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Full text: Vice-President Hamid Ansari’s speech at Mumbai University

Arguing that bonhomie between the different South Asian countries can happen only through utilising an accommodating rather than an exclusionary approach, Vice President of India, Hamid Ansari on Wednesday said that it is the only practical approach to the possibility of a “South Asian Union”.

Ansari was addressing the gathering after releasing the book ‘August Voices: What they said on 14-15 August 1947’, authored by Observer Research Foundation head Sudheendra Kulkarni, in Mumbai.

Vice President Hamid Ansari. Reuters

Vice President Hamid Ansari. Reuters

Following is a full transcript of his speech:

“I confess I have read, but infrequently, some of the writings of Sudheendra Kulkarni. Some years back he was gracious enough to send me a copy of his very interesting collection of writings on what Mahatma Gandhi would have done with the internet.

It is tempting to type caste. Could he be called an archeologist, or dubbed a futurologist? Neither would do justice to his work. To me, it is evident that Kulkarni ji has the mind of an explorer, a visionary, in quest of new worlds.

The book before us is one such endeavour, to build a new edifice on the ruins of the past. And yet, because this is not a green field venture, it is essential to understand the nature of ruins on which rebuilding is to commence.

The task of the historian, as Ibn Khuldun put it, is to ‘lift the veil’ from conditions of the past. The present case is also a matter of living memory and therefore not immune from subjectivity of greater intensity. The ‘post-truth’, in this case, arrived seven decades earlier!

The challenge for us, therefore, is three fold:

To understand what happened in 1947?

To examine the role and limitations of the principal actors?

To explore realistically the options for the future.

The happening of 1947 has rightly been describes as a ‘tragedy’ to which the Two Nation theory contributed. The British role, and their anxiety to leave India on terms most advantageous to them, is well known.

Was this sufficient to bring about the division of the country?

Some of the iconic personalities cited in the book, and others not mentioned, played a role in articulating and shaping perceptions for over two decades. Their ‘final’ statements, if such a term can be used for what they said on August 14-15, have therefore to be seen in a wider context of their role in the developments that led to the final decisions.

The critical question is simply put: why was the Partition Plan, put forth by the British, accepted?

Much has been written about the experience of the functioning of the Interim Government of 1946-47. In the discussions preceding and during the crucial AICC meeting of 14-15 June 1947 opinion was divided but both Jawaharlal Nehru and Vallabhbhai Patel supported Partition. Their line of reasoning, as per public record, was not identical. Nehru felt a compromise with the Muslim League would result in ‘a weak India, that is, a federal India with far too much power in the federating units,’ adding that partition would be temporary, that Pakistan was bound to come back to us.’ Patel felt, as he put it, that ‘in spite of my previous strong opposition to partition, I agreed to it because I am convinced that in order to keep India united it must be divided.’ He added, in a speech in Bombay on 30 October 1948, that ‘we accepted partition willingly and after a full weightment of its consequences.’

Ten years after the event, Maulana Azad attributed the decision of his principal colleagues to ‘anger or despair (that) had clouded their vision’ adding that ‘the verdict (of history) would be that India was not divided by the Muslim League but by the Congress.’

It is therefore difficult to disagree with Shri Kulkarni’s conclusion that ‘history’s verdict casts the responsibility for India’s Partition on both the parties although the Muslim league’s guilt is decidedly greater’ because it anchored its demand on the Two Nation Theory.

And yet, the thought did persist with some of the decision-makers that the impending happening was somewhat unreal, not altogether desirable, and hopefully transitory. The latter aspect, however, was not investigated or spelt out.

Even more glaring was the apparent absence, on all sides, of reflection and articulation of the economic implications of the division of what had hitherto been one economic unit for over a century with its own imperatives and socio-economic consequences.

The theme of the book before us is to project a scenario of the possibility of a South Asian Union with the India-Pakistan-Bangladesh Confederation at the core. Its underlying assumption is the possibility and desirability of an India-Pakistan rapprochement.

Our focus is on three nation-states of recent origin, of different sizes and capacities, differing versions of the past, conflicting ideologies and national security perceptions, but sharing geography, ecology and wider human security challenges.

Our author seeks a solution by plunging headlong into the core of differences. He suggests a ‘cultural and spiritual confederation’ that would subdue and overcome extremist perceptions of those whom he is not disinclined to name, reverts to what was said by some political and spiritual personalities, and cites with approval Maharishi Aurobindo’s words that the desired change will come ‘by an increasing recognition of the necessity not only of peace and concord but of common action, by the practice of common action and the creation of means for that purpose.’

Idealism, however lofty, has to be tempered with realism. Common action is easier done on areas of convergence than of divergence. This convergence is to be sought by moving beyond the traditional paradigm of conventional security into those of human security and human wrong. Both are ignored by the governments and societies in our region; there is a crying need for the recognition and implementation of both. Only then would we develop the perception and capacity for correctives.

A beginning therefore has to be made in regional cooperation with a focus on human security problems, on movement of people and on trade without unreasonable restrictions. The common traits in cultural traditions and historical narratives needs to be transmitted to a younger generation through conscious promotion rather than studied prevention of cultural exchanges, films, and other cultural activities.

The experience of Saarc has not been encouraging and therefore alternate strategies need to be explored. The proposed new structure would have to be voluntary and devoid of overt or covert coercion. There may be lessons to be learnt from other regional organizations.

The practical approach would be to make haste slowly, to be accommodative rather than exclusionary so that negative perceptions are allowed to fade away. Political commitment and modalities have to surface to resolve outstanding areas of disagreement. Foremost amongst these is what the Simla Agreement of 1972 called ‘a final settlement of Jammu and Kashmir’. Its domestic dimensions, as well as the trans-LOC incursions, have been in the news of late. The State is doing all that is necessary to confront and repel terrorism. The State also has a duty to ensure that the rights and dignity of our citizens in the State are respected and ensured and shortcomings effectively addressed. Alienation of any segment of the citizen body within our land does not contribute to the overall health of the Republic.

Chale chalo ke who manzil abhi nahin aa’ii.

Jai Hind.”

First Published On : Dec 29, 2016 10:20 IST

Congress-SP alliance for UP elections depends on BJP’s approval: Mayawati

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Commenting on possibility of a tie-up between Samajwadi Party and Congress before Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls, BSP supremo Mayawati said on Monday an alliance would be struck only if it benefits BJP. “SP and Congress alliance in UP will come into being only if BJP gives its approval and if it (BJP) feels it will gain from it…the green signal will be given by BJP after evaluating its gains and losses from such an alliance,” she told newspersons here.She said it was being stated that BJP was exerting pressure on SP chief and his family through Enforcement Directorate, I-T department and CBI through disproportionate assets cases, and “other weaknesses” to join hands with Congress to divide Muslim votes and stop BSP from coming to power. “Keeping in mind the chances of BSP coming to power in UP, it is being said BJP is showing threat of central government agencies like ED, I-T and CBI to SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and his family in connection with DA cases and other shortcomings to divide Muslim vote,” she claimed.Referring to Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav’s frequent statements favouring an alliance with Congress, Mayawati questioned as to why a person who has come to power on his own in the last Assembly elections is so keen on contesting the coming polls in an alliance. “Why is he so keen on taking the help of Congress which is on oxygen in the state…this fact has to be understood in depth by the people of the state or else SP will be able to take its political benefit,” she said.”The reality is that even if SP contests coming elections in alliance with Congress, it will not come back to power and the CM is well aware of this,” she said, adding if they contest in alliance and lose, SP will put the entire blame on Congress. “…(by doing so) the head of the SP government will be able to save his image in the eyes of the people…this has to be understood by Congress as well otherwise it (Cong) will go in oblivion in the state,” she said.Taking the Bihar elections example, Mayawati said “just as all secular voters” there decided to defeat BJP, they will show the same unity here and defeat the “dangerous” policies and programmes of BJP and vote for BSP. Cautioning Muslims against “designs” of her political rivals, Mayawati said even if SP and Congress came together it will be of no use as infighting in the Yadav family has split the ruling party into two camps – that of Akhilesh Yadav and Shivpal Yadav – and they will work against each other.”Yadav vote bank will get divided in the two camps and if Muslims vote for SP, this will directly benefit BJP,” she said. She was, however, confident “Muslims will not waste their votes” either on SP or on the alliance, in case it comes into being, “after having learnt the lesson in 2014 Lok Sabha elections”.”Muslims will this time vote only for a party or alliance which has the potential of defeating the saffron party candidates and they feel BSP is the only such party as it alone has 24% Dalit vote which together with Muslim vote bank becomes a major force,” she said. “Due to discriminatory development and jungle raj of the SP and BJP’s unfulfilled promises and hardships caused by note ban, even the upper castes and backwards are coming to BSP which alone can stop BJP from coming to power in UP,” she said.Claiming that SP has a tacit understanding with BJP, Mayawati said although her party had formed government in the state with BJP in the past, it had “never compromised” on its ideals. She, however, cautioned people, especially Muslims, that in order to divert voters’ attention from major issues, BJP might try to cash in on Ayodhya dispute for its “political and selfish” motives or engineer Hindu-Muslim riots during the elections and both communities need to remain vigilant.

RSS minority wing tries to tone down BJP MPs remark alluding Muslims won’t vote for ‘patriotic BJP’

Senior Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) functionary Indresh Kumar, said on Tuesday that Indian Muslims are patriotic like any other citizen of this country.

Kumar was speaking in the context of a controversial statement made by the BJP MP from West Delhi, Parvesh Verma.

Verma’s earlier comment that Muslims have never cast their vote for the BJP and never will “as it is a patriotic party”, has already stoked a row.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

The opposition parties, especially the Congress have already launched a scathing attack on BJP stating that it would incite ‘communal violence’.

“I can’t say exactly in what context the BJP MP made that statement… may be in a casual manner or in a lighter vein, but Indian Muslims are patriotic, there is no doubt about it,” Indresh Kumar, national convener of Muslim Rashtriya Manch (MRM), an RSS-affiliate body, told Firstpost.

On 17 December, during an interaction with the media, after addressing a gathering at Baghpat, Uttar Pradesh, Verma had said, “Hum kisi vote bank ki chinta nahin karte. Muslim kabhi na humein vote kiya hai aur na karenge…Isliye ki BJP ek rashtrabhakt party hai. Hamein kisi samudai ki chinta nahi hai (We don’t care about any vote bank. Muslims have never voted for us and they never will… Because the BJP is a patriotic party, that’s why Muslims don’t vote for us. We don’t care about any particular community).”

Parvesh Verma is the son of former Delhi chief minister late Sahib Singh Verma.

“May be the MP had wanted to say that the Muslims should come out openly and support (BJP), and shouldn’t be under any fear. In this context I would like to emphasise that if a Muslim sings National Anthem or hoists the National Flag, it’s dubbed an act of ‘saffronisation or BJP-karan of Muslims’.” Kumar said.

Kumar also criticised the negative connotation that he alleged was commonly associated with patriotism and the BJP.

“This is ridiculous. Is the slogan ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ an exclusive right of BJP? Doesn’t other political parties like Congress, Samajwadi Party, BSP, etc have equal right on it? Why it’s not dubbed as ‘Congress-isation’ when they raised this slogan? Through this kind of negative perception-building, patriotism, nationalism and loyalty towards nation have been shifted to BJP camp with a negative connotation. This is wrong,” Kumar added.

MRM is an initiative of former RSS chief KS Sudarshan to allow the Sangh Parivar to reach out to Muslims, with an aim of bringing Hindu and Muslim communities in India closer together.
“Indian Muslims are patriotic. If any particular section among them hasn’t voted for BJP or stayed away from the party, it might have been due to ignorance, illiteracy, due to socio-political issues or poverty. Even a man doesn’t remember god, if he’s in dire hunger; here it’s about a political party,” said Girish Juyal, national organizing convener of MRM.

“The statement may be Verma’s personal view, which might have arisen due to his personal observation of the situation in his constituency. It can’t be universal. But now with Modiji’s leadership as a PM and Indreshji spearheading the Muslim Rashtriya Manch, the perception among Muslims has witnessed a change. Due to several initiatives undertaken by the central government, especially for the youth, the Muslim community has got more integrated and getting closer to BJP,” added Juyal.

Besides, MRM, the academicians and experts on Islamic studies have also strongly dismissed Verma’s statement against Muslim voters.

“99% of Muslims are nationalist and pro-India and identify themselves as Indians, but it’s also true that 99% of Islamic clerics and Muslim leaders believe only in Islamic globalization. At practical level, Indian Muslims are diverse in their life-style and identify themselves as patriots, whereas at theoretical level, they identify themselves with the homogenous global Islamic group. What the BJP MP has said is practically not true,” observed Tufail Ahmad, Executive Director at Open Source Institute, a Delhi-based think tank on Islamic studies.

However, Zafar Sareshwala, chancellor of Maulana Azad National Urdu University is more scathing in his remarks.

“The statement shows the perverse mindset of the MP. He should learn from PM Narendra Modi and his party president Amit Shah, who have worked towards integration of the Muslim community in these two-and-half years period. The PM said in the Parliament that no one should either ask for or give certificate of nationalism. By making such a statement against the community, he has displayed his ignorance in public,” Sareshwala remarked.

Quoting the poll data from Modi’s native state Gujarat and the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Sareshwala added, “The skepticism about the Muslim community’s reservations about voting for the BJP was laid to rest during Gujarat polls in 2012, followed by the general election in 2014. In Gujarat assembly election, nearly 25% Muslims had voted for Modiji and he won for the third time. Similarly, in general election, more number of Muslims voted for BJP than ever. Given this fact, the BJP MP himself is damaging the ethos built-up by the BJP than anybody else.”

First Published On : Dec 20, 2016 18:06 IST

BJP slams Uttarakhand govt for declaring special 90-minute Friday break for Muslim employees

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>BJP on Monday slammed the Uttarakhand government for declaring a special 90-minute Friday break for Muslim employees, saying it will set a wrong precedent and accused the Congress of “communalising” the state’s politics ahead of the assembly polls.Accusing the Congress of pursuing a divisive agenda in its greed for power, the party said few people will be left working in the government offices if Hindus, who observe different forms of pujas across the month, are also given a similar concession. BJP National Secretary Shrikant Sharma told reporters here that Congress has a history of “dividing” people on communal lines in its greed for power and what it has done in Uttarakhand is an attempt to hide the Harish Rawat government’s failures.”There is no issue with people of different faiths offering prayers of their choice. But this decision will set a wrong precedent on the matter of principle. From Monday to Saturday, faithfuls in our culture worship different Gods and offer prayers. “If everybody is to be given a favour like this, then who will work in government offices. It is an attempt to communalise the state’s politics ahead of the polls as the government has failed on all fronts. It has nothing to show to people for its work and is attempting to hide its failures under its communal agenda,” he said.Congress has given communal colour to terrorism in its greed for power, Sharma alleged, claiming that the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had gone on to say that minorities have the first right to the nation’s resources. For BJP, the poor have the first right, he claimed. The Uttarakhand government has announced a special 90- minute break will be given to the government employees from the Muslim community in the state for Friday prayers.

Watch | MP Parvesh Verma says Muslim community has problems with ‘nationalist’ BJP

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>After drawing flak from all quarters post his assertion that Muslims do not vote for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), West Delhi MP Parvesh Verma on Monday said the ‘nationalist’ saffron party does not have any problems with the said community. Verma, however, said that the Muslim community has problems with the BJP. “Our government did not bring schemes for any particular community. Even the Muslims can get benefits from all those schemes. But still I believe the Muslim community keeps a distance when it comes to voting for the Bharatiya Janata Party. The Muslim community votes for all political parties except the BJP,” he added.Asserting that all political parties have always seen the Muslims as vote bank, Verma said the community does not want to get associated with development. “Are the Muslim children in madrasas provoked against the BJP? When I was asked why only the BJP is called a nationalist party, I said why terrorists in the nation are only Muslims and why Muslims do not vote for the BJP? Because it does not want to come in the mainstream and does not want to get associated with development. Mayawati has said that if the Muslims vote for her then she can make the government,” he added.”Responding to a poser as to why the Muslim community doesn’t vote for the BJP, Verma said, “I think the most relevant issue is the relation between India and Pakistan. Why are terrorists only Muslims? From where do they get all the funding and from where they get all the weapons?”The BJP MP said the Muslims should think of getting associated with the nation, adding that this would benefit them. “They should not send their children to any terrorist organisation or oppose the BJP,” he added. Verma had earlier said that the Muslim community, which has never voted for the BJP, would continue to do the same in future.

Uttarakhand: Prayer break on Fridays for Muslim govt employees

Sun, 18 Dec 2016-07:32pm , Dehradun , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A special 90-minute break will be given to the government employees from the Muslim community in Uttarakhand for Friday prayers, official sources said. A cabinet meeting on Saturday, chaired by Chief Minister Harish Rawat, decided that a special break from 12:30 PM till 2:00 PM will be given to the employees from the community, they said.The Congress government made other decisions like consent for a detailed project report for metro which has been given to the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC). The state government also posed a penalty of Rs 2 crore and Rs 2.5 crore for PG doctors for violating bond of 5 years with the state for essential service. The state goes to poll next year.

Tablighi Jama’at: An ‘apolitical’ Islamist movement preaching religious fanaticism

It cannot be denied that Islamist supremacism and exclusivity emanate from the retrogressive movements of preaching and proselytising like the Tablighi Jam’at (TJ) — the largest Islamic movement across the world, based in India.

Faith-Based Violence and Deobandi Militancy in Pakistan”, a ground-breaking book (edited by Jawad Syed, Edwina Pio, Tahir Kamran and Abbas Zaidi) explores various shades of the Tablighi extremism and its implications for faith-based militancy. “This dimension of radical Islam remains largely ignored or misunderstood in mainstream media and academic scholarship”, writes Arshi Saleem Hashmi who contributed a chapter in this book on the historical roots of the Deobandi version of Jihadism.

In her research work, “Terrorism in Southeast Asia: Implications for South Asia” Swati Parashar did a field study on how the students and the faithful at Lal Masjid were strict adherents to the principles of the Tablighi Jama’at, which she considers ‘the largest movement of Islamic preaching in South Asia, with strict adherence to the Deobandi sect of Islam’.

Founded in 1926 in an Indian province, Mewat, by a UP-based Islamist cleric Maulvi Muhammad Ilyas Kandhaulvi, the TJ aims at reverting what they call “misguided” or “deviant” (bid’ati) Muslims into ‘puritan’ believers. According to the Pew Research Center’s Religion and Public Life, the TJ spreads across more than 150 countries with numbers ranging from 12 to 80 million. The TJ came into media limelight only after the central Asian countries Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan, once part of the USSR, banned it accusing that the TJ preaches Islam with an extremist outlook.

Ideological Jihadism

An objective study reveals that the TJ has been spawning ground for various forms of a relatively soft-core jihadism in the subcontinent on an ideological level. The present-day violent jihadism dressed in Talibanism in Pakistan and Afghanistan has its theological roots in the Tablighi-Deobandi school of thought. Though, of course, Darul Uloom Deoband— the largest Islamic seminary in India— has been in the forefront organising anti-terror conferences.

Recently, Darul Uloom Deoband came up with a strongly-worded fatwa declaring the Tablighi Jama’at “misguided” and the “preacher of perverted views”. Deoband seminary has also urged the current chief of the Tablighi Jama’at, Maulvi Sa’ad Kandhalvi to ‘repent in the court of God’. Accusing him of ‘an ideological perversion, misinterpretation of Islamic texts and desecration of prophethood’, the fatwa pronounced by the Deoband clergy has stated: “It is our religious duty to warn Muslims particularly those with the Tablighi jam’at that Maulvi Sa’ad Kandhalvi, the current chief of the Jama’t, is misinterpreting Quran and Hadith”.

It is noteworthy that this fatwa was originally drafted for muftis (Islamic jurists), but it was leaked by an Urdu daily, Roznama Sahafat (Lucknow edition), as the front-page news report dated 6 December, 2016 tells us.

Inevitably, several messages and comments were circulated in the social media. Now the fatwa has been made public officially by the Darul Uloom Deoband, which has posted it on its website.

The Deoband seminary has cited a number of statements attributed to the Tablighi Jama’at’s chief. The fatwa alleges that Maulvi Sa’ad Kandhaulvi in his speech at the Tablighi Jama’at’s large-scale congregation (ijtema) recently held in Bhopal, spoke many things which went against the canonical understanding of Islam.

Fazail-e-A’amaal: the Tablighi textbook

One accusation is that Fazail-e-A’amaal (the virtues of Islamic actions)– the text book Tablighi Jama’at preaches to its followers, contains many things antithetical to the Quran. Such objections over the TJ and its preaching style have been repeatedly raised in the past as well. The Darul Uloom itself confessed that the seminary’s clerics have received such complaints earlier too, from various sources including those in Bangladesh and Pakistan, in which ‘the perverted views of the TJ chief’ were spelled out.

But one wonders why the TJ has been left unchallenged over its more grievous stands which are cultivating the ideological jihadism inherent in its curriculum. Like various texts of “Fazail-e-A’amal”, another textbook entitled “Taleem-e-Islam” (the teachings of Islam), contains pro-jihadism exhortations. But both textbooks are valued by the TJ followers as significant as the Quran and Hadith—the two primary Islamic texts. In fact, the common followers of the TJ literally place these books at a pedestal above the Quran.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

One of the founding ideologues of the TJ writes in the book “Teachings of Islam” explaining the Jihadi doctrine: “Jihad is spreading the kalima (word of God) and enforcing Allah’s Commandments.” In reality, spreading word of God is not confined to the TJ. All Islamic, Christian, Jewish and other evangelical organisations based on preaching and proselytizing are doing almost the same. But what is quite staggering is the TJ’s overt exhortations towards “enforcing Allah’s Commandments”.

In the canonical Arabic etymology, kalima is the first article of Islamic faith which enjoins a Muslim to testify that “there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is the last messenger”. But it has got an antagonistic connotation after it has been weaved into a 6-point curriculum of the TJ as mentioned in its textbook ‘Fazail-e-A’amal’. “Muslims are in a constant state of Jihad in the sense of fight against evil. Their weapon is da’wa (proselytisation) and their battles are won or lost in the hearts”, reads a passage in the book.

Barring ulema and a few preachers associated with the Jama’at, nearly all TJ members have confined their job to reading out Fazail-e-A’amal to the common Muslims. The Tablighi preachers captivate their audiences—mostly uneducated and gullible Muslim youths—with whimsical tales and fabricated hadith reports falsely attributed to the Prophet. A considerable number of Islamic researchers have stated that the entire Tablighi curriculum in general and Fazail-e-A’amal in particular are replete with concocted Hadiths (maudu’aat).

The thrust of Fazail-e-A’amal is that leading a true Islamic life is not possible without harbouring hate and animosity towards this world. In fact, the entire life before death is considered futile and worthless. “This world (dunya) is similar to a toilet or a prison”, as is written in the book Fazail-e-A’amal. The gravity of this belief can be gauged by the fact that most Tableeghi preachers literally place this textbook at a pedestal above the Quran. Consequently, the TJ preachers pride themselves on the notion that they ‘talk only of what is in the heavens above or in the grave below and nothing at all about the world in between”.

Such thoughts of religious fanaticism are actually antithetical to the spirit of the Quranic verses that explicitly forbid asceticism (rahbaniyat).

Six-point curriculum

The entire edifice of the TJ is based on the six points which were propounded to initiate the “tahrik-e-iman” (faith movement). The points are: (1) iman (faith), (2) namaz (Islamic prayer), (3) ilm-o-zikr (the knowledge and remembrance of Allah), (4) ikraam-e-Muslim (respect for Muslims), (5) ikhlas-e-niyyat (sincerity of intention) and (6) tafarrugh-e-waqt (the sparing of time for the da’wah or preaching and proselytisation)”.

In the textbook, “Taleem-e-Islam” under the sub-heading “General Principles”, the TJ writer comments on the six points: “No points of secondary importance should be discussed at any time. Confine all talk to the main points of the Tabligh…..There is no gain, honour, happiness, peace or tranquility in this life without adopting and firmly holding on to the work and system of the Tablighi Jama’at.”

Thus, in its 6-point curriculum, the TJ declares its core objective as da’wa (proselytisation) which is based on an exclusivist notion of “enforcing Allah’s Commandments”. The ideologues believed that Muslims joining the TJ would act upon the Quranic commandment of “enjoining good and forbidding evil” (Amr bil Ma’ruf wa Nahi an al Munkar). They derived it from the Quranic verse which reads: “Ye are the best of peoples, evolved for mankind, enjoining what is right, forbidding what is wrong, and believing in Allah” (3:110).

Tellingly, the way today’s literalist Islamists are enjoining “the right” and forbidding “the evil” is sometimes obnoxious. An instance can be seen in the recent incident in Mecca, Saudi Arabia which was lambasted in some progressive Saudi newspapers, though not in the mainstream media. On 11 March, 2002, the Mutaween—the Islamic police in Saudi Arabia—did not allow schoolgirls to escape a burning school, because ‘the girls were not wearing Hijabs or Abayas’, and were not ‘accompanied by a male guardian’. In this show of “enjoining right and forbidding evil”, fifteen young girl students died and fifty more were injured, as reported in the Saudi Arabic daily Okaz.


It is widely held that the TJ is an ‘apolitical’ religious outfit. Scholars like Olivier Roy, a prominent authority on Islam at the French National Centre for Scientific Research and Barbara D. Metcalf have endorsed this perception. While Roy sees to the TJ as an “apolitical preaching-to-the-people movement of internal grassroots missionary renewal” (“The Columbia world dictionary of Islamism”, Columbia University Press. p. 430), Metcalf views that the TJ is “a quietist, apolitical movement of spiritual guidance and renewal” (“Islam and women: The case of the Tablighi Jama`at“. Metcalf, Barbara, Stanford University, 27 February 1996).

But these studies are age-old. The former was conducted in 2007 and the latter in 1996. The recent developments have substantially evidenced that the TJ is advancing ahead towards the Indian politics in a bid to ‘correct the country’s course of actions with regard to the Muslims’.

An earlier Firstpost article depicted an instance of how the TJ’s six-point religious principles are being used to arouse the passion of Muslim voters during the UP assembly election campaigns. The recently-established political coalition of the Muslim parties in Uttar Pradesh known as “Ittehad Front” is garnering votes on the basis of religion. In his latest political promos, the Peace Party leader Ayyud Khan, a medical doctor-turned-politician staunchly exhorted to promote the Tablighi Jama’at in several front-page advertisements published in Inquilab, the largest Urdu daily in India.

Ayyub went to the extent of taking a resolution that if the Peace Party wins in the upcoming elections, he would ask all his party workers to go for Chilla or Khuruj—the 40-day tour of the Tablighi Jmaat for preaching and proselytizing.

Barbara Metcalf writes in her book, Traditionalist Islamic Activism: Deoband, Tablighis, and Talibs that the TJ encourages its adherents to follow the pattern of spending “forty continuous days a year and ultimately 120 days at least once in their lives engaged in the tablighi missions”.

Even in its preceding history, the TJ maintained its recognition of being “apolitical” in a shrewd way. It was ‘apolitical’ when the Indian citizens were fighting the war of freedom from the British colonization. The TJ continued to remain an ‘apolitical’ onlooker when Pakistan carried out attacks on India in 1971. No words were minced from the TJ leaders in condemnation of the ghastly attack. Recently in the wake of the Uri attack, the TJ masterfully maintained its ‘apolitical’ status by declining to issue any statements neither in favour nor against. This is precisely what has earned the TJ the two great-sounding epithets: “apolitical” and “quietist”.

Similarly in Pakistan, the TJ members officially portray themselves as simple missionaries, but in the recent past, many cases have reported where militants sought accommodation and hideouts in the Tablighi Markaz at Raiwind, as this study shows.

