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.

Watch What Else Is Making News

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.

 

For all the latest Opinion News, download Indian Express App

  1. J
    Jayakumar
    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.
    Reply
    1. A
      Ajit
      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.
      Reply
      1. V
        Vedic_Citizen
        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.
        Reply
        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
          Reply
          1. S
            sb
            Nov 28, 2016 at 11:20 pm
            The problem is certain religions mix up SOCIAL PRACTISE, POLITICS and RELIGIOUS FREEDOM.lt;br/gt;They need to be seperated.lt;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.
            Reply
            1. D
              dreamingequality
              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
              Reply
              1. G
                gc
                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.
                Reply
                1. S
                  stranger
                  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.
                  Reply
                  1. Load More Comments