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India’s Ayodhya: A New Mosque and Temple Amidst Tensions

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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. The Indo-Islamic Cultural Foundation (IICF) is overseeing the mosque project, with construction set to begin in May after the holy month of Ramazan. The mosque is expected to take three to four years to build.

In 1992, a Hindu mob destroyed a 16th-century mosque in the northern Indian city of Ayodhya, triggering riots that killed about 2,000 people across India, most of them Muslims. India’s top court ruled in 2019 that the razing of the mosque was unlawful but 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. The mosque project was delayed also because it had to be redrawn to add more traditional elements to the structure, like minarets. 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 Haji Arfat Shaikh, the head of the development committee of the IICF and a BJP leader. The mosque has been named “Masjid Muhammed bin Abdullah” after Prophet Mohammad, moving away from “Babri Masjid” or mosque as the disputed structure was called.

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

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