Several women groups on Tuesday slammed the Jamiat-e-Ulema Secretary, Gulzar Azmi, over his statement on “equality” and called it an “insensitive” remark that intended to “spark controversy”. “If we talk about equality, then there should be equality even in carrying a child in the womb. Then a man should carry the baby for four and half months and the women for rest of the half time. Then only one can say that there is equality. First there should be equality in the birth process then other aspects of equality should be implemented in Islam,” Azmi told ANI.
Noorjehan Niaz, attached with Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, said: “It is silly of him to say something like this. The Haj policy should have infact done away with age barrier. Women are self sufficient to travel alone all over the world. Why should they rely on a male family member for Haj?”
She added that several women, who wish to go for Haj but have no male member in the family, have to bribe travel agents to travel along a male stranger. The bribe may start from Rs 10,000. “That is even more dangerous. Women, even those who are less than 45 years of age, should be permitted to travel alone.”
The new Haj policy allows women beyond 45 years to travel in group of four or more for Haj without a mahram. A mahram is a blood relative or husband in front of whom Muslim women can take off their hijab. Women under 45 have to travel with a male companion.
Hasina Khan, founder of Bebaak collective and a campaigner against triple talaq, said: “The Jamiat secretary made this statement to purposely spark controversy. His thoughts on equality are an extremist opinion, which he cannot force upon others.”
While Muslim activists have criticised Azmi’s statement, several Muslim scholars instead chose to emphasise on Haj policy’s “un-Islamic” provisions. “It is in Islam that women should not travel without a mahram. Anyone who goes against it is against Islam,” said Maulana Irfan Aleemi, attached with Chishti Hindustani mosque in Byculla.
On Azmi’s statement, however, he refused to comment.
M A Khalid, from All India Milli Council, said that it was for the women’s safety in a long and difficult journey such as Haj for which men should accompany them. “Islam also asks a male member to accompany a woman for Haj. That should not be abolished in the new policy,” Khalid said, adding, “Both men and women have their rights and duties distributed by nature and in Islam. Both genders have some limitations. But what Jamiat secretary said about carrying a baby equally was wrong.”