The TJ preachers in Pakistan remain ‘apolitical’ when Tahreek-e- Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Hizbul Mujahidin or Jaish-e-Muhammad launch attacks on minority religions or sects. After every terror attack, they simply remain silent onlookers, loudly claiming to be “peaceful” and “non-violent”. The TJ chief preacher in Pakistan Maulana Tariq Jameel—the global Tablighi televangelist—never denounces the terrorist strikes of the TTP like the one recently launched at Bacha Khan University. This intrigued even the Pakistani defence analyst, Zaid Hamid who questioned him. “All terrorists in Pakistan greatly revere Maulana Tariq Jameel, but he never denounces terrorism calling the name of TTP and other terror outfits. The entire youth segment of Pakistani Muslims listens to Tariq Jameel’s sermons and hence follow his verdicts. But what kind of Ulama-e-Haq (rightful clergy) he is from that he has shut his mouth on the merciless slaughtering of innocent children?”, Hamid says in this video .

The author is a scholar of comparative religion, classical Arabic and Islamic sciences, cultural analyst and researcher in media and communication Studies. Views are personal. He tweets at @GRDehlvi and can be reached at [email protected]

First Published On : Dec 18, 2016 16:52 IST

Triple talaq denies equality of law to Muslim women in India: Kerala High Court

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Kerala High Court said equality before law has been denied to Muslim women in India in the matter of triple talaq. Disposing of three cases involving divorced Muslim women including change of name in spouse in passport for a person who had ended his marriage by triple talaq, the high court urged the need for codified law with regard to divorce.In its 60-page judgement, the court said entire exercise is to alert the state that justice has become elusive to Muslim women and remedy lies in codification of law of divorce.Delivering the judgement, Justice A Muhamed Mustaque observed that it is for the lawmakers to formulate the law relating to divorce through the process of legislation.The court asked the registry to forward the copy of judgement to the Law Ministry and Law Commission of India. The state is committed to respect the promise of dignity before law and it cannot shirk its responsibility by remaining mute spectator of malady suffered by Muslim women in the name of religion, the court said. The court also urged the need for a state legislation to regulate triple talaq.The court added that the Quran nowhere approves triple talaq in one utterance and on the other hand promotes conciliation as best method to resolve marital discord. Even Islamic countries like Egypt, Iraq and UAE have totally derecognised the concept of triple talaq. One has to wonder how equality before law has been denied to Muslim women in India, the court said.State, as a measure, must strive to achieve meaningful action to sustain equilibrium towards national oneness in character of society while giving freedom to remain as one group, the court said.The need for common civil code, though it is debated at different levels, still remains as mirage for want of agreement among different groups, it said.It is possible to have a common code at least for marriage laws in India, the court said.The judgement concluded quoting verses from the Quran. “It is for the state to consider formulation of codified law to govern the matter. Therefore, I conclude drawing attention of those who resist any form of reform of the divorce law of Muslim community in India to the following verses of Holy Quran (Chapter 47:2);”And those who believe and do good works and believe in that which is revealed unto Muhammed- and it is the truth from their Lord-He riddeth them of their ill deeds and improveth their state”;”Thus we display the revelations for people who have sense” (Chapter 30:28).”

IAF officers can’t grow beard on religious grounds: SC dismisses two Muslim men’s pleas

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday held that personnel working in the Indian Air Force cannot sport a beard based on religious grounds.

A bench headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur said that the Centre’s decision to prohibit personnel of a particular community from sporting beard does not infringe upon the fundamental rights.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

The bench also comprising Justices DY Chandrachud and L Nageswara Rao dismissed the pleas filed by two Muslim personnel of IAF who had challenged the dismissal of their pleas by the Delhi High Court.

The apex court verdict came on two petitions filed separately by two personnel, Mohammed Zubair and Ansari Aaftab Ahmed, challenging the IAF authorities’ “confidential” order dated 24 February, 2003, prohibiting Muslim personnel from sporting a beard.

Zubair in his petition had contended that the order was in contravention of fundamental fights of the citizen and also a government letter issued through the Ministry of Home Affairs on 18 July,1990.

The said letter of the home minister permitted the uniformed Muslim/Sikh personnel to sport beard on religious grounds, provided prior permission was sought from the authorities, he said.

The Centre had said that the IAF order was in the interest of cohesiveness in a combat force and it also has security implications.

It had said that these policies are secular in character and have not been framed to govern the conduct of air force personnel of any particular religion.

The Centre has earlier told the court that IAF is undoubtedly a secular force having due regard for all religions and it is imperative that its personnel are guided by a sense of brotherhood without any distinction of caste, creed, colour or religion.

The petitioners had challenged the IAF order by way of a writ petition before the Delhi High Court and a single judge, citing certain Muslim religious texts, took the view that sporting beard was not compulsory and hence dismissed the plea.

They then approached a division bench which had also concurred with the order of the single judge and dismissed the plea following which the appeals were filed in the apex court.

First Published On : Dec 15, 2016 15:31 IST

IAF officers can’t grow beard on religious grounds: Supreme Court

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Supreme Court on Thursday held that personnel working in the Indian Air Force cannot sport a beard based on religious grounds.A bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur said that the Centre’s decision to prohibit personnel of a particular community from sporting beard does not infringe upon the fundamental rights.The bench also comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and L Nageswara Rao dismissed the pleas filed by two Muslim personnel of IAF who had challenged the dismissal of their pleas by the Delhi High Court.The apex court verdict came on two petitions filed separately by two personnel, Mohammed Zubair and Ansari Aaftab Ahmed, challenging the IAF authorities’ “confidential” order dated February 24, 2003, prohibiting Muslim personnel from sporting a beard.Zubair in his petition had contended that the order was in contravention of fundamental fights of the citizen and also a government letter issued through the Ministry of Home on July 18,1990.The said letter of the home minister permitted the uniformed Muslim/Sikh personnel to sport beard on religious grounds, provided prior permission was sought from the authorities, he said.The Centre had said that the IAF order was in the interest of cohesiveness in a combat force and it also has security implications.It had said that these policies are secular in character and have not been framed to govern the conduct of air force personnel of any particular religion.The Centre has earlier told the court that IAF is undoubtedly a secular force having due regard for all religions and it is imperative that its personnel are guided by a sense of brotherhood without any distinction of caste, creed, colour or religion.The petitioners had challenged the IAF order by way of a writ petition before the Delhi High Court and a single judge, citing certain Muslim religious texts, took the view that sporting beard was not compulsory and hence dismissed the plea.They then approached a division bench which had also concurred with the order of the single judge and dismissed the plea following which the appeals were filed in the apex court.

Rajnath Singh accuses Pakistan of dividing India on religious lines

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Home Minister Rajnath Singh accused Pakistan on Saturday of “conspiring” to divide India on religious lines but said it will not succeed. “Pakistan is conspiring to divide India on religious lines but it will not succeed. We were divided in 1947 on religious basis. We have not been able to forget that… All Indians are brothers, whether they are born from the womb of a Hindu mother or a Muslim mother,” he said addressing a Martyrs’ Day function in Kathua district.Singh said nowhere in the world other than India 72 sects of Islam live together peacefully. He said that as the Home Minister of the country, he wanted to make it clear that India is committed to taking along everybody and moving ahead on the path of development. He also offered India’s cooperation to Pakistan to eradicate the menace of terrorism from its soil. “If Pakistan is serious about eradicating terrorism but is incapable of doing that and wants cooperation, we are ready to help it eradicate terrorism from there,” the minister said.He said, “We want to live in peace with Pakistan but it has indulged in sponsoring a proxy war against India. “Every Prime Minister of India wanted to mend relations with Pakistan but it did not understand the language of peace and attacked India four times. But our brave soldiers gave them a befitting reply.”After repeated defeats, Pakistan has understood that it cannot defeat India in wars so it has resorted to sponsoring proxy war, he said, adding that “terrorism is the weapon of weak and not the brave”. Singh said that while the entire world was concerned about the spread of ISIS, the terrorist organisation has failed to spread its roots in India.

Triple talaq: Shiv Sena asks Modi to bring changes in Sharia law

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Days after the Allahabad High Court termed the practice of triple talaq as ‘cruel’, the Shiv Sena today asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to give his nod to bring changes in Sharia law in the interest of Muslim women.”The Allahabad High Court had asked whether there should be changes in Sharia. (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi should say yes without seeking anyone’s advice. This decision would be as revolutionary as demonetisation,” an editorial in Sena mouthpiece ‘Saamana’ said. “What the High Court said was not an order but an observation. But, it reflects the feeling of the country and the pain of Muslim women,” the Sena, an ally of BJP in Maharashtra, said. The High Court has paved the path of enactment of a common civil code, it said.Those torturing Muslim women in the name of Muslim personal law should be branded anti-nationals and punished, the Sena said. “However, nobody is willing to comment on this as everyone, including the BJP, is eyeing Muslim vote bank in the UP elections,” the editorial claimed.The debate on the validity of triple talaq has intensified after the Allahabad High Court on Thursday termed the practice as “most demeaning” which “impedes and drags India from becoming a nation”.The court had said that the Constitution of India was supreme and not the Muslim Law Board.

Mature friend valuable than hysterical partner: MJ Akbar on Sino-Pak friendship

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In a veiled dig at Sino-Pakistan friendship, Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar said a “mature” friend is far more valuable than a “hysterical” partner. Addressing the first India-China think-tank forum here, Akbar also said the time has come for India and China to regain the reputation of being a global manufacturing hub.He referred to the past when India accounted for 24% of the global manufacturing output and China 30%. “There cannot be any situation in which two nations do not have some differences. Of course, there will be some but mature nations can take their problems to a decent space of a dialogue table.”A mature friend is far, far more valuable than a hysterical partner,” Akbar said at the inauguration of the two-day forum. His remarks appeared as an indirect message to China which describes Pakistan as a “all weather ally” and has strong defence and trade ties with it. In the backdrop of the several terror strikes carried out in India by Pakistan-based groups, Akbar said dangers from terrorism are not limited to the fact that it kills people but also in its use of fear to divide people, especially in societies and nations which are built on pluralism.He warned that complacence was absolutely the “biggest danger” while dealing with new realities posed by terrorism. Commenting on the current situation in the region, the minister said, “Peace is sometimes more difficult to find than war.”He also said in the post British empire era, both India and China agreed that religion cannot be the basis of nationalism.”In the (Indian) sub-continent this idea was challenged by votaries of the Muslim League, who argued that religion could be basis of nation state. Parallel story that religion on which they wanted nation state, Islam, there is no history of Islam being basis of political unity,” he said.

Triple Talaq violates Fundamental Right: Supreme Court should rule against it

On 8 December, the Allahabad High Court used strong words against the practice of triple talaq, describing it as “unconstitutional” and a violation of the rights of Muslim women, but such strong words do not mean anything practically and certainly do not settle the issue in law. More on that later, but first the court’s observation should be welcomed because it is significant insofar as it strengthens women’s rights movement in the country; sends a strong warning to Islamic clerics that time for them to change is now; denotes a pro-liberty shift in the higher judiciary’s thinking, and offers a bright ray of hope to Muslim women who are rendered destitute overnight by triple talaq.

The court observed: “The instant divorce (triple talaq) though has been deprecated and not followed by all sects of Muslim community in the country, however, is a cruel and the most demeaning form of divorce practised by the Muslim community.” It further said, “The question which disturbs the court is should Muslim wives suffer this tyranny for all times? Should their personal law remain so cruel towards these unfortunate wives?”

These are strong words that indicate that the Indian judiciary may be reaching a turning point where it is no longer willing to subordinate its sense of judgement to the whims of Islamic clerics and political correctness.

The court’s observation has come at a time there is growing awareness about constitutional rights available to Indian citizens, especially Muslim women in this case. Ever since the constitution began to be implemented from 26 January 1950, citizens are now more aware than ever about their rights. Indian society is passing through revolutionary times when the cause of Muslim women’s rights is widely supported by people, and significantly not by so called feminist women.

Representative image. Reuters

Representative image. Reuters

It is a sign of revolutionary times that even semi-educated Muslim women are knocking at the door of the Supreme Court to obtain their rights. The Allahabad court’s observation will strengthen their resolve to claim their fundamental right to equality.

However, it should also be noted that these are observations of the court, not a judgement, and therefore not consequential legally.

The Allahabad court said that it would “not like to say anything further for the reason that the Supreme Court is seized with the matter.” Only a judgement of the Supreme Court, therefore, can settle the issue in law that triple talaq is unconstitutional. However, there are practical issues. At present the Muslim personal laws come under two key legislations: The Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937; and the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, 1939. Under the 1937 law, Muslims can contract marriage and divorce as per their religious practices.

Under this law, a Muslim husband can “give” divorce through the mediation of Islamic clerics or effect his own divorce through formal or informal means such as telephone, SMS, email, letter and so on. Significantly, a Muslim husband cannot go to court to seek divorce. He can effect his divorce through two paths: one, he can utter instant triple talaq via formal or informal means. Two, he can issue three talaq, one after each menstrual cycle. Lawyers do not advise the second path because the wife is most likely to file a dowry harassment case if he were to issue the first of the three monthly instalments of talaq.

The 1939 law was brought in to empower the Muslim woman to “seek” – not give – divorce. Under this Sharia-compatible law, a Muslim woman can go to court or to Islamic clerics to seek a dissolution of her marriage. Both the 1937 and 1939 laws are as per the Islamic Sharia and legally valid in India, which is in many other ways too a Sharia-compliant state. The provisions under these two laws are as per the Hanafi school of Sunni Islam practised in India. Unless the Supreme Court rules that these laws violate the Fundamental Right to Equality available under Article 14, mere observations that triple talaq is unconstitutional will mean nothing.

Alternatively, the Indian government can bring in a new law that is compatible with the 21st century liberties and values involving women’s rights, and replaces these two laws. This can also be done as part of a Uniform Civil Code (UCC), a first-ever draft of which was proposed and released by this writer last week. A third practical way of dissolving a Muslim marriage, though not widely known, is for either the husband or wife to convert to any other religion, thereby rendering the marriage dissolved. However, as things stand now, a Muslim husband cannot go to court to seek divorce, and therefore any Supreme Court order declaring that triple talaq is unconstitutional should also clarify under what law a Muslim husband can approach court for divorce.

At the intellectual level, the higher judiciary also needs to be questioned for a number of reasons. For example, the Allahabad high court’s observation carries many references to the Quran. The justices of many high courts fail to understand that many women are coming to their doors for the simple reason that they are in a certain difficult situation, whatever being the sources of that, which needs to be addressed within the framework of the Constitution. It should be the natural instinct of a justice to seek remedy within the Constitution, rather than start investigating what the Quran says.

It is equally a sad situation that the Supreme Court too has lost clarity on this subject.

For example, when a Muslim woman approaches the Supreme Court, the case is essentially between herself and her husband or ex-husband. However, even in such cases, the Supreme Court has allowed a number of religious organisations such as Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind to become a party to what is a disagreement between a couple to be settled by the apex court. Therefore, in some way, the Supreme Court empowers such as Islamist groups like Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind to rule over the lives of the affected Muslim women. Here, the apex court needs to not lose sight of the fact that the fundamental right to religion is available to the citizen, not to communities and religious organisations.

Last month, I met with Maulana Mahmood Madani, the leader of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, in Goa. “What do you think of triple talaq,” he asked me. I replied, “The number of talaq(s) is not important, what is important is that it is being used arbitrarily against women by Muslim husbands. And I am willing to even support triple or quadruple talaq if the husband can go to court and after hearing both the sides the court can fix a date for such a talaq to be delivered.” The way my conversation with him progressed, I reached a conclusion that Maulana Madani was not willing to shift even an inch, not even quarter of a centimetre.

I reminded him that in Pakistan, which follows the Hanafi school of Islamic Sharia, divorces happen in courts. To this, Maulana Madani responded that the law in Pakistan was changed under “Wahhabi influence” and he reminded me that he was using the words “Wahhabi influence” carefully. I also asked him about his position on the Uniform Civil Code. He said that let the government bring in the UCC first and then we will discuss it, because it will also apply to other religious communities. I reminded Maulana Madani that the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind has a large number of lawyers and it should task them to draft a UCC and put it in public domain for everyone to discuss its specifics. He balked at the idea. I also asked him,”Then how is it that Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind has been leading protests against the Uniform Civil Code even without knowing what specifics will constitute it?” My conversation ended with a realisation that such Islamic clerics will not allow any change among Indian Muslims. So, the only hope for Muslim women are the Supreme Court and the people of India.

Former BBC journalist, Tufail Ahmad is a contributing editor at Firstpost, and executive director of the Open Source Institute, New Delhi. He tweets @tufailelif

First Published On : Dec 9, 2016 14:05 IST

Women will no longer live in fear

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>27-year-old Gausiya Ansari clearly remembers the summer night two years ago. As a newly-wedded woman she was not sure if the ill-treatment was a rite of passage for married women, or whether her in-laws were intentionally diabolic. “One afternoon I couldn’t cook a dish becuase of a missing ingredient. In the evening when my husband returned they created a scene and he slapped me. When I pleaded to stop, they pulled me by my hair to the heater and asked me to put my hand on it,” she recalls over the phone from Bhiwandi. She managed to escape.The torture continued for a year and they even tried to poison her. The last she heard from her husband and his family was when she gave birth to a girl. They came to the hospital, and soon left. A few months later her husband, Sameer Ahmed Momin, sent her a notice through a lawyer. “He never uttered talaq in front of me, how is the marriage invalid. I need him to help me raise my daughter,” says Gausiya. She filed a case in the Bhiwandi court, where the matter is pending. The Allahabad High Court’s judgment questioning the constitutionality of triple talaq, has come as a succour to Gausiya, and other women who have been suffering at the hands of husbands who dictate the terms of divorce, leaving women stranded and without any monetary help.“The question disturbing the court is should Muslim wives suffer this tyranny for all times? Should their personal law remain so cruel towards these unfortunate wives,” the judgement administered by justice Suneet Kumar noted, adding that in India, Muslim law has taken a course contrary to the spirit of the Holy Quran. “Personal laws, of any community, cannot claim supremacy over the rights granted to the individuals by the Constitution,” it noted.The case was filed by two wives of a man, the first wife was 53-year-old, and the other 23-year-old. The elder wife was the first petitioner who approached the court on the grounds that her marriage was not yet null. 23-year-old, the second petitioner argued on the grounds that since the first wife was now divorced, she should no longer harass her and her husband. The court refused to enforce the divorce of the first woman, maintaining that ‘the legality of the marriage/divorce and rights of parties is kept open’. Shayara Bano, the woman who moved the SC challenging triple talaq under the Muslim personal law, too, says she is relieved. Hasina of the Bebaak Collective, who filed an intervention in the Bano case, says ‘it is a major step to have declared triple talaq unconstitutional’.However, some women feel there is a downside. For Old Delhi’s Naziya, within a year of her marriage she felt she could not live with her husband, as he was too conservative. When she approached for khula, she wasn’t granted divorce.“I suffered for a year, and he demanded cash for separation. One day, he informed everyone that he gave me talaq in front of the community. I didn’t even know when I was given the divorce,” she says adding that the court’s pronouncement is now also open to abuse.

Triple talaq verdict highlights the plight of Muslim women entangled in battles they can’t win

The case of Mohammad Naseem Bhat vs Bilquees Akhtar heard by Justice Hasnain Masoodi is an infrequently told story of a Muslim wife’s claim for maintenance against her husband. The parties were married in August 2002 and had a daughter. The marriage failed and Bilquees started living separately with her daughter. In January 2006, she filed a claim for maintenance for herself and her daughter. She alleged that her husband ill-treated her, mainly because she had given birth to a girl child. The husband held that he had divorced her more than a month before the child was born, and hence she wasn’t entitled to any maintenance.

The lower court accepted the man’s divorce plea and rejected her claim of maintenance for herself. Thus, he was directed to pay a monthly amount only towards his daughter.

Representational image. Getty ImagesRepresentational image. Getty Images

Representational image. Getty Images

The wife appealed against the judgment, and the first appellate court set aside the lower court’s decision, calling it “perverse, illegal and passed in a mechanical manner”. It also directed the lower court to fix a proper maintenance allowance. The husband appealed in the high court that the lower court’s decision be upheld. It was then that Justice Masoodi stated that under the Kashmir Shariat Act 2007, Muslims are to be governed by the Shariat law.

Today, when discussions on triple talaq have boldly resurfaced in drawing rooms and newsrooms alike, Supreme Court lawyer Shabnam Lone, who was appointed by the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir as amicus on behalf of the lady in 2014, says that there is much to be learnt from this incident. “Many religious bodies, and even a retired high court judge and the bar filed a petition against the high court’s order. The application was filed under Section 94 of the Constitution of J&K for reviewing the order passed by the high court. Her own lawyer refused to represent her since the case was widely reported in local newspapers. I filed her power of attorney in open court. When she contacted me, she was worried but sure about going ahead. After the third or fourth hearing, she stopped coming to court. It was then that the court appointed me amicus on her behalf,” Lone said.

And whether she wasn’t allowed to show up or lost interest in the case is a reason best known to her, the fact of the matter is that in India, women are entangled in legal battles they aren’t even allowed to fight.

There are several cases to illuminate that a married Muslim woman’s rights change with the culture and class she comes from, but in every situation, she is denied.

Women’s rights activist and lawyer Abha Singh says it is as much an urban problem, and talks about two of her clients battling triple talaq in their own ways. In one case, the client comes from an upper middle class business family in south Mumbai, and because she spoke up against her in-laws, they urged their son to divorce her. She is a graduate and is seeking maintenance for her children under Section 125 of the CrPC. The second is a software professional who converted to Islam to marry her Muslim lover. He wants to divorce her and keep the child. She is fighting for the custody of her son, arguing she is better placed to take care of him.

“These are educated girls who feel they live with the fear of talaq looming over their heads all the time. They are now ready to spend on lawyers, install CCTV cameras to collect evidence against the husband and their in-laws. All this is done with the realisation that the Constitution guarantees basic rights which the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPL) cannot question or interfere with,” Singh says.

Singh points to the many Halala marriages that are prevalent in Lucknow. In this, in order to return to the first husband and children after talaq, a woman is made to marry another man and sleep with him. This humiliating exercise is undertaken each time he divorces her. In other cases, rich Sheikhs from the Middle East marry girls half their age, impregnate them, divorce them and fly back; where there is extreme poverty, there is no concept of maintenance.

Triple talaq has been banned in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran and even Saudi Arabia, because as per Islam, there has to be a gap of one menstrual cycle between each time the man utters the word talaq. This ensures that divorce is not given in a fit of rage and the man has time to cool down and think rationally over his decision. While India has overlooked this aspect, it has embraced technology. Talaq can now be given via SMS or email.

Sharifa Khanam, who founded the STEPS Women’s Development Organisation in 1987, has some more scary stories to share. She pointed out that in the last 15 years, 80 Muslim women have died in South Indians towns like Pattikonda, Nagapattinam and Tirunelveli, and there is no reliable data to certify that these were suicides. “In most cases, the woman doesn’t complain because there’s risk of being ostracised by the Jamaat. In 1993, we conducted a survey in Tamil Nadu and found out that in every five families, there is at least one woman who is divorced, or physically and mentally tormented, handicapped or destitute. Not much has changed,” she said.

Khanam pointed out that there is no dowry in Islam and the cultural practice that has emerged in poor families in villages is that the boys’ family pay a mahr of Rs 500, and in turn demand dowry worth Rs 50,000. A dowry harassment case she noticed in Pudukkottai involved a girl who was harassed and burnt to death while the police refused to hear her mother’s plea and asked her to seek help from the jamaat. “In lower levels, the police refuse to interfere in Muslim matters for whatever reason,” Khanam added.

Rubina Patel, who runs the Rubi Social Welfare Society in Nagpur, brings to light some more shameful cases. In Teka in Nagpur, 18-year-old Shahnaz was given talaq without her knowledge. She was packed off to her mother’s house and was living in oblivion for months before she realised what has happened. Shahina, from the same place, was pregnant at 20. Her husband approached a Mufti who issued a fatwa. “When we asked the Mufti why he issued it, he said the talaq was decided according to the man’s neeyat (will). Then we asked him how can a pregnant woman be divorced, to which he said that the talaq will be implemented once the baby is born, like an advance talaq,” Patel said.

While the men are busy politicising personal laws, the women continue to fight peculiar battles, ones that they mostly lose.

First Published On : Dec 8, 2016 22:22 IST

Triple talaq, Constitution, Quran and self-imposed custodians of Islam in India

The burning issue of triple talaq is back again with the Allahabad High court’s observation that the Muslims’ practice of divorcing their wives by uttering the word “talaq” thrice is unconstitutional, as several media outlets have reported.

“Personal laws of any community cannot claim supremacy over the rights granted to the individuals by the constitution,” the high court stated.

The triple talaq tangle. ReutersThe triple talaq tangle. Reuters

The triple talaq tangle. Reuters

Court and Constitution

A strongly-worded article in Firstpost has commented on the high court’s observation: “The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) and some other Muslim organisations which have been aggressively defending triple talaq, citing the holy Quran, may not like the court’s judgment but it’s better they understood that the Indian Constitution makes itself very clear on the rights of individuals and no amount of creative interpretation of the concession to communities would change that.”

AIMPLB and Jamiat-Ulama-i-Hind

Indeed, it is for the Supreme Court to look into the intricacies of such a fragile matter and come with a verdict which is in compliance with the Indian Constitution and, at the same time, with the Quran so that it may be acceptable to all Muslims. However, we cannot leave the issue to the desecration of the self-imposed custodians of Islam and Muslims in India like the or the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind (JUH). For, these self-proclaimed apex bodies of the Indian Muslims make use of such serious issues only to maintain their political hegemony over Muslims in the country. An earlier article in Firstpost has candidly exposed how the religiopolitical wings like the AIMPLB maintain its monopoly over the Muslim affairs in India using issues like the triple talaq as a political ploy.

In this political gimmick, both the AIMPLB and the JUH enjoy a huge support of the two diametrically-opposed Muslim sects — the Muqallids (those who follow any of the four Islamic schools of law) and the Ghair Muqallids or the Ahle-Hadisi/Salafis who don’t follow any of them.

Since its inception, the AIMPLB has been dominated by the males. But now it has also created a women wing which is nothing short of a group that supports the misplaced patriarchy in the name of Islamic Shariah. Isn’t it a great irony that the AIMPLB has decided for the first time in its long history, to form its women wing only to support the patriarchal power of executing triple talaq? Why didn’t it take cognizance of the need for a female-oriented body to go into other issues concerning Muslim women? After the creation of the AIMPLB’s women wing, it has been directed only to engage with the pro-personal-laws signature campaign in order to tackle the Law Commission’s questionnaire.

As for the JUH’s take on triple talaq, it has been good for nothing. Worst of all, it has confused the entire Muslim community in India which looks up to the JUH as a body of the high-profile Deobandi clergy. Recently, the JUH held its 33rd annual conference in Ajmer, where it clearly castigated the triple talaq as ‘un-Islamic’, while at the same time opposing any proposals for a Uniform Civil Code.

But, on the contrary, the JUH showed completely different colors when it proclaimed in clearer words that “triple talaq, ‘nikah halala’ and polygamy are well rooted” and that there cannot be any room for the state’s interference in the personal laws. In its counter affidavit, the JUH stated that the Muslim personal law has an element of certainty and is not local or regional in operation. “There is no scope for interference with the Muslim Personal Law, which is based on primarily the Holy Quran and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad, explained and applied by various scholars of great antiquity and authority after thorough research,” it said.

Quran vs Constitution?

Much against the prevailing perception in the community, the Quran is full compliance with the Constitution on matters of talaq (divorce) and zawaj (marriage). In a very coherent and logical manner, the holy Quran prescribes a three-month waiting period for a woman undergoing the divorce process (2:228). The Quran issues an injunction for a divorce-giver man to formally articulate his intention at least twice over the period in the presence of witnesses (2:229). Moreover, in a couple of verses, Quran also stresses that there should be time-framing (2:231, 65:2).

