MIDWOOD – Makki Masjid has long served as a place for activism and this afternoon was no different. After Jummah prayer, congregants and community members gathered outside the mosque to hold the Azad Kashmir flag, chant, and show their support for the people being persecuted.
At the beginning of August, the Indian government revoked special status (Article 370) for Indian-controlled Kashmir – known as Jammu & Kashmir. Conflict soon erupted. Ahead of the decision, India moved its troops into the region. Internet access was cut off and the region has been on lockdown. Residents, majority Muslim, are fearing for their life.
“Close to 3,000 people have been detained in Kashmir — many of them children — since Aug. 4, when a curfew and communication blackout were imposed in the valley,” an op-ed by the Washington Post said. “It has now been a month, and many locals have no reliable information about their future. Fear and uncertainty permeate the atmosphere.”
Last week, Council Member Chaim Deutsch tweeted, “I stand with all who are persecuted because of their religious beliefs. The people of Kashmir are being violated and abused because of their religion, and this should be unacceptable to all people of good conscience. #IStandWithKashmir.”
Though Jammu & Kashmir is about 6,955 miles away from New York, it did not stop Pakistanis from showing their solidarity with the people of the region.
“As a Muslim, as a Pakistani, I feel the pain of the Kashmiris,” Waqil Ahmed, the president at the Pakistani American Youth Organization (PAYO) said.
Ahmed is a Pakistani. He said he stopped watching television at home because his mother won’t stop crying.
“My mother went through the Pakistan-Indian War. She still remembers what the Indians did then, and now she sees them doing the same thing,” Ahmed said. “I wish I could do something. I wish I could do more to help.”
A few dozen people were in attendance for the flag ceremony, where several men held the giant Azad Kashmir flag and tried to wave it. According to Ahmed, many people went home after the Jummah prayer and did not stay for the ceremony, because of the rain that had at this point, started pouring.
Founder of the Council of Peoples Organization (COPO) Mohammad Razvi said it’s important to show support for the women and children back in Kashmir.
“We are united here,” he said. “You will see in this mosque, people are from Pakistan, Uzbekistan, even India, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Kashmir. Everyone is here. We’re going to stand together and we’re going to make sure there is justice.”
Razvi believes the solution to ending the persecution is not war, but peace talks, because “this is the 21st century.”
“It’s heartbreaking that some people would actually torture children and women,” Razvi said. “It’s one thing to be in the frontline of war. But civilians? People who are not able to protect themselves? That’s wrong. Enough is enough.”
After about 15 minutes of chanting and waving the flag, people realized they were not going to beat the rain. So, they called it a day. According to Ahmed, this will take place every Friday after Jummah prayer until the big Kashmir protest at the United Nations on September 27.
“I am thankful to America. America is freedom of speech. America is what other countries is not,” Ahmed said. “We will do this every Friday. People need to open their eyes and see what is happening over there.”