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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 30 May 2016, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Unity of Islamists and Practitioners of Hindutva on Wife Beating

By Shamsul Islam

28 May, 2016

Every theocratic state needs religious boosters to survive as a totalitarian state. It can be seen regularly happening in Pakistan. It came into being on August 14, 1947 as an Islamic State but the first formal dictator General Ayub Khan (1958-69) realized that Pakistan needed a booster dose of Islamism so many of democratic rights of women and minorities, both religious and linguistic, were curtailed. Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, the worst dictator (1978-88) declared that Pakistan, already an Islamic state, would be governed under 'Nizam-e-Mustafa' (Rule of the Prophet). Though fond of 'nautch' he introduced high octane Islamic laws making Pakistan a hell for women and traditional minorities like Christians, Hindus, Shias and Ahmediyas. Interestingly, the dreaded Blasphemy Laws followed by Zia were introduced by a so called democratically elected ruler, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (1971-77). Bhutto introduced Hudood Laws turning women and minorities as sub-human beings. Democratically elected ruler Benazir Bhutto (1988–90 and 1993–96) also adhered to Islamism and continued giving booster dozes of Islam. In a framework of an Islamic theocratic state they all played their pre-destined role.

This process is still on as a natural corollary of a theocratic state of Pakistan. The latest booster dose of Islamism has been demanded by an official religious agency that Muslim males should be allowed to thrash their wives. Shockingly, this demand has appeared in a document titled as 'Women Protection Bill'. According to a press report, "The Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) has proposed its own Women Protection Bill, recommending ‘a light beating’ for the wife if she defies her husband. The council has proposed that a husband should be allowed to ‘lightly’ beat his wife if she defies his commands and refuses to dress up as per his desires, turns down the demand of intercourse without any religious excuse or does not take bath after intercourse or menstrual periods. It further suggests that beating is also permissible if a woman does not observe Hijab, interacts with strangers, speaks loud enough that she can easily be heard by strangers and provides monetary support to the people without taking consent of her spouse". (1)

You are grossly mistaken if you believe that it is happening in Pakistan, a theocratic state. The Hindutva organizations working over-time to convert India into a Hindu theocratic state have been supporting bashing of Hindu women in a more organized manner. The largest organization in the world to circulate literature on Hindi way of life has a popular title both in English and Hindi namely 'How to lead a Household Life' and 'Grahsth Mein Kaise Rahen' by Swami Ramsukhdas. This book is in question-answer format and is a kind of help book for imbibing Hindu way of life.

A question is posed: “What should the wife do if her husband beats her and troubles her?” (2) Swami Ramsukhdas offers the following sagely advice to the battered wife and her parents: "The wife should think that she is paying her debt of her previous life and thus her sins are being destroyed and she is becoming pure. When her parents come to know this, they can take her to their own house because they have not given their daughter to face this sort of bad behaviour." (3)

And if her parents do not take her to their house, learned Swamiji’s pious advice is: "Under such circumstances…she should reap the fruit of her past actions. She should patiently bear the beatings of her husband with patience. By bearing them she will be free from her sins and it is possible that her husband may start loving her." (4)

This book came out in 1990 and so far has had 50 editions both in Hindi and English with 1.2 million copies circulated. Interestingly, it is the most popular title with NRIs. This book with other more than 10 titles on women are sold from hundreds of outlets including 110 railway stations where Geeta Press has been provided stalls free of charge by the central government. The allotments were allowed by Kamlapati Tripathi in 1970s when he was railway minister for many years in Indira Gandhi cabinet. Such books are also available at RSS run book stalls.

The Hindutva fraternity in largest democracy on this earth, thus, is far ahead in propagating wife beating in comparison to Islamists in Pakistan. Islamists and practitioners of Hindutva may seem to be indulging all kinds of rhetoric against each other but fact is that they together remain committed to similar ideology so far their own women are concerned. Both seem to have studied the same anti-woman syllabi. But the most deplorable aspect is that India still committed to an egalitarian polity allows such demeaning ideology against women a free run.

Shamsul Islam is a retired Professor of University of Delhi.