By Sultan Shahin, Editor, New Age Islam
November 9, 2009
The Jamiat-ul-Ulema's regressive agenda has shocked the nation
The Jamiat-ul-Ulema's regressive agenda has shocked the nation. Of late the Jamiat had acquired a rather positive image owing to its sustained anti-terrorism campaign, even though it did not go far enough and hence was not very effective.
But in its recent Deoband convention organised by the Maulana Mahmood Madani faction, it has practically served notice on Muslims, particularly women, to stay within the boundaries set by 8th century ulema who had endorsed the so-called ahadees (sayings of Prophet Mohammad) concocted two to three centuries after the demise of the prophet.
These ahadees contravene the progressive, even feminist teachings of the Koran specifically to degrade and humiliate women and uphold the pre-Islamic practices.
The Jamiat has asked Muslim men to ensure "sisters, wives and mothers wear burqa", and do not bring "disrepute to the community". Endorsing Jamiat's archaic thinking, a number of ulema told the large Muslim gathering that a woman's status in society should be "secondary and subdued". They should abstain from watching cinema or television or going to co-ed schools; restrictive Sharia practices would apply to them after the age of 10.
The Jamiat also reiterated its opposition to the government's efforts to provide millions of bonded madrasa students an option to join the mainstream of society by acquiring knowledge and skills other than that of becoming a muezzin or an Imam of a mosque. It also repeated, completely unnecessarily, its earlier fatwa against Muslims singing Vande Mataram, half a century after the issue was settled.
Clearly Jamiat's burqa is slipping and the veneer of broadmindedness is wearing off. Composite nationalism calls for adjustment on the part of all communities. Unity in diversity and not uniformity of the Sangh Parivar world-view is definitely the idea best suited for India.
But any one community cannot insist on maintaining a completely separate identity, emphasise the character of a medieval community in its dress code, education, treatment of women and children, contempt for other religions, virulent sectarianism, and politics of victimhood. Jamiat cannot declare majority of Muslims apostate for going to shrines of Sufi saints revered by people of all faiths and at the same time present itself as part of the national mainstream.
It is natural for many to feel that the latest pronouncements from Deoband will push women further inside their dark holes. It will take the community back five centuries. But rather than arousing such fears, the panicky ranting of maulanas gives me hope. It would appear that they have heard the news. Muslim women are on the move. They are revolting even in the tiniest of towns.
Making use of the Islamic provision of choice given to them in the Koran, an increasing number of Muslim girls are refusing to marry boys of their parents' choice. They are even contemplating and a few succeeding, with sometimes fatal consequences, in eloping with boys of their choice. In many cases parents and the society at large has to accept their choices. In some cases the girls are even contemplating elopement with boys of other faiths.
Normally this should have been no big deal. On the advice of the ulema in his time, Mohammad bin Qasim had treated Hindus as Ahl-e-Kitab (People of the Book, that is, followers of one of the 1,24,000 prophets who came prior to Prophet Mohammad, but later Indian ulema have invented for them a new and post-Islamic category of "semi-ahl-e-kitab", whatever that means. Muslims are asked to have close social interaction including marital ties with Ahl-e-Kitab.
I asked one girl who was planning to elope with a Hindu boy, if she was aware that, being a Hindu her friend was ahl-e-Kitab, and she could marry him even under the provisions of Islamic Sharia. This girl of a UP town of just 2 lakh was knowledgeable enough to tell me that was not the case. Only Muslim boys can marry ahl-e-Kitab girls under the Islamic provision.
I told her that this provision had been made at a time when girls couldn't stand on their own; but now you are an earning professional and will be able to fight for your right to follow the religion of your choice, so how would that Islamic provision apply to you today. She said she had never heard such "rational nonsense" and that the only way out for her was to elope and hope that she or her husband doesn't get killed by their relatives.
In her view even a loving invitation for reception to celebrate their marriage could prove fatal, so she won't fall for it. The ulema are clearly rattled. This couldn't be happening. But it is.
Sultan Shahin is editor, NewAgeIslam.com
Source: DNA, Mumbai