, said Shaikh, who is also a BJP leader.

“Our effort has been to end and convert enmity, hatred among people into love for each other…irrespective of whether or not you accept the Supreme Court judgement,” said Shaikh. “All this fighting will stop if we teach good things to our children and people”.