CAIRO - The inclusion of mosques in India's most populous city of Mumbai in a new list of heritage structure is dividing the Muslim minority, with some see the move limiting the expansion of worship places, while others hail it for preserving them.
"As per the Wakf Act, once a property is declared as a Wakf, it remains that; the status cannot be changed," ND Pathan, chief executive officer of Wakf Board, told Hindustan Times on Monday, October 8.
We have asked for a fresh survey of buildings so that Wakf properties can be taken off the list.
The BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation's (BMC) has unveiled a new list of heritage structures that would include several mosques.
The list will includes worship places as the Nagdevi Street mosque and the Bakkar Kasab mosque in Dongri.
A number of cemeteries are also proposed to be put in the list.
Currently, mosques as the Jama Masjid in Zaveri Bazaar, Minara Masjid and Imamwada's Mogul Masjid are included in the list of protected heritage buildings.
But the new list is opposed by Muslims, who see the move would limit the authority of mosque officials and give way to government interference.
"The trustees will need the government's permission to even paint the structure," said Namazi Ali, honorary secretary of the 150-year-old Iranian Mosque (Mogul Masjid).
"There are so many old monuments in the city that are falling apart, why can't the government take care of them?"
Critics are also worried that the heritage tag would restrict future expansion of mosques.
Congregations are growing and more space is needed to pray," Javed Shroff, trustee of a Bandra mosque (not on the heritage list), said.
While architectural aesthetics need to be preserved, it cannot be at the cost of future needs.
But some Muslims hail the move for helping preserve and protect their places of worship.
"Even the Taj Mahal is a Wakf property, but it is a protected monument, Hanif Nalkhande, trustee of the 180-year-old Jama Masjid, said.
If a Wakf structure has historical or architectural value, it should be declared a heritage structure. The tag gives value and protection to the property."
Nalkhande said Muslims were very happy when Jama Masjid was declared a heritage monument in 2001.
"We did not get any help from the government, but we decided to restore it on our own," he said, adding that the restoration work was done using funds generated by the trust.
Abha Narain Lambah, conservation architect and author of several books on Islamic architecture, said inclusion of more mosques in the heritage list was an acknowledgement of the contribution of Islamic architecture to Mumbai's cosmopolitanism.
"The Wakf board should welcome the move," she said.
Every building has its own requirements and a heritage tag will not put a freeze on its needs.Muslims account for 160 million of India's 1.1 billion people, the world's third-largest Muslim population after those of Indonesia and Pakistan.