Code of control

Social practice needs to be gender-just, but reform must respect religious freedom.

Written by Sania Farooqui | Updated: November 28, 2016 11:44 am
muslim personal law, triple talaq, uniform civil code, islam, women in islam, muslim women, column, the ideas page, latest news, indian express It is a fact that “Islamic feminism” is emerging as an ideology amongst Muslim women across the globe, including in India. Express

When it comes to Islam and Muslim women, the field has become increasingly crowded. Doctrines of patriarchy have always existed and these principles were dominated by the power play within the community. The challenge often lay in examining the implications of a misogynistic belief system within the Muslim community. But now, another challenge that needs to be addressed is examining the implications of actors entering the stage to speak on Islam, and often on behalf of Islam.

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It is a widely held belief that Muslim women have been subjugated in Muslim society. The notion of identity is analysed along the lines of being conservative and without having any choices. While one is aware of the patriarchal and cultural set-up within the community, it is also a fact that “Islamic feminism” is emerging as an ideology amongst Muslim women across the globe, including in India. There are women, who, while holding on to their religious beliefs, are resisting, fighting back and speaking up for their rights.

What is interesting is that while Muslim women are coming forth and enforcing ideas of agency and freedom, they are caught between the loud spokespersons of their own community at one end, and those speaking on their behalf for them, at the other. In India, there has been an ongoing debate about triple talaq (divorce by repudiation) and the need for its abolition. The petition signed by Indian Muslim women, challenging the validity of this method to end a marriage has opened up conversations once again on reforms based on gender equality and justice. However, voices within the Muslim community seem to be divided on this, with some calling the abolition of triple talaq “un-Islamic”.

If the fights within the community were not enough, the Modi government has taken things one step further and introduced the idea having a Uniform Civil Code (UCC). This law would be based on the principles of secularism, as suggested by the government, putting all Indian citizens under the same law, irrespective of their religious affiliations.

While the idea of a Uniform Civil Code in the country on paper sounds like it balances the gender injustices that women have faced, this law, without any draft and with unclear terms, still raises important questions on what precisely those ideas of justice and gender equality would be — in this particular case, for Muslim women.

At a recent rally in Uttar Pradesh, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke specifically about the “rights of Muslim sisters”, and broke his silence on the issue of triple talaq. “Shouldn’t Muslim mothers and sisters be protected? Shouldn’t Muslim sisters get equal rights? Some Muslim sisters fought for their rights in court. The Supreme Court asked us, what is the stand of the Government of India? We replied in very clear terms that no injustice should be done to mothers and sisters, that no discrimination should take place in the name of religion,” Modi said.

It is indeed important to address and also apply such feminist ideals and campaigns against patriarchal set-ups within the Muslim community, or any other religious community for that matter. However, there is a difference between “rights” and “laws”.

In France, a similar dialogue on the basis of “secularism” has questioned the “right” of a Muslim woman to wear what she wants to wear — which includes a hijab or a Burkini. French officials have championed the law as a protection of the country’s “secular constitution” and a defence against the regressive Islamic attitude towards its women. The question is: Is this constitutional secularism pitted against freedom of religion? Why does it not include “rights of all its citizens”, which includes the right to wear what one wants to wear? There seems to be a trend of selectively targeting a minority community and justifying it as an attack on a feudal-religious order. It is important not just to address these issues, but also challenge the intention behind going after a minority community.

Given the current status of India, it would be more meaningful to have uniformity of “rights”, given to all its citizens, which would also include protection of women’s rights, gender justice and most importantly, education, culture and religious freedoms of its citizens. But as of now, citizens are only being told of a uniformity of law based on certain vague ideas of “secularism”. It is important to know what those ideas will be, how they could affect individual lives in the country and whether they will be at the cost of national integration.