Many Quran exegetes have noted that it was a rampant custom in the pre-Islamic Arabia, in the era of ignorance (jahiliyyah), that men could abandon their wives simply declaring, “You are to me like my mother’s back”, as the Quran itself narrates (58:2). In a stark contradiction to the Quranic pronouncements, triple talaq has been a nefarious instance of pre-Islamic Arabian patriarchy. Here’s is what the Quran pronounces in so many words and verses. A few instances:

“Divorced women shall wait by themselves for three monthly periods, for it is not lawful for them, if they believe in God and the Last Day, to conceal what God has created in their wombs…. (2:228). (O men, you must) pronounce the divorce over two occasions. Thereafter live together (with your mates) honourably, or part with (Tasrihu) them honourably…. (2:229).

“And if you divorce women, and they reach (the end of) their term, then either live together honorably, or part with (Sarrihu) them honorably, but do not keep them to injure them, (or) to exceed limits. Anyone who does that merely wrongs his own soul…” (2:231).

“And when they reach (the end of) their term, then either live together honourably, or part with (Fariqu) them honorably, calling to witness two just members from among yourselves and uphold the evidence (as) before God. This is to instruct anyone who believes in God and the Last Day. (Remember,) God will find a way out for anyone who heeds Him” (65:2).

An in-depth and objective probe into the above Quranic injunctions clearly reveal that the Quran is compatible with the Constitution. This compliance becomes more patently clear in the operative part of the high court’s latest observation:

“Muslim law, as applied in India, has taken a course contrary to the spirit of what the Prophet or the Holy Quran laid down and the same misconception vitiates the law dealing with the wife’s right to divorce. The divorce is permissible in Islam only in cases of extreme emergency. When all efforts for effecting a reconciliation have failed, the parties may proceed to a dissolution of the marriage by ‘Talaq’ or by ‘Khola’. The statement that “the whimsical and capricious divorce by the husband is good in law, though bad in theology” cannot be approved as the correct law. The correct law of talaq as ordained by the Holy Quran is that talaq must be for a reasonable cause and be preceded by attempts at reconciliation between the husband and the wife by two arbiters- one from the wife’s family and the other from the husband’s; if the attempts fail, talaq may be effected. (Ref: Pathayi v. Moideen 1968 KLT 763; A. Yousuf Rawther Vs. Sowramma, AIR 1971 Kerala 261; referred to with approval by the Supreme Court in Shamim Ara vs State Of U.P. & another : 2002 (7) SCC 518).”

However, the problem with common Muslims in India is that they buy the misconstrued Quranic texts from the rapacious mullahs and self-serving maulvis. An earlier article in Firstpost has shown how the concept of Halalah (marriage of his former wife to another person in a bid to reclaim his reunion with her), which has fully different connotation in the Quran (2: 230), is grossly misconstrued and ill-practiced in the Muslim society.

But the JUH still seeks to rescue those who stage-manage the ‘nikah-e- halala’. Such ill-designed statements degrade women even in the 21st century India. Similar is the brazen violation of the Quranic verses (4:2, 3 and 127) which pertain to polygamy. Any insight into the Quran unravels that polygamy in Islam was validated under strict conditions. It was primarily institutionalised to safeguard women and orphaned children living in an intolerant Arabian society. But it is quite difficult for the short-sighted minds of the mullahs to comprehend it today. The related verses in the Quran permitted a restricted polygamy under the exceptional circumstances only.

Those with perverted minds will have to go back by 1,400 years to perceive the context under which polygamy was permissible. Since the pro-polygamy verses in the Quran were contextual, they cannot be given primacy over the universal Quranic verses which are always applicable to us. Needless to say, most verses in the Quran enjoin gender justice, equality, egalitarianism and a women-friendly Islam. Azizah al-Hibri has rightly put it: “The fundamental notion in the Qur’an is that of justice, and justice is gender equality.”

MJ Akbar, the Union minister who has been a member of the Forum of Islamic Scholars, has masterly stated: “You cannot deny gender equality to any being. Denial of gender rights is against the Sharia [read Islam]. Anyone who has a deep understanding of the Quranic law will never have the courage to argue. He will simply not.”

The author is a scholar of comparative religion, classical Arabic and Islamic sciences, cultural analyst and researcher in media and communication Studies. Views are personal. He tweets at @GRDehlvi.

First Published On : Dec 8, 2016 21:19 IST

Right-wing bodies welcome triple talaq verdict, say personal law board not above Constitution

After the Allahabad High Court’s judgment against triple talaq said the practice was unconstitutional and “violated the rights of Muslim women”, several right-wing bodies in the country have reacted encouragingly. In a landmark verdict on Wednesday, the court held that no personal law board was above the Constitution.

Muslim Rashtriya Manch (MRM), a body affiliated with Rashtryia Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) that works for the cause of Indian Muslims, said the intention of the central government on triple talaq issue was clear: It won’t have a showdown as in the Shah Bano case during Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s regime.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

“It’s a welcome move and we strongly condemn the concept of triple talaq. We may have been late on having a ban on triple talaq, but it is finally in place. As per our Constitution, Indian Muslim women must be treated at par with other citizens. The Modi government has made its intentions clear on this issue. Unlike the Shah Bano case, where the Rajiv Gandhi government took to appeasement for the sake of vote bank politics, the Centre has now made its stand clear through an affidavit submitted before the apex court on this issue,” said Girish Juyal, national organising convener, MRM.

Citing a historical precedent, Juyal added, “A case of triple talaq came before the Umar Hazrat (583-644 CE), one of the most powerful and influential Muslim caliphs in history. He gave his ruling in favour of the woman and ordered public flogging of the person who had asked for triple talaq. The Quran and the Hadith consider divorce a crime and there’s no mention of ‘triple talaq’ in them. Moreover, other practices like Halala and Musa also ought to be stopped, because they are also demeaning for Indian women.”

However, while the experts laud the Centre for its efforts to empower Muslim women, they also feel a new law needs to be enacted to repeal the Shariyat Act, in order to abolish the existing practice of triple talaq. “Though the court has sent a strong message through its order, that the 7th century Islamic Shariat law needs to be changed, the issue of triple talaq won’t settle unless a new law is made. The SC has to first quash the 1937 Shariat Act,” said Tufail Ahmad, executive director of Open Source Institute, a Delhi-based think tank.

“It’s high time that Islamic clerics understand the importance of the rights granted by the Indian Constitution to all citizens. Triple talaq violates the Constitution. The AIMPLB, or other Muslim organisations like All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat, are essentially unconstitutional from the beginning, because they were established with the objective of working against the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution,” Ahmad, a former journalist with BBC World Service, emphasised.

Ahmad recently proposed a draft Uniform Civil Code — the first-ever attempt to bring specific issues before the public for a wider discussion. “Unless the government repeals the Shariat Law of 1937 and 1939, and brings a new law in compliance with the 21st century ensuring protection of the rights of Muslim women, nothing practical is possible,” he said.

What the Shariat Act, 1937 and 1939 is about?

  • Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937: Indian Muslims can contract marriages and effect divorce through various informal ways deemed correct by local Islamic clerics. A Muslim husband must divorce under this law, which means he cannot go to a court for divorce. He is forced to effect his own divorce through a letter, phone call, video or internet. There are two ways to effect divorce: Utter the word talaq three times, unilaterally, thereby ending the marriage. Or, deliver the talaq in three monthly installments — a three-month period during which reconciliation can occur.
  • Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, 1939: This law was written to empower the Muslim women to take, not to give, divorce. Under this law, a Muslim woman can get divorce in two ways: Either she gets the dissolution of her marriage by approaching Islamic clerics; or she can get one by going to a court against her husband.

The Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), while condemning the approach of All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) towards Indian Muslim women, also hailed the central government’s approach towards triple talaq. It feels that the high court order will finally be upheld by the apex court as well.

“This case of triple talaq won’t be like Shah Bano case, because the then Rajiv Gandhi government had taken a U-turn and the judgment was reversed. We’re confident that in the Supreme Court will also uphold the high court’s order. The Modi government has made its stand clear through an affidavit submitted before the apex court on this issue,” said VHP’s joint international general secretary Dr Surendra Jain.

“The AIMPLB has always condemned any move against triple talaq and has shown severe disregard towards our Constitution and human values. The board even gave death threats to Muslim women. This board can’t be above the Constitution. Moreover, it doesn’t represent the entire Indian Muslim population. This can’t be acceptable in a civilised society. Now, Indian Muslim women want to come out of medieval, barbaric traditions and be liberated,” he added.

The Muslim women’s wing of MRM hailed the HC order as a success, and said 5,000 Muslim women had garnered courage for a signature campaign. “AIMPLB failed to ensure rights to Muslim women. I had questioned the board on why triple talaq hasn’t been discontinued even after more than six decades of Independence. Pakistan doesn’t have triple talaq, but secular India has it, which is a shame. There’s no mention of this concept in the Quran or the Hadis. A hapless Muslim women are thrown out of their houses by husbands by saying, ‘Talaq-talaq-talaq’,” said Reshma Husain, national convener, women’s wing, MRM.

Condemning the vote-bank politics of previous governments, she added, “The previous Congress government used the Muslim community as a vote bank. They failed to separate religion from our Constitution, when it came to provide rights to women. It’s a victory for these 5,000 Muslim sisters who went for a signature campaign to seek deletion of triple talaq. We too have simultaneously undertaken a signature campaign across the country and we expect to get 10 lakh signatures from Muslim women supporting a ban.”

First Published On : Dec 8, 2016 21:13 IST

Uddhav talks tough, says Sena to oppose demonetisation if common man continues to suffer

New Delhi: Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray on Thursday claimed his party has not softened its stance on demonetisation, hinting it could step up opposition if people’s sufferings continue after 30 December, a deadline set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to set things right.

Taking a cue from Akhilesh Yadav dispensation in Uttar Pradesh, Thackeray, whose party is second largest constituent of the NDA government, also suggested giving compensation to kin of those who lost lives allegedly in the aftermath of demonetisation.

“(When demonetisation was announced) I had neither opposed nor welcomed the move. I had only maintained that the common people should not be inconvenienced. 30 (of the 50) days have gone, but there is no sign that the problems have decreased. Rather, problems are on the rise day-by-day,” Thackeray told reporters.

Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray. PTI

Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray. PTI

Asked his party’s move after remaining 20 of the 50 days Prime Minister had initially asked for, Thackeray said, “Let the period get over as ‘achhe din’ are in store.”

“Let’s wait for the 20 days, people will have something to say about it. We will talk about our stand after these 20 days,” he said.

To a question whether the Shiv Sena, which had joined a protest led by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, has softened its stand on demonetisation after a party delegation met Prime Minister Narendra Modi last month, Thackeray replied in negative.

“We are not economists. But some experts like Manmohan Singh, Amartya Sen have opposed it. They too have opined it is a wrong decision,” he said.

Asked which side Sena will be on if discussions are held inside Lok Sabha under a rule which entails voting, Thackeray evaded a direct reply to the question, saying “the party will remain with people”.

Expressing concerns over the repeated disruptions in Parliament, Thackeray said it was unfortunate and suggested taking views expressed by BJP veteran LK Advani “seriously”.

Thackeray also hailed the Allahabad High Court for holding triple talaq as “cruel” and “most demeaning” practice which “impedes and drags India from becoming a nation”, saying it is an important observation for the country.

“…the case should not meet the fate of Shah Bano case,” he said.

In The Shah Bano decision, the Supreme Court had overruled a Muslim personal law and granted a Muslim woman alimony. In response, a legislation was proposed by Centre in 1986 to prevent such a court decision in the future.

Referring to claims that terror attacks have stopped post-demonetisation, Thackeray said it meant the Prime Minister has shown a path to the world on combating terrorism. However, other countries are not following that path, he quipped.

“I was happy to know that terror attacks have stopped post-demonetisation. If the attacks on the country have stopped, then (it meant) Modi has shown a path to the world. Why cannot other countries resort to demonetisation (then)? How simple way Modiji had shown. But other countries are not taking that path,” he said sarcastically.

On whether the Shiv Sena will join hands with BJP, with which it is sharing uneasy relationship after they parted ways ahead of 2014 Maharashtra assembly polls, for the forthcoming Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) elections, Thackeray said, “We still have time (to talk about it). Let the 20 days go, achhe din are on the anvil.”

The BMC elections are likely to be held in February next year.

Thackeray also stated that he will take up the issue of plight of farmers with Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.

The Uttar Pradesh government had on Wednesday announced compensation of Rs 2 lakh to families of those who lost lives while queueing up outside banks and ATMs following demonetisation.

First Published On : Dec 8, 2016 20:16 IST

Triple Talaq: Muslim law board needs a reality check, not overdose of legal options

The Indian Constitution makes some concession for minority communities, religious and otherwise, alright, but it certainly does not say that it would be exercised to the detriment of individuals within the community. It allows every Indian a set of rights, as individuals, not as part of any larger group. Any conflict between the rights of the individual and the privileges of the community has to be viewed from the perspective of the former. The Allahabad High Court’s ruling on Thursday, which says that the practice of triple talaq violates the rights of Muslim women, is thus in perfect agreement with the spirit of our Constitution.

The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) and some other Muslim organisations which have been aggressively defending triple talaq, citing the holy Quran, may not like the court’s judgment but it’s better they understood that the Indian Constitution makes itself very clear on the rights of individuals and no amount of creative interpretation of the concession to communities would change that. It is possible they would provide a communal spin to the judgement but the fact is Constitution is a neutral document. Its principles apply as much to Muslims as to Hindus and other communities.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

In reaction to the Supreme Court’s observation on the issue earlier, the AIMPLB had said that the court was ‘trying to rewrite personal laws in the name of social reform’. Now, if the court did not come to protect the individual, then who would? And what is so wrong with social reform in the first place? Societies evolve by making continuous adjustments to emerging situations within and without. Forces of conservatism accommodate new views while trying their best to keep the core of the faith intact.

That the Muslim community in India has been a spectacular failure in evolving with the times has a lot to do with organisations like the AIMPLB, which do not even think it is ridiculous to openly defend polygamy and the practice of triple talaq. The trouble with the community has been the virtual silence – call it indifference if you please – of its intellectual class on the institutionalised injustice and unfairness within. The absence of debates inside the community on matters society and individual are curiously invisible. How come, for example, no one raised this question on triple talaq: If so many countries have changed to make it woman-friendly what is the problem of the AIMPLB with making a similar change in India?

With the community not ready to address their problems it is obvious that the aggrieved would move courts. The latter would not be guided by the laws of the community but the Indian Constitution. In this case, the community has no reason to cry foul. The organisations unhappy with the judgement have decided to approach the Supreme Court for justice. It is within their rights, but a better idea would be to sit back and introspect.

They cannot resist change forever – the access allowed to women inside Haji Ali Dargah in Mumbai is a case in point. They also cannot afford to be in conflict with rights of individuals under the pretext of protecting faith forever. It is for their own survival that they need to be wiser.

First Published On : Dec 8, 2016 17:18 IST

‘No personal law board above Constitution’: Allahabad High Court’s observation on triple talaq ruffles feathers

The debate on validity of triple talaq intensified after the Allahabad High Court on Thursday termed the system as unconstitutional. The court added that it is the Constitution of India that is supreme and not the Muslim Law Board. The high court bench said that Triple Talaq violated human rights and that personal law of any community cannot be above the Constitution.

The observation comes in the wake of discussion and debate getting vocal about the validity of Muslim Law Board and this statement by Allahabad High Court is a boost for women petitioners involved in the case of triple talaq.

Speaking with CNN-News18 Kamal Farooqui of All India Muslim Personal Law Board said, “This is not a judgment, just an observation.” Adding to that Congress’ Rashid Alvi said, “This view of the Allahabad High court won’t stand in the Supreme Court. I don’t agree with what the Allahabad HC has to say. No one is above the Constitution and nobody should interfere in the practises of any community.”

Other ministers reacted to High Court’s observation:

The Muslim Law Board has announced that it will file a petition against the order. The issue is expected to gain more ground and the matter of arbitrary divorce debated upon after this order. The controversial Shah Bano maintenance case in 1986 raged a debate on the rights of Muslim women and their exploitation on the grounds of Triple Talaq, a personal law that allows muslim man to divorce his wife by uttering the word ‘talaq’ three times.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

This order will also embolden the advocates of Uniform Civil Code and bring the personal law boards under pressure. Considering the upcoming assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, this decision gains more significance. On 23 November, Union home minister Rajnath Singh had said that muslim women cannot be treated like second class citizens in a developing country like India and he termed the Triple Talaq as a burning issue.

On the issue of ‘triple talaq’, the Centre had in an affidavit in the Supreme Court last month opposed the practice. The AIMPLB and various other outfits have objected to the affidavit and Law Commission’s questionnaire on Uniform Civil Code and announced their boycott of the move, accusing the government of waging a “war” against the community.

In an appeal issued on 7 October, the Commission had said the objective of the endeavour was to address discrimination against vulnerable groups and harmonise various cultural practices.

In the appeal, it has assured the people that the “norms of no one class, group or community will dominate the tone and tenor of family law reforms”. Indicating need for wider consultation before taking a call on Uniform Civil Code, the government had in June asked the Law Commission to examine the issue.

The move asking the law panel to examine the issue assumes significance as the Supreme Court had recently said it would prefer a wider debate, in public as well as in court, before taking a decision on the constitutional validity of triple talaq, which many complain is abused by Muslim men to arbitrarily divorce their wives.

First Published On : Dec 8, 2016 13:16 IST

Triple talaq unconstitutional, violates rights of Muslim women: Allahabad High Court

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Calling the practice of triple talaq among Muslims ‘unconstitutional’, the Allahabad High Court on Thursday said that it violated the rights of Muslim women, reported ANI. “Triple talaq is unconstitutional. No Personal Law Board is above the Constitution,” the court said.A debate has emerged over the government’s stand opposing the practice of triple talaq with some leading women politicians seeking its abolition, even as some Muslim bodies accused the ruling dispensation of waging a “war” on their personal law. Last month, in a first, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board decided to form a women’s wing to look into burning issues such as talaq, even as it passed a resolution in favour of triple talaq.On December 2, prominent Islamic organisation Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind had told the Supreme Court there was no scope for interference with the Muslim Personal Law in which triple talaq, ‘nikah halala’ and polygamy are well rooted and stand on much higher pedestal as compared to other customs.All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) had rubbished the stand taken by the Centre that the apex court should re-look these practices as they are violative of fundamental rights like gender equality and the ethos of secularism, a key part of the basic structure of the Indian Constitution.

Battling radicalism with Sufism: Is Jamiat-Ulama-i-Hind using Ajmer Sharif for political gains?

In March this year, a Firstpost article had noted that the World Sufi Forum, an initiative by an apex body representing Sufi Muslims in India, was an effort showcasing the community’s resilience against extremism and as “an effective antidote” to terrorism masked as “religious ideology”.

Explaining this “religious ideology”, Syed Muhammad Ashraf Kichhouchhwi, key organiser of the World Sufi Forum and founder-president of All India Ulama and Mashaikh Board (AIUMB), had told Firstpost: “A specific ideology which is not part of Islamic tradition is motivating radicals who are wrongly interpreting the Quran and its narrative from their own ego pursuits and politics.”


A file image of Ajmer Sharif in Rajasthan. PTI

He went on to say, “Any extremist organisation waving Islamic flags and misusing the holy Quran such as Daesh (Islamic State) have actually no endorsement in the ambit of Islam…” and, “this is an extremist ideology which spreads hatred if someone does not subscribe to it. Enormous resources are invested in perpetrating violence. Therefore, it is important to realise and unearth the propaganda of such people and organisations that are funded by foreign entities to spread hatred and intolerance to disrupt peace and harmony in a country such as India”.

The World Sufi Forum, held in March 2016, was slated as the first-ever mega Sufi event of counter-extremism with more than 200 international dignitaries from 20 countries. Though seen as the first and last event as such, it, however, seems to have begun an unending onslaught on the particular ideology which the Sufi forum believes is a grave threat to the country’s pluralistic ethos.

According to a front-page news report in the leading Urdu newspaper Inquilab, World Sufi Forum held a similar conclave entitled, “Sufism and Humanity” in Lucknow on 4 December. Sufi Sunni ulema and intellectuals with various backgrounds spelled-out their opinions on the current ongoings. Several Indian Sufi clerics, who run some of the largest Sunni Islamic seminaries in India, seemed worried about the growing phenomenon of pseudo-Sufism or “neo-Sufism” dressed in diametrically different political forms.

A systematic research on the mystical strain of Islam reveals that the origin of Sufism has its roots in a spiritually-inclined notion of “close personal relationship with the Divine”. Therefore, meditation has been exhorted by Sufi saints as an inner spiritual channel to attain this exalted relationship. But today, this spiritual path to eternal salvation is being turned into a phenomenon of political dominion.

Recently, the largest Sufi shrine in the country, Ajmer Dargah — perhaps for the first time in the Indian history — was dragged into a well-worked-out political campaign by Jamiat-Ulama-i-Hind (JUH), an avowed supporter of the Congress party. The key members of the JUH whose ideologues have clearly and categorically declared Sufism as “anti-Islamic”, chose to hold their 33rd annual conference in the prime Sufi Dargah in India, Ajmer Sharif in Rajasthan. It was an out-and-out political attempt to woo the mainstream Indian Muslims anchored in age-old Sufi traditions.

Going by the media reports, more than one lakh Muslims of a certain religious faction from across the country assembled at the shrine of the Sufi saint Hazrat Khwaja Gharib Nawaz Moinuddin Chishti. The JUH invited Deobandi leaders and a few Barelvi clerics who theologically endorse its political motives, with a view to debating the burning political issues of the Muslim community, ranging from the Uniform Civil Code to Triple Talaq to the upcoming UP Elections.

Given the fact that Maulana Mahmood Madani, the JUH general secretary has been a Rajya Sabha member with support from Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal and has dabbled in electoral politics, the 33rd annual conference of the JUH held in Ajmer cannot be seen apolitical. With the 2017 Uttar Pradesh Assembly Election around the corner, the JUH leaders and other religio-politicians are trying to forge a new narrative to woo the gullible Indian Muslims.

But, by any stretch of the imagination, the JUH Ajmer conference will not be able to garner the support of the Sufi-oriented Indian Muslims to achieve its ulterior motives. Tellingly, while the JUH has celebrated Sufism as an effective channel for “unity of the ummah” or “Islamic unity” (note that only Muslims are included in it), it maintained deafening silence over the pernicious “religious ideology” which the World Sufi Forum accuses to be playing havoc across the Muslim world, particularly striking the non-Muslims, Shia and Sufi Muslims in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. It was distressing to note that the JUH did not even castigate the radical Islamist ideology of bigotry in its so-called “Sufi conference” in Ajmer.

Isn’t it ironical that the same leaders of the JUH who organised the Ajmer conference lambasted the World Sufi Forum as a political ploy of the Indian government to divide the Muslim community over “Sufism vs Wahhabism”? The JUH chief Maulana Madani went to the extent of loudly claiming that “Sufism is nothing” while branding the World Sufi Forum as an NDA bid to “divide the Muslims”. In the wake of the three-day World Sufi Forum which came crashing down hardcore philosophies in Islam, Maulana Arshad Madani blatantly stated: “Sufism is no sect of Islam and is not found in the Quran”. He also accused the Modi government of trying to create animosity among the Muslims.

While the World Sufi Forum’s key participants — mostly global leaders of Sufism — exhibited great zeal in strengthening the foundations of Sufism to combat all the forms of violent extremism, the JUH and the ilk disparaged these Sufi practitioners as “pseudo-Sufis”. So, how would the JUH like to brand itself now when it has held its 33rd largest annual conference in Ajmer using the prime Sufi shrine in India for its own political ends?

Remarkably, while the World Sufi Forum stressed on composite nationalism (muttahida qaumiyat), inclusive democracy (jumhuriat) and pluralism (qaumi yakjehati) in its final-day declaration, the Sufi conclave of the JUH in Ajmer promoted the religionist and sectarian narratives.

The JUH Ajmer conference mainly discussed three points: first, the unity of ummah (ittehad-e-ummat), a JUH unification proposal for Muslims in India which actually calls for a truce between the Deobandis and Barelvis — the two largest Islamic sects in India opposing each other in the foundational religious principles. Second, it called for social condemnation of the practice of Triple Talaq while at the same time strongly theorising its Islamic legality and thus opposing any proposals for a uniform civil code; and third, it called for Dalit-Muslim unity.

But one can find the JUH’s duplicity on the above two points distressing in many ways. Just as theorising the narrowed concept of the unity of ummah, which includes only Muslims in the common perception, is akin to promoting an exclusivist ideology among Indian Muslims. Similarly, publicising dubious views on a daily-life issue of paramount importance — Tripple Talaq — is celery misleading.

As for the truce between the Deobandis and Barelvis, it cannot be simply overlooked that the Ajmer conclave was led by Maulana Mahmood Madni, the third generation of Deobandi cleric Maulana Hussein Ahmed Madni who could not reconcile with the Barelvi ulema on religious grounds. So, the JUH could very well bring together a few known faces of the Barelvi and Deobandi ulema on its stages without which it would be merely a mirage to form the unity on the ground level.

A noted scholar on the Barelvi and Deobandi sects in India, Dr Arshad Alam has pointed it out: “The demand for sectarian unity is nothing new among Indian Muslims. We know that the community is divided internally among Shias and Sunnis. Among the Sunnis, there are divisions like the Deobandis, the Barelvis and the Ahl-e-Hadith. These are not just superficial divisions but their ideological roots run deep and have a history of nearly 150 years on the Indian subcontinent. Curiously enough, the initiators of schism within the community were the Deobandis themselves who through their various publications and sermons decided in their wisdom that the Barelvis were something of a lesser Muslims”.

In the latest event of the World Sufi Forum held in Lucknow on 4 December, it was buttressed that the sole purpose of organising Sufi conclaves is the promotion of an ideology which calls for unity in multiplicity, tolerance and acceptance and respect for all humanity. Sufi clerics like Shaikh Anwar Ahmad, a senior scholar at Baghdad University in Iraq who now runs a female-oriented Islamic seminary in UP, proclaimed: “the aim is to help the people build a peaceful, progressive and pluralistic nation through the Sufi teachings”.

Despite the vehement opposition from the leading Islamic organisations like the JUH, these Sufis claim that they do not believe in opposing others, but rather engaging actively in peace activism. A Firstpost article has also noted that Sufis are now trying to come out of their conclaves to tackle the ideological extremism stemming from the hardcore philosophies in Islam.

It was also stressed in the Lucknow conclave that Sufism belies all the notions which Salafism stands for. Traversing from Central Asia to the Indian subcontinent, Sufism incorporates harmonious local practices like music and qawwali which are rejected by the radicals in Islam.

The author is a scholar of comparative religion, classical Arabic and Islamic sciences, cultural analyst and researcher in media and communication Studies. Views are personal. He tweets at @GRDehlvi.

First Published On : Dec 6, 2016 13:09 IST

Desai will visit Sabarimala Temple in Jan

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A month after the Supreme Court verdict, activist Trupti Desai along with over 20 women visited Haji Ali dargah to offer prayer on Saturday afternoon.According to Desai, they offered prayer and seek blessing peacefully.“We entered the Haji Ali dargah after the victory in the apex court. It was a historic victory for all the women. We had protested so that women are allowed to enter the dargah’s inner sanctum sanctorum without any discrimination.We are happy to see the success of our protest and the petition filed by the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan. There was nobody from the managing trust to meet and talk to us. After Supreme Court’s order, they are, now allowing women. However, we could see that the management is not happy with the decision. The local ladies standing inside the dargah were misbehaving with the women worshipers,” Trupti Desai, who has been demanding the rights of women to enter religious places.Earlier this week, a group of around 100 women and social activists from Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan entered the inner sanctum of the Haji Ali Dargah on Tuesday. While they were allowed to enter the inner sanctum sanctorum to offer prayer, they were not able to touch the mazar.After the High Court order to allow the women worshippers inside the inner sanctum on August 26 this year, the dargah trust challenged the order in the Supreme Court. On October 24, Supreme Court passed a judgment allowing women inside the inner sanctum sanctorum of the dargah. In the past till 2011, women were allowed access to the dargah’s inner sanctum sanctorum, but their entry was banned by the dargah management.Speaking about next step, Desai, said, “As the dargah protest is successful now, next we will be visiting Sabarimala Ayyappa temple in the month of January. We will visit the temple and will be going inside the sanctorum where women are not allowed. According to us, the management should open door of the temple to women of all age groups.”

