Girl students in flowing burqas explain how purdah is the “purest form of existence for a woman”. They explain how capitalism with its notions of financial independence or a career is anti-women. Models are on display to help explain how purdah is to be observed. Then, apparently to drive home a more “modern” position, the women also speak on dowry, foeticide, sexual violence and women’s health.
All this is part of a three-day exhibition that started Friday at one of Aligarh Muslim University’s women’s hostels, Abdullah Hall,to ironically — mark International Women’s Day.
The exhibition, which reportedly has the permission of the vice-chancellor, is being organised by a students’ group named ‘Students of AMU’.
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Anam Rais Ansari, one of the organisers, and a student of law, said they were providing “Islamic solutions” to women’s problems.
The group is also holding a talk, titled ‘Women Empowerment: An Alternative in Focus’, at Kennedy Hall on the campus on March 8.
Fliers on campus, and a huge poster at the university gate, show senior lawyer and feminist Vrinda Grover as one of the speakers. However, when contacted, Grover said she had pulled out of the function after she came to know about the group and its activities.
“I am no longer part of (the AMU) function. The views of the organisers are extremely regressive. They are trying to tell women how to dress and how to live,” Grover said. Abdul Rauf, a representative of the group, who is a research scholar at the biochemistry department, said: “We have invited Grover. She will come.”
The other two speakers at the event are Zohra Asma, member of the Muslim Personal Law Board in Hyderabad, and Brother Yahya Nomani, founder of the Institute for Higher Islamic Studies at Lucknow.
‘Students of AMU’ was formed in 2010, and has widespread influence on the campus now, and enjoys the support of AMU authorities and some teachers and students. The group is known for its regressive views on women and women’s rights.
A recent post on its Facebook page reads: “Sisters, even though our brothers are responsible for their own gaze, we are responsible for what we give them to gaze at!!” The latest post profiles four Western women who recently converted to Islam.
One of the over 30 lectures the group has organised in the past was titled: “Hijab: The beauty of Islam.” They are alleged to have recently scuttled an initiative to get men and women students of the campus together to protest the alleged molestation of a Kashmiri student by a professor.
A student of the law faculty said: “‘Students of AMU’ is subverting the secular discourse at the university, and is promoting conservatism on the campus. They prefer to call themselves an Islamist body.”
The group is alleged to receive funding from India and abroad, which enables them to organise lectures and seminars through the year, at which it invites speakers from all over the country.
A teacher at the history department said: “The source of funding for this body is definitely a cause for concern.”
Attempts to contact the university V-C and registrar failed.