The Korea Tourism Organisation (KTO) after facing strong resistance from the anti-Muslim campaigners, has annulled the plans of making a prayer room for the Muslim tourists at the Winter Olympics 2018 in Gangneung.
South Korea has got a fifty-one million population, out of which only 0.2 percent is Muslim population, the KTO was determined to boost the “Muslim-friendly Korea” as per the reports of Al Jazeera.
Kang Suk-ho—the chief of Gangneung city government tourism division said that they faced extreme retaliation from some of the religious groups who were against the making of a prayer room in the Winter Olympics 2018 and threatened to protest during the Olympics. The chief informed that we tried talking them out and held many talks but, in the end, we had to give in and cancel any plans for installation.
Kang further mentioned that such degree of reaction was not expected from the religious group. He stated that we thought offering a prayer room option at the Gangneung station would be a nice gesture.
In South Korea, the number of Halal food restaurants and prayer rooms have increased during the last few years. There was an increase by thirty-three percent in the Muslim tourists in 2016 from 2015 with numbers counting to 1.2 million by the end of 2017, as per the reports of KTO.
Korean Muslim Federation (KMF) expressed its frustration and said that Olympic Games should be an event that must go beyond a single race, culture, nation and religion for acquiring harmonisation. It further mentioned that this decision indicates that Korea as the host country lacks considerate understanding.
Lee Ja-hwa—a representative of KMF said that instead of calling the installation of a prayer room a preferential treatment towards a certain religion, the need is to raise the awareness that others belonging to different faiths and beliefs should be considered.
The multi-faith prayer room has been excluded by the Pyeongchang Olympics Gangwon Citizens’ Islam Countermeasure Association as it caused an eruption and demonstrations started against Muslims attending the Winter Olympics.
Seo—the secretary of the organization claimed that if the room is for the people of multiple religions then why the ablution area is being made.
It was further added by the secretary that it was heard by Egyptians that Muslims do not offer prayers under exceptional cases like when on plane or driving—so the same principle should be applied during the Games.
The government has spent already a lot of amount of the taxpayers’ money on the Games and hence should not spend more on making a prayer room.
An online petition against the prayer room earned above fifty-six thousand signatures.
Cancellation of the prayer room would establish a dangerous example for some Muslim families intending to attend the Olympics.
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