Decoing History: A conflict’s conflicting versions

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Godhra, a sleepy municipality in Panchmahal District of Eastern Gujarat has become synonymous with the beginning of a series of communal riots which were ‘sparked off’ by an incident which took place off the Godhra railway junction on the morning of February 27, 2002. Conflicting versions of this incident abound and have confused the picture for neutral observers.Version 1.0
The official version of the Gujarat government The Sabarmati Express, zipping on that morning from Varanasi to Ahmedabad via Godhra Junction, had a large group of Hindu Karsewaks returning to Ahmedabad from Ayodhya after performing a ceremony to begin the construction of a temple dedicated to Lord Rama at Ayodhya on the site of the demolished Babri Masjid. The Babri Masjid, a Mughal era mosque, was demolished on December 6, 1992 by a consortium of Hindu revivalist organizations led by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad on the contention that it was constructed by the demolition of a Hindu temple marking the birthplace of Lord Rama. It has been a contentious issue. The Hindu organisations were seeking a grand Rama temple while the Muslim organisations sought the rebuilding of the demolished structure.Mass funeral of Godhra victims in AhmedabadAs the train which was delayed by about four hours, left the platform at Godhra at 7:43 am, it was halted by pulling the emergency chain, which led to its unscheduled halt slightly ahead at an area called Signal Falia. This is when allegedly a large mob of local Muslims attacked the train pelting it with stones and setting its S6 coach on fire, which resulted in the death of 59 occupants of the train, many of whom were women and children.According to the official version, the attack was pre-planned by local Muslim vendors who lived at Signal Falia with the procurement of an inflammable liquid (probably petrol) which was poured on the floor of the S6 coach before setting it alight. In this version, the key conspirators were local clerics and politicians belonging to the Ghanchi Muslim community and they were helped by the Pakistani intelligence agents. This version was endorsed by the Nanavati-Shah Commission appointed by the Gujarat government to investigate the incident.Version 2.0
NGO-secular activists’ versionAn alternate version claimed by various NGOs, ‘secular’ activists and later the Banerjee Commission set up by the UPA government spoke of a supposed altercation beginning with the molestation of Muslim girl followed by an altercation in S6 between the Karsewaks and a Muslim tea vendor, which led to a mob attacking the train. This version also controversially claimed that the fire was accidental and was used as a ploy to instigate the consequent riots. According to later claims, the fire was allegedly claimed to be planned and executed by the train’s occupants themselves.However, despite the two versions, the fact that the horrific incident led to the death of 59 innocent civilians is undeniable as many victims were charred to death beyond recognition.The violence continues…Naroda Patiya & Gulbarg Society, Ahmedabad on February, 28 2002The events that followed the burning of S6 coach of the Sabarmati Express were equally fast-paced as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad called for a state bandh on February 28, 2002 with a controversial ‘parading of the burnt bodies’ in Ahmedabad. This was followed by incendiary speeches and insinuations that the attack was the work of Pakistani intelligence with the co-operation of local Muslims. It led to co-ordinated attacks on Muslim ghettos and business establishments by organised mobs. The mobs also allegedly violated many females of the minority community. In Ahmedabad, two organised riots took place that day; one in Naroda Patiya and another at Gulbarg Society, a residential complex with a Muslim majority. Naroda Patiya massacre resulted in the death of 97 Muslims which included 36 women, 35 children and 26 men. The attack was allegedly led by Maya Kodnani, a prominent BJP leader and Babu Bajrangi of the Bajrang Dal. The massacre of the women was particularly said to be more gruesome with sexual violence against them.Clockwise from top: Gulbarg Society witnessed 35 Muslim residents being burnt alive; By February 28, curfew was ordered in 27 towns and cities of Gujarat to control the situation; Maya Kodnani and Babu Bajrangi were convicted on 29 July 2012 with heavy sentences for both leaders in the Naroda Patiya case. Right: Accused in the Naroda caseGulbarg Society saw its 35 Muslim residents being burnt alive; the victims included Ehsan Jafri, a former Congress Member of the Parliament. Zakiya Jafri, his widow, alleged that Jafri had made frantic calls prior to his killing to the CM’s office for assistance but received no help as the mob continued to burn and pillage the society despite the presence of police. She later alleged the state of complicity with the rioters especially implicating the CM of Gujarat. Gulbarg Society also had 31 missing residents who were later taken to be dead taking the body count to 69.By the evening of February 28, curfew was ordered in 27 towns and cities of Gujarat to control the disturbances with the deployment of Rapid Action Force in Godhra. However, by and large, the deployment of armed forces was delayed in preference to the Gujarat police by the state administration.Best Bakery, Vadodara on March 1, 2002The violence however continued, in Vadodara, when a mob attacked Best Bakery, a small Muslim-owned outlet in the Hanuman Tekri area of the city where the owner and the workers of the bakery which included 11 Muslims and three Hindus were burnt alive. The police filed a case on the basis of the information given by a nineteen-year old eye witness, Zaheera Sheikh.The political falloutThe major fallout of the Godhra train burning and subsequent riots was the allegations of complicity of the state government led by Narendra Modi. It was also alleged that the rioters had the backing of Hindu right-wing activists the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal. Modi was alleged to have given a go-ahead for the attacks, though the court-led inquiries did not find any proof of these allegations. However, there were protests by national media and the Opposition over the inept handling of the post-Godhra violence by the Gujarat government. There were calls for the resignation of the Chief Minister by these groups.The ruling BJP led by Atal Behari Vajpayee was forced to take cognisance of the violence and the matter was discussed at the party’s national executive meeting in Goa in April 2002 where the party decided that Modi was not responsible for the riots. Vajpayee was said to be opposed to the move to retain Modi but restrained by the party’s representatives who overwhelmingly supported the Gujarat leader. However, much later, Vajpayee wrote a letter to the Gujarat Chief Minister in June 2002 highlighting the poor condition of the relief camps and the delay in compensating the riot victims from the Muslim community. Importantly, he called upon Modi to “adhere to Raj Dharma and not discriminate between his subjects on the basis of caste, creed or religion.”However, Modi tried to prove his popularity and called for the dissolution of the Gujarat assembly in July 2002 leading to early elections. The results of the elections proved him right about the popular mood with 127 seats going to the BJP from the 182-member assembly. The results took out the steam of all opposition to Modi both within and outside the party. However, the allegations continued to haunt Modi’s political career for two consecutive terms as the Chief Minister. His scheduled visit to the USA in 2005 was cancelled due to objections by the United States Department of State which had a signature campaign by 125 academics under the ‘Coalition against Genocide’ opposing his entry to the USA.The 2002 Gujarat riots, however, proved to be a test of Indian secularism as many cynically saw the Gujarat election results as the popular mood against the ‘pseudo-secular’ parties in the Opposition. Interestingly, Modi’s popularity rose in his consequent two terms on the basis of his concentration on developmental politics. However, his detractors kept losing to his political acumen and he won the May 2014 elections to assume the post of the Indian Prime Minister. The media continued to blame him for long till he moved to the national stage by winning the May 2014 Indian elections with a thumping majority.Court investigations and the aftermathThe ordeal of the victims did not end with the train burning and the riots. There were a series of acquittals in many cases due to poor reports filed by the police, intimidation, or bribing of witnesses, etc. which led the Supreme Court to step in and transfer 2000 closed cases to the Bombay High Court in August 2004, strictly coming down on the Gujarat police and the government for lapses in investigation. In March 2008, the Supreme Court set up a Special Investigation Team (SIT) under the leadership of ex-CBI Director, RK Raghavan to investigate the Godhra train burning and some of the important riot cases. Though criticised, the SIT managed to secure the prosecution and conviction of 249 accused in both set of cases.In May 2011, 31 Muslims were held guilty for the Godhra train burning and two important conspirators were nabbed later. In case of the post-Godhra riots, 184 Hindus were convicted for various criminal offences, about 40 police officers were investigated for their complicity with the rioters. In case of Naroda Patiya massacre, 32 people were convicted including Maya Kodnani and Babu Bajrangi on 29 July 2012 with heavy sentences for both leaders. The cases failed to bring relief to many due to perjury or changing stances by the witnesses.

Codify Personal law in two to three years, Muslim women

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Buoyed by the success of having equal rights access restored at the Haji Ali Daargah in the sense that both men and women will be allowed to the same point, the Bharatiya Muslims Mahila Andolan (BMMA) which had filed a public interest litigation demanded codification of personal law in two to three years and pledged to renew their fight to ban instant triple talaq and nikah halala. The group has also filed a public interest litigation (PIL) on the same with the Supreme Court. On Thursday while celebrating a decade of their existence at the Marathi Patrakar Sangh, the group also presented case studies of women who continued to suffer due to them. These included women from across the country who had gathered including Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Bangalore and West Bengal among others. While some did not want their identities to be disclosed, others like Shabista Shaikh from Maharashtra did. “My husband one fine day said triple talaq over phone and ended our marriage. He was having an affair. Today I have a son to look after. He goes around telling everyone that I am mad. Was I not mad till the time I had a son?,” said Shaikh reciting her story. While hers was a case of direct divorce, Nagma, one of the members of BMMA from Rajasthan described how a woman in her state was divorced through triple talaq twice after being raped. “She was married and this person raped her and took her pictures. Those were shown to her husband. Her husband divorced her. She was married again but again through triple talaq she was divorced. The police is not even willing take an FIR,” informed Nagma about the case study. Cases studies of women getting to see their children after 22 years after triple talaq and that women’s consent not being considered while divorce were raised in the meet. Neha Khan, another victim of triple talaq who had come from MP said, “My question to the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) is that when Nikah is conducted, our consent is taken first. Should that not also be the case during divroce. They should tell us that.””Even though members of All India Personal Law Board call us names, use filthy language to describe us, we will now go ahead with renewed vigour to demand abolition of (instant) triple talaq and nikah halala,” said Noorjehan Safia Niaz, co-convenor of BMMA. “In two to three years we also want the Muslim personal law to be codified should include age of marriage, custody, property rights among others. We do not recognize authority of personal law board. We have decided that we not going to be afraid and get cowed down by them or threats,” said Zakia Soman, co-convenor of BMMA.BMMA decides to rest Dargah fight for now The Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) has decided to rest their case on Haji Ali Dargah. “Restoring status quo prior to 2011 when both men and women were allowed to touch the grave at the Haji Ali Dargah would have been ideal. But for now we are resting our case because we have got the legal and moral victory, trustees were good to us and at least no discrimination stands now. We have too much work before us so we are resting the Haji Ali Dargah matter for now,” said Soman.

Women activists will re-enter Haji Ali dargah after 5 years

Mumbai: After five years and a series of legal battles and agitations, a group of women activists will enter the famous Haji Ali dargah in Mumbai on Tuesday afternoon, an activist said.

A group of around 75-80 women from all over India would visit the mausoleum of the saint for prayers around 3 pm, said the activist, keen to enter the dargah on the rocks off Worli in the Arabian Sea.

“It will be routine now, we have not informed the police or the dargah trust. We shall pay our respects and come out,” Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) co-founder Noorjehan S Niaz told IANS.

Till June 2012, women were allowed entry up to the sanctum sanctorum comprising the mazaar (grave) of the revered Muslim saint, Sayyed Peer Haji Ali Shah Bukhari, but suddenly the entry to women was barred.

In 2014, the BMMA and others challenged the move of the Haji Ali Dargah Trust in the courts.

Haji Ali Dargah. CNN-News18Haji Ali Dargah. CNN-News18

Haji Ali Dargah. CNN-News18

On 26 August, Justice VM Kanade and Justice Revathi Mohite-Dhere ruled in favour of the petitioners and directed the trust to allow equal access to women, which the trust challenged in the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court on 24 October delivered its verdict upholding equal access to men and women, and the trust expressed readiness to allow women inside till the sanctum sanctorum.

The trust authorities sought four weeks time to make certain infrastructural changes and alterations to accommodate the women devotees, who would now throng the shrine.

Niaz said the women would offer floral tributes, ‘chadars’ and pray for peace at the dargah on Tuesday.

“It was a fight for equality, ending gender bias and our constitutional rights. We are happy that it has resulted in women and men getting equal unrestricted access right till the sanctum sanctorum,” Niaz said.

A trustee of the dargah, Suhail Khandwani, said that there would be separate entries to the shrine for men and women and henceforth nobody would be allowed to touch the peer’s tomb.

Under the new arrangements, all devotees would wait and pray nearly two metres away from the tomb with rights of equal access to all.

The dargah was constructed in 1431 in memory of a wealthy Muslim merchant Sayyed Pir Haji Ali Shah Bukhari of Bukhara in modern Uzbekistan.

At one time, he renounced all his worldly possessions, travelled all around the world, made a pilgrimage to Mecca and finally settled in the then Mumbai in the 15th century.

According to local legends, once he saw a poor woman crying over oil spilt from her vessel, afraid that her husband would thrash her.

He took the woman to the spot where the oil had spilt and jabbed his finger in the earth and oil gushed out. The happy woman filled up her vessel and went home.

Later, the saint had tormenting dreams of how he had injured the earth by his action. He fell ill and asked his followers to throw his coffin into the Arabian Sea.

He died during his pilgrimage to Mecca and the casket carrying his body miraculously was swept back to the shore of Worli and got stuck in the rocks there.

His dargah was constructed at the same spot and on Thursdays-Fridays, it is visited by large number of pilgrims of all religions from India and abroad for the saint’s blessings.

First Published On : Nov 29, 2016 15:25 IST

‘Anti-Muslim’ Modi govt banning IRF is politically motivated: Zakir Naik

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) chief Zakir Naik has dubbed the ban on his non-governmental organisation (NGO) as ‘unfortunate’ and alleged that this move of the ‘anti-Muslim’ BJP-led NDA Government is politically motivated. Naik said that the ban would be challenged as soon as possible, adding that his legal team in Delhi and Mumbai are considering all options possible.Responding to a poser as to why he blamed Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government for the ban and not British Prime Minister Theresa May, Naik said, “I am not banned in the UK. I have been ‘excluded’, which means I cannot enter UK. A ban would have meant banning my speeches on television, my NGO as well as my books, audio and video CDs. None of that has happened. My organization and my published materials are very much in circulation in UK and doing some commendable work in spreading the message of peace in Islam.”Naik, however, maintained that even the exclusion in the United Kingdom was politically motivated as when the Labour Party was in power the head of Counter Terrorism had sent a senior officer to request him to help them to reach those Muslims whom they felt were misguided.”In fact, for my work spanning over two decades and even after being excluded from UK. in 2010 I have been awarded some of the highest civilian awards by several countries like Malaysia, Dubai, Sharjah and Gambia including the King Faisal Prize for Service to Islam by King Salman of Saudi Arabia which is the most prestigious award of the Islamic World similar to the Nobel Prize for Peace. My talks continue to attract lakhs of people from all communities,” he added.Expressing grief, Naik said that he has been banned in his homeland India despite attracting hundreds of thousands of audience for several years.”Imagine I was invited twice in the last few years before the Modi government came to power to the National Police Academy in Hyderabad which is the most prestigious training institute for Indian Police to address the IPS officers. Most of the officers I addressed may yet be in service. Do you mean to say that this prestigious institution invited a person who promotes terrorism to address the IPS officers’ This ban is truly unfortunate and undoubtedly politically motivated,” he added.Expressing confidence, Naik said he is positive that the National Investigation Agency (NIA) would after a thorough research realise that he is far away from promoting terrorism.”In UK. where the Counter Terrorism head disagreed with the exclusion but had to give in to the then Home Secretary… here in India too, I am positive that the officers in NIA and other departments after doing thorough research for more than four months may have surely realized that I am far away from promoting terrorism have no choice but to give in to the political pressures,” he said. “More unfortunately, it is also indicative of the grim state of affairs existing in my beloved homeland since the Modi government took over two-and-a-half years ago,” he added.Escalating his attack on the Centre, Naik stated that one needs to look at these allegations from a political viewpoint, adding it all began when the Modi government took charge. “Most of my statements quoted for banning me have been made by me 8 to 18 years ago. One needs to look at these allegations from a political viewpoint. These allegations started when the current Modi government took over and that says a lot of things,” he added.Responding to a poser whether the BJP-led NDA government is anti-Muslim, Naik said the last decade and a half has several evidences of the Prime Minister’s anti-Muslim behaviour and actions, adding the most recent one is the banning of IRF while the likes of Rajeshwar Singh, Yogi Adityanath and Sadhvi Prachi flourished under him.”I don’t think. I know it is anti-Muslim. But why ask me? Ask the hundreds of millions of Indians who will tell you that Modi is anti-Muslim and that makes him a danger to the Indian democracy,” he asserted.

Islamic Banking: India has potential to become world leader in this system

A recent announcement made by Reserve Bank of India (RBI) proposing the opening of an “Islamic window” in conventional banks for a gradual introduction of Sharia-compliant or interest-free banking in the country, has led to a fierce debate on the ethicality of Islamic Banking.

While, a section wants to justify Islamic Banking in India, the other wants to dump down the RBI proposal as “utter nonsense”, which will encourage Indian Muslims to move back to the medieval past. To simplify the term, Islamic Banking is a Sharia-compliant banking system which prohibits all types of interest.

But, before debating the pros and cons of Islamic Banking, here is a caveat.

First thing first, at present, there is no question of having Islamic Banking in India. Simply because as per The Banking Regulation Act, 1949, there can’t be a parallel banking system — that doesn’t allow charging of interest — along with our conventional banking system.

A file image of Bank Islam branch, a leading player in Islamic banking to have emerged from Malaysia. Reuters

A file image of Bank Islam branch, a leading player in Islamic Banking to have emerged from Malaysia. Reuters

What we need immediately
So, instead of debating the issue of whether or not to have Sharia banking in India, the focus should be on tapping the huge $3 trillion Islamic finance market.

But, before that it needs to be ensured that every Indian Muslim, who earns a livelihood should have a bank account, which at present is missing to a large extent.

More numbers of Muslims should get into the regulated banking system — open accounts, have PAN, file Income Tax Returns, etc.

The young entrepreneurs should prepare viable project reports and seek loans from banks. There are incidences where people failed to get loans, but it can’t be generalised.

They should approach RUDSETI (Rural Development and Self Employment Training Institute), which has its footprint in more than 500 districts for skill development.

There is enough for the common man in our system and the need of the hour is to use it by being a part of it. All these will help Muslim youth to empower themselves and be prepared to be a part of the global Islamic finance market. Why can’t India be a big player in it?

How the West took the lead in Islamic Banking

When we talk about Islamic Banking, the first thing that comes to the mind is that it’s a monopoly of the Muslim nations and they are the key players. It’s a misconception.

It was the Western world which recognised the importance and potential of Islamic finance. Citibank was the first to set up its Citi Islamic unit in Bahrain in the 1980s. It was followed by HSBC Amanah to set up its headquarters in London, which then shifted its base to Dubai and later back to London. Soon, ABN Amro, Commerz Bank (Germany) and others followed.

Despite it having such a huge potential, I came to know about Islamic finance only in 1999 when I was invited and sponsored by Faisal Islamic Bank, Bahrain to attend “Islamic Finance Conference” in London. It opened my eyes when I came to know that 75 percent of papers presented there were by non-Muslims, and most of the experts on this subject were from non-Islamic countries.

It’s none other than the Harvard University that has been running a three-day Islamic Finance Programme every year. I presented a paper on setting up an Islamic fund in a non-Islamic environment, which focused on the aspect that India doesn’t participate in setting up investment.

One example can make it clear how the UK sees the importance of Islamic finance. In 2002, when Gordon Brown was the Chancellor of the Exchequer (UK), a task force was formed and the CEO of Barclays Bank, Andrew Buxton suggested ways and tweaked the laws to make the UK a hub for Islamic finance. The next year, in 2003, the first Islamic Bank of UK was set up with five branches.

It was a big opportunity and I, too, set up an onshore fund in the UK, in which 70 percent subscribers were non-Muslims, with Jews at the top.

Halal Foods — a case in point

Halal brand foods is a perfect example of how an investment opportunity could be tapped without getting into an unwanted debate on Islam and non-Islam. Barring Muslims, others including Hindus hardly take cognizance to Halal meat. Almost in every restaurants and food joints, it’s the Halal poultry products that are served. Muslims don’t consume pork and to ensure that a Muslim consumer gets to eat as per his religious belief, the Halal brand tapped that $6 billion market.

Today, two Jain sisters from Gujarat have ventured into “Halal” cosmetics — that manufactures cosmetic items without using animal fat, gelatin or extracts. Same is with Islamic finance — instead of getting into religious belief and faith, the true investment opportunity should be tapped.

Let’s not stigmatise Islamic Banking

It was the Jews who first introduced us to conventional banking, but do we call it Jewish banking? Islamic Banking is as old as Islam. Prophet Muhammad, who was an entrepreneur and trader in his earlier life, was known as “Sadiq-ul-Amin” — a man who is trustworthy — because people used to park money with him for safety.

Mudarabah was the first banking system in the Islamic world. It’s an Islamic contract in which one party supplies the money and the other provides skill expertise to undertake a specific trade. The party supplying the capital is called the owner of the capital, whereas, the another party is referred to as an agent or entrepreneur who actually runs the business. It’s also called sweat equity. Here the profit and loss are shared, unlike in the present system, where an entrepreneur has to bear the brunt.


Representational image. Reuters

Islamic Banking system died with the rise of colonial power, but the corporate banks in the UK, where bankers were non-Muslims revived it.

As per Islam’s fundamental principle of justice and equality, no interest can be charged on a loan given to a person. One is not allowed to sell debts and make money out of money.

So, instead of calling it Islamic Banking and stigmatise it with a religious label, it should be known as “inclusive banking”.

India: Next Islamic finance destination

In 1998, Dow Jones had set up Dow Jones Islamic Index and its CEO was a Jew and not a Muslim. There was no Indian company listed on it. And, I had raised this issue at the press conference of Dow Jones in London.

Instead of arguing on Hindu-Muslim, Islamic-non-Islamic issues and looking through a religious prism, why can’t we be a player in the $3 trillion Islamic finance market, which is expected to double by 2020?

Indian Stock Market is the most Sharia compliant in the world — more than Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Turkey or Bahrain. The Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) already has a training centre for Islamic finance. India needs big investments to fund its infra projects, and here Islamic finance can be of use.

As the RBI has spelt out, the Islamic window can offer Mudarabah finance. India can be the hub to provide Islamic finance experts to the world. If Europe, US, China, etc, can gain the advantage and get capital through Islamic finance, why can’t India?

(The author is Chancellor of Maulana Azad National Urdu University)

— As told to Debobrat Ghose

For a counter-view on the idea of Islamic Banking in India, read Tarek Fatah’s opinion here

First Published On : Nov 28, 2016 11:48 IST

Like demonetization, Modi govt’s IRF ban ‘senseless and knee-jerk’: Read Zakir Naik’s full letter

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Zakir Naik, controversial tele-evangelist who has been in news ever since a Bangladesh news paper reported that one of the attackers of terror attack was his follower has written ‘second letter to India’ which is titled ‘Facing the Foregone Conclusion’. Much like his previous one, Naik said started by saying that he was “right after all” and that action on him and his organisation is “An attack on whom I represent, the Indian Muslims.” Naik termed the ban a “communal decision”. He claimed that response of Muslim countries flowing “red carpet” for him was “better” than he expected. Naik went on to call demonitisation a “fiasco” and termed the decision to outlaw his organisation Islamic Research Foundation – “flawless timing”.”The decision to ban IRF was taken in the middle of the demonetization fiasco, as the country reeled under the self-imposed cash crunch…. I won’t be surprised if this ban was meant to distract media from what was going on in the country,” said Naik who has not come to India even during his father’s demise.
ALSO READ Ban on IRF is an attack on Indian Muslims, peace, democracy and justice: Zakir NaikQuestioning government’s inaction on right wing, Naik asked why no action is taken against them. He alleged, “Rajeshwar Singh of Dharm Jaagran Manch recently made a televised statement that 31st December 2021 will be the last day for Islam and Christianity in India and that he and his associates have taken an oath to end Islam and Christianity from India before 31st December 2021. Don’t such statements and many more by fanatics like Sadhvi Prachi and Yogi Adityanath require them to be arrested and tried under UAPA? Leave aside legal action, the government has neither condemned their actions nor reprimanded them. Is this draconian law mainly meant for Muslims? Muslims who’ve been practicing and propagating their religion peacefully and well within the constitutional framework? Does the UAPA now exist mainly to silence minority groups?” Having said that, he further writes, “I urge my Muslim brothers and sisters in India to rely on Allah alone, unafraid of this vicious campaign against them.” Naik also accused investigating agencies of not conducting fair probe despite him putting himself for it and not a single chance given to him to explain himself.
ALSO READ ISIS-accused Abu Anas got Rs 80,000 ‘scholarship’ from Dr Zakir Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation“We are doing are very professional investigation and he will be called. We do not know where and when he already offered his explanation,” said spokesperson of National Investigative Agency which is probing Naik. “ Like the demonetization fiasco, the Modi government’s IRF ban and its modus operandi has been distraught with senseless decisions and knee jerk actions. After having said that the Islamic International School will not be affected, the government goes ahead and freezes the School’s bank account. How will a school survive without its day-to-day expenses being met? We’re talking about the future of hundreds of school children here,” said Naik. “In his second “letter to India”, televangelist Zakir Naik has expressed outrage over the “unique ban” on his Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) without being given a single chance to explain or defend his words and deeds. In his argument about “due process” he may well be right. Naik is absolutely right in asking why no action is ever taken against the consistent hate-mongering of Hindutva leaders and outfits. But the televangelist “protests too much” in pretending that the contempt, if not hatred, that his sermons on “Peace TV” reek of is in tune in fundamental duties the Indian Constitution enjoins all citizens to live by: “To promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood among all people of India transcending religious… diversities (Article 51A). Naik promises to fight injustice because Islam teaches him to do so. Where was he during and after the anti-Muslim pogrom (1992-93) in Bombay (his own city) or the genocidal targeting of Gujarat’s Muslims in 2002?,” said Javed Anand, general secretary for Muslims for Secular Democracy.Dr Zakir Naik’s full letterI was right after all. IRF and I were set up for a ban. Despite some saying that I played the ‘Muslim card’, it is now proven that the decision to ban IRF was taken months ago and it was a communal decision. Before investigations were done, even before reports submitted, the ban was already decided. IRF was to be banned. Whether it was owing to my religion or some other reason, does not matter. What now matters is that my work of 25 years – completely lawful work – has been banned. And that is the most unfortunate thing for this country. This must be the most unique ban to be applied in the history of India, because not a single time was I questioned or given a chance to explain. Not a single chance. No notice, no summons, no calls and no contact ever made with me to get my side of the story. I kept offering my help in investigation but it wasn’t taken. The entire investigation was completed without any agency asking me a single question about my so called ‘wrongdoings’. But then why would they? My participation in the investigation process would have cleared up the air and exonerated me, which wasn’t acceptable to the government. Now that they’ve banned me without asking me a single question, I have no choice left but to answer them only through the legal system and not personally. Their agenda is open and clear: implicate me by hook or by crook, which I will fight. From the government’s point of view, the timing itself could not have been better. The decision to ban IRF was taken in the middle of the demonetization fiasco, as the country reeled under the selfimposed cash crunch. I won’t be surprised if this ban was meant to distract media from what was going on in the country. For the public that is starved for cash, for trade and basic amenities, one cannot expect much of resistance. Flawless timing really. The ban notification alleges that I have incited violence through some of my statements. I would at this juncture like to re-emphasize that I have at all points only advocated peace and condemned violence in any form. In fact I am one of the few persons who ever publicly spoke against state sponsored violence and terrorism. These facts have never been given their due after having been explained on several occasions. All the questions and allegations have been answered and explained a dozen times in the last few years. To people and to the media. Why? Because most have not bothered to look through the entire portion of the Q&A. They’ve watched a smaller, doctored clip and based their opinions on it. Common people aside, I expected professional investigators from government agencies to do a thorough job. Had they done so, this issue would have been a no brainer, a non-issue. But I guess, that was not the plan. The plan was to ban, not investigate. Which is perhaps why the draconian law of UAPA was exercised on very select organisations such as Islamic Research Foundation. The name of the religion has been made synonymous with violence while condoning the reckless behavior of some majority leaders. The law does not seem to apply to the likes of Rajeshwar Singh, Yogi Adityanath and Sadhvi Prachi who continue to make inflammatory speeches aimed at inciting communal hatred for mere political mileage. Rajeshwar Singh of Dharm Jaagran Manch recently made a televised statement that 31st December 2021 will be the last day for Islam and Christianity in India and that he and his associates have taken an oath to end Islam and Christianity from India before 31st December 2021. Don’t such statements and many more by fanaticslike Sadhvi Prachi and Yogi Adityanath require them to be arrested and tried under UAPA? Leave aside legal action, the government has neither condemned their actions nor reprimanded them. Is this draconian law mainly meant for Muslims? Muslims who’ve been practicing and propagating their religion peacefully and well within the constitutional framework? Does the UAPA now exist mainly to silence minority groups? I urge my Muslim brothers and sisters in India to rely on Allah alone, unafraid of this vicious campaign against them. Allah says, ‘And if you are patient and fear Allah, their plot will not harm you at all.’ (Al-Qur’an 3:120)Like the demonetization fiasco, the Modi government’s IRF ban and its modus operandi has been distraught with senseless decisions and knee jerk actions. After having said that the Islamic International School will not be affected, the government goes ahead and freezes the School’s bank account. How will a school survive without its day-to-day expenses being met? We’re talking about the future of hundreds of school children here. I know, and more than 100 million of my followers across the world know, that I’ve propagated peace and compassion and justice. I’m very sure I haven’t broken any law, and with this ban, I’m even surer that things have happened with a deeper, sinister agenda. The system and agencies have been used to suit a pre-meditated result set by the government of India, a government that took an oath to uphold the Indian Constitution, the same Constitution that allows me the freedom to profess, practice, and propagate my religion. Let us not be gullible to think this was just an attack on me. It is an attack on whom I represent, the Indian Muslims. It is an attack on peace, democracy and justice. By the grace of the Almighty, my work is now spread across the world and a ban in India, however agonizing, will not ruin everything. I had mentioned in my first letter that God willing many Muslim countries will roll the red carpet for this humble servant of Allah. I have received from several Muslim countries a response better than what I had expected. I will continue my work and rebuild. But India is my home, my roots, and I will fight this ban come what may. God-willing, I will pursue all legal options to repeal this ban. Because Islam has taught me not to let an injustice go by. I will fight, be sure of that. To my fellow Indians, I have only one thing to say.The country’s democratic fabric is under attack. People’s lives are being played with. Governments are misusing their authority on people they’re supposed to protect. This needs to change. It needs to change for the future of every one of us. I have faith in the judiciary and I still believe that truth will prevail and the Modi government will fail in its plans. But whatever the outcome, I strongly believe that the best efforts to quash my work will only help it rise higher and stronger. Even though the Modi government is misusing the law to scare Indian Muslims, these actions, Godwilling, will make me strive harder to spread the message of the religion of peace till my last breath. For Allah says, “Truth has (now) arrived, and Falsehood perished: for Falsehood is (by its nature) bound to perish.” (Al-Qur’an 17:81) Beshak. Without doubt. Sincerely yours Dr Zakir Naik Servant of Allah

