Patna / Imran Khan / IANS: Male members of families of women sex workers were not allowed to offer namaz (prayers) by the cleric in a Bihar mosque. "We were stunned and failed to understand why we were not allowed to pray in the mosque during Ramadan, the holy month of Islam. It was a shameful act," Rahman Ahmad, one of the several men denied entry, told IANS over phone. The males in the red-light basti near Katihar More in Purnea town said they were shocked when denied entry in nearby Madina Khushki Bagh mosque. Purnea is about 350 km from Patna. Angry over the discrimination, Rahman along with others who were refused entry staged protest against the cleric and questioned the move. However, the group has decided not to lodge a complaint in the police station. "It will give a bad name to muslims," Rahman said. He said he was further hurt by the fatwa issued by the cleric against them. "We were described as 'hypocrite' (monafiq), not muslim, by the imam in the fatwa," he added. "We will not sit silent. Islam is against discrimination, we will fight for justice," another man Saleem Mian said. Rahman said none barred them from offering prayers in the mosque during Ramadan last year. "We were targeted on mere suspicion that we and women of our family are involved in sex trade," he said admitting that some of the residents of his locality are engaged in sex trade. "We and several families like us have nothing to do with sex workers... it is far from the truth that we promote sex trade," he said. Asghar Ali Zaidi, imam (cleric) of the mosque said their entry was banned on the ground that they were not muslim as they celebrate festivals of Hindu religion also. Besides, the women of their families are involved in the age-old profession of sex trade, he added. "We are against such people entering the mosque," Zaidi said. However, Purnea district Mufti Ahmad Hussain Qausmi said it was wrong to ban or restrict entry of any muslim in the mosque to offer prayers.
Concerned that the dispute was set to snowball into a major controversy, an old man of the area Zahiruddin has promised to donate a small piece of land to build their own mosque.
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