years, we have seen the emergence of a new Muslim woman. She is bold and
articulate. She is not willing to be confined to the four walls of her home and
wants to participate in the democratic discourse taking place in the country.
Importantly, she does not trust the orthodox clergy to represent her. She is
aware of her rights as a citizen and as a Muslim within her religion. She does
not tolerate violation of her rights by anyone.
women are proudly saying that we are Indians and we are Muslims (Samir Jana /
women led the democratic movement against triple talaq, and they are now
protesting against a discriminatory and unjust law that makes religion the
basis of citizenship. Muslim women are proudly saying that we are Indians and
we are Muslims. Several petitioners against triple talaq invoked gender
equality provisions based on the Constitution. Women are yet again seeking to
uphold the Constitution by protesting the religion-based Citizenship
(Amendment) Act (CAA), which is seen in conjunction with a possible
National Register of Citizens (NRC).
challenging the long-established tradition of all-male clergy claiming
leadership of the Indian Muslim community. Women are also challenging the
rightist politics of religious polarisation. They are building a new narrative
invoking democratic values of justice, equality and secularism enshrined in the
Constitution. This is refreshingly different from the calls to protect the
Shariat and Islam commonly attributed to the Muslim leadership.
other official data suggest that Muslims have consistently slid into
backwardness and poverty since Independence. They have been treated as vote
banks by seemingly secular political parties. There has been not much done
towards genuine welfare and participation in democratic spaces. Muslims live in
ghettoes with low education levels, without formal jobs, without access to
government facilities on credit and health care provisions. Only four in 100
Muslims are graduates, and merely 13% hold salaried jobs. People have been
paying the price for the communal politics practised by different political
parties in collaboration with the conservative ulema. The Bharatiya Janata
Party (BJP) accuses the Congress of politics of appeasement, but thrives on
religious polarisation to build its own vote bank.
of a conservative religious male as spokesperson of the country’s largest
minority has been hugely problematic not just for Muslims but for India’s
democracy. It has helped build a perception that Muslims are different from the
rest of Indians. It has furthered the stereotype of a community given to
religious fundamentalism and a separate identity. This perception has brought
about a distance between Muslims and those from other faiths. Communal riots
have been a persistent feature in our polity. It has helped the right-wing
politics of hate and division as witnessed in the brutal incidents of mob
lynching in the name of Gau Raksha (cow protection). It has divided our plural
It has been
difficult for ordinary Muslims to cast-off the stranglehold of the clergy,
which has consistently enjoyed political patronage. The absence of a democratic
leadership within the community has contributed further to the problem.
Rightist politics has hugely benefitted from this phenomenon. But women’s
democratic leadership can possibly change things.
women have always been caught between political considerations and personal marginalisation. They have suffered in matters as
such triple talaq and polygamy, owing to patriarchal misinterpretations of
religion. The Shah Bano episode is just one example of Muslim women being
denied their rights under the family law. It is shocking that this was done in
the name of secularism. Between 1986 and now, things have changed for the
better. A new voice has been taking shape, particularly in the present decade.
It has been a voice seeking mutual respect, harmony and justice for all. But
the political parties and the clergy have been unmindful, even dismissive, of
this voice. The Congress does not want to anger the ulema and the BJP benefits
from demonising the Muslim. It is an ode to our democracy that fellow citizens
are welcoming this voice.
voice has been gaining strength and finding support within the community as
well. The movement against triple Talaq received huge support from the wider
public. The nightly debates on TV channels saw women bravely taking on the
ulema who were all arguing for perpetuating the patriarchal status quo. They
have always stonewalled any effort to reform Muslim personal law. The women
openly questioned their understanding of religion, and spoke eloquently about
the Koran and the gender justice principles contained in it.
Imam of Jama Masjid declared that there was no threat to Muslims when the CAA
was passed. Many among the ulema said that there was no cause for concern. But
ordinary women sensed the threat to their citizenship from the combination of
the CAA and NRC.
asserted their Indianness by joining the protests led by students in different
parts of the country. Muslim women protesting alongside fellow compatriots
waving the national flag is a wonderful and patriotic image. It is a
celebration of India’s diversity and pluralism. The political class will have
to rethink its politics if this collaboration of citizens from diverse
backgrounds continues. This can have lasting consequences for our multi-faith,
Soman is a founding member of the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan
Source: The Hindustan Times