Bhopal jailbreak: Inscriptions glorifying SIMI activists removed

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The inscriptions on the graves of five SIMI activists killed in an alleged encounter in Bhopal last month, which implied at glorifying their acts and described them as martyrs, have been removed, police said on Wednesday. “We raised the issue with the elders of Muslim community who got the inscriptions on the graves painted,” District Superintendent of Police Mahendrasingh Sikarwar said.Some inscriptions which tried to portray the deceased as Islamic martyrs and some other things written on the graves in Urdu and Hindi were whitewashed last night, sources said. Amjad Khan, Zakir Hussain, Mohammad Salik, Sheikh Mehboob and Aqueel Khilji were among the eight SIMI activists who were killed in an alleged encounter with police after they escaped from the Bhopal Central Jail on the intervening night of October 30-31.On November 2, they were laid to rest at Bada Cemetery in Khandwa amid tension and tight security. Over 2,000 people had taken part in their funeral procession and police had to drive people away at some places, to avoid any stampede-like situation.

UPSC 2015 topper Tina Dabi to tie the knot with 2nd rank holder Athar Amir Khan

Athar Amir-ul-Shafi Khan, a Kashmiri youth, lost the opportunity to top the prestigious Indian Civil Services exam by a few point to Delhi’s Tina Dabi. He has, however, floored the Delhi girl with his “wit and charm” and the two are due to tie the knot quite soon.

According to a report in The Times of India, Dabi says the duo will announce their engagement soon. The duo first met at the department of personnel and training (DoPT) office in North Block for a felicitation function in May. For Aamir, it was love at first sight, as Dabi tells the newspaper “Uske liye pehli nazar mein pyaar ho gaya”, she however, only said yes by August. Dabi, however, “Thanks him for his perseverance every day. He is a wonderful person,” she says.

Dabi, who is born in a Dalit family, quickly came into the public eye after her success, and Amir, a Kashmiri, who stood second in the UPSC exam became a role model to many. However, it is the love story of the duo, that is truly significant as it defies the set cultural norms that still continue to chain the Indian society.

Dabi is quite vocal about her relationship with Amir, sharing their pictures on social media. And the posts fetch a slew of blessings and best wishes to the new couple, as social media is taken by a flurry by their love story.

However, that does not stop a select few from issuing unsolicited advice and being critical on Dabi’s choice of partner, mainly because of his religion. A few stray comments on her timeline come as a sharp reminder of the bigotry and religious prejudices raft in our society. A social media user cautions her of Muslim personal law and advises her to be vary of triple talaq, while another user called it ‘love jihad’.

Dabi, however, is happy for all the love she receives on social media. Though, she admits that some of the messages and comments disturb her sometimes, but she says that its only a 5 percent minority that will pass negative comments. According to The Indian ExpressDabi says that both the families have agreed for the match, and the duo will tie the knot soon.

First Published On : Nov 23, 2016 17:59 IST

Triple talaq: AIMPLB’s decision to establish a women’s wing is just a token gesture

The recent decision of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) to establish a separate women’s wing — to dwell on issues exclusive to women like triple talaq and polygamy — will not bring about any change in the status of Muslim women within the family, but is indicative of the pressure on Muslim clerics to display a semblance of concern on gender issues within the community.

The so-called Kolkata Declaration, released at the conclusion of AIMPLB’s 25th conference on 20 November, was keenly awaited given the recent debate over triple talaq and the Uniform Civil Code (UCC). There was, however, no change in AIMPLB’s stance as it unanimously passed a resolution saying that triple talaq is sacrosanct, as per the Shariah laws which are divine, and cannot be modified, changed or altered by any person or authority under any circumstances.

Attacked by vocal liberal sections within the Muslim community for holding a brief for patriarchy, AIMPLB’s decision on the new women’s wing does not mark a change in its position on rights for women within the family.

AIMPLB's decision of establishing a separate 'women's wing' will not help improve the status of Muslim women. ReutersAIMPLB's decision of establishing a separate 'women's wing' will not help improve the status of Muslim women. Reuters

AIMPLB’s decision of establishing a separate ‘women’s wing’ will not help improve the status of Muslim women. Reuters

The resolution is undoubtedly not of their own volition but a result of pressure from below. The semblance of a response by the Board to the growing demands of Muslim women for equal rights within the family is also indicative of new pressure groups that have emerged in recent years.

These organisations have ranged from activist groups like Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), who have backed their programmes with solid research, and the All India Muslim Women Personal Board that despite its limited capacity has recently become party in the ongoing case in Supreme Court.

More than six years after four elective seats were allocated to women in AIMPLB in March 2010, the Board’s decision to form a separate wing for women indicates that pressure from progressive forces within the community is far greater now than at the time of the last churn in the mid-1980s following the Shah Bano verdict of the Supreme Court.

Pro-changers of that time were eventually marginalised after the Rajiv Gandhi government sided with conservatives within the community and enacted the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act. The decision heralded the process of communalisation of Indian politics as it galvanised the Sangh Parivar into re-launching the Ayodhya agitation that had been abandoned in October 1984, following Indira Gandhi’s assassination.

Unlike in the past, the debate for removal of triple talaq has raged for close to a decade with the initiative being taken by progressive Muslim women who decided to treat the treacherous path of questioning the clerics. In a community that is known for poor levels of awareness and coupled with the trajectory of Indian politics towards majoritarianism, the path chosen by groups like the BMMA was daunting because it was often considered a part of the Sangh Parivar’s ‘sudharak’ agenda for the Muslims.

Indeed, the BMMA has been accused of being in cahoots with the government in undermining minority rights. However, its denunciation of the government initiative on introducing UCC puts paid such charges.

In recent months, the Supreme Court has been seized with a clutch of cases challenging the legal validity of triple talaq and polygamy, beginning with the case filed by Shayara Bano, a woman from Uttarakhand, who was instantaneously divorced. When asked to present its viewpoint, the Centre pleaded in the apex court that it should declare the practices as illegal. In its affidavit, it argued that neither of the practices can be “regarded as essential or integral part of the religion”.

Simultaneously, the Law Commission released a questionnaire to assess public opinion on if triple talaq should be abolished. But more contentiously, the Commission also asked if UCC should be introduced. Law panel chairman Justice BS Chauhan (retd) stated that the commission aimed to “begin a healthy conversation about the viability of a uniform civil code”.

Statements by BJP ministers and leaders stirred the hornet’s nest because UCC has long been a political objective of the Sangh Parivar. That a common family law has been a constitutional goal listed in the Directive Principles of State Policy enabled the BJP to claim that it was simply pursuing constitutional obligations.

In October, Prime Minister Narendra Modi too waded into the controversy by taking up the cause of Muslim “behne” or sisters saying that triple talaq was discriminatory and outlined his government’s position on the issue. Predictably, the AIMPLB reacted negatively to the proposal of the Law Commission and declared what has now been reiterated in Kolkata.

Several non-BJP parties, like Bahujan Samaj Party and Trinamool Congress, have also supported this position and in turn have been accused by Modi and other BJP leaders of indulging in “vote bank politics” by pandering to the conservative sections among Muslims.

By introducing the demand for UCC at this stage, the BJP has mired the pitch for progressive groups in the community as the conservatives led by AIMPLB — which still retains great relevance and support in the community — will hijack the issue and argue that when minority rights are under threat from the Centre, organisations like BMMA are weakening the battle against the government’s plan to marginalise Muslims. Token gestures like formation of a women’s wing will enable them to project a facade of being sensitive towards gender issues.

Ironically, the state of Muslim women, being used as pawns in a political game, will remain as abysmal as it is currently.

First Published On : Nov 22, 2016 17:04 IST

Ban on Zakir Naik not the end; India needs vigilance to save Muslim youth

The Indian government’s five-year ban on the supremacist Islamist preacher, Dr Zakir Naik seems to have gratified many people — Muslims and non-Muslims alike — who concern themselves with the pluralistic ethos of the country. But is the story over? How could this eventual ban bring an end to the process of fanatic indoctrination ushering in the age of Internet?

“The story isn’t quite over yet,” says a Firstpost article. “Banning Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) will not undo the messages he has preached to youth all these years… There is a need to keep a continuous vigil. Naik might be planning his next moves sitting in Dubai, where he is currently believed to be,” it adds.

The above remark is not difficult to understand, bearing in mind that many Muslim youth from Maharashtra left their home to join the Islamic State (IS) earlier this year, some of them allegedly inspired by Naik.

Peace TV owner Zakir Naik. CNN-News 18

Peace TV owner Zakir Naik. CNN-News 18

Only recently, an alleged operative of IS was arrested in Sikar district of Rajasthan. This IS sympathiser was involved in raising funds from India, Bangladesh and UAE, and transferring to the IS for the last two years through hawala, PTI had reported.

Here, it is quite pertinent to note that the alleged IS operative was in contact with other sympathisers of the global jihadist organisation via social networking sites. An MBA graduate, who was previously working as an assistant financial manager at a reputed firm in Dubai, he has a wife and children in Mumbai. But instead of caring for his family and earning a livelihood — the most essential duty in Islam — he joined “those who are fighting for a cause”, and is “completely remorseless” in supporting the IS!

There are two crucial points that emerge from this instance of fanatic indoctrination:

First, at a time when extremist preachers like Naik and his organisation, IRF are banned in India, it is equally important to unravel “the cause” which attracts Muslim youth to such indoctrination and join the IS.

Second, as it is clear from the above incident, Muslim youth in India are being indoctrinated through online and digital channels a lot more as compared to the offline activities of the extremist Islamist outfits. Thus, countering online fanaticism is more urgent a challenge before India than banning a radical organisation and a preacher for a few years. Though the latter too is a gigantic task to accomplish, it is no less lethal than the violent spade of terror that attacks through bomb blasts from Mumbai to Kolkata and Kashmir to Kanyakumari.

Coming back to the first point, the major “cause” which lures the youths to quit their education and career and join a global jihadist outfit like IS is the apocalyptic theory being misconstrued by the Islamist preachers today.

The apocalyptic worldview or millenarian thesis of the radical Islamist preachers is a large part of the attraction for Muslim youth even in India. As propagated by the IS ideologues, we are living in “end-time” (an era close to the doomsday). Therefore, the IS exhorts the Muslim youth to engage in the end-times battle, al-malhama, an Islamic synonym of the Christian theory of Armageddon which refers to the final war between human governments and God.

Though nearly all world religions have prophesies on the end-time, much of the violent political abuse of this concept is seen across the Muslim world. The very apocalyptic theory was an inspiration behind the ideologues of al-Qaeda as well. Much before Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Jordanian radical Islamist ideologue Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Osama bin Laden and other radical Islamist mentors also talked about it but they did not give it primacy.

But for IS, the apocalyptic theory or millenarian thesis is central to its violent ideology. It believes itself to be one of the earliest armies to fight the end-time battle to defeat the governments of kuffar (infidels) and establish the puritanical Shari’ah in its global Islamic state. In order to achieve this long-term goal, the IS has actively engaged in the fulfillment of the pre-requisites of its self-imposed caliphate, such as the revival of pre-Islamic slavery in Arabia. The IS mouthpiece in English Dabiq has published an article which concludes that the revival of slavery before the Hour (doomsday) is imperative. The third article in this issue of Dabiq, entitled “The Revival of Slavery Before the Hour” clearly says: “Enslaving the families of the kuffar (infidels) and taking their women as concubines is a firmly established aspect of the Shari’ah that if one were to deny or mock, he would be denying or mocking the verses of the Koran and the narrations of the Prophet… and thereby apostatising from Islam”.

The anonymous author of this article who seems to be well-versed in the classical Islamic jurisprudence, further writes: “This large-scale enslavement of mushrik families is probably the first since the abandonment of this Shari’ah law. The only other known case – albeit much smaller – is that of the enslavement of Christian women and children in the Philippines and Nigeria by the mujāhidīn there. The enslaved Yazidi families are now sold by the Islamic State soldiers… .”

Image courtesy: Inside the Caliph

Image courtesy: Inside the Caliph

This IS author justifies the enslavement of not only the kuffar and mushrikin (non-Muslims) but also the Muslim sects other than the Salafis who follow the 12th century puritanical Islamic scholar, Imam Ibn Taimiya. Addressing the question whether Yazidis (the members of an ancient Kurdish sect that borrows elements of Islam) are entitled to enslavement, as they are “deviant” and “apostate” Muslims, the author avers: “Yazidi women and children (are to be) divided according to the Shari’ah amongst the fighters of the Islamic State who participated in the Sinjar operations (in northern Iraq).”

In a foot-note, the author also takes up the question of whether the enslavement would be meted out to the different groups of the Shiites. The answer is as follows: “The enslavement of the apostate women belonging to apostate groups such as the rāfidah, nusayriyyah, durūz, and ismā’īliyyah is one that the fuqahā’ (Islamic jurists) differ over. The majority of the scholars say that their women are not to be enslaved and only ordered to repent because of the hadīth, ‘Kill whoever changes his religion,'” it says referring to Sahīh al-Bukhārī, one of the six hadith collections of Sunni Islam. “But some of the scholars including Shaykhul-Islām Ibn Taymiyyah and the Ahnāf (Hanafis) say they may be enslaved,” the author adds.

Notice the resemblance between the above remark of the IS ideologue in Dabiq and that of the star Salafist preacher in India, Naik answering a similar question in one of his public talks. Naik justified rather more heinous crime of slavery, “sex slavery” with his masterful misuse of the religious texts of Islam. In the same tone and tenor as that of the IS author, Naik justified sex slavery in 2010 in his public speech (check this video) on the question, “Is sex allowed with slave women in Islam.”

Similarly, Naik’s views on death penalty for those who are declared “apostates” have no conflict with what the IS author has pointed out. According to him, if somebody wanted to convert to any faith other than Islam, the capital punishment would be the most “humane punishment” for such a person. This video of his talk on “capital punishment for apostates” leaves no doubt in the complete replication of Naik’s theology to the inhuman ideology of IS and Taliban.

Thus, through his TV channel and in other so-called Islamic Da’wah programmes, Naik has preached precisely what IS ideologues have. Several articles in Firstpost have candidly exposed Naik as an Islamist supremacist who speaks of sex slaves, wanton killing of apostates and justifies the terror crimes as heinous as suicide bombing. At a time when the world’s progressive Islamic scholars are outraged at the pre-Islamic practice of keeping sex slaves that the IS has now revived, Naik has justified the vile custom.

Just as Dabiq misleads the ordinary English-speaking Muslims of the Middle East, the first Salafist television in India, Peace TV founded and conceived by Naik has misguided scores of English-speaking Indian Muslims who are either gullible or oblivious to the grave threat posed to the tolerant Indian Islam.

At a time when the IS is flogging the fiction of its pre-conceived apocalypse in its bid to revive the vile pre-Islamic custom of slavery and establish its own caliphate, Naik and many other self-styled preachers of Islam have helped the extremist cult expand in the Muslim community the world over. But merely banning the extremist indoctrinators is not sufficient enough to stem the tide. As clearly evidenced above, this extremist tribe is growing more rapidly in the virtual world. The online media is being increasingly used to spread the Islamist radicalism. Therefore, the government needs to provide digital literacy to the Indian youth and civil society organisations, religious scholars and media experts to counter the online indoctrination of the Muslim youth and rescue them from the extremist ideologies.
The author is a scholar of comparative religion, classical Arabic and Islamic sciences, cultural analyst and researcher in Media and Communication Studies. Views are personal. Write to him at: [email protected]

First Published On : Nov 21, 2016 15:57 IST

Kidney has no religious labels: Ailing Sushma Swaraj gives healing touch to social divide

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Kidney has no religious labels, this is what External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, undergoing treatment for renal failure, tweeted while thanking a Muslim man who offered her his kidney.64-year-old Swaraj has been offered kidneys by scores of people since Wednesday when she said on Twitter that she was in hospital due to kidney failure and was undergoing tests for a transplant. “Thank you very much brothers. I am sure, kidney has no religious labels,” she tweeted. Her remark came in response to a tweet by Mujib Ansari who offered his kidney to her while adding that he is a Muslim and a supporters of BSP in Uttar Pradesh.”@SushmaSwaraj mam I am a BSP supporter and a Muslim,bt I want 2 donate my kidney 4 u,4 me u r like my mother figure, May allah bless u,” he said on twitter.Another Muslim Nyamath Ali Shaik also offered his kidney to Swaraj saying he was ready to donate his kidney, if need be. Another Twitter follower Jaan Shah also said he was ready to offer his kidney to her. Swaraj has been flooded with wishes from politicians cutting across party lines as well as from a cross-section of society. She has been undergoing treatment for renal failure at AIIMS.Swaraj also exuded confidence of being able to come out of the health condition with good wishes of people and blessings of God.

From praising Bin Laden to promoting hatred: Reasons behind ban on Zakir Naik’s NGO

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik has been extolling Osama Bin Laden, proclaiming that every Muslim should be a terrorist and claiming that if Islam had indeed wanted 80 per cent of Indians would not have remained Hindus, government said justifying the ban imposed on his NGO IRF.In a gazette notification, issued two days after the Union Cabinet decided to ban Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, the Home Ministry said the IRF and its members, particularly, the founder and its President Zakir Naik, has been encouraging and aiding its followers to promote or attempt to promote, on grounds of religion, disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious communities. “The central government has received information that the statements and speeches made by Zakir Naik, the President of IRF are objectionable and subversive in nature as he has been extolling the known terrorists like Osama Bin Laden, proclaiming that every Muslim should be a terrorist and claiming that if Islam had indeed wanted, 80 per cent of Indian population would not have remained Hindus as they could have been converted “if we wanted” by sword, justifying the suicide bombings, posting objectionable comments against Hindu Gods, claiming that Golden Temple may not be as sacred as Mecca and Medina and making other statements which are derogatory to other religions,” the notification said.The Home Ministry said through speeches and statements, Naik has been promoting enmity and hatred between different religious groups and inspiring Muslim youths and terrorists in India and abroad to commit terrorist acts. It said such divisive ideology is against India’s pluralistic and secular social fabric and it may be viewed as causing disaffection against India and thereby making it an unlawful activity. “Statements of some terrorists arrested in the terrorist attack incidents or arrested ISIS sympathisers revealed that they were inspired by the fundamentalist statements of Naik, clearly indicating the subversive nature of his preachings and speeches,” the notification issued by Joint Secretary in the Home Ministry Sudhir Kumar Saxena said.The Central government is of the opinion that the aforesaid activities of the IRF and its President Zakir Naik are highly inflammatory in nature and prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony between various religious groups and communities, the Home Ministry notification said. “…if urgent steps are not taken there is every possibility of many youth being motivated and radicalised to commit terrorist acts leading to promoting enmity between different religious groups. “The Central government, having regard to the above circumstances, is of the firm opinion that it is necessary to declare the Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) as an unlawful association with immediate effect,” it said.

Dhaka cafe attack: 3 terrorists involved were admirers of Zakir Naik, says govt

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Three terrorists, involved in the July 1 terror attack in Dhaka, were admirers of Zakir Naik, founder of Islamic Research Foundation, which was banned by the government, Rajya Sabha was informed today.”The three terrorists involved in the attack were reportedly admirers of Zakir Naik,” Minister of State for Home Hansraj Ahir said in a written reply. The Minister said as per the available information, although the mandate of the Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) is educational and social, it is also involved in other activities. “Noticing certain violations of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, the IRF has been placed under the prior permission category”.The government on Tuesday decided to declare the IRF, an NGO promoted by the controversial Islamic preacher as an outlawed organisation under the anti-terror law for five years for its alleged terror activities. The decision has been taken at a meeting of the Union Cabinet presided over by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Cabinet approved a proposal to declare IRF as an ‘unlawful association’ under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act for five years.The move comes after investigation by the Home Ministry found that the NGO was allegedly having dubious links with Peace TV, an international Islamic channel, accused of propagating terrorism. According to the Home Ministry, Naik, who heads the IRF, has allegedly made many provocative speeches and engaged in terror propaganda. Naik came under the scanner of the security agencies after Bangladeshi newspaper ‘Daily Star’ reported that one of the perpetrators of the July 1 terror attack in Dhaka, Rohan Imtiaz, ran propaganda on Facebook last year quoting Naik.The Islamic orator is banned in the UK and Canada for his hate speech aimed against other religions. He is among 16 banned Islamic scholars in Malaysia. He is popular in Bangladesh through his Peace TV, although his preachings often demean other religions and even other Muslim sects. The Mumbai-based preacher who is abroad, has not returned to India ever since the controversy came to light.

Zakir Naik saga: IRF ban marks end of an eventful story for Dongri preacher

Not many people outside the Muslim community knew Zakir Naik before he came under the scanner of security agencies and the media in the wake of the 1 July attacks in Dhaka. It may be recalled that on that day, terrorists killed 22 civilians and two police officers before five of them were killed. Immediately after the attack, a report appeared in one of the Bangladesh dailies that some off the terrorists, who participated in the attack, were inspired by Naik’s preaching. The paper later backtracked from its statement, but the controversy it triggered did not die down.

This created waves in India.

The media took this case up in a major way. Naik began appearing in national headlines almost on a daily basis and mostly for the wrong reasons. Even religious leaders from the Muslim community stood up against Naik and asked their members to refrain from listening to his speeches, saying his talks encourage violence and hostility towards non-Muslims. Some supported him too. The media frenzy continued and has not died down since then. Fearing arrest, Naik refused to return to India even when his father passed away recently.

On Tuesday, when the Narendra Modi government banned his NGO, Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) for five years, Naik’s eventful story of the past two decades seemingly came to an end.

File image of Zakir Naik. Screen grab from YouTube

File image of Zakir Naik. Screen grab from YouTube

How did it all begin?

The son of a physician and educationalist, Abdul Karim Naik, Zakir Naik too is a qualified medical practitioner, who never really practiced medicine.

Instead, his interest was in religious preaching from the very beginning. Naik called himself a student and an expert of ‘comparative religion’ but most of his speeches advocated the supremacy of Islam over other religions. Naik loved to play with words by selectively picking and interpreting religious scriptures to establish how Islam is one true religion and the remaining set of beliefs aren’t pure.

During his several speeches in India and abroad, he justified war against Islam’s enemies and in one instance, even ‘suicide bombing’, saying if there is a need to defend the religion from its enemies, there is no harm in self-sacrifice. The preacher also used his television channel, Peace TV to air his speeches. Naik exhorted that Muslims love their country more than anyone and will follow the law of the land, as long as it doesn’t come in the way of the law of creator. Thus, he put the idea of religion above the idea of patriotism and constitutional responsibility of every citizen to his country.

A closer look at previous speeches by the 51-year old showed certain dangers to the religious harmony of the country.

Naik’s illogical arguments about the relation between religion and the idea of a secular nation are flawed but convincing enough to those who believe in Islam’s supremacy. In a February 2012 video, addressing a large crowd, Naik implored Muslims to ‘fight for Islam’ and ‘disobey the law of the land if it goes against the law of the creator’. Saying “Vante Mataram”, Naik said, is not desirable not just for Muslims, even Hindus. Why? Because, Hinduism, Naik says, speaks against the concept of idol worship and hence, it is wrong to bow to the land.

In another, Naik endorsed Osama Bin Laden and Taliban as fighters of Islam and argued why Taliban and Bin Laden were not necessarily damaging the Islam. In one his videos, Naik says:

If he (Osama Bin Laden) is fighting the enemies of Islam, I’m for him. I don’t now what he is doing. I’m not in touch with him. I don’t know him personally. I read newspapers. If he is terrorising America, the terrorist, biggest terrorist, I’m with him. Every Muslim should be a terrorist. The thing is that if he is terrorising the terrorist, he is following Islam. Whether he is or not, I don’t know. Now don’t go around outside saying Zakir Naik is for Osama Bin Laden. If he is terrorising the terrorist I’m with him. I don’t know what he is. I cannot base my judgment only on news. But, you as Muslims, without checking up laying allegations is also wrong. I’m with those people who are holding the Quran. Even the full world is against them, I’m with them (sic)”

In short, Naik has been clever in his speeches not to get trapped by investigators by playing with words. But, ultimately, he couldn’t convince the investigators as evidenced by the Modi government’s action.

