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Women in battle against ban by Mumbai’s Haji Ali Mosque

Mumbai: A landmark mosque in Mumbai is facing pressure to overturn a ban on women entering its inner sanctum, a move that could set a precedent on gender restrictions to places of worship in the country.

A Muslim women’s rights group is locked in a bitter legal battle with trustees of Mumbai’s Haji Ali Dargah, built in the 15th century and popular not only with Muslims but Hindu devotees and sight-seeing tourists.

Women have been prevented entry to the mosque’s mausoleum since 2011, with its trust saying close female proximity to the tomb of a revered saint is “a grievous sin” in Islam.

Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) has petitioned the Bombay High Court seeking a ruling that the ban is unconstitutional, hoping such a decision would mark a major step forward for women’s rights in the country.

“A positive ruling would set a precedent and would have a wider and long-term effect,” BMMA co-founder Noorjehan Niaz told AFP.

“It would send a message and encourage women of all religions who are barred from entering places of worship to approach courts with similar demands,” she added.

The mosque is located on an islet accessible via a causeway at low tide. It was built in the 1430s in memory of a wealthy Muslim who gave up his worldly possessions and went on a pilgrimage to Mecca.