By Arshad Alam, New Age Islam
01 May 2017
One cannot agree more with the Prime Minister when he says that the issue of triple Talaq should not be politicized. After all, it is a sensitive issue and should be talked about with utmost concern and sensitivity. Moreover, the highest court of the country is already seized with the matter. Any loose utterance on the subject only leads to vitiating the atmosphere further. As it is, the issue of triple Talaq has become a matter so sensitive for a section of Muslims that they are linking it with tampering of the Quran itself. On the other hand, for a section of the Hindus, the issue has become the defining feature of the Muslim community: through the issue of triple Talaq they can show that Islam is one of the most backward and regressive religions of the world.
Despite the fact that on occasions, the prime minister himself has made use of the rhetoric on triple Talaq even during election speeches and after that, it would be fair to say that that he has been measured in his approach and has couched the problem in terms of gender injustice rather than the backwardness of Islam as a religion. But then, he is not the only one who is making use of the current debate on triple Talaq.
There are other leaders of his own party who are hardly seeing the issue through the lens of gender injustice but rather are using the occasion to berate and stigmatize a whole community. Just recently, a minister in the Uttar Pradesh said that triple Talaq was all about the lust of Muslim men: an idea which has been with the Hindu Right since its inception. It is a product of an understanding which thinks that Muslim men just exist to reproduce their progenies and that somehow this is connected to their religion.
But even the restraint that the prime minister has shown has actually been nullified by his supporters. Watch any debate on triple Talaq on channel and the most prominent image which one is going to see is that of Narendra Modi and Yogi Adityanath. You might be little baffled in the beginning and genuinely think that the imagery might be a mistake or that they might be running it as they have run out of other visuals. But then you realize that it is not mistake; it is an orchestrated campaign to juxtaposed the image of Modi and Yogi whenever there is a debate on triple Talaq. It is as if they are the progenitors of the debate on triple Talaq. But if you are familiar with the history of this debate, then it is easy to figure out that these two individuals have got nothing to contribute to the debate on triple Talaq.
The initiator of the debate are Muslim women themselves, and it their effort alone which has taken the case to the Supreme Court. Certainly these women have not said anything which can even remotely connect them to either the prime minister or the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh or even the BJP. Then why is it that Modi and Yogi are splashed all over the screen whenever there is a debate on the issue. The point is that even if the prime minister did not want to politicize it, it has already been politicized by the television channels. The prime minister is already a party to this politicization by allowing his image to lend a silent voice to these debates. It is as if the whole debate is being done under the watchful guidance of the prime minister and the chief minister.
If the idea is that they should be projected as the saviours of Muslim women, then it directly runs counter to the proclamation of the prime minister that the problem be solved through an enlightened leadership from within the Muslim community. He must also understand that there has never been an absence of an enlightened leadership within the community. But governments after governments have belittled and humiliated them to the extent that they nearly lost all interest in community affairs.
As a corollary, it is the obscurantist leadership within the community which has been courted by various governments with an eye on the vote bank which has furthered marginalized the enlightened leadership. Such a strategy is at work even today. There is no dearth of educated Muslims who have researched and worked extensively on women issues within the community. They are progressives and a majority of them want the practice of triple Talaq to be removed. Yet, we do not see them representing the community on the television screens.
Instead what we have are stale mullahs known for their antediluvian views which will put any community to shame. I do not believe that they are called because producers cannot find moderate progressive voices within the community. I believe that it is a well thought out strategy paint the Muslim community as backward by representing them through the mullahs. These mullahs are too happy to do their bidding and at times you even begin to wonder who actually they are representing. So then who is politicizing the issue? Definitely not the majority of Muslims who are hardly part of this debate. Bogus mullahs and representatives of the AIMPLB do have a vested interest in politicizing this debate: the more they speak their nonsense, the easier it becomes for Modi and Yogi to position themselves as the saviour of Muslim women.
Arshad Alam is a social and political commentator and a www.NewAgeIslam.com columnist.
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