Volume 15-05 No:173
A Procession of Muslim women in Mumbai.
* Farhana Shaikh 32, was divorced, because she did not snap the ties with her parents as demanded by her husband Abid. Farhana has filed suit in civil court for the maintenance of her four daughters.
* Aisha Rangari 36, a widow and mother of four was deprived of her inheritance. Her three brothers refused to give her legitimate share in the property. She has no one to help and fight for her due as given by Islam.
In recent months, women organisations have taken the cudgels against the atrocities on women as the All India Muslim Personal Law Board pleaded helplessness in solving social problems such as misuse of talaq and non-payment of mehr, saying it was upto women to bring about pressure on the Government to ask for recognition of shariat courts which can implement personal law.
Jamaat-e-Islami, MOMEIN, Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), amongst others, recognising the anger brewing within the Muslim women have organised seminars on various issues of Muslim women. Muslim Women’s Forum organised awareness camps for Muslim women to educate them about their legal rights. “These camps are the first of its kind and we are very impressed by the response. More will be organized soon,’’ says Syeda Saiydain Hameed, Chief of the Forum.
The latest in the series of seminar recently held on Muslim Women issues was the seminar on ‘Genuine Problems of Muslim Women and their solutions in the light of shariat’ organised by Muslim Personal Law Board in Delhi recently. The Board had for the first time invited more than 25 NGOs for a dialogue on their problems. Hasina Khan of Awaaz-e-Niswaan, Mumbai, said the meet had removed misunderstandings clerics had about NGOs.
Muslim women in Mumbai have taken the aggressive posture by organising a slew of public meetings, rallies and seminars. The Muslim Women in India are a heterogeneous group and have there own division, class, and specific issues and problems. Ironically the community is not only oblivious of the atrocities on the women but also is apprehensive of any organisation or individuals espousing their cause.
Ironically the various forums of the community have been focusing on the religious issues. Social, economic, and political issues pertaining to Muslim women are often been analysed and discussed through the religious angle only and get often converted into an ideological debate. Classical example has been the Nikhanama.
The correct analyses of the problem faced by the Muslim women still elude us. What are the real issues? Purdah, divorce, polygyny or education, basic rights or poverty. Advocate Nilofer Akhter, activist and a personal law specialist who attended the Delhi seminar, says that the board had failed to realize how serious is the issue of the exploitation of Muslim women. “In my day to day practice I come across cases of Muslim women, who are denied their Mehr and inheritance,” she said. “The community has developed no mechanism nor any platform through which women can fight for their legitimate rights. Time and again Muslim society has failed to give women their rights given to them by Islam. The need is for women to get more organized”. .
Advocate A. S. Uraize of Maharashtra Muslim Advocate Forum (MMAF) believes that the recent spate of court judgements on Muslim women divorce cases is the result of all-round confusion within the community. “From codification of Muslim personal law to social reform, it needs the combined efforts of all sections of the community” he said. “Such reforms in the marriage laws are enforceable in Bangladesh, Brunei, Syria, Pakistan, Morocco, Malaysia, Jordan and Iran”.
Advocate Nilofer Akhter says: “Ignorance of Islamic law and its principle is the bane of Muslim women and reason for their not getting their legitimate rights.” “The religious book Quran is in Arabic and Muslim women read Quran without understanding the meaning. The books on Muslim women’s rights are either not available or ordinary folk cannot afford to buy the ones that are available. They are unable to find good women preachers who could enlighten them on their own religious principles.”
Advocate Yusuf Muchala, legal advisor and member of the Board while concurring said, “In our society very few women are socially active. Unless Muslim women demand their legitimate rights they will continue to suffer. Women themselves are not demanding their rights and male ego would not allow it to concede their demands. Women have to fight their own battle.” Time and again Muslim community protests the judgement of the courts on the ground that it interferes in their shariat. AIMPLB despite passing slew of resolutions to launch a social reform movement is only acting as a legal forum constantly fighting court cases. Farida Lambay vice principal of Nimala Niketan College of social sciences opines that various Muslims forums act as fire fighters. “The tendency is to react instead of being proactive to prevent social discrimination against women.”
Jaipur: Taking a cue from the Southern states and Assam, the Muslim community in Rajasthan has demanded reservation in the Government jobs in proportion to its population. The demand was placed in a non-political Muslim convention, attended among others by BJP leader and Union Minister of State for Coal, Syed Shahnawaz Hussain, here recently.
Muslims, who comprise about 15 per cent of the population of Rajasthan, also constitute the most backward community in the state in terms of education and financial well-being. Though the State Government has extended reservation to the Meo and Kayamkhani sections within the community under the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category, reservation to all Muslims commensurate with their percentage seems to be the only way to bring them on par with others.
The one-day convention - first of its kind in Rajasthan - was organised by the newly constituted Muslim Progressive Front. The Front, headed by Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) MLA, Mr. Mohammed Mahir Azad, aims at evolving consensus on the issues concerning Muslims in a non-political manner. Since its inception in October last year, it has tried to find solutions to various problems by rising above narrow political considerations.
