By JS Rajput
09 May 2016
The conservative Muslim clergy isn’t expected to have moved an inch from its hard-line position on Muslim personal laws which oppress women, but the educated youth of the minority community must push for reform from within
Muslim divorcee Shayara Bano’s case has brought the Common Civil Code back into the national discourse and re-started the debate on the Shah Bano case. In 1985, the Supreme Court granted a monthly allowance of Rs250 to the 60-year old destitute Muslim woman but the verdict was trashed by the Government, and then led by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, who bent backwards under pressure from the conservative Muslim clergy. The Constitution was amended, the judgement thrown in to the dustbin, and Shah Bano left to fend for herself.
Today, Shayara Bano stands in Shah Bano’s place, and there is no guarantee she will fare better. The Muslim leadership will oppose any move that can bring relief to Muslim women who are forced to live a life of anxiety and subservience as the threat of triple Talaq looms large throughout their lives.
Many Muslim countries have done away with this practice; enlightened Muslim scholars plead against it, but in India, a clutch of conservatives, supported by ignorant but cunning politicians, stonewall all reforms — all the while complaining about the backwardness of the community.
They cite the non-implementation of the recommendations of Ranganath Mishra panel and the Rajinder Sachar committee as evidence of the apathy of successive Governments towards the Muslim community. They project victimhood and persecution onto the community. But no community can progress if its internal dynamics are not guided by people who are truly and ‘religiously’ devoted to the welfare of the people.
Further, no community can be perpetually confined to incorrect religious interpretations for long. Things will change so will communities and their traditions and practices. Young Muslim boys and girls, like all others, use cell phones, cameras, and wear trousers. No fatwa can come their way. This change happens in every religion but it is the magnitude of impediments that makes the difference.
People will continue to worship Sai Baba even if a Shankaracharya speaks against him. Women will get their rights to go to religious shrines even if it takes a couple of months or years because those ignorant of the basics of religions are deliberately misinterpreting religiosity.
The change has to come from within the community. It shall come from the Muslim community also; women are already demanding freedom from imposed restrictions which, they claim, are misinterpretations of their religion.
No community, particularly the size of the Muslim community in India, can be left to remain in blissful ignorance under the hegemony of ambitious, politically-inclined and self-serving people. It is the imposed rigidity and misinterpretation of religion that gives rise to situations in which young boys are trained to become Fidayeen in the hope of Jannat and Hoors.
The Muslim community must acknowledge that Islamophobia will not go away by blaming the US or Christianity. It is internal community action alone that can bring the real principles of Islam before the world and help people realise that Islam is a religion of peace and the ideology pushed by fundamentalists and terrorists in the name of Islam, is not Islam. It is obligatory for educated, enlightened Muslims to assess the global context and study the dynamism that has been shown by several Muslim nations in amending and even rejecting what is projected as ‘everlasting divine mandates’.
Several Muslim women organisations are pleading for a Common Civil Code and the abolition of the dreaded practice of triple Talaq. Is it not laughable that these demands are being opposed as conspiracies of the majority community?
Education is key to ensuring fires of hatred and communal conflicts are not ignited. Sadly, in the name of secularism, the study of the basics of religions practically stands banned in most of schools in India. Instead of the secularism in practice for thousands of years, our politicians have opted for a ‘political’ secularism with an eye on vote banks. This has adversely impacted social cohesion and religious amity. It has also led to educational backwardness and, consequently, the lack of free-thinking and youth leadership in the Muslim community.
Several Islamic countries are moving with the times, giving their women equal rights as these are understood in the present idiom. In India, the Muslim women suffer because of vested interests. The young and the enlightened within the community need to rise and lead the movement for dynamic and humane interpretations that would eliminate gender injustice. No community can get rid of backwardness till its women are educated, self-assured and walk hand-in-hand with men, holding their head high.