His barber, a Muslim man living in Nadala, India, where Singh was visiting his family for two weeks last month, told him about how the village’s rapidly growing Muslim population had to pray in shifts in order to fit in the small room they had repurposed as a prayer space.
Now he and his son, who are both Sikh, are running a crowdfunding campaign to purchase land for minority Muslims in Nadala, a Sikh-majority village in the Indian state of Punjab, to build their first mosque.
Why? It’s an interfaith act of Punjabi solidarity across borders, explained his son, 28-year-old New York City community organizer Jagpreet Singh. It also serves as a way for him to live out the Sikh concept of sarbat da bhala, a Punjabi term used in Sikh prayer meaning “welfare of all mankind,” he said.
Locals estimate that 200 to 300 Muslim families now reside in the village in Indian Punjab, most of whom are working-class families, said Jagpreet Singh. The town has a church and several Sikh gurdwaras, but the village has no mosque or formal Islamic prayer space. Just a handful of Sufi shrines remain in the area.
Currently, Nadala’s Muslims hold daily congregational prayers in a small room in the back of a shop that fits about two dozen people. They pray in several rounds on Fridays when they hold congregational Jummah prayer services.
“People are excited about the prospect of donating to a cause that has an interfaith message, especially in a town that’s predominantly Sikhs in Punjab, building a masjid (mosque) for a minority community,” he said. “And they’re especially excited that we’re actually working with the community.”