The Front had invited representatives of all political parties to the convention in an attempt to discuss the issues in a broad perspective. However, none of the Muslim leaders of the ruling Congress (I) turned up to attend the meet. Besides minister Hussain, the participants included the Indian National Lok Dal leader, Mr. Rashid Masood; Chairman of Central Minorities Finance and Development Corporation, Qari Mohammed Mian Mazhari; Waqf Minister of Punjab, Mr. Nusrat Ali Khan; and MPs, Maulana Obaidullah Khan Azmi, Mr. Hasan Khan, and Mr. Abdul Rashid Shahin.
The delegates, drawn from almost all districts in Rajasthan, discussed the problems confronting Muslims in their respective areas and said while the community had rich assets in terms of human resource, it was not getting its due share in the fruits of development. Mr. Mahir Azad pointed out that the number of Muslims in Government jobs had declined from 34 per cent at the time of Independence to 1.4 per cent by the turn of the century. The convention identified a total of 13 issues needing immediate attention.
Syed Shahnawaz Hussain refrained from making any commitment on the reservation issue on behalf of the NDA Government in the Centre, but pointed out that those listed in the OBC category often do not get the real benefit of reservation. A solution in this respect could lie in fixing a slab for Muslims in the OBC category, even though the desire reflected in the meet was in favour of recognising Muslims as a backward community that needs separate reservation.
Various ‘Biradaris’ (sections) of Muslims, such as Gaddi, Kheldar, Silavatan, Qureshi, Mochi, Dhobi and Neelgar - most of whom are artisans and unskilled labourers - are backward on the social, economic, educational and political fronts. The participants felt that unless the Government supported them and provided a level-playing field, there was hardly any scope for their development. Rajasthan has a precedent of Jat community exerting pressure for getting itself incorporated in the OBC category. Jats had threatened in a rally coinciding with the last Lok Sabha elections that they would vote against Congress (I) if a decision to extend reservation to them under OBC was further deferred. The State Government had promptly issued orders declaring them a reserved class under the OBC.
Though Muslims have so far desisted from issuing any ultimatum to the Government, they probably need to realise the significance of their franchise. Muslims’ support was instrumental in helping the Congress (I) win Assembly elections with a thumping majority in Rajasthan. Their votes have a direct bearing in at least 17 Lok Sabha constituencies in the State.
Qari Mohammed Mian Mazhari announced in the convention that the Central Minorities Finance and Development Corporation would provide Rs. 10 crore for establishing a corpus fund for the Rajasthan State Minorities Finance and Development Corporation, which would start functioning from May 1. The State Government will contribute Rs.5 crore for the purpose.
Among other demands raised in the convention were the appointment of at least one Muslim member each in the Rajasthan Public Service Commission (RPSC) and various selection panels and immediate steps to remove encroachments from Waqf properties. The State Government has already appointed Mr. Hasan Ali Jafri, teacher from the Aligarh Muslim University, as a member of RPSC. However, the Government support is lacking in removal of encroachments as Government departments themselves are the culprits in a number of such cases.
A delegation of Muslims, which included prominent Muslim citizens, met the Chief Minister, Mr. Ashok Gehlot, two days after the convention to submit a memorandum and demanded prompt action to settle the grievances. Other demands listed in the memorandum were filling up of vacant posts of Urdu teachers and Unani Hakims, sanction for opening technical institutes for Muslims, allotment of land at concessional rates for constructing hostels, Musafirkhanas and nursing homes, establishment of a separate Minorities’ Welfare Ministry, financial aid to madrassas, hike in the annual budget for Rajasthan Urdu Academy and deployment of Rapid Action Force (RAF) during communal violence. Though the problems of Muslims in Rajasthan are not very different from those confronting their co-religionists in other States, the convention made it clear that Muslims with different political persuasions were ready to sink their differences and join a common platform for an organised attempt to resolve the issues. Such an approach generates the hope that the interests of the community will indeed be the uppermost in the political leaders’ mind.
With bitter memories of East Pakistan, her grandmother had tried to discourage her from entering an essay contest on Islam. But Rumela Sen from Kolkata was not convinced. She rummaged through her university library for relevant books, even asked the sponsors of the contest to send her some books and generated a wealth of material from diverse sources and pieced them together to come out with an essay to be adjudged the second best. Later when she read out the translation of a verse from the Quran to her grandmother and asked her to identify the book. The answer was Gita. But she was surprise when Sen pointed her out that the verse belonged to Quran which bore the same universal teachings which Gita and other religious books carry. Sen who won the second prize, is now preparing for competitive examinations for civil services.
The essay contest was conducted by the Ernakulam-based Forum for Faith and Fraternity, a group of dawah activists who are enticing a lot of youths around the country into studying positive and authentic literature on Islam. This first hand knowledge not only helps them write the essay but also stays with them in making them understand Islam.
