Mecca Masjid has witnessed protests before, but never a blast

Hyderabad, May 18 (IANS) Mecca Masjid, the scene of a bomb explosion Friday, is south India’s biggest mosque and can accommodate up to 50,000 people. The 17th century mosque, a major tourist attraction in the city, has witnessed many protests before, but this was the first time that a bomb blast occurred in its premises.

Located near the Charminar, the symbol of Hyderabad, in the walled quarter of the city, the impressive structure has witnessed protests on various occasions by Muslim youth after Friday prayers. It is visited by hundreds of domestic and foreign tourists.

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On Fridays and two annual festivals, the mosque witnesses huge congregations. People from different parts of the city offer weekly prayers here as they have emotional attachment to the mosque, which was built with some bricks brought from Mecca, Islam’s holiest place in Saudi Arabia.

The area around the mosque has seen violent demonstrations in the past. During the last decade some Muslims tried to take out rallies after Friday prayers on several occasions leading to violence.

Clashes between police and demonstrators took place when rallies were attempted to protest the 1992 demolition of Babri mosque, the US attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq, US President George Bush’s visit to Hyderabad and the insulting caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed.

The police have installed surveillance cameras around the mosque and on every Friday elaborate security arrangements are in place. Frisking of devotees on some occasions has also evoked sharp protests from the community.

The construction of the historic mosque was started by Mohammed Quli Qutub Shah in 1614 and was completed by Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb in 1694. Since the bricks used in the construction were brought from the Saudi Arabian city of Makkah, Islam’s holiest site, it was given the name Mecca Masjid.

The mosque also has tombs of the Nizams, the erstwhile rulers of Hyderabad, and their family members.