IT is sad to note that the Bangalore meeting of the Muslim Personal Law Board postponed a decision on the standard nikahnama and triple talaq. It instead waxed eloquent on the issues of Babri Masjid and RSS’ recent call for Indianisation of Christians and Muslims. Deft in the art of playing to the gallery, some of its leaders prevailed on the law-making body to defer the crucial questions related to the social change.
Notwithstanding the intensity of the Babri Masjid question, there could have been other fora for debating those issues. The Board should have confined itself to the concerns and threats, immediate to the Personal Laws. Though for argument sake it could be said that Babri Masjid question relates to the cultural indentity of Muslims, it falls in a category in which political establishment and legal questions are very much invloved. Such matters could therefore easily be assignments for the outfits of political nature such as All India Milli Council or its offspring Milli Political Forum. The Board could have deliberated on adopting a standard Nikahnama which had been hanging fire for over three years. Similarly, the ambiguity over triple talaq has a deep bearing on gender justice among the Muslims.
Even more than debate and a decision on this, the Muslim women look forward to a mechanism where by Islamic rights could percolate down to them at the lowest level. While thousands of women NGOs in the country are working for the betterment of the lot of general women, the Muslim community awaits even as basic facilities as pre-marriage counselling centres or arbitration councils for marital discords. Triple talaq are therefore rendering the lives of Muslim women miserable. Even more horrendous, such victims of unscrupulous husbands either turn rebels or convert to other religions. This constitutes a grave threat to the very existence of the cultural identity, the very objective of the Board. Whether the Board accepts it or not, the lava of resentment is already churning beneath the surface and will manifest itself in crude explosion. It must be understood that gender justice is the key to family peace within the community too. Similarly, issues like moon-sighting too have sullied the community’s image for far too long and the general Muslims have been groping for a definite Shariah position. The Board could offer its expertise to clear the mess that mars the festive spirit.
One surmises that convergence of representation of two diverse kinds in the same body of people i.e., Muslim Personal Law Board and the Milli Council, is behind the temptation to turn the conclave into a platform for political articulation and for entering into a slanging match with the people of the ilk of Mr. Sudershan. Such convergence of diverse functions has led to blurring of line between juristic edicts and political statements. That this must be avoided, need not be overemphasised. Two level of effort are therefore needed at this hour. First to see that accumulation of much authority in one person or forum is avoided. And second that appropriate forum is used for apt purposes. This demands a sense of democracy as well as propriety, both.
One also wished that the venue in Bangalore could have been a more neutral one. For all those who wished to participate were restrained because the venue was closely identified with one school of thought which was not well disposed off to others. These minor considerations will go a long way in ensuring the broadly representational character of the Muslim Personal Law Board.