Over the loudspeakers at mosques across the Kashmir valley this Ramzan starting Tuesday, sermons will focus on a topic that has never been highlighted this way before: women’s rights, including space for them in mosques and domestic violence.
This time, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Ulema (MMU), a conglomerate of religious bodies, has decided across the Shia-Sunni and Sufi-Salafi divide to dedicate their Ramzan sermons to women. “We would mostly be talking about women’s issues,” Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, MMU patron, told The Indian Express. “We will focus on domestic violence, dowry, education. We will also talk about the need to open mosques for women.”
The decision was taken after a meeting of over 40 religious scholars and clerics from different schools of thought. “What better way is there than to start from Ramzan,” said Mirwaiz, who chaired the MMU meeting Sunday where the decision was taken. “It is the month when religious scholars deliver sermons every day and people are ready to listen. We need to use this occasion for something positive.”
Mirwaiz said the spotlight would be on encouraging “women to come out and speak”. “There is a lack of awareness among women, and they are not privy to their rights,” he said.
The move, he said, was prompted by the alleged rape of a woman in her 20s by her father in Bandipore last month, which came to light after she committed suicide.
“The Bandipore incident was the threshold,” said Mirwaiz. “There are things happening around us and we aren’t talking. It was saddening that after that incident, no religious scholar spoke about it. We can’t be ignorant of these realities and behave like ostriches. We have to confront them.”
The religious scholars took a pledge to provide space for women to speak about their issues. “I told them that we have only two options — either to shut our eyes and behave as if nothing has happened or is happening, or stand up to confront the challenges. Everyone was unanimous that we need to talk about it,” said Mirwaiz.
The meeting also decided that there is a need to open mosques for women, and to raise the issue of inheritance for them. “We have our old mosques where we have a separate space for women. But the new mosques that we have built don’t have such a provision,” said Mirwaiz. “Also, women are not given their due inheritance after marriage. This is a serious issue and needs to be taken up.”
After Ramzan, Mirwaiz said, the next step for religious scholars is to ensure minimum use of mosque loudspeakers. “The scholars were unanimous that it should be limited to calls for prayers and Friday sermons,” he said.