By Jyoti Punwani
Five Lakh Muslim women are expected to converge at Azad Maidan today, to oppose the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill. The Bill, which makes instant triple Talaq a non-bailable, cognisable offence, attracting a punishment of three years’ jail, has been passed by the Lok Sabha, but awaits Rajya Sabha assent.
However, these women have been told that the Bill criminalises Talaq per se. Speaking at an 800-strong meeting of women at Oshiwara, Dr Asma Zehra, head of the women’s wing of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, made this statement without specifying that the Bill applies only to instant triple Talaq. The same wrong claim was repeated by another speaker at a Madanpura rally.
The women have also been told that the Bill is the ``first step’’ towards the BJP’s dream of a Uniform Civil Code. Once that was enacted, said Board member Monisa Bushra Abidi, Muslims would no longer be allowed to conduct Nikaah in Masjids, and might even have to go through Hindu rituals such as Saat Phere.
Attending the rally was akin to waging ``Jehad’’ against the `Kafir’s attempts to destroy their religion, the women were told. They were exhorted to follow the examples of the Prophet’s daughter Fatima and the first female martyr Sumaiyya.
Describing the atrocities on Muslim women during the Gujarat 2002 violence, speakers pointed out that the perpetrators of those atrocities were now showing concern for Muslim women’s rights. ``Gender justice, women’s and child rights – we don’t need any of these,’’ said Dr Zehra. ``We have the Shariat.’’
Few in the audience knew anything about the Board or the Bill. A handful said the rally was aimed at opposing interference in their religion and their Shariat. Triple Talaq was not allowed in Islam, they emphasized. But when told that the Bill too does not allow it, they faltered and directed this reporter to the organisers.
Today’s rally is being seen as the ``grand finale’’ to the series of women’s rallies organised by the Board across the country, in a bid to show that the triple Talaq Bill is being opposed not only by men, whose rights it curtails, but by women too, whom it is supposed to benefit. The who’s who of Mumbai’s Muslims gathered at Islam Gymkhana on Tuesday to work out the logistics of the rally. Among those present at the meet called by Congress MLA Yusuf Abrahani, were Dr Zahir Kazi, president, Anjuman I Islam group of educational institutions, ex-Congress minister Arif Naseem Khan, AIMIM MLA Waris Pathan, and Farid Shaikh of the Mumbai Aman Committee. Shakir Patni, Mumbai AIMIM president, announced a personal donation of Rs five Lakh. The all-male gathering announced that schools and Masjids would be used to mobilize women.
Similarly, male activists such as Arif Ghori of Lokanchi Shakti and Zubair Azmi, who runs the Bhendi Bazar festival, helped organize meetings of women across the city, making sure only women addressed them. Barring a few, the speakers were wives of activists. Dr Asma Zehra from Hyderabad, and Sumaiyya Nomani, daughter of Board spokesman Maulana Sajjad Nomani, were the star speakers.
Said Zubair Azmi, ``This rally will be historic. I’ve seen meetings of Muslims stretching from Madanpura to Azad Maidan on two occasions, but those were all men.’’
The women were told that this was their chance to create history. ``The beef ban ruined so many homes; so did TADA earlier. But did your husbands tell you to leave your home and protest?’’ asked activist Ghazala Azad. Speakers emphasized that ``Islam doesn’t like women to come out of their homes. But this time, you have to take to the streets, because Islam itself and the Sharia are in danger. If Mumbai’s women oppose this Bill, the government will have to listen. The country’s eyes are on you; if you shirk your responsibility, you will be a sinner in the eyes of Allah.’’
The Oshiwara meet ended with women sobbing as a long Dua (by a man) bemoaned the fact that women’s tears had dried up and their hearts had hardened like those of men.
By the end of these preparatory meetings, the women were raring to go. Clear instructions were given: ``Your men folk will guide you to buses which will leave from the nearest Masjid. Though exams are on, leave children at home. Let the men look after them. Carry water and Electral, but no plastic bags. Do not litter. Show the world that Muslims can be disciplined. Above all, wear your burqa. There will be no slogans because Islam does not like women’s voices to be raised. If the media asks why you are here, tell them this Bill is against our religion, Shariat and our rights.’’