Putting Balm on Social Wounds
Interview : Children are Casualty in Broken Homes
Putting Balm on Social Wounds
Maqbool Ahmed Siraj profiles a Muslim women’s group striving to uplift children from broken homes
Rabita's new premieses in Bangalore outskirts
When it comes to plight of Muslim women, the society reflects two distinct lines of thought. On one side are those who lay the blame on the doors of Islam and the Muslim Personal Law for their miserable condition and on the other are those who - particularly the ulema - who seem to believe that all is fine on the Muslim women’s front and all that appears in the media is propaganda by the interested quarters.
That both are mistaken and the truth lies between the two needs a more realistic approach. An approach that needs to recognise that the overall socio-economic environment of the lower strata of Muslims is largely responsible for certain provision of the Personal Law being misused. And it is not merely the law that needs reform but that section of people who bring infamy to the shariat laws too need the help from caring hands to restore some order in their lives.
In 1993 when Bangalore’s Sofia Hameed began to train some Muslim girls who were working as maids in homes she did not realize that she is embarking on a life-time venture to stem the rot eating the very vitals of the Muslim society from the below. Today, seven years later, Sofia is engrossed in tackling much deeper maladies affecting the Muslim women in slums. Even as she draws out an orphan or destitute girl, deserted and divorced women, battered and bruised souls, more hands stick out of the morass that grips the Muslim women.
She is now convinced that her task is endless and does not brook a pause. Gathered around her is a clutch of well-meaning Muslim women, all members of Rabita Welfare Group for Women, all driven by the spirit of cleansing the people at the base level of the community, pick out the vagarant, non-school going kids and