To be sure, Naik has been preaching for more than two decades. The content of his speeches has been pretty much the same all along. But, there was no investigation against him till recently. As Firstpost has noted before, during UPA rule, in 2013, a communication had gone to the Ministry of Home Affairs from the then prime minister Manmohan Singh about the potential threat caused by Naik’s speeches. This was based on a complaint submitted to the PMO. But, the matter ended there.

It took the Dhaka attacks for the Indian government to wake up to the problem (possibly due to media pressure) and initiate action against the Islamic preacher.

The deeper problems

But, it weren’t just his speeches that got Naik into trouble. The alleged links between his organisation IRF and terrorist activities in the country intensified the scrutiny of investigators on Naik and his organisation’s activities. Naik’s name was linked to cases in Kerala in which youths have been brainwashed to join the Islamic State. The Kerala Police has claimed that Arshi Qureshi, guest relations officer of the Mumbai-based Islamic Research Foundation, has links with the Islamic State. This raised questions on the way Naik’s NGO has been using funds, especially money coming from abroad in the form of donations. Early this months, the government banned foreign funding for Naik’s organisations. Naik has so far refused to return to the country and has addressed the media only through web conferences and television interviews.

It is unlikely that he’ll return to the country in the near future since that could lead to his immediate arrest.

The story, however, isn’t quite over yet. Banning Naik’s IRF will not undo the messages he has preached to youth all these years. There is a need to keep continuous vigil. Following the government’s five-year ban, reports suggests that Naik’s lawyers will seek legal recourse against the government’s decision. But, this won’t be easy since government action against the NGO is under the under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. Naik might be planning his next moves sitting in Dubai, where he is currently believed to be.

But, the government’s action puts an end to the Naik episode, for now at least.

First Published On : Nov 16, 2016 14:02 IST

Modi govt bans Zakir Naik’s NGO Islamic Research Foundation for 5 years

New Delhi: The government on Tuesday decided to declare an NGO promoted by controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik as an outlawed organisation under the anti-terror law for five years for its alleged terror activities.

The decision has been taken at a meeting of the Union Cabinet presided over by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The Cabinet approved a proposal to declare Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) as an ‘unlawful association’ under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act for five years, a Home Ministry official said.

Zakir Naik. Reuters

Zakir Naik. Reuters

A formal notification will be issued by the Home Ministry soon.

The move comes after investigation by the Home Ministry found the NGO was allegedly having dubious links with Peace TV, an international Islamic channel, accused of propagating terrorism, the official said.

According to the Home Ministry, Naik, who heads the IRF, has allegedly made many provocative speeches and engaged in terror propaganda.

Maharashtra Police has also registered criminal cases against Naik for his alleged involvement in radicalisation of youths and luring them into terror activities, officials said.

Naik also transferred IRF’s foreign funds to Peace TV for making “objectionable” programmes. Most of the programmes, which were made in India, contained alleged hate speeches of Naik, who had reportedly “urged all Muslims to be terrorists” through Peace TV, they claimed.

An educational trust run by Naik have already been prevented from receiving foreign funds and agencies are looking into their activities.

He came under the scanner of the security agencies after Bangladeshi newspaper ‘Daily Star’ reported that one of the perpetrators of the July 1 terror attack in Dhaka, Rohan Imtiaz, ran propaganda on Facebook last year quoting Naik.

The Islamic orator is banned in the UK and Canada for his hate speech aimed against other religions. He is among 16 banned Islamic scholars in Malaysia.

He is popular in Bangladesh through his Peace TV, although his preachings often demean other religions and even other Muslim sects. The Mumbai-based preacher who is abroad, has not returned to India ever since the controversy came to light.

First Published On : Nov 15, 2016 20:46 IST

Citizenship Act: BJP’s religion-based amendment threatens the secular fabric of India

The Union government has proposed certain changes to India’s citizenship laws, in the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016. The present legal framework has no provision for religion-based citizenship and the proposed amendment plans to change that.

At present, an illegal migrant entering the territory of the Indian Union is prohibited from becoming a citizen. The amendment proposes that illegal migrants belonging to six specific religious minority communities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan will not be prohibited from attaining citizenship, even if they migrated to the territory illegally.

The move, to mark out illegal migrants of specific religious minorities originating from neighbouring sovereign territories for special treatment, started a little while back. In a series of orders between September 2015 and July 2016, the government exempted from deportation the illegal migrants belonging to the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian religion. These previous moves laid down the framework for the present proposed amendment.

The BJP has now proposed an amendment to offer Indian citizenship to a section of migrants based on their religion. ReutersThe BJP has now proposed an amendment to offer Indian citizenship to a section of migrants based on their religion. Reuters

The BJP has now proposed an amendment to offer Indian citizenship to a section of migrants based on their religion. Reuters

Illegal migrants from these countries belong to all religions. However, the reasons of illegal migration are not similar across all religions. Having said that, the reasons are also not similar across all adherents of a particular religion.

The elephant in the room is that Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh are Muslim majority sovereign territories. But that’s not all. These are also territories where in the last many decades the population proportion of non-Muslims has continually fallen, in contrast to the Hindu majority Indian Union where the population proportion of Christians and Muslims have sharply risen over the last few decades.

By this basic factor, it can be surmised that the minority situation in the Indian Union is far from ideal and that the situation differs from its neighbours. Population proportion surely cannot be the only measure of welfare of a community but, as far as growing and thriving in numbers is concerned, India’s situation is better compared to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Given the reality of the communal partition of British colonial territories of the subcontinent, the post-colonial fragments maintain in its body politic that ‘partition’ ideology of communal homelands. This imagination shows up in practice in various ways, overt and covert, in a continuum of toxic destructiveness.

It is probably not accidental then that the subcontinent’s only post-colonial fragment that has seen a decrease in population proportion of those belonging to the majority religious community is also the only one where the Constitution does not mention any specific state religion.

Many powerful political parties, all with Hindus constituting a majority of their voter base, have expressed their opposition to this proposed amendment precisely on that count – the way it names who it includes and by implication, who it excludes.

The Trinamool Congress (TMC), which rules West Bengal, a state that is probably host to the largest number of illegal immigrants, has opposed the proposal. Veteran Trinamool Member of Parliament (MP) Saugata Roy said, “We have decided that we will oppose the amendment on the floor of Parliament. This amendment is an attack on the secular fabric of our country. How can there be discrimination on the basis of religion? If you are Hindu, you will be eligible and if you are Muslim, you will be kept out? Our Constitution does not allow this. The West Bengal government will also oppose it.”

Roy is correct. The proposed amendment does include and exclude on the basis of religion. But it is not as if this was unprecedented. Various other legislations or proposed legislations have done that in all but name – including the almost irrelevant Enemy Property Act (which discriminated against Muslims, without mentioning that explicitly) or the proposed and shelved Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill (which discriminated against Hindus, being the commonest majority community in most territories of India).

In practical political terms, the TMC probably has calculated that it cannot appear to support a legislation that clearly excludes members of a religious community who form nearly 30 percent of the population in West Bengal and is represented even more disproportionately higher in its supporter base.

Such a stance is a game of extreme brinkmanship given West Bengal is also host to the largest number of Hindu refugees, who keep on coming from Bangladesh in incessant trickles and spurts to this day – a phenomenon that will continue into the foreseeable future.

The recent large-scale anti-Hindu attacks by Muslim radicals in Brahmanbaria district in Bangladesh, in collusion with a section of the local branch of the ruling party, inspires little hope that migrations into West Bengal triggered by persecution of religious minorities in East Bengal (present day Bangladesh) will stop anytime soon.

The reverse, that is, migration to East Bengal from West Bengal due to religious persecution has not happened in any significant numbers since the mid-sixties. Thus, in a post-Partition state which is tacitly conceived as a permanent Hindu Bengali majority homeland since 1947, the non-acknowledgment of the special status of non-Muslim, primarily Hindu, Bengalis vis-à-vis West Bengal and worse still, the narrative of parity that TMC seems to advocate might be used to consolidate the already existing communal divisions in West Bengal. This divide has gotten much worse since the rise of BJP in the state, especially in pockets with significant non-Bengali populations. The recent communal disturbances in Chandannagar are a case in point.

For all practical purposes, India denies citizenship to those who crossed over from East Bengal after 25 March 1971, the day when major atrocities by the Pakistan army started in Dhaka. The 2003 Citizenship (Amendment) Act took away the possibility of birth right citizenship from the children of many of those who fled persecution in East Bengal.

Due to the amendment, many Dalit Bengalis were identified as ‘infiltrators’ and deportation proceedings were started. The Matuas, one of the largest low caste groups of primarily East Bengali of the Namasudras origin settled in West Bengal, have long been protesting this 2003 amendment, passed by a BJP-led government.

Ultimately, the persecuted Hindus of East Bengal (refugees and residents) are mere pawns.

The prime beneficiaries of Partition crafted the Nehru-Liaquat Pact of 1950. Many did not move due to the false sense of assurance (including the assurance of the door being permanently open) that came with this largely ceremonial gesture.

By this, India effectively washed off its hands from the ‘minority problem’ in Pakistan. ‘Shutting the door’ has been the Indian policy post-1971 (similar to what Pakistan did to stranded Pakistanis in Dhaka); something it cannot implement – one of the natural consequences of claiming full monitoring abilities over an absurd frontier.

For decades, India has systematically discriminated against the Eastern frontier refugees (mostly Bengalis) on questions of compensation, entitlement, relief, citizenship, etc compared to the Western frontier (Punjabi and Sindhi) refugees. The Indian Union owes reparation to these people, for the Indian Union’s creation and its geographical contours are intimately tied to their migration and impoverishment.

In Assam, the other state that will be most affected by this decision, the fault-lines are different.  All strands of Assamese nationalism, from the independence seeking United Liberation Front of Asom (Independent) to the BJP-collaborator Asom Gana Parishad, oppose the proposed amendment. Powerful Assamese nationalist student bodies like AASU and AJYCP also oppose it.

However, here the fault-line is more along ethnic lines. As per the terms of the Assam accord of 1985, all illegal migrants who have entered Assam after 24 March, 1971 are to be identified and deported. Even with its Muslim exclusion, this proposed amendment will pave the path to citizenship for many Hindu Bengalis who are illegal migrants in Assam.

The BJP hopes that its anti-Muslim plank (couched not so subtly under the anti-Bangladeshi slogan) will help “unite” non-Muslims across ethnic lines. That is precisely the uniting factor in its much-touted North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA).

Himanta Biswa Sarma, former AASU activist, a Congressman till recently and now top BJP organisation man in Assam, has clearly learnt the communally divisive political lines of his new party when he says, “The whole thing is that we have to decide who our enemy is. Who is our enemy, the 1-1.5 lakh people or the 55 lakh people?”

Those numbers ostensibly correspond to numbers of Hindu Bengali and Muslim Bengali illegal migrants in Assam respectively. This tactical accommodation of Hindu Bengalis into the fold shows the existential crisis of Assamese nationalism, whose homeland imaginary has always been so over-stretched that it now cannot stand up effectively to the BJP.

The BJP, meanwhile, has taken on the mantle of Assamese demographic anxiety with an obligatory Hindu unity twist to suit its Delhi headquarters.  The proposed amendment thus is a direct contravention of the Assam accord – arguably the biggest achievement of the Assamese nationalist current.

While it is true that Delhi-centric political forces never wanted the Assam accord to be implemented, no one has declared the accord to be null and void yet. As of now, the proposed amendment contains no Assam exception clause which it ideally should, if the government thinks that it should not renege on the pledge given to the people of Assam in the turbulent days of the Assam movement.

The problem with “accords” is that they are done in good faith between entities who expect each other to keep their word. If there is no Assam exception in the final bill, it will mean that the Assam accord was a fraud executed by the government on the people of Assam.

With regards to the illegal migrant issue, one has to distinguish between victims of human rights violations (including but not only religious persecution), that is, refugees, and those who migrate due other reasons. Such cases can be assessed on a case by case basis. A blanket inclusion for non-Muslims and a blanket exclusion of Muslims is clearly discriminatory.

The citizenship debate is primarily a demographic dominance and anxiety debate. The Indian Union is primarily made up of Hindu majority homelands or part homelands of ethno-linguistic nationalities. Thus, the fear of being swamped in their own homeland in a demographic and economic sense is behind many of these debates.

Given the hugely different fertility rates between Hindi and non-Hindi states in the Indian Union, another demographic invasion that is presently not illegal also threatens the socio-cultural-political fabric of many parts of India. Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu has boldly opened this debate.

The reality is that it is not within the feasible limits of ability of the Indian Union administration to deport all existing illegal migrants who are simply economic migrants. Nor will it be possible to stop such illegal migration in the near future.

A possible solution in such a scenario can be in the form of amnesty for all Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan origin illegal migrants with the possibility of dual or tiered citizenship and expanded work permits schemes.

At the same time, other demographic anxieties that exist between different parts of India can also be addressed within such citizenship frameworks that keep Indian Union citizenship as a common framework and also give state governments expanded control of residency rights, property ownership, entry and settling rules so that diversity is robustly preserved in the united framework.

A model for this already exists in various states of India in the form of residency based property ownership laws and entry control mechanisms through permits. Such initiatives need to be expanded as part of a thorough reform of the citizenship question.

Triple talaq: Muslim women’s body slams AIMPLB signature drive

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Amid the raging debate over ‘triple talaq’, All India Muslim Women Personal Law Board (AIMWPLB) on Sunday crticised the signature campaign launched by the AIMPLB, dubbing it as a move to “mislead” women from the community.”The campaign is not to empower Muslim women but to mislead them,” AIMWPLB President Shaista Amber said. Her comments came days after the All India Muslim Personal Law Board carried out a signature campaign against Centre’s affidavit in the Supreme Court against ‘triple talaq’ and the questionnaire prepared by the Law Commission regarding Uniform Civil Code.She said it would have been better had the AIMPLB written in its documents that it wholeheartedly supported the provisions in the Holy Quran about ‘triple talaq’. AIMPLB could also punish those who utter ‘talaq’ thrice in one go, she suggested. Amber said the affidavit before the apex court smacked of votebank politics and efforts to disintegrate the society. “On the pretext of the issue, the government was trying to push the agenda implementing Uniform Civil Code,” she said. Implementation of a common code is part of the BJP’s election manifesto.

UP has highest number of convicts, over 55% of undertrials are Muslims and Dalits: NCRB

There was a lot of uproar in the nation following the prison break on 31 October by eight members of SIMI (Students Islamic Movement of India) from Bhopal Central Jail after slitting the throat of the jail guard. However, eight hours after their escape, all the eight activists were killed a few kilometres away from the city in a shootout with the police.

In the wake of Bhopal prison break, let’s take a look at the prison statistics of 2015 recently published by National Crime Records Bureau. The 21st edition of prison statistics data reveals that Madhya Pradesh is the second state with highest number of inmates (38,458), highest being Uttar Pradesh (88,747).

Furthermore, out of the 59.6 percent of the total murder convicts, 15.8 percent were reported from Madhya Pradesh and of the 26.5 percent of total undertrials charged with murder under IPC crimes MP accounts to about 8.5 percent.

In an analysis done by The Indian Express, the data for Madhya Pradesh reveals wide gaps between the share of Muslims in their population and the share of Muslims in its jails. In MP, with a share of 7 percent in population, Muslims made up 13 percent of undertrials and 10 percent of convicts.

Religion-wise distribution of  inmates at the end of 2015. (Image: NCRB)

Religion-wise distribution of inmates at the end of 2015. (Image: NCRB)

Religion-wise distribution of inmates

In a religion-wise distribution of inmates at the end of 2015, the data reveals that 72.6 percent (97,471 out of 1,34,168) of convicts lodged in jails profess Hindu religion while 15.8 percent (21,220) were from the Muslim community and the remaining were from other religions.

While that under the classification of undertrial prisoners (total of 67.2 percent), people following Hindu religion account for 69.8 percent (1,96,814 out of 2,82,076), while people from Muslim community (59,053) accounted for 20.9 percent and the rest belonged to other religions.

Of the 74.2 percent of the total detainees, 67.1 percent belong to the Hindu community while 23.8 percent belong to the Muslim community.

BJP raking up triple talaq, UCC for gains in UP polls: Muslim Law Board

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The issues of triple talaq and Uniform Civil Code are being “raked up” by the BJP for gains in the upcoming Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls, a women’s body on Wednesday said while accusing the AIMPLB of “playing into the hands” of the saffron party by helping it to polarise people.The body said the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) is “just a NGO” that does not represent the entire Muslim community, adding that it will urge the Chief Justice of India to ensure all stakeholders are heard by court in a case in this regard, rather than just the Board.The National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW) demanded that the practice of ‘triple talaq in one sitting’ must be abolished, even as it maintained that personal laws in all religions, including Hinduism and Christianity, need reforms to ensure justice and equality to women. This, they said, must be done without disrespecting any religion.”The Law Commission has made the move of seeking feedback on whether triple talaq should be abolished and if UCC should be made option without any prior scientific study.”It has done this at the behest of BJP, merging the two different issues. All this is being done with BJP’s eyes on UP elections,” NFIW general secretary Annie Raja told reporters.On the AIMPLB’s stand that the Commission’s move involving triple talaq aims at targeting religious practices of Muslims, Raja accused the Board of helping BJP polarise people communally.”We plan to approach the CJI to urge him to hear all stakeholders rather than just the AIMPLB in a court matter to this regard,” she said.The NFIW said the right of divorce should be given to Muslim women as well and should they be allowed to pronounce the word ‘talaq’ thrice, each time at a gap of one month and ten days, in the presence of two adult witnesses and the “divorce should be binding”.The organisation also opposed the practice of ‘Halala’ that is followed in Islam when a man and woman wish to remarry after divorcing each other.Halala is in interim, obligatory ‘nikah’ with another man and subsequent talaq from him that has to take place for the divorced couple to marry again.The NFIW demanded laws to ensure that a divorced woman gets maintenance for herself till she marries again and support their children, if any, till they attain adulthood.”…it is immediately put forward that the demand (for reforms) should come from the community. Well, now the Muslim women are asking for these changes and a male dominated AIMPLB is threatening them and trying to crush their lawful demands,” the NFIW alleged in a statement.Meanwhile, a lecturer from Ahmedabad, Mubeena Quraishi, and a Lucknow-resident, Mumtaz Fatima, also briefed the press, sharing their experiences regarding divorce and demanded reforms in personal laws.Sharing her experiences with regard to the triple talaq, Mubina said she had to struggle for five years to get divorce from her erstwhile husband under the personal laws, which she insisted, need reforms.”For past five years, I struggled to get divorce with my in-laws, family and even the maulvis opposing it. I was denied Khula, saying it was banned in India. Finally, I approached a court in July this year and got mutual divorce. The point is I had to struggle for these many years. We need reforms,” Mubina said.Fatima, meanwhile, said she was divorced by her husband who pronounced word talaq thrice over phone. Besides her, her two sister in-laws were also divorced in the same manner by their respective husbands, she claimed.”Following the talaq, I approached many people including maulvis, but it did not help. We approached some women organisations which helped us in going back to our home. But that led to fights. The personal laws were not of any help to three of us. There is a need for reforms which give equal rights to both women and men,” she said.Fatima, who is currently fighting legal battles over domestic violence against her husband and also seeking maintenance to raise her lone son, opposed the practice of Halala, terming it as “unjust”.On October 7, the Law Commission had sought public opinion on whether the practice of triple talaq should be abolished and whether the Uniform Civil Code should be optional, triggering a controversy.In an appeal, the Commission said the objective behind the endeavour is to address discrimination against vulnerable groups and harmonise the various cultural practices even as it assured the people that the “norms of no one class, group or community will dominate the tone and tenor of family law reforms”.

The case of the missing reforms

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Thirty years ago, when the then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi burned his fingers in the Shah Bano case by overturning the court verdict through an act of Parliament, his aides mediated with the Muslim clergy to elicit two assurances. Those aiding Gandhi and mediating between the government and top office bearers of All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), including Maulana Abul Hassan Ali Nadvi – known as Ali Mian – and Qazi Mujahidul Islam Qasmi, recall that clergy had agreed to work on codifying the Muslim Personal Law and also initiating over 150 reforms within the community.Four years later, the clerics set up a think-tank, the Islamic Fiqh Academy, that drew up around 105 reforms in Sharia law, mostly related to marriage and women. Yet, the stamina to actually implement these alterations petered out over the next three decades.Lawyer, historian and author AG Noorani says that state of affairs was aggravated by Congress’s vote-bank politics. “The truth is that Congress played vote-bank politics. Indira Gandhi made a pact with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. And, in his end, to please the Muslims, Rajiv Gandhi passed the Muslim Women Bill, leading to the opening of the locks of the disputed structure. The VHP stopped the agitation because of Indira Gandhi’s assassination. The pact was renewed by Rajiv Gandhi,” he says.He says that he had sent a missive to the then government to open the definition of divorce as per Sharia laws, not according to Anglo-Mohammadan law, which would have meant three periods and conciliation. “Had that been done, all (the) sting would have been taken out. But then Rajiv Gandhi had a deal to protect,” says Noorani.No madrassa made the reforms already on paper part of their curriculum, nor has any mufti or qazi employed these reforms as a benchmark for his legal and religious opinion, hanging on, instead, to old interpretations. There has also been no step forward to codify Muslim Personal Law, something Zakia Soman, co-convenor of the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan has been agitating for.Delhi Congress leader Anees Durrani, member of the All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat, who was privy to the developments then, of the opinion that Muslim leaders let go of a plum opportunity to introduce reforms in 1986.“In 1986, after protecting the Muslim Personal Law from the interference of the court, Muslim leaders agreed to specific commitments on the issue of reforms and codification.Rajiv Gandhi wanted an internal debate within the community. But till date, the Muslim clergy has not initiated any vigorous reforms which is the main reason behind the current crisis and the opening of the room for interpretation by the courts and the government,” he says.DNA spoke to several people involved with the framing of these original set of reforms to find out exactly what they were and how relevant they are today. It also sought the opinions of experts in Islamic jurisprudence many of who strongly recommended implementing these changes.Codification of lawWhen a top cleric from Bihar, Maulana Minnatullah Rahmani, who was at the helm of theAIMPLB during the 1980s, attempted to codify these reforms, it was drowned under the weight of arguments and disagreements. Rahmani wrote a book called Majmua-e-quanin-e-Islam (compendium of Islamic laws), which was an attempt to codify the personal law. The book was criticised for leaning towards the Hanafi school of thought. Without any codification, the judgement in any case lies at the discretion at the interpretation of the law of the of the maulvi or qazi hearing the matter, compounded by the fact that Sharia law is not a single entity.Model nikahnamaAnother important proposal made in the 150-point internal reforms agenda was a model nikahnama, which was to function as a standard marriage contract for Muslims. It had many progressive features and was a precursor to the prenuptial agreement, which has gained popularity in India only recently.It proposed a strict method of mediation and arbitration in divorce, and made it mandatory for parents or guardians of couples to be present during the marriage, thus preventing forced marriages.Triple talaqThe proposed nikahnama also addressed the controversial issue of triple talaq and said any talaq pronounced in one sitting should not lead to dissolution of the marriage. Many Islamic scholars who have been seeking a ban on triple talaq have maintained that it has no mention in Quran.Islamic scholarMohammed Ghitrif, guest lecturer at the department of Islamic Studies at Jamia Millia Islamia, explains that iddat (a waiting period of three months) must precede any separation. If after that, the differences remain irreconcilable, the husband can pronounce talaq a third time and the divorce would then be final.MehrDuring Muslim marriages, mehr is a sum of money fixed by both families as a security for the woman. The proposal was that the amount should be decided on the basis of the financial status of the man. But mehr continues to be a nominal amount, at least in most Muslim marriages. The model nikahnama was supposed to work out a sum of money which would ensure a comfortable future for the woman.“Quranic traditions, if implemented well, would ensure that a woman’s mehr is 50% of a man’s assets. The Quran mentions that the Prophet had four wives, and he had a house for each one of his wives,” says Dr Farida Khanam of the department of Islamic Studies at Jamia.HalalaUnder Sharia law, a couple which undergoes a divorce cannot remarry unless the woman marries another man and then her second husband dies or divorces her. Guidelines were also to be laid down in connection with the practice of halala but that too didn’t happen and this practice is often misused in India to exploit women. A renowned Muslim law expert who didn’t wish to be identified alleged that several maulvis provide halala service by charging huge amounts from women.FaskhThere was also a proposal to the Rajiv Gandhi government to to ease faskh, the procedure by which a woman can initiate a separation from her husband. The proposal remains unfulfilled because faskh is granted only on certain grounds, and if the woman is able to produce eyewitnesses in cases of cruelty.The Muslim Dissolution of the Marriage Act of 1939 allowed any woman to go to the court seeking divorce under eight clauses, including cruelty, disappearance, imprisonment and for being treated unequally, says Dr Zeenat Shaukat Ali of the Wisdom India Foundation. “The law was brought in as women complained that under the Muslim Personal Law, they were being denied the justice they deserved,” says Dr Ali.Dr Ali says that in most cases, women had no resources to rely on and were usually rejected by their own parents in cases of separation. The amount of maintenance, too, was usually a meagre amount. In the very first judgement awarded after the act was amended in 1986, Justice Rekha Dixit of the Lucknow High Court awarded a maintenance of Rs.68,000. “The case was a precedent to women seeking maintenance,” she said.Dowry and polygamyThe nikahnama (Marital law) denounced dowry and even sought to regulate polygamy by putting in a condition that if a man wants to take a second wife, he ought to secure written consent from his first wife, as is the stipulation in many Muslim countries, including Pakistan. Yet, without the adoption of the nikahnama, this too has remained only on paper.HazanaahThere was also a proposed modification with respect to hazanah, or child custody. According to traditional views, custody of a male child automatically goes to the father after the boy turns seven, whereas the custody of a girl child remains with the mother. The proposal was to evaluate the social, financial and mental condition of both parents and then decide the custody of the child.Other developmentsAnother Islamic scholar, who is also a member of the AIMLB, and wished to remain anonymous, revealed that the board also formed many committees to bring “internal reforms” but added that these committees have been inactive for years now. One such committee was called Tafheem-e-shariyat (Commentary of the Shariat) which was created to create awareness among lawyers about Muslim personal law. The committee met in Bhopal soon after the delegation met Rajiv Gandhi; the lawyers asked for a questionnaire along with correct answers about the Muslim personal law, so as to enable them to fight matrimonial cases. That questionnaire is still not ready.SHARIA STATSCiting an internal report on the functioning of his court from 2006-2010, a Sharia court qazi insists that his court is effectively imparting justice. According to this report, 17% of cases were disposed of in a month, 32% cases were disposed of in 3 months, 25% were decided in 6 months, 15% in less than 9 months, while 7% cases took a year to reach their conclusion and 5 % took more than a year.Reforms in different counriesWhile India is debating the need to bring reforms to Muslim Personal law or the Sharia, many countries, including Muslim ones, have already enacted reforms in the Sharia.Though Muslim organisations in India are unanimously against the proposed Uniform Civil Code, many Islamic scholars feel that a reform in the current Muslim Personal Law is essential.The concept of triple talaq as practiced in several Islamic countries like Tunisia, Malaysia, Egypt and Syria is very different from how it is practiced in India.Muslim men in India can easily justify marrying four women, citing a provision in Quran, but this can’t be done in several Muslim countries where polygamy is heavily regulated and even banned. “According to Quran, polygamy is conditional and not an absolute right. In India, any Muslim man can keep four wives irrespective of his economic status and irrespective of the whether he actually needs more than one wife. This needs to be regulated,” said Mohammad Ghitrif, an Islamic scholar who is a guest lecturer of Islamic studies at Jamia Millia Islamia University.Take the case of Turkey, a predominantly Muslim nation. It banned polygamy in 1926, stipulating a punishment of up to two years imprisonment for any man who violated the law. In 1956, Tunisia became the first Arab state to abolish polygamy. Muslim countries like Egypt, Malaysia and Pakistan, polygamy is permitted only with the consent of first wife. Another controversial practice, triple talaq has been abolished in more than 20 countries.Interestingly, Turkey which a sectarian composition similar to India has seen many reforms.Even in India, a large section of Muslims has been demanding a ban on triple talaq – a practice which exists only in the Sunni sect of Islam – but the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, an umbrella body of Muslim scholars from all school of thoughts in India, has been strongly opposing the idea.“India does not need any reforms in the Muslim personal law,” says Asma Zehra, member of the AIMLB. “Polygamy and triple talaq are part of Islamic traditions and if religious entity has a tradition, that needs to be respected. India Muslims have been practicing Islam in the most authentic and traditional manner. India cannot be compared to other countries like Turkey.”However, Islamic scholar Waris Mazhari, cautions against imposing these reforms. “Internal reforms are the need of the hour just as it has been brought in many Muslim countries. They should not be considered as threat to Islam. However, changes should not be imposed by the government,” said Mazhari, who is also a graduate of Dar-ul-uloom, Deoband.A day in the Sharia courtBarely 10 kilometres from the busy Patiala House court complex lies Delhi’s oldest Sharia court in Jamia Nagar — the Darul Qaza. Till October 16, when another court was inaugurated in Mandawali, it was the only Shariah court in the city.Unlike other courts, there are no queues or rush here; on average, it only gets a couple of cases per week. The 48-year-old qazi, Mohammed Kamil Qasmi, presides over the Sharia court in Jamia Nagar but doesn’t lord over the proceedings. Instead, he sits behind a wooden low-rise writing desk. His courtroom is bereft of a witness box. Qazi Qasmi, who has been pronouncing verdicts in the Sharia court ever since it was constituted in 1994, also does not have a battery of assistants to help him like regular courts do. A solitary young aide usually helps him with the proceedings. The courtroom also houses a library of over 200 books in Urdu, Arabic, English and even Hindi on Indian and Muslim personal law.Sharia courts don’t take many holidays; they are off only during the 20 days during Ramzan and a week during Eid-ul-zuha. However, the working hours of these courts are between 9 am to 1 pm. There is also a difference in the kind of security and infrastructure that regular courts enjoy. There are around 100 sharia courts across the country and apart from the qazi, most courts have a counseling committee.On this particular day, as he sits reciting holy verses, a young woman, along with a man, walks in the courtroom. The qazi asks her if she has got her shikaayatnama (complaint). The woman, who seems to be in her early thirties, nods in agreement and hands over a one-page note, written in urdu, to the qazi, who reads it and asks her some questions. Urdu is the official language of the court. “Can this man, who saw the incident, depose about it? Who else can buttress your claims,” the qazi asks.The case of about cruelty by the woman’s husband and of forced marriage, and so, the woman wants separation from her husband. The hearing lasts for about 10 minutes. The woman tells the qazi that the eyewitness can come, and that neighbours can be also called as witnesses. The qazi then prepares a one-page notice and tells the woman that he will send it to her husband.He also asks her to bring eyewitnesses and four other witnesses along with her on the next date of hearing, to be held 13 days later. The woman deposits Rs 300 as fees for registering her case, thanks the qazi and leaves.Soon, two women walk in and the elder woman requests the qazi to provide her copy of an order of her divorce for which she had applied in the year 2003. The qazi asks her to provide the exact date, which she fails to give, and then a brief argument ensues after which he calls her the next day.Some rules of the Sharia court are common with regular courts, such as the usage of phones is not allowed, bribe is prohibited, etc.On his opinions on the Uniform Civil Code, the qazi says that the government should not interfere in the Muslim personal laws. “Sharia courts are delivering speedy justice at hardly any cost. We are helping the Indian judiciary which is already overburdened with work,” he says.When asked if he faces problems in executing or delivering judgments, qazi recalls an incident when got a death threat from a man whose wife wanted him to separate from him and he did not want the qazi to rule in his wife’s favour. “He was a wife-beater and there was no scope of reconciliation between the couple. He threatened me of dire consequences but I did what God wants me to do — justice.”Most cases in both Sharia court as well as family courts pertain to divorce matters. In the last one year from October 15, 2015 till October 2, this year, the Sharia court in Delhi has received 63 cases and has handled 621 cases since its inception in 1994. However, the cases that family courts get are much more than Sharia courts. Though family courts get cases from all religious communities, at least 5% of these cases are filed by Muslims, said a prominent divorce lawyer from Delhi, who did not wish to be identified. —Sana Shakil

