Dhaka: A ban on using chairs in mosques has provoked outrage in Bangladesh, with critics saying it will exclude the elderly and the physically challenged from prayers.
The Islamic Foundation, an autonomous government agency, issued the fatwa over the weekend, saying devotees must instead use prayer mats. But, the move has attracted criticism both from within the government and Muslim clerics.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina told a weekly cabinet meeting on Monday she was “stunned,” according to media reports, while pro-opposition Islamic groups reacted with fury.
“We strongly protest this faulty and fictitious fatwa,” said a statement issued by a group of Islamic leaders and clerics.
“Chairs have been used for prayers in mosques for years,” said Abdul Latif Nejami, one of the signatories, AFP reported.
Muslims traditionally kneel on the floor to pray. But in recent years, most of the country’s half a million mosques have allowed elderly worshippers to sit on chairs.
“They issued the edict by consulting with the traditions of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his companions and practices over the centuries,” said the head of the Islamic Foundation Shamim Afzal.
He said chairs spoiled the beauty of the mosques, and that there had been a similar move to ban them in India.