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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - KOCHI, Kerala — Adding a new chapter to the history of communal harmony in India, an ancient church in Kothamangalam in the southern Indian state of Kerala opened its doors to hundreds of Muslims, who were participating in protest against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), to offer prayers.
“I could experience the real spirit of India when authorities of an ancient church in Kothamangalam provided us space to offer Maghrib prayer," said Sayyid Munavvar Ali Shihab Thangal, an influential leader of Kerala Muslims, who led the prayer.
The call for Maghrib Namaz (prayers offered after sunset) came when a "secular march" organized by the Kerala chapter of All India Professional Congress (AIPC) reached near the church on Saturday, known as Cheriya Palli (small church). “In order to avoid the delay in offering evening prayers for hundreds of people from Muslim community, the church authorities were contacted and requested them to permit the Muslims to offer namaz (prayer) in the church premises,” AIPC leader Mathew Kuzhalnadan said.
He said the church authorities immediately opened the iron gates of the church, welcoming their Muslim brothers wholeheartedly. The chief priest of the church also arranged carpets and microphones for facilitating the prayers, he said.
"The gesture shown by the authorities of the church... it generated a kind of feeling among us... no words to explain it. We could experience secularism and the soul of India," said Thangal, who is also president of the state committee of Muslim Youth League, the youth wing of Indian Union Muslim League (IUML).
Priests of the shrine were offering evening prayers inside the church when Thangal was leading namaz in its courtyard. "This is the message we intended to convey through the secular march," said Kuzhalnadan, a Congress leader, who is heading the AIPC, an offshoot of the Indian National Congress.
The "secular march" against the BJP-led government's decision to implement the CAA was attended by people from all major political parties including the Congress, the CPI(M) and the IUML.
Noted Supreme Court lawyer Indira Jaisingh, former Member of Parliament and CPI(M) leader M.B. Rajesh, Congress MLA V.T. Blaram, Thangal and Kuzhalnadan addressed the meeting held in Kothamangalam town after the march covered over 10 km from a mosque premises in Muvattupuzha.
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