Zee Media Bureau
Islamabad: The Red Mosque, situated in the heart of Islamabad, is once again in the news for paying homage to the world`s once most wanted terrorist and inaugurating a library after his name `Martyr Osama bin Laden Library`, the New York Times reported.
The mosque has always been in the midst of controversy for various reasons, including when its leaders made a pilgrimage to meet its hero and slain al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden or the bloody battle between security forces and militants seven years ago that claimed over 100 lives.
The chief cleric of the mosque, Maulana Abdul Aziz, was once a part of the peace process between the Pakistani government and the Taliban militants. However, he left the process mid-way stating that talks are not possible until Sharia law comes into force in the country.
The latest move on the part of mosque comes at a crucial time when the country is battling militancy and is still in two-minds over whether to initiate Army operation or negotiate with them.
Hailing Osama as a “hero,” Aziz reportedly said, “If Pakistan truly has freedom of expression, then we should be able to express our love for our heroes.”
Aziz was a part of the 2007 firefight that claimed the lives of his mother and brother. The picture of him escaping the mosque covered in burqa and clutching a purse was played on the national television, the report stated.
He was arrested and charged with murder, abduction, arson and terrorism which were dismissed by the court later. The court had blamed former military ruler General Pervez Musharraf for the incident.
Soon, Aziz was released and the mosque was reconstructed after a generous donation of at least $150,000. Now, over 5,000 students study in the madrasas here, according to the NYT report.
Land worth millions of dollars were also provided to the mosque which constructed a woman`s madrasa where the Osama bin Library has been built.
Al Qaeda leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, has also openly spoken in favour of the mosque.