Two years ago when the FFF (‘Triple F’ to be short) advertised its essay contest on a national scale, there was a deluge of response from the students community. Over 1500 made enquiries and nearly 450 sent in their entries. The topic was “Islam As I know”. A scrutiny by scholars identified 26 for the final writing test and interview. The three top awards were shared by four non-Muslim candidates who spoke to an elite gathering in Cochin on attributes of Islam on March 19 last year. The Ernakulam-based Forum for Faith and Fraternity
The essayists came mostly from postgraduate courses in universities. The first prize winner R. Natarajan is BE and is now assisting the Triple F in editing essays of the first contest. The second prize winner Mohit Joshi is doing his BA from Hindu College in Delhi while the girl who shared this prize, Bina Laxmi Nepram from Manipur is a researcher on South East Asia in JNU.
According to Dr. K. K. Usman, chairman of the Inter-Faith Committee of the Triple F, the essay contest was taken up as the best way to take the positive teachings of Islam to a wide variety of intelligent students and youth in India’s universities. “One can take the horse to water, but it is very difficult to make it drink the water. Similar is the case with books on religion. Therefore, prior to holding the contest we gifted a set of books on Islam to nearly 225 university and college libraries in the country and pointed out them as source to the contestants. What better way to put the gifted books to use than this?” Usman remarks.
The FFF was formed in 1996 by a group of educated businessmen, entrepreneurs, and professionals for the promotion of unity and understanding amongst the masses on the basis of oneness of God. Says Forum Secretary C. A. Raheem, lack of Iman (faith) is the basic cause of our backwardness. The Forum also brings out a journal Al-Harmony with well- researched articles on Islamic thought and ethics.
Unity of God
Let’s believe in the Unity of God; let’s uphold the unity of humankind; let’s practice a cult that shuns conventional xenophobic barriers and prejudices. And why not? And why not? Where differences among communities disappear, each community becomes part of the same faith, a Faith of submission to the Will of God!
III Prize winner in essay contest on 'Islam as I know'
I was born a Hindu, but today as I pen down the last words of this essay, I feel an “inner glow” deep within me. I travelled into the realms of the Quran, the Islamic history, society and consciousness to reach this state.
Research Scholar, JNU, New Delhi
Mumbai: Dr Zubair Shaikh founder member and general secretary of the Indian Medicine Practitioners Association (IMPA) is a general practitioner with a mission. Since last five years he is crusading for the rights of Unani practitioners and raising cudgels against the step-motherly treatment given to them. Pained by the pathetic approach of the state as well as society towards Unani practitioners, Dr. Shaikh, along with his colleagues formed IMPA in 1996. As the fallout of the famous Poonam Verma versus Dr Ashwin Patel case in Supreme Court, the then Food and Drug administration (FDA) Commissioner Mr. Anil Kumar Lakhina had issued a circular in December 1996 instructing chemists not to honour allopathic prescription of non allopathic practitioners. It had put at stake the survival of Unani graduates. It was Dr Shaikh who took the initiative and subsequently IMPA filed a writ
petition in Mumbai challenging the circular and were successful. Dr Shaikh argues that both Unani and Ayurvedic degree courses come under the Integrated System of Indian Medicine. “During our graduation we have separate subjects of pharmacology, as well as modern medicine. In fact we are trained and can legally prescribe allopathic medicine”, he said. What peeved Dr. Shaikh is the fact that the Maharashtra government does not run a single Unani medical college, though it runs four Ayurvedic medical colleges.
Moreover, Ayurveds are appointed on ESI panels and Ayurved OPDs function in government hospitals. No such facilities exist for Unani doctors. “Year after year we’ve had to fight discrimination by the government,” said Dr Shaikh.
Due to efforts of Dr. Shaikh and his colleagues last year the state government passed a resolution granting 30 per cent reservation for Unani medical practitioners. Moreover IMPA representation to slew of district medical officers of Maharashtra for job opportunities to Unani medical graduated in Zilla parishad hospitals, dispensaries and primary health centers has opened up fresh avenues for them. Perhaps the greatest achievement of Dr Shaikh and IMPA was to pursue the state government for a separate constituency for BUMS/DUMS in Maharashtra Council of Indian Medicine (MCIM). Set up in 1982 to look after the interests of doctors, the MCIM was hitherto dominated by ayurveds.
Polls to the 13 elective seats on the council are held from a constituency compromising 34,000 ayurveds and 3,000 Unani practitioners. Surprisingly, no unani practitioners has ever been elected. IMPA Representation to chief minister as well as health ministry has led to the verbal assurances. “We are not going to rest until some action is taken,” says Dr Shaikh. IMPA is also fighting for the creation of a post of deputy director of Unani. “For Ayurved the state has a director of Ayurved, who is an ex-officio member of the Council, as well as deputy director and an assistant director. Even Homeopathy, a foreign system of medicine has a deputy director. Unani does not even have a post of deputy director,” he laments.
Dr Shaikh is a highly successful practitioner. He has built up a career on service to the poor patients. It was his crusading zeal that has delivered respectability and credibility to the Unani system within the government and the people in Maharashtra.