A Barelvi leader has asked the Lahore Corps Commander to stop the Defence Housing Authority’s (DHA) Religious Affairs Department from interfering in the appointment of khateebs and muezzins – sermon givers and givers of the call to prayer – alleging that the department is biased towards Deobandi clerics.
In a letter to the corps commander, who is vice chairman of the DHA, the secretary general of the Milade Mustafa Welfare Society in DHA Lahore said that the Religious Affairs Department was interfering in the Human Resources Department’s responsibilities to ensure that Deobandi scholars are appointed to positions in mosques in DHA. “Because of Deobandi khateebs in DHA mosques, Barelvi people have … opted not to go to DHA mosques,” he added.
Muhammad Siddique Qadri said in his application, a copy of which is available with The Express Tribune, that 66 of the 75 people working in the Religious Affairs Department were Deobandis and the rest were Barelvis.
He accused Religious Affairs Department Director Brigadier (retired) Shamsur Rehman and Khateebe Aala Sarfaraz Awan of bias against Barelvis. He said a muezzin, Qari Abdul Aziz, had recently resigned because of them. He also asked the corps commander to ensure that khateebs do not issue fatwas against other sects of Islam. Appointments in DHA are highly prized as a khateeb who spends nine years at a mosque in DHA is entitled to a free plot.
Sarfaraz Awan, DHA’s chief khateeb, dismissed Qadri’s application, saying there was no substance to his complaints. He called Qadri an “extremist” affiliated with the Sunni Tehreek. Awan said that the DHA had a transparent process for the appointment of mosque officials conducted under the supervision of the Human Resource Department. He said that DHA was looking for a khateeb and a naib khateeb and the deadline for applications had been March 9. The applicants would soon be given a date for a written test, after which a shortlist of candidates for interview would be prepared. “A board completes this process under the supervision of the HRD director. The Religious Affairs Department has no role,” he said.
He said that Qari Abdul Aziz had not resigned, but been dismissed for misconduct. He said Aziz had been caught stealing electricity. “He used to sleep in the main hall of the mosque with his family with the air conditioner on,” he said. “He used to enter the mosque through a window, which is an insult to the mosque. That is why he was sacked.”
Published in The Express Tribune, March 11th, 2012.