'Empowerment Key to Muslim Women's Progress'
Yet Another Jamboree
'Empowerment Key to Muslim Women's Progress'
By A Staff Writer
New Delhi: Muslim women in South Asia are not empowered enough to rid themselves of poverty and illiteracy and are thus not able to raise their voice against the problems they face, a colloquium of Muslim women here was told on November 25.
“Women in general in India are considered the most backward section, who cannot raise their viewpoints and are thus not empowered enough to fight the forces which push them behind. However, still their condition is far better when compared to Muslim women,” said Syeda Hameed, former member of the National Commission for Women at the colloquium on “Rights and status of Muslim women.”
The colloquium was organized by the Muslim Women’s Forum, a New Delhi-based group that was formed only three months ago. It was sponsored by the Madhya Pradesh Urdu Academy and held at Vishwa Yuva Kendra. Among the leading participants were former National Women’s Commission chairman, Mohini Giri; Aziz Qureshy, Rajya Sabha MP from Bhopal; former Union Railway Minister Shafi Qureshy; dean of Students Welfare from Jawaharlal Nehru University M. H. Qureshy; columnist Seema Mustafa; Supreme Court advocate Anees Ahmed; Mahatama Gandhi’s associate Nirmala Deshpande; Syeeda Khurshid, wife of former Karnataka governor Khursheed Alam Khan; Delhi High court judge Justice B. A. Khan; Dr. Taj Shoukath of Al-Ameen Women’s Wing, Bangalore etc. Pakistani delegate was Farida Sheikh, founder member of Women’s Action Forum. Shikha Das Purkayastha was representing a women’s NGO from Bangladesh.
“Islam has given women a very high position. But nobody understands the religion and it has been misinterpreted. Though the condition of women in the country is not good, it is far worse in Jammu and Kashmir. Not only are they victims of militancy, but there are also instances of Army excesses. The government is worried about it but it is the women’s forums which should come forward in solving this,” Qureshi said.
Women activists from Pakistan and Bangladesh spoke of educational and marriage-related problems faced by Muslim women in their countries. “Muslim women not only face abject poverty, illiteracy and employment problems, but their own customary laws make them a tool in the hands of the men who rule them and subjugate them,” she said. Bangladeshi delegate pointed out that the women’s consent is not necessary for marriage in Bangladesh and marriages are generally not registered.
“We should include men in our issues so that they not only understand our problems but also support and understand them. We should understand that our fight is not against men but the socio-economic system in which we live. Men are our fathers, brothers and sons so one should not misunderstand the situation,” said Farida Sheikh from Pakistan.
Eminent Gandhian Nirmala Deshpande also shared her viewpoint. “Hindu and Muslim women should join hands to fight such forces which try to create tension among the two communities. My experience has shown me that most of the communal riots are not communal in nature, they are stage-managed by a few people for their own vested interests,” she said.
Advocate Anees Ahmed said the colloquium’s basic aim is to achieve what the Muslim Personal Law Board had failed to do at its recent meeting in Bangalore. “We want Muslim women to project the problems that concern them. We would support the adoption of the modern Nikahnama (written marriage contract) where a woman has a right to divorce her husband under difficult situations and which could be applied anywhere in the country,” he said. He said the Muslim Personal Law deals with only marriage, divorce and inheritance and does not fully reflect the shariah. It was formulated with the help of the British patronised ulema and needs to be reviewed in the light of the Quran and Sunnah and codified for judicial use and reference.
Yet Another Jamboree
By a Staff Writer
Calcutta: Rewarding community students with monetary incentives is what seems to be the new mantra for the members of American Federation of Muslims from India (AFMI) in order to achieve hundred per cent literacy amongst Muslims. The AFMI delegates from across the world gathered in Calcutta to hold its ninth annual meeting on November 25-26. However, the delegates failed to evolve a concrete programme intended to remove illiteracy from the Muslim community. Instead, the forum provided conducive pitch for the politicians to make some election speeches.
Those who dominated the two-day long meet were the West Bengal Food and Supply Minister Kalimuddin Shams, the CPI-M Rajya Sabha MP Md. Salim, the Trinamul Congress MLA Sultan Ahmed. Understandably, these participant dwelled more on outclassing each other on impressing minorities ahead of next year’s assembly elections than coming out with some constructive plans to tackle the growing menace of illiteracy among Muslims.
Addressing the handful of audience at Calcutta’s St. Xaviers College auditorium , the AFMI’s general secretary Dr. A. K Nakadar lamented the community’s indifference towards educating its wards. According to him, his organisation was committed to ensure a noticeable change on the education front among Muslims.
The AFMI also felicitated 52 students from across the country with medals and monetary incentives for their outstanding achievement in academic field. When asked whether his organisation’s thrust was on rewarding students than enabling them to go to schools, none of the AFMI members had any answer. All Nakadar could tell Islamic Voice was that ‘ so far, we have only been doing felicitator’s job rather than acting as a catalyst to popularise education.’
Curiously, during its Bangalore convention, the AFMI had vowed to achieve 100 percent literacy for Indian Muslims by 2005. So does it still adhere to such time-frame?
“No way, says C.S. Salman, AFMI’s founder member, “ We would only be fooling ourselves if we say so. That was a mistake. We shouldn’t have committed ourselves to a deadline. Projects of such magnitude just can’t be translated into reality overnight. This is a slow and steady process and our movement is shaping well. However, we are refraining from making any such commitments this time.”
Even while rewarding meritorious students, AFMI has failed miserably to do justice with Madrasa students whose excellence hold no significance for its mandarins. Nakadar rubbed his eyes in disbelief when told that many Indian states including Bengal had separate madrasa boards recognised by their respective governments. He, however, promised to include even madrasa students for monetary rewards and medal in future.
The AFMI first came into being in 1989 with the sole aim to eradicate the malaise of illiteracy from Muslims. Nakaddar claims his organisation today has over 3000 members in countries like Japan, Australia, Germany and Fiji.
Former Chief Minister and Marxist patriarch whose participation was being tomtommed, did not put up an appearance in the AFMI convention.