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Pakistan Ulema Council Backs Hindu Temple Construction

by Newsweek Pakistan

Tahir Ashrafi. Photograph by Minhaj Ahmed Rafi for Newsweek

In press interaction, Maulana Tahir Ashrafi denounces ‘controversy’ over building temple in federal capital

The Pakistan Ulema Council on Friday announced it supported the construction of a Hindu temple in Islamabad, with Chairman Tahir Ashrafi slamming the people who were making the issue controversial.

“We denounce the controversy over the temple construction,” he told media in Islamabad, adding that the extremist clerics making it controversial were incorrect. “The Ulema Council will call a meeting and present its point of view to the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII),” he added, referring to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s decision to consult the CII on the temple construction.

According to Ashrafi, Pakistan’s Constitution is clear about the rights of both Muslims and non-Muslims living in the country. “To have their own place of worship and offer a life as per their faith and tradition is the right given to all non-Muslims in the Constitution as well as shariah,” he said.

The Ulema Council chairman said Hindus living in Pakistan were its citizens, not residents of a conquered land, and certain clerics’ claims about their rights under shariah law were incorrect. To a question, he said the Council’s stance had always been clear. “No extremist group or individual should be allowed to usurp the rights of minorities in the country.”

Ashrafi also sought to clarify concerns that the temple’s construction risked threatening the Muslim faith. “Dozens of worship places have been established in the country for religious minorities and recently the government constructed the Kartarpur Corridor for Sikh pilgrims,” he said. “Did anybody observe any threat to Islam? No.”

Islamabad last week announced that a Hindu temple would be constructed in the federal capital—the first such place of worship for the country’s minority. The news immediately drew criticism, including from the government-linked Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid) and eventually resulted in protests and an extremist tearing down the boundary wall of the temple. The government has referred the matter to the CII for final approval or denial.

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