Zakir Naik case: Why Modi govt shouldn’t let the Salafis preacher play the Muslim card

The Narendra Modi-government’s move to choke funds for the two NGOs run by the controversial preacher, Zakir Naik is an action long overdue, undoubtedly.

As Firstpost has noted before, much caution needs to be exercised on any individual or organisation seeking to promote the idea of religious supremacy in a secular society.

This government is seemingly convinced that Naik’s speeches and the functions of his two NGOs — Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) and IRF Educational Trust — are detrimental to country’s religious harmony and an inspiration to terror elements, hence the action.

Naik’s style of preaching, which is centered around the supremacy of the 7th-century religion and his clandestine calls to wage war against the ‘enemies of Islam’ have allegedly inspired terror elements both in India and abroad.
Two questions arise at this juncture.

File photo of Zakir Naik. Photo: News18File photo of Zakir Naik. Photo: News18

File photo of Zakir Naik. Image courtesy: News18

First, why did the Indian government took so long to acknowledge that Naik is a threat and initiate actions? Going by Naik’s own claims, he has been doing it for some 25 years and the content of his speeches have been pretty much same all along. As this website has reported before, during the UPA-rule, in 2013, a communication had gone to the ministry of home affairs from the then Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, about the potential threat caused by Naik’s speeches. This was based on a complaint submitted at the PMO. But, the matter ended there.

It took the July 2016 Dhaka attacks for the Indian government to wake up to the problem (possibly due to media pressure) and initiate actions against the Islamic preacher. Naik is now a bird flown far away from the cage and is unlikely to return anytime soon. The preacher has even avoided attending his father’s funeral ceremony early this week, fearing arrest. As of now, he is out of reach of Indian agencies.

Also, Naik’s name has been linked not just to Dhaka attacks but even to the cases in Kerala where youth have been brainwashed to join the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Kerala police has claimed that Arshi Qureshi, guest relations officer of Mumbai-based Islamic Research Foundation, had indeed links with the Islamic State. For years, Naik’s NGOs have been receiving foreign aid. Given the findings of the Police, it is quite possible that these funds have been used for such acts. Only a detailed investigation on the money trail can reveal how this money has been utilised.

But, the point here is that had the investigative agencies acted well in advance, things wouldn’t have worsened to this level. This shows how our surveillance mechanisms are still grappling with problem of sheer inefficiency.

The second question is how prepared is the government to proceed from here in this sensitive case. Since the very beginning, Naik has been playing the victim card. He has termed the actions against him as attacks on Muslim community.

True, India’s larger Muslim community (about 172 million of them as per Census 2011 data), except in certain pockets, do not approve his radical, religious fundamental ideas and the idea of religious supremacy. But even then, a failure from the part of the government to corner Naik with a convincing, foolproof case could result in the preacher yet again shielding himself keeping the community in the front. Then, it could lead to more communal issues like one seen in other Muslim dominated areas of the country and could thus become a bigger headache for the Modi-government, which is already facing flak for its alleged pro-Hindu, pro-RSS ideology. It is in this context that the government should send a strong message that extremist elements, be it of any religious background, will be dealt with iron hand like it is currently doing with Naik.

Zakir Naik’s case is a classic example of government and investigators acting too late. And it is too sensitive a case for Modi-government to handle now. In an open letter he released in September, 2016, Naik had warned that if he and his organisation IRF are banned in India, he would be welcomed by other Muslim countries with a “red carpet” and such an action will be the “biggest jolt to the country’s democracy in recent times”. This language is that of a clear warning to the Indian authorities. The government would do well exercising caution while cornering the Salafi preacher.

No more foreign funds for Zakir Naik’s NGO as MHA to revoke FCRA license

New Delhi: Islamic Research Foundation, promoted by controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik, will soon be banned from receiving foreign funds with the Home Ministry initiating the process for cancellation of its FCRA registration by issuing a final show cause notice to the NGO.

The Home Ministry has also started the process for putting another NGO of Naik namely IRF Educational Trust in prior permission category, thus preventing it from receiving any foreign funds without getting nod from the government.

The move came after different investigations found Naik to be “involved” in utilising funds meant for the NGOs for alleged radicalisation of youths and “inspiring” them into terror activities, official sources said.

Interestingly, the IRF’s registration under the Foreign Contribution Regulations Act was renewed in September inadvertently despite multiple probes against Naik, leading to suspension of a Joint Secretary and four other officials in the Home Ministry.

A file photo of Zakir Naik. ReutersA file photo of Zakir Naik. Reuters

A file photo of Zakir Naik. Reuters

Government is also in the process of declaring IRF as an unlawful association under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and a nod from the Union Cabinet is awaited for it.

According to a draft note, which is based on the inputs from Maharashtra Police, Naik, who heads the IRF, has allegedly made many provocative speeches and engaged in terror propaganda.

Maharashtra Police has also registered criminal cases against Naik for his alleged involvement in radicalisation of youths and luring them into terror activities, a source said.

Naik also transferred IRF’s foreign funds to Peace TV for making “objectionable” programmes. Most of the programmes, which were made in India, contained alleged hate speeches of Naik, who had reportedly “urged all Muslims to be terrorists” through Peace TV, sources have claimed.

Naik came under the scanner of the security agencies after Bangladeshi newspaper ‘Daily Star’ reported that one of the perpetrators of the 1 July terror attack in Dhaka, Rohan Imtiaz, ran propaganda on Facebook last year quoting Naik.

The Islamic orator is banned in the UK and Canada for his hate speech aimed against other religions. He is among 16 banned Islamic scholars in Malaysia.

He had been popular in Bangladesh through his Peace TV, although his preachings often demean other religions and even other Muslim sects. The Mumbai-based preacher has not returned to India ever since the controversy erupted.

UCC and triple talaq debate: Media has wholly ignored misreading of religious texts

In the much-hyped debate on the Uniform Civil Code and the Islamic conception of talaq-e-salasa (triple talaq), news media has understated a very crucial point. Just as the landmark developments in law brought about by judicial pronouncements could not receive the required attention of media, the misreading of religious texts has been wholly ignored in the debate.

One thing should be patently clear. It is the self-styled religionists, particularly the priestly class, who are vehemently opposed to equal rights for women. Religion per se is adaptable to and compatible with any civil code providing justice, equality and dignity for women regardless of caste and creed. No religious scripture attaches sanctity to the men who let their womenfolk down. But the current political polemics over religion vs constitution depict a diametrically different phenomenon. The Uniform Civil Code has become such a controversial and confusing issue that it now seems ‘better to be put out of the discussion’. It is only being misused by the political pundits and the male-centred clergy as a ploy to maintain their hegemony.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Inevitably, the evolution of a Uniform Civil Code seems as much of a constitutional quandary as the abolishment of personal laws of religions. Therefore, the first thing that all religious communities need to do is undergo an introspection to make sure whether their personal laws guarantee justice, equality and dignity for all.

In this context, the noted women’s rights lawyer Flavia Agnes has rightly pointed out to the need for uniformity of rights across religion and internal reforms in place of the ‘politicised’ Uniform Civil Code. In her interview to Outlook, Agnes spoke: “What we need is not a Uniform Civil Code but uniformity of rights across different religions. For this we need to follow the premise, “Reform from Within” in the same way Hindu law was reformed, the Christian Law was reformed and the Muslim law has been reformed without invoking any major political controversy. The present controversy is entirely unwarranted and best avoided.”

The Muslim case

However, in keeping with the above line of thinking, I would beg to differ in the Muslim case. Certainly, Hindus and Christians have engaged in an internal reformation over a period of time. But the Muslim masses have hardly been exposed to any such ‘reform from within’, thanks to their clergymen ruling the roost. Politicisation of the personal laws in the Muslim case is an indirect outcome of the whim and fancy of the self-seeking maulvis. Muslim laws could long have been refined and standardised with the Qur’anic injunction of ijtihad (creative rethinking). They too could have been codified as per the necessities of the time. But unlike the codification of the Hindu laws in the post-Independence era, Indian Muslim society kept strictly adhering to the dictates and fatwas of the maulvis. Worst of all, Indian governments, regardless of their political affiliation set their eyes on the electoral benefits amassed from the clerical circles. No political party in India seriously approached the progressive Islamic scholars to debate these issues.

Most importantly, the current Indian establishment, which has lately shown an avowed criticism of the ‘Muslim triple talaq’ and the ‘Hindu female feticide’, is accused of playing out in the communal cauldron of Uttar Pradesh. Let alone the Uniform Civil Code, even if a genuine call for gender justice is raised in a communally vitiated atmosphere, it will turn out a pointless sloganeering with an adverse impact.

The only way forward is to urge all the religious communities and minorities to brainstorm internal ways to ameliorate their personal laws and customary practices. It will involve an undying spirit of bringing in social reform with a gradual process.

Misreading of religious texts

The baffling problem with Muslims is that they are inadvertently buying the misuse and misreading of religious texts by the orthodox maulvis, mostly serving in the mosques as imams. For instance, the concept of Halalah, which finds mention just once in the Qur’an (2: 230), is one of the grossly misconstrued texts in the primary Islamic scripture. In this verse, Qur’an has elucidated a logical procedure of divorce (talaq) commanding the gradual approach in it. But regrettably, it has been abused by the half-educated and male-chauvinist maulvis without penetrating the essence behind this Qur’anic injunction.

First, it was laid down in the contextual historical conditions of the time. Second, Halala implies that it would be Halal (lawful) for the first husband to remarry his divorced wife only after she gets married to another person and gets divorced through the same logical process. But it is a brazen violation of the verse prevailing today that the former husband, knowingly and intentionally, stage-manages the ‘nikah-e- halala’ (marriage of his former wife to another person in a bid to reclaim his reunion with her). And he does it so blatantly without even regretting over his guilt of divorcing his wife. This stands brazenly against the Qur’anic notion of halala. Disgustingly, it degrades the divorced women to the downtrodden status of a sex-object who has to lose her dignity in a one-night stand with a strange man.

Similarly, there is a rampant misreading of the Qur’anic verses (4:2, 3 and 127) pertaining to polygamy. Any insightful person would realise that polygamy in the Qur’an was validated under conditional circumstances. At a time when scores of women in Arabia were widowed with orphaned children, it was only then Qur’an had permitted polygamy. So, it was primarily aimed at safeguarding women and orphaned children living in a beast-like Arabian society. But it is quite difficult for the short-sighted minds of the mullahs to comprehend it today.

The Hindu case

Undeniably, gender discriminatory laws and anti-women provisions are still retained in all religious communities in various forms and fashions. Latest impact studies conducted by well-established researchers confirm that bigamy is still practised by a section of Hindus, in a manner worse than the polygamy in the Muslim society. Since the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 outlaws bigamy and Section 494 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) declares it a punishable act, it exists unofficially in the Hindu society.

Likewise, Census Data 2011 shows that among divorced women in India, 68 percent are Hindu, and 23.3 percent Muslims, as mentioned in this Firstpost article. However, the census reveals that gender skew is particularly sharp among Muslims (79:21), followed by “other religions” (72:28), and Buddhists (70:30).

In some cases, customary practices in the Hindu society are terribly more misogynistic. In Goa, for instance, a Hindu man can remarry if his previous wife does not give birth to a male child till the age of 30 years.

Flavia Agnes has tried to find out the crucial points of the current debate in her interview to Firstpost which carries a detailed legal analysis of the issue. She opines that the UCC debate is not moving in the right direction, as it is mainly focused on the Muslim law and the discriminatory aspects of the Hindu law are not coming into focus. “It is not just law, we also need to examine the Hindu ethos and cultural practices which are anti-women,” she said.

Muslim polygamy vs. Hindu bigamy

In his op-ed article in The Indian Express, Prof Faizan Mustafa, a noted legal analyst and VC of the NALSAR University of Law (Hyderabad), tried to buttress the same point, but in a different way. He contends that polygamous Muslim men are legally bound to provide each wife not only residence but also proper maintenance and equal care as the Qur’an permits polygamy only in exceptional situations with very stringent conditions. “Thus, she is better off in comparison to the ‘second Hindu wife’ who has no legal status or rights… The second Hindu wife cannot even claim maintenance from her husband,” he wrote.

However, there is no need for such fruitless attempts aimed at drawing a parallel between the Muslim polygamy and Hindu bigamy. Instead, it would be expedient to impose conditions first rather than randomly abrogate the personal laws

Polygamy or bigamy for that matter could only be considered as a conditional customary practice. It cannot be retained as an unfettered licence to Muslim or Hindu men. At the same time, all the reactionary arguments justifying the contextual and conditional practices as ‘immutable’ laws of religion need not be given primacy over the constitutional rights of women in India.

Child Marriage

Another major issue plaguing both the Muslim and Hindu personal laws is child marriage. While the retrogressive Muslim clergy still validates this medieval-age practice in India, statistics tell that child marriages in Hindu society outnumber the child marriages among Muslims. Thus, both religious communities have not yet completely shunned the obnoxious practice which the government of India has made unlawful with the prohibition of Child Marriage Act (PCMA) in 2006.

According to the Indian law, if the girl is below age 18 or the boy is below age 21 while getting into the wedlock, it is regarded ‘child marriage’. But Zakir Naik, the influential Islamist preacher with a huge following in India, justified child marriage under the pretext of preaching Shariah. He exhorted: “The only requirement for marriage in Islamic Sharia is that girl and boy both must attain the age of puberty that can occur at age 12, 11 or even 10.”

The Islamist televangelist not only validated the marriage consummated at the age of 9 but also encouraged it as something ‘scientifically, medically and religiously perfect’.

Similarly, child marriage is a common practice in the Indian Hindu society in most rural areas, though the Child Marriage Restraint Act prescribing minimum age of 18 for girls has reduced it among Hindus. Although child marriages are constitutionally banned in India, but they are not declared unlawful once they actually happen. The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act does prevent the marriages of minor children but the Constitution actually has no definite provisions to this end. Even though the Act recommends punishment for those involved in a child marriage, but it does not completely declare child marriage null and void.

The author is a scholar of Comparative Religion, Classical Arabic and Islamic sciences, cultural analyst and researcher in Media and Communication Studies. Views are personal. He tweets at @GRDehlvi. Email: [email protected]

The minority reports

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Earlier this week, reports surfaced of a Rajasthan man who allegedly drugged and forced his wife to sleep with a friend to pay off a gambling debt. Later, when charged with rape and cheating, he claimed immunity under the Islamic concept of nikah halala.Halala refers to a practice where if a divorced couple wants to get back together, the woman must first consummate a marriage with a second man, and can only go back to her first husband if the second one either divorces her or dies. Except in this case, the couple had continued living together even after the husband had divorced her using triple talaq.In an environment where the air is thick with talk of a Uniform Civil Code, it is cases like these that arouse passions on both sides of the debate. The Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) is currently fighting a case in the Supreme Court to ban practices such as triple talaq and halala and to bring about reforms in Muslim personal law they say go against women’s rights.Leaders from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu, have framed the argument for an UCC in terms of women’s dignity and equal rights under law. However, almost no politicians from the ruling party have addressed the fears of minorities about possible dilution of their religious and cultural practices under a UCC.The idea of an UCC, of course, goes back to the very beginnings of the Indian republic, and perhaps even before that.During the deliberations of the Constituent Legislative Assembly, the idea was first raised by a section of the writers of the Indian Constitution but was rejected, primarily by Hindu leaders, over fears it would wreck the traditional family structures.It finally found a home, not in the enforceable part of the Constitution but in the Directive Principles, which essentially left it to the states to resolved it. Dr BR Ambedkar, widely credited with the framing of the Constitution, resigned as Law Minister over the failure of the codification of the Hindu personal law.Article 44 of the Indian Constitution on UCC states that “The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India,” but there has been practically no movement on that front from anyone; Goa, which joined the Indian Union in 1961, retained a common civil law that had been put in place by the Portuguese government.”At the end, every law has to have acceptance in the society. Its implementation is based on that,” said Justice JS Bhatia, a former Bombay High Court judge.But more than mere acceptance, the lack of a push for UCC has been driven primarily by a lack of clarity on what the standard will be, leading to fear among minority communities that the ways of the majority will be imposed on them.A landmark reversalThe year 1985 marked the turning of the tide for UCC, the year that it re-entered the national mindspace, thanks to a Supreme Court ruling and subsequent political decisions. Sixty-three-year-old Shah Bano had been divorced by her husband of forty years verbally by uttering talaq thrice. Destitute, she finally won a maintenance suit against him in the Supreme Court. However, this was also seen as an encroachment into the religiously-sanctioned practices of a minority community. Under pressure from Islamic orthodoxy, the then Rajiv Gandhi government overturned the apex court’s ruling by passing the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986. This then led to further allegations that the Congress Party under the otherwise reforms-minded PM continued to indulge in so-called ‘minority appeasement’.Now, with the Law Commission recommending that the government study anew the possibility of enacting a Uniform Civil Code, the dominant discourse has shifted from maintenance/alimony to the very practice of triple talaq itself.The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), however, has alleged that the UCC is being imposed on the pretext of the women’s group petitioning the Supreme Court on triple talaq.The whole UCC brouhaha was kicked off after the apex court recommended that the government should take a look at implementing it while deciding a divorce case for a Christian couple that had to wait for two years under the Canon law.Father Nigel Barrett, spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Bombay said, “In the case of the community, civil law takes precedence over Canon law. In the case of the two-year period for divorce, that is for both men and women and the idea is that they can reconcile. A committee is working on it to see if it should be a one-year period.”Many faiths, many lawsWhat has been missed in the entire debate is that an UCC will affect not just Muslims, but other minorities as well.Besides personal laws of other religions like Parsis, there are different customs or laws even in the Hindu community. There is the matriarchal system (Marumakkathayam law) of marriage in parts of Kerala, which is also followed by Muslims.”Besides the matriarchal law, the tribals have their own protective laws,” says Justice Bhatia. “The government will have to place before its people how it envisions UCC.”He adds that the government must tell citizens in a transparent way what its vision for the UCC is. “It is easy to say but difficult to make a uniform law,” he saysAlready, other minorities are voicing their concerns.BH Antia, partner at Mulla & Mulla & Craigie Blunt & Caroe advocates, considered a conservative voice in the Parsi community is one such, says “One must remember that no law is perfect without an exception. So generally, the questions (in the Law Commissions questionnaire) are OK but we have to provide exceptions in some cases.”Among the prominent exceptions he argues for Parsis are adoption and entry into fire temples. “The number of members of the Parsi community is less than 70,000. Under those circumstances, if there is a uniform code of adoption, then more non-Parsis will be adopted and the original Parsis will be submerged. Moreover, Parsis believe that Parsis are born as Parsis and not created by adoption by someone. Therefore, the present Parsi law does not allow adoption which as provided under Hindu law,” he says.He is also opposed to entry to Parsi Fire Temples to non-Parsis, because it is already restricted to Parsi Zoroastrians who wear Sudreh and Kusti.Interestingly, the Parsi community had, along with Muslims, opposed the Adoption Bill in the 1970s when the Indira Gandhi government tried to introduce it. “The community, along with Muslims, opposed it back then,” said Jehangir Patel, editor of Parsiana, a community magazine.Like Parsis, Muslims too are averse to adoption. The Muslim community, which has been most vocal on UCC, also opposes a common law on other issues, such as polygamy, rights of women—on which the UCC questionnaire was based—other aspects of marriage, and succession, among others.”They talk of rights of women but they have not studied Islam. The kind of rights Islam provides, no other community does,” says Maulana Ather Ali, member of the executive committee of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB). “When there are so many issues like inflation, terrorism, unemployment staring at the nation, what is the pressing hurry to have UCC? At the end of the day, it is only a directive principle that encourages the state to have a common civil code!”As for the future, Ali says the government needs to first produce a blueprint of the UCC. “If the best practices are to be had of each religion, let them give an outline first,” he saysSikh, Jain and Buddhist communities, all of whom are governed by Hindu law, have also sought separate codification. While most of their present practices are in line with the law, community leaders have asked for more clarification from the government before they can give more inputs on codification.Within Jainism, says Dr Bipin Doshi, founder of the chair in Jainology at University of Mumbai, “In case of Santhara, the communities tradition is in sync with most religions. In case of Bal Diksha, there could be problem.”Similarly, in Kerala, Marumakkathayam, a matriarchal and matrilineal system is being dismantled, says Suresh Nair, a Mumbai businessman with roots in Kerala.Other communities, too, have apprehensions, including Sikhs who worry whether the Saptapadi marriage system will overtake the Anand Marriage Act. Others who wonder if burying their dead will change to cremation, or still others who fear the Islamic nikah will be replaced by Hindu rituals for marriages.Let there be reforms firstIrrespective of their stance, those troubled by their community’s personal laws say these should be reformed first, irrespective of whether an UCC is enacted.”We are against the Uniform Civil Code. Muslim personal law first needs to be codified like other personal laws of different communities,” says Zakia Soman, co-convenor of the BMMA that has filed the petition against triple talaq and polygamy, among other issues, and has also taken up the case of the Rajasthan woman who was raped by her husband’s friend.”If the laws are codified, most of the things will anyway be implemented that women are not getting as their rights. They will be getting rights that are in harmony with what Constitution has guaranteed them,” says Soman, adding that the UCC issue will only delay the codification process.Goolrookh Gupta, member of the Parsi community was of the other view. Fighting a case against her community for the rights of access for women outside marriage to enter the Tower of Silence, she said “The Uniform Civil Code is important for our country. With so many religions, once we get that (UCC), no trust or head priest or religious organisation with orthodox views can take advantage of the situation and be unfair to women. Gender equality is very important.”

Azam Khan criticises PM Modi over ‘Jai Shree Ram’ slogan

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Uttar Pradesh minister Azam Khan has criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for raising ‘Jai Shree Ram’ slogan at the Dussehra function, saying that the PM belonged to the nation and should have raised slogans of all religions.”He belongs to all…he should also have raised Allah-u- Akbar, Waheguru ji ka Khalsa ….,” Khan told reporters here last night. Modi in his address at the Dussehra function in Lucknow had started his speech with ‘Jai Shree Ram’ slogan.Taking exception to Modi’s stance on ‘triple talaq’, Khan said that he will not allow any injustice to Muslim women but “how talaq has to be given, how marriages will be conducted and how namaz has to be offered, are matter which will be decided as per the Personal law”. He also opposed BJP’s move to build a Ramayana museum in Ayodhya.

SC defers hearing of plea challenging Sonia Gandhi’s election from Rae Bareli

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday deferred hearing of a plea challenging Sonia Gandhi‘s election from Rae Bareli Lok Sabha constituency in 2014 on the issue of her citizenship and for allegedly playing the communal card to garner Muslim votes.

File image of Sonia Gandhi. PTI

File image of Sonia Gandhi. PTI

A bench headed by Justice AR Dave said a seven-judge Constitution bench was already hearing a matter on a similar issue and therefore it will not be appropriate to take a view in this matter now.

“Similar issue is being dealt with by a seven-judge Constitution bench. Let that issue be decided. Then we can take up this matter. We are not passing any orders. If we take a view in this matter, then it will not be appropriate as larger bench is hearing the issue,” the bench said.

The Allahabad High Court had on 11 July dismissed a petition filed under the Representation of People Act, 1951 with costs and held that the election petition lacked material facts and did not constitute a complete cause of action. On the plea that Gandhi has committed “corrupt practice” by allegedly seeking Muslim votes, the high court had said it should be shown that the act was done during the election campaign between the date of her candidature and the poll and she should have committed the act herself or through her agent or any other person with her consent to appeal for votes on ground of her religion.

The election petition filed by one Ramesh Singh contended that Sonia Gandhi has dual citizenship, as she is an Italian citizen by birth and the Italian law does not allow dual citizenship.

