Moom is home to some 4,000 Sikhs, 400 Hindus and 400 Muslims
As mason Nazim “Raja” Khan toiled over the construction of a Shiva temple in a Punjab village, a thought nagged at him. There he was, a Muslim, building a Hindu temple. Yet there was no mosque nearby where he could worship. “We had no place where we could offer namaz (prayers),” says the 40-year-old. “It wasn’t nice for our relatives when they visited.” It rankled, so he raised it with the 400-strong Muslim community in his village of Moom. But they were too poor to afford the land. Most Muslims in the area do unskilled jobs, such as casual construction work, while the community’s 400 or so Hindus and some 4,000 Sikhs are relatively well-off. Fast forward 18 months”with the temple nearing completion”and Raja took an unprecedented step. Earlier this year, he approached the temple administrators and told them: “You will soon have your new temple. And you already have an older one. But we Muslims have no place to worship, nor money to buy land. Would you give us a small area of your land?” A week later, he had an answer. The temple management had decided to hand over nearly 900 sq ft (83 sq m) of vacant land next to their temple.
“I was ecstatic,” says Raja. “I just couldn’t find the words to express my gratitude.” Purshottam Lal, an ayurvedic medicine practitioner who sits on the temple management panel, explains: “It was a very genuine demand. It was unfair that while we all share our joys and sorrows together, [the Muslims] didn’t have a mosque.” Two months on, Raja and a few other masons and labourers are happily building a place where Muslims can worship. The Sikh community is contributing funds for the mosque, which shares its wall with their gurdwara, making for a rare example of communal harmony. In Moom, it seems the three communities live in a congenial atmosphere. There’s no history of tension between them and people of all communities freely visit any place of worship. Bharat Ram, a teacher who’s active in temple affairs, says: “We’re fortunate we haven’t had political leaders who could polarise us or create the divide between communities.” No one seems resentful of the donations of land or funds. Indeed, many Hindus and Sikhs believe the mosque won’t just be for Muslims. “It’s for all villagers,” they say.
(Extracted from bbc.com)