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First Published on: November 28, 2016 12:15 am
  1. J
    Nov 28, 2016 at 12:33 pm
    The author plays the devil. She ignores that Islamic countries such as stan, Bangladesh and Indonesia have banned Tripple Talak.
    1. A
      Nov 28, 2016 at 12:20 pm
      At one time Sati was religious freedom even though statistically number would be less than 1 % but Raja Ram Mohon Roy worked for its abolishment and we are happy for it. Most of criticism for triple talaq is around one sitting and alimony. These are handled differently in different Islamic countries. There seems to be no internal debate when there are Muslim intellectuals ranting from history to everything under sky rather than set their house in order.
      1. V
        Nov 28, 2016 at 6:35 am
        We knew that mulla ladies will one day question gender disparity teachings of false prophet. And, that will be beginning of the end.
        1. K
          K SHESHU
          Nov 28, 2016 at 2:01 pm
          Muslim women are coming forward to reform their religion. Others should follow their example
          1. S
            Nov 28, 2016 at 11:20 pm
            The problem is certain religions mix up SOCIAL PRACTISE, POLITICS and RELIGIOUS;br/gt;They need to be;br/gt;lt;br/gt;I do support an Uniform Civil Code and laws which is updated and meets the changing society of todayslt;br/gt;times for Registering Mariage, Divorce laws, Inheritance acts.
            1. D
              Nov 28, 2016 at 11:49 am
              Wonderfully written. It is so strange the BJP who protects rapist during riots are taking interest in Muslim women welfare
              1. G
                Nov 28, 2016 at 9:06 pm
                If individual religious practices are allowed in the name of right to practice religion,then,what about anyone saying his religion asks him to walk naked on the street? Is that person's religion has lesser right than yours? If you can demand right to wear what you want on the basis of religion, another person can demand his right not to wear anything, where will you draw a line? And before preaching these things to everyone else, go spread some light in 57 Islamic countries first and ask how much freedom and rights they give to the people of other religions.
                1. S
                  Nov 28, 2016 at 5:42 pm
                  there is no place of religious freedom, like the one you need in modern scientific state. if you want your religion be governed everything by it, don't come to school, go to madra, no hospital or modern medicine just follow every aspect of hadith and sharia, be under taliban like police force, to name a few sweet fruits of your desired religious freedom. you cannot cherrypick which freedom to have and not have. once you submit yourself as indian citizens you are governed by what majority think and approve as moral standards of a scientific society.
                  1. N
                    Navin D.
                    Nov 28, 2016 at 9:07 am
                    The writer seems to be deliberately trying to create confusion, and is not able to give any strong reason, why the practice of triple talaq and polygamy not be banned by the law in our country, it is the pity within the community that, people who project themselves to be progressive, and want to be seen as the protectors of women right, trying to create an impression, as if govt. is thrusting something upon them, no one from other community is able to understand, that, if a favorable law for such women, who have no say in matters, be it triple talaq and polygamy, gets justice,by enacting a law then where the apex court and the govt. is wrong.
                    1. S
                      Sameer Pawar
                      Nov 28, 2016 at 5:53 am
                      What about our Hindu mothers and sisters who are still denied their right to ancestral property. Modi should know that the Hindu societal mentality is as patriarchal as the Muslim societal mentality.
                      1. R
                        Rajneesh N.
                        Nov 28, 2016 at 3:28 am
                        seriously speaking, at the levels involved, please note that the underprivileged in terms of the information society get along quite fine with each other, unless pushed to the limit, yours truly :)
                        1. S
                          Nov 28, 2016 at 2:49 pm
                          This article is a perfect example of intellilectual dishonesty! The author is clearly creating confusion rather than addressing the issue. People like this author enjoy the freedoms of modernity because of belonging to a different strata of society and never think about the person, or rather the woman at the bottom of the ladder - the poor Muslim woman who doesn't have the education or the money to support herself and gets saddled with a triple talaq! Shame on the author and the likes of her!
                          1. S
                            Sudheer Thaakur
                            Nov 29, 2016 at 7:55 pm
                            1. M
                              Nov 28, 2016 at 8:55 pm
                              In India as per Hindu laws, all children have equal rights to ancestral property. If ur parent refuses that, u can go to court. However, u cannot claim what ur parents have earned with their money. Parents are free to give it to anyone- equally between all, a favoured child, a dodgy relative, charity or anyone as they please. Kids have no rights to claim what the parents have earned with their money. It's a fair system. If a child ill treats u and another looks after u well, obviously it's fair if the parent wishes to give all his/ her earnings to that child. Don't just point fingers at Hindu laws out of hallucinations.
                              1. M
                                Nov 28, 2016 at 12:07 am
                                Secularism isn't vague. If one has got 'vague ' ideas of secularism, it's their problem and as a citizen it is a big problem that needs to be corrected. It can be corrected by stopping madra education , stop watching and listening to hate speeches sponsored by jihadis which contributes largely towards vague and confused ideologies about democracy. Only self realisation and self help can help. Muslims couldn't integrate inspite of all the special status, freebies, generosity towards construction of mosques and madras etc etc since 1947, so no one expects them to integrate further. It is ur responsibility to accept all religions and integrate; not the society's responsibility to accept all ur brutality and integrate into u. Just imagine had u been one of us in stan or Bangladesh, what would you have gone through? The Muslim land that u wish u were a part of has completely ethnically cleansed its minorities. Be grateful that you were not born as a minority into that land. So, learn to accept fair rules without bringing religion in between.
                                1. M
                                  Nov 28, 2016 at 9:01 pm
                                  The author is no fool and neither lives in a fools paradise. The author is a very cunning, manitive lady who is trying to gloss over all Islamic brutalities by talking gibberish. Typical! They have no answer to the brutalities endorsed by their scholars, so they write and talk nonsense without touching any subject. They try to answer a question with another question and vague, confusing , totally unrelated topics and play the minority card.
                                  1. S
                                    Shah Alam
                                    Nov 28, 2016 at 7:27 pm
                                    Dear Sania, the vague idea of secularism is the reason you Muslims have grown from 4% in 1947 to 20% today instead of you all should have moved to stan as you divided India and got your own Pureland stan. Please tell me why did Bangladesh and stan became Islamic even though they were part of Hindustan and then got divided? Because you Muslims the moment you become majority you become terrorists. Else you want India to be secular as long as you are minority and then Islamic a secular soon as you are majority. India is secular because of Hindu majority and by Hindu choice and if you don't like it you should move to the land of your forefathers who divided India. Nehru made a mistake. How can we be secular and not a Hindu country when we gave you your own land. And why do we have no UCC. You don't like it move to stan or Bangladesh and follow your own sharia Islamic laws.
                                    1. P
                                      Paul Harrison
                                      Nov 28, 2016 at 7:20 pm
                                      The author talks about Muslim women can wear hijab in a country like France but ignore the fact that her Muslim brothers cannot handle the same freedom by press and kiIied many just because Charlie newspaper published pictures of Mohammed. So were they using their religious freedom to justify the macre?
                                      1. V
                                        Nov 28, 2016 at 11:53 am
                                        Please read -
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