Birgunj Chief District Officer inaugurates the new, Turkish funded facility, a move seen as an act of defiance against Indian authorities who fear the spread of Islamic values and practices within India.
Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – The opening of an Islamic cultural centre in the Nepali town of Birgunj, on the border with India, is seen as a gesture of defiance against the Indian government, which fears the spread of Islamic values and practices within its borders.
In Birgunj, Chief District Officer Keshav Raj Ghimire inaugurated the centre, which was built thanks to donations from Turkish Muslims, six of whom were present at the ceremony. Nazrul Hussein, a Nepali Muslim leader and general secretary of the Interreligious Council, led the ceremony.
Mr Hussein denied that the centre’s opening was a gesture of defiance. Still, he also lashed out at Islamic extremism. "Islam,” he said, “is a religion of peace, but many militants and terrorist groups are defaming our faith in its name. We must discourage any violence in the name of Islam."
Despite such reassurances, Indian authorities did not take kindly to the opening of the cultural centre, and expressed concern over the possible infiltration by Pakistani Taliban and Muslim extremists and the potential threat they pose to Hindu culture.
Delhi’s fears are also fuelled by political factors. Many political analysts are convinced that the defeat suffered by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Bihar, an Indian state that borders Nepal, is attributable to the election campaign by the local Muslim population.
In the weeks leading up to the vote, acts of violence by Hindu fundamentalists against secularists and Muslims writers, guilty of eating cow meat, marred the public debate.
"The killing of some Muslims by Hindu youths in Gujarat had major consequences,” said political analyst Krishna Kahanal, “coming especially ahead of the elections in Bihar. The Islamic community was not happy. This is one of the reasons why the BJP lost the election. "
Some experts also believe that the opening of the Islamic centre is a reaction to India’s five-month export embargo against Nepal that brought the Himalayan nation to the brink of bankruptcy.