He had also sought that her election from Rae Bareli be set aside as void and as she allegedly had got an appeal made to Muslim voters through the Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid to vote for her and her party, the Indian National Congress, ahead of elections, which amounted to corrupt practice.

The high court had said the allegation of corrupt practice was based on news channel reports which were of no value if it is without any further proof of what had actually happened. It had said that these reports cannot be taken into consideration unless it is accompanied by the statement of the reporter who voiced the news report in the TV channels.

India slams Organization of Islamic Cooperation for raking up Kashmir issue

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In a sharp reaction, India on Wednesday slammed the OIC, an influential grouping of Muslim countries, for making “misleading references” to the Kashmir issue during its conclave, saying the bloc has no locus standi to comment on India’s internal matters.A meeting of Foreign Ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Tashkent, in a resolution, severely criticised India for ongoing violence in Kashmir Valley and said it was deeply concerned at the “alarming” increase in the “indiscriminate use” of force.”We note with extreme regret that the OIC has again chosen to comment on India’s internal affairs during the 43rd Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers held in Uzbekistan on October 18-19,” External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said. He said certain resolutions adopted at the conclusion of the session contain “factually incorrect and misleading references” to matters internal to India, including Jammu and Kashmir which is an integral part of India.”We outrightly reject all such references,” he said, adding OIC has no locus standi to comment on India’s internal affairs.”We further advise the OIC to refrain from making such references in future,” he said.In the resolution, the OIC said it condemned use of force to quell protests in the aftermath of killing of Burhan Wani and called upon the international community to “break its deadly silence” over situation in Kashmir.

Uniform Civil Code will not be brought by back door, not without consensus, assures Venkaiah Naidu

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Uniform Civil Code (UCC) will not be brought through the back door and without a consensus, says Information and Broadcasting Minister M Venkaiah Naidu who rejects the charge that contentious issues have been raked up by BJP to polarise elections, especially in Uttar Pradesh.Issues like triple talaq, civil code and Ram temple will not be used by BJP for political mileage in the upcoming elections, says the Minister who asserts that they will be fought on development agenda. Holding that such crucial issues should not be looked through prism of electoral benefit, the Chief Spokesperson of the government also rejects opposition criticism that surgical strikes were being politicised. “The Government does not consider it (triple talaq) as a religious matter. It is a question of gender sensitivity. It is wrong to say that we are interfering in Muslim issues.”The same Indian Parliament, the same political system had brought Hindu Code Bill, Divorce Act, banning Hindu Marriage Act, banning dowry and Sati practice, all these things are done by Indian Parliament,” Naidu told PTI in an interview. Making it clear that broad consensus will be required for bringing Uniform Civil Code, he said the allegations that Triple Talaq is a backdoor entry for the UCC was unjustified. “We are not discussing about the common civil code or uniform civil code as of now. The Law Commission has issued a questionnaire and asked people to react.”You cannot have a uniform Civil Code without a broad consensus. You have to work and move in that direction,” he said hoping that the Supreme Court will come out with the right decision on the issue of triple talaq. Naidu said these sensitive issues should not be linked to polls as the elections are like festivals in India which keep coming now and then.Defending the government affidavit in the Supreme Court on triple talaq issue, he said nobody then said it (Sati) was a Hindu practice that government was interfering in that. “Somebody might have said it also. But in collective wisdom, the entire country has moved further. We have reformed ourselves. Similarly, when the practice is going on which is discriminatory, which is doing injustice to women, we think it should end,” Naidu said.He said it was Muslim women and organisations which were demanding end of triple talaq who had gone to the Supreme Court. Referring to Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution that speaks against discrimination, the Minister said, “The Government of India wants every religion, every personal law to be in accordance with that. And if the society transforms itself, it”s always better.”Naidu said divesting a woman by simply, saying talaq three times was totally against the principles of natural justice and the practise must end. “This debate was not started by us. Somebody went to court and the Supreme Court while discussing the issue wanted to know the views of the Government. And the government has filed an affidavit saying that our view is that triple talaq is unjust, unfair, uncivilised and saying it must come to an end.”That”s what we have said. How is it connected with UP elections,” he said.

Intolerance 2.0: What Shabana Azmi’s tirade reveals about the new strategy of ‘liberals’

The Ae Dil Hai Mushkil kerfuffle and the positioning of narratives around it remind me of a joke we frequently ran into while attending exams as badly unprepared students. It talked of an unfortunate learner who went into the exam hall expecting an essay on ‘funeral pyre’ but found one on ‘cows’ instead. Not to be outdone, the plucky student introduced in his essay a cow which had died and upon its death was taken to a burning ghat. The rest fell into place.

Shabana Azmi. Image courtesy CNN-News18Shabana Azmi. Image courtesy CNN-News18

Shabana Azmi. Image courtesy CNN-News18

MNS chief Raj Thackeray‘s bullying ways have given a section of our ‘liberals’, who still have immense difficulty in accepting Narendra Modi as India’s Prime Minister, one more chance to bare their fangs. The unfolding of events since Karan Johar posted a video message leave no space for doubt that we are witnessing a revival of the phony ‘intolerance’ debate. And Intolerance 2.0 is being spearheaded by the same set of ‘intellectuals’, the tiny yet powerful elite whose sway over the narrative is matched only by its savage intolerance and callous disregard for facts.

As always, the narrative is being spun through a clever conflation of facts and myths. The springboard is a regional party’s thuggish exploitation of the nationalism debate to haul itself out of obscurity. This isn’t the first time MNS has indulged in hafta politics nor will it be the last. Opportunism is the hallmark of politicians and the Indians do it perhaps with less finesse than others.

We have seen how Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar or Bengal’s ruling party the TMC have tried to stonewall Muslim women’s call for gender justice by conflating the triple talaq debate with common civil code to trigger alarmism among the Muslim community. We have seen how Congress vice-president rush to the JNU to show solidarity with subversive sloganeering. We have seen how anti-corruption crusader Arvind Kejriwal hug Lalu Prasad Yadav on stage.

Raj Thackeray‘s attempt to extort moviemakers or narrow down the definition of patriotism to the extent that it could be used as a beating stick is an abominable act that should be condemned in the strictest of terms. But to conflate MNS chief’s narrow hooliganism with the larger debate around nationalism and to assign conspiratorial motives to the government to build the familiar narrative of intolerance requires a special type of skill.

Noted economist and author Sanjeev Sanyal, in his column for Project Syndicate (Taming India’s Elite), writes: “India has a population of 1.2 billion people, but it has long been dominated by a tiny elite: a couple of hundred extended families, totaling perhaps 4,000-5,000 people. Many countries have powerful elites with outsize influence, but in India, dynastic elites control the top echelons in every sphere of public life: politics, business, the media, and even Bollywood.

“Many of these dynasties have roots that stretch back to the colonial era, implying at least seven decades of dominance. Every point of leverage – from government contracts and industrial licenses to national awards – is used to maintain this ecosystem of power.”

Bollywood actor Shabana Azmi, who had earlier called the award wapsi campaign (spearheaded by Jawaharlal Nehru’s niece, 88-year-old writer Nayantara Sahgal) a “symbolic gesture against rising intolerance”, has now accused Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis of colluding with Raj Thackeray and “buying patriotism for Rs 5 crore.”

In an interview with NDTV‘s Barkha Dutt, the noted actor slammed the role of RSS, brought sensational charges of backroom dealing between MNS chief Thackeray and Maharashtra CM Fadnavis and saw signs of a terrifying new reality against which she urged the ‘silent majority’ to raise its voice or be a frog in boiling water.

Azmi is more than entitled to her views and right to dissent. But as a responsible public figure, one expects her arguments to be based on facts. Many of the theories she propounds during the interview, however, flies in the face of facts as we shall presently examine.

To a question on whether the film industry failed to rise against a bully, Azmi said: “A lot of money goes into the making of a film. When a person is taking a stand against the establishment, he is putting at risk all the various people involved with him into the making of the film… It’s about a lack of confidence that we have in our law enforcing agencies.”

Now let’s see the whether the government, both at the Centre and the state, were guilty of abdicating their responsibilities. In an unusual move, not only did the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh meet the Producers Guild and assured safe passage for Johar’s ADHM, CM Fadnavis cracked the whip and arrested 12 MNS members who were sent to judicial custody until 4 November.

Azmi, however, saw it as Sangh Parivar’s penchant for doublespeak and went on to bring charges of political collusion between Fadnavis and Thackeray “because everybody gains from this.”

“The fact is that there have been instances in the past where there have been political parties and goons who have said that we will not a film to be released and they have been firmly put in their place which is exactly what should have happened.”

It stretches credulity that Azmi is unaware of how MNS had targeted Bollywood in the past and how those instances were eventually settled.

She may recall that in 2008-09, when the Congress was in power in Maharashtra, MNS “banned” all forthcoming films of Amitabh Bachchan and his family members to ostensibly protest against Jaya Bachchan’s “anti-Marathi’ utterances at a film function. The party threatened to create mayhem unless Jaya tendered “unconditional apology”.

As Reuters reported on 11 September 2008, posters of Amitabh’s film The Last Lear were ripped off and a theatre screening the film vandalised, forcing its producers to call off the premiere. Thackeray called off his boycott only after Amitabh tendered multiple apologies through his blog and at a news conference. Does this sound as if Congress government “put Raj firmly in place”?

Then in 2009, once again under Congress ruling, MNS workers protested outside theatres in Maharashtra, demanding that ‘Bombay’ be renamed ‘Mumbai’ in Karan Johar’s Wake Up Sid. Johar eventually apologised for the “mistake” and agreed to bring back the film reels and re-dub Bombay to Mumbai.

So will Azmi bring charges of collusion against MNS and Congress? Where there any backroom deals under way then?

It is nobody’s case that a ruffian can hold a state machinery to ransom. But Azmi would know that just she has every right to dissent against the government, political parties, too, have the right to stage protests. It isn’t as if the state was watching in rapt admiration when Thackeray unleashed his goons. So the basis on which she fields a theory of “collusion” isn’t clear.

Azmi then launched an elaborate tirade against banning of Pakistani artists.

“By banning film actors from Pakistan is the Kashmir problem going to be solved? Is any problem going to be solved at all?”

Once again, it isn’t clear what she meant because the Centre, through foreign secretary S Jaishankar, has made it clear that people-to-people connect will continue and the home ministry has said India has no problems in issuing visas to Pakistani artists.

So whom was Azmi venting her frustration at?

On why Karan Johar did meet the MNS when the CM had promised security, Azmi floated another theory but in doing so, based it on a giant leap of faith.

“I do not think it is simple as it looks. Karan would have been very reassured after the HM assured safe passage. Something else has transpired which we have not been able to see. And it is on the basis of that that Karan had to approach the CM. Isn’t that apparent?”

During a meeting with a few journalists following the controversy, Fadnavis clarified that Guild “did not want to meet Thackeray at his residence and asked if I would hold the meeting here. Since I was keen on a resolution of the issue, I agreed.”

He further said: “The Guild approached me to discuss the problem with MNS. At the meeting, I made it very clear that the government will not compromise on law and order. I cited the fact that my police force had cracked the whip against 12 MNS activists and would do the same if they took the law in their hands.”

To this, Azmi said: “Ha ha ha ha. How innocent! I don’t buy that for a second.”

On the interviewer’s prompt that Fadnavis said it was Johar who volunteered for the donation, not Raj Thackeray, Azmi said: “I don’t believe it. I don’t believe it at all. I think to even ask of such a thing is very insulting to the army. And I am very proud of the army.”

It is absolutely fantastic the way she shows absolute certainty in her arguments that stretch all boundaries of imagination. She appears dismissive of facts and spins elaborate conspiracy theories with the deftness of a Ludhianvi Shayari.

Triple talaq an internal Muslim issue, says RSS

Hyderabad: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) on Tuesday said the issue of triple talaq was an internal matter for Muslims but made it clear that the RSS was against gender bias.

Representational image. Agency

Representational image. Agency

RSS General Secretary Suresh Joshi said the Muslim community was discussing the issue of triple talaq.

Bhaiyyaji, as he is popularly known, was talking to reporters on the final day of a three-day all India executive council meeting here.

He pointed that it was the Muslim women who moved the court seeking justice.

“Any kind of gender based injustice is not good in this modern world. We wish they get justice. The courts must also consider this issue humanely,” he said.

On Uniform Civil Code, he said the issue had been debated for long and the RSS had taken a clear stand that the law must stop any kind of discrimination.

“There can be issues of some traditions but if they are disturbing the cultural fabric of the society, then the law must interfere and end it,” he said.

Denying that the issue of Ram Mandir was being raised for electoral gains in Uttar Pradesh, Bhaiyyaji said the Hindu community desired a grand Ram temple in Ayodhya.

“But to do this first all legal issues have to be cleared.”

The RSS leader said that BJP President Amit Shah addressed the Sangh conclave.

Without making a direct comment on the functioning of the Modi government, he said the RSS as a responsible organization in a democratic set-up had a right to review the functioning of the government.

Calling for protection of Gourakshaks, Bhaiyyaji said cow protection was not just an emotional issue but related with the rural economy of the nation.

“Cow must be protected, Gourakshaks must get protection and specifically there must be efforts to protect and save local cow breeds,” he added.

Asked about the ban on Pakistani artists in India, he said while the RSS believed that art had no boundaries, these were rare conditions and hence they welcome the ban.

RSS polarising Kerala with political and communal violence, claims CPM

New Delhi: The CPI(M) on Tuesday accused RSS of engaging in politics of violence to sharpen communal polarisation in Muslim-dominated pockets of Northern Kerala and described the tactic as a “standard” practice the Sangh resorts to spread its wings.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

“The RSS seeks through such politics of violence and terror to sharpen communal polarisation in predominantly Muslim populated areas of northern Kerala to increase its following amongst people. These are standard RSS tactics,” the CPI(M) Politburo said in a statement.

The Politburo sought to refute RSS’ allegation that the CPI(M) had launched violence against Sangh workers, saying the charges are part of the Goebbelsian tactics the RSS-BJP combine “always” resorts to “propagate a lie as truth” by repeating it hundred times.

The truth, the Politburo said, is the “other way round” and accused the RSS of killing five Left workers and injuring 300 others in Kerala ever since Pinarayi Vijayan government was formed in the state.

“Every single judicial commission of enquiry into communal riots all over the country since independence has severely indicted the RSS and their role in perpetuating communal polarisation through violence and terror.

“…while it is clear that it is the RSS which is mounting large-scale attacks against the CPI(M) all over Kerala, it is fallaciously seeking to portray itself as the victim,” it added.

The CPI(M) also forewarned that the RSS appears determined to continue with its violence against it given the Sangh allegedly refused to hold talks with the state’s ruling party to restore peace and harmony in the areas concerned.

“The RSS bluff shall be called. The people of Kerala and the entire country are determined to defeat such diabolical politics of the BJP,” it said.

Najeeb didn’t just vanish: Why are JNU authorities not showing any sense of urgency?

It is tempting to pillory Kanhaiya Kumar and the other four high profiles of his tribe namely Umar Khalid, Anirban Bhattacharya, Rama Naga, Anant Prakash and Ashutosh Kumar for being relatively insipid in their role to find Najeeb Ahmed the student who has disappeared from JNU. But the higher priority would be to ensure his safety and get him back from wherever he is.

Former JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar. PTIFormer JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar. PTI

Former JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar. PTI

While Najeeb’s sister is playing the dominant role in the search or at least the call for it and in between slogan shouting and a few sundry gheraos and protest marches there is a sluggish texture to the usually vociferous JNU crowd who made headlines earlier this year with their controversial seminar at the Press Club in New Delhi, the general slowness of the investigation is patently obvious.

There is also the needless rant from Shehla Rashid a former vice president of the JNU Students Union who asks Kanhaiya why nothing is being done by him?

In parts, like the curate’s egg, it is a good question. How much is being done by anybody to find a young man who was seen being beaten up by a mob of ABVP goons, then dragged to the vice chancellor’s office and roughed up again as no one intervened.

Where did he go from there? The odds that rubbernecking students did not hang around to see what would happen next are very low. So when Najeeb came out of the office did he walk to his room, run to the gate, get into a car, be kidnapped, where were all the brave souls that inhabit this especially green grove of academe? Teachers, students, security staff. Did his friends not help him out at the time of his distress? Simply demanding to put more pressure on the police hardly comes off as concerted action.

Who were these ABVP guys, they are not incognito, surely in this huge span of time their post-mob frenzy period should produce cast-iron alibis. Where did each of you go next?

Najeeb could not just have vanished into thin air. One would opt for the scenario that he has gone into hiding for fear of his life but then at least in this hi-tech age he would have communicated his whereabouts to his family and the sister’s stress factor does not indicate this. And that makes it worrying because he could be incapacitated.

Is there any specific reason why the police have not been able to follow the trail despite having 12 suspects in custody?

With ten days since the young man vanished the trail, so to speak, is cold as ice. One can only conclude that Najeeb is either in another city with friends and relatives and has sought refuge and has got in touch with his immediate family but pushed them into silence. If that does not work for you has he been abducted by more goons and, if so, from where…his room, from under a tree, the hospital or clinic if he went there to have his wounds dressed, it is just not possible to have others involved in the scenario and go missing without leaving some eyewitnesses behind.

After you have been thrashed you either go for comfort, refuge or medical assistance. You don’t walk off into the wilderness without anyone knowing.

Certainly, the macabre thought comes to mind that the silence is ominous and God forbid does not indicate a much worse development. Until there is a body this option must lie on the side of the table.

I don’t think most people care whether the student is Hindu, Muslim or zebra striped. He is missing and he has to be found. Letting this mystery stay unresolved is not acceptable and there seems to be a lid on the outrage.

I watched the former spearhead of the JNU Kanhaiya Kumar give a sort of limp wristed speech to a crowd of farmers where he has supposed to have made the first mention of the disappearance. Wrong crowd, not much zest.

Curiously, even the media seems to be dragging its feet on this one and with the second week nearly coming to a conclusion since Najeeb was last seen the story for lack of a feed is slipping off the pages.

It will be a cruel shame if the Najeeb saga has no ending.

Come on, people, somebody saw something, somebody knows what happened…time to end the agony.

Activists hail Haji Ali Trust’s stand, call it a boost to women’s rights movement

Mumbai: Lawyers and activists on Monday hailed the Haji Ali Dargah Trust’s stand in the Supreme Court that it will allow female worshippers to enter the sanctum sanctorum of the famous shrine here, calling it a boost to women’s rights movement and victory for Constitution.

Haji Ali Dargah. CNN-News18

Haji Ali Dargah. CNN-News18

Gender equality campaigner Trupti Desai termed the decision of the Trust as a “victory of women worshippers and Indian Constitution”. The Desai-led outfit Bhumata Ranragini Brigade had started a campaign against gender bias at various religious
places, including Haji Ali Dargah.

“Due to pressure of the Supreme Court and women organisations fighting against gender bias, the trustees of Haji Ali Dargah had to take this decision,” Desai told PTI. Human rights activist and lawyer Abha Singh termed the development as “a boost to women’s rights movement” and said it is a clear message that women cannot be chained.

“This is a clear message to all misogynistic elements that you cannot chain women anymore. It’s a boost to women’s rights movement. Haji Ali Dargah Trust, by agreeing to allow women to enter the sanctum sanctorum, has upheld the superiority of Constitution,” she said.

“The Bombay High Court had clearly said the entry ban violated Articles 14, 15 and 25 of Constitution which gave women right to equality and prohibited all forms of discrimination,” she pointed out. The SC has granted four weeks time to the Trust to make requisite infrastructural and other changes for compliance of the Bombay High Court order lifting ban on women from entering the core area of the renowned Muslim shrine in South Mumbai.

Suhail Khandwani, a trustee of the Dargah, said a meeting of the management and others, including architects and advocates, will be convened soon to facilitate entry of women in the inner area.

Khandwani claimed the shrine’s doors were always open for women, but treasury boxes put up near the sanctum sanctorum acted as barriers for their entry. “Women’s entry was already allowed with separate entrance and exit for male and female worshippers. A few boxes were placed which blocked the view of the sanctum sanctorum and became missing link between women and the sanctorum. These boxes will be shifted, paving the way for women’s entry again,” he said.

Khandwani said Islam as well as Constitution speaks about gender equality. The Dargah, situated on an islet 500 metres away from the coast, courted controversy in 2012 when shrine management suddenly put curbs on women from entering the core worship area.

Activists across all faiths, NGOs and Muslim women had launched movements opposing the ban and challenged the decision in the HC.

PM Modi denounces triple talaq; Congress against hasty steps

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Breaking his silence on the hugely contentious issue of triple talaq, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday denounced the practice among Muslims and deprecated attempts to politicise the issue.”Now the issue of talaq has come up. Just like if any Hindu commits female foeticide he will have to go to jail, similarly what is the crime of my Muslim sisters that someone says talaq over phone and her life is destroyed,” he said addressing a “Maha Parivartan Rally” here in the Bundelkhand region in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh. Urging TV news channels to not turn triple talaq into an issue of Hindu versus Muslim or BJP versus other parties, Modi said that in its submission to the Supreme Court, the central government had clearly stated that there should not be any atrocity on women and there should be no discrimination on the basis of religion.”In democracy, there should be discussion. The government has put forward its position. Those who want to digress from triple talaq are instigating people…in the country, lives of Muslim women cannot be allowed to be ruined by triple talaq,” he said. In his speech, the Prime Minister asked the audience whether the rights of Muslim women should be protected or not and whether they should get equal rights or not? “I am surprised that some political parties of the country in their lust for vote bank are hell-bent upon committing injustice to women in the 21st century. What kind of justice is this?”Politics and elections have their own place but getting Muslim women their rights as per the Constitution is the responsibility of the government and the people of the country,” he said. Asking the media to not turn the issue of triple talaq as a matter between the government and the opposition, Modi said, “The debate should be between knowledgeable persons from Muslim community knowing ‘Quran’. In Muslim community, knowledgeable and progressive people are there.There are educated Muslim women who can put their views forth.” “When you do TV debate do not turn it into Hindu-Muslim issues. Debate should be between those who want change in Muslim society and those who do not want 125 crore Indians to know what is the issue,” the Prime Minister said.Congress against hasty steps:”While we stand for equality and fair treatment for women, no hasty step should be taken which may lead to a feeling of alienation amongst any community,” party spokesman R P N Singh told reporters.He said all progressive steps need to be taken after wide consultation with those “who would be affected and after explaining their viewpoints”.Besides, he said, for changing the personal law of any community, an atmosphere of trust and confidence needs to be built and different views taken on board.He said the matter should not be politicised. He said the issue is pending in the Supreme Court and everyone should respect the judgment of the Court.The Congress’ statement comes on a day Prime Minister Narendra Modi, breaking his silence on the hugely-contentious issue, denounced the practice among Muslims and deprecated attempts to politicise it. “While we stand for equality and fair treatment for women, no hasty step should be taken which may lead to a feeling of alienation amongst any community,” party spokesman R P N Singh told reporters. He said all progressive steps need to be taken after wide consultation with those “who would be affected and after explaining their viewpoints”.Besides, he said, for changing the personal law of any community, an atmosphere of trust and confidence needs to be built and different views taken on board. He said the matter should not be politicised. He said the issue is pending in the Supreme Court and everyone should respect the judgment of the Court. The Congress’ statement comes on a day Prime Minister Narendra Modi, breaking his silence on the hugely-contentious issue, denounced the practice among Muslims and deprecated attempts to politicise it.

Haji Ali Trust bypassed Bombay High Court order instead of implementing it: Petitioner’s lawyer

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Following the Haji Ali Dargah Trust’s decision to grant access to the shrine’s sanctum sanctorum on Monday, Advocate RA Moray said that the trust had bypassed the Bombay High Court’s order instead of implementing it.Moray, who argued the case in the High Court for petitioners Noorjehan Niaz and Zakia Soman, said, “Not allowing access to men in order to bring them on par with women is not the same as allowing access to women on par with men, and it certainly cannot be termed as ‘restoration of the status quo ante’ as directed by the High Court on August 26. The High Court order is thus being bypassed rather than implemented.”Moray was referring to the Trust’s additional affidavit submitted in the Supreme Court on Monday. The affidavit says that now, both men and women would not be allowed to touch the mazhar (mausoleum) in the sanctum sanctorum of the shrine. Only the khadims of the shrine would have permission to touch it.”The Trust’s idea of ‘gender justice’ is obviously different from ours, though technically it may be in consonance with the Constitutional right to equality,” Moray added.The shrine’s Trust on Monday told the Supreme Court that women will be granted access to the sanctum sanctorum of the Haji Ali in Mumbai on par with men, and sought four weeks to make the requisite infrastructural changes.Senior advocate Gopal Subramanium, appearing for the trust, said an additional affidavit had been filed on behalf of the Dargah trust, saying it was willing to allow women inside the shrine. A bench comprising Chief Justice TS Thakur and Justices DY Chandrachud and L Nageswara Rao granted time asked for to the trust and disposed off its appeal against the Bombay High Court order asking it to give equal access to women also.BackgroundThe Bombay High Court had allowed a PIL filed by two women, Zakia Soman and Noorjehan Niaz, from NGO Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, challenging the ban on women’s entry into the sanctum sanctorum of the dargah from 2012.The High Court on August 26 had held that the ban imposed by the Trust on women from entering the sanctum sanctorum of the Haji Ali Dargah, contravened Articles 14, 15 and 25 of the Constitution and said women should be permitted to enter the sanctum sanctorum like men.The Trust moved the apex court challenging the Bombay High Court order lifting the ban on women from entering the sanctum sanctorum of the renowned Muslim shrine in South Mumbai.The apex court, on October 17, had extended the stay granted by Bombay High Court to facilitate an appeal against its decision to lift the ban on entry of women near the sanctum sanctorum of the Dargah in Mumbai.With inputs from Mustafa Plumber and PTI.

Let’s break cycle of SP-BSP to make UP ‘Uttam Pradesh’: PM Modi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Cornering the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday urged the nation to break the cycle of the two parties to make Uttar Pradesh an Uttam Pradesh’.”The Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party both loot in their own turns, and when the other comes to power they never take action against the other. SP-BSP-BSP-SP. The power keeps shifting, and in this game, this land never reached its potential. You have faced enough. If you want to escape this trap then you need to get out of this trap of Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party. Let’s break the cycle of SP-BSP and choose instead to make Uttar Pradesh an ‘Uttam Pradesh’,” Prime Minister Modi said while addressing a rally in Mahoba, a district in Bundelkhand here.Escalating his attack on the Samajwadi Party, the Prime Minister said the farmers in Mahoba have faced grave injustice as this land is capable of reaping gold but farmers got no water.”Earlier I used to ask people from Bundelkhand in Gujarat if they were from Uttar Pradesh or Madhya Pradesh. They all used to say Uttar Pradesh then I stopped asking. Because then I realised that had these people been from Madhya Pradesh they wouldn’t have to come all the way to Gujarat for employment,” he added.Expressing confidence, Prime Minister Modi said the people would give absolute majority to the Bharatiya Janata Party in the upcoming Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections.Taking a jibe at both the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party, the Prime Minister said: “On one side, there are those who want to save their family. On the other side, there are those who just want power. While, we are those who just want to save Uttar Pradesh. This land of Uttar Pradesh is our mother, and we won’t let our mother be looted anymore.”Money was provided to Bundelkhand for some projects, and yet no work was done here…you will be very sad to hear this.Stating that Uttar Pradesh has given many Prime Ministers to the nation, Prime Minister Modi said the state has a claim on him as well.”I want to do more work than all those Prime Ministers put together. Modi is not born to rule…he is born to do hard work,” he added.Prime Minister Modi also said that the issue of triple talaq should not be politicised, adding that proper measures should be taken to give equal rights to women.”I am surprised that for vote bank politics, some parties want to keep Muslim women bereft of their natural rights. I request people who participate in TV debates don’t make women rights into Muslim Hindu issue. Women’s right is a development issue. People from Uttar Pradesh will wait for Uttar Pradesh this time, Delhi knows that Uttar Pradesh has decided this,” he added.