ISLAMABAD: An umbrella group of Muslim organisations in Pakistan has extended its support to the construction of the first Hindu temple in Islamabad and denounced the controversy over the issue, according to a media report on Saturday.
The Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC), whose members include Islamic clerics and legal scholars of different Islamic traditions, also said the Constitution of Pakistan categorically defines the rights of Muslims and non-Muslims living in the country, Dawn newspaper reported.
“We denounce the controversy over construction of the temple. This [making it controversial] by extremist clerics is not correct. The PUC will call a meeting and will also present its point of view to the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII),” PUC chairman Hafiz Mohammad Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi said on Friday.
The CII is a constitutional body responsible for giving legal advice on Islamic issues to the Pakistan government. Pakistan’s religious affairs ministry has written to the CII to seek its opinion on the government’s funding for the construction of the temple in the capital city amid opposition from some Muslim groups.
Minister of Religious Affairs Noorul Haq Qadri on Wednesday said there was no problem related to the construction of the temple, but the real issue was whether it could be built with the public money. The government has approved Rs 10 crore for the Krishna temple, which will come up in a 20,000 sq ft plot in the capital’s H-9 administrative division.
Ashrafi said those opposing the construction of the temple have an incorrect interpretation of Sharia (Islamic law). “To have their own place of worship and offer a life as per their faith and tradition are the right given to all non-Muslims in the Constitution and as well as in Sharia,” he was quoted as saying by the paper.
Ashrafi, who is also the chairman of Muthahida Ulema Board, Punjab, said that the Hindus living in Pakistan were not residents of any conquered land; therefore, the interpretation presented by certain clerics about the rights of non-Muslims in Sharia is not applicable to Hindus and members of other religious minorities living in the country, the paper reported.
“Dozens of worship places have been established in the country for religious minorities and recently the government constructed the Kartarpur Corridor for Sikh pilgrims. Did anybody observed any threat to Islam – No,” he said.
“We are very clear; no extremist group or individual should be allowed to usurp the rights of minorities in the country,” he added. A Pakistani court on Tuesday dismissed three identical petitions challenging the construction of the first Hindu temple in Islamabad.
A single bench of the Islamabad High Court delivered the judgement, making it clear that there was no bar on the Institute of Hindu Panchayat from building the temple on the land allotted to it, using its own funds.
Hindus form the biggest minority community in Pakistan. According to official estimates, 75 lakh Hindus live in Pakistan. However, according to the community, over 90 lakh Hindus are living in the country.
Majority of Pakistan’s Hindu population is settled in Sindh province where they share culture, traditions and language with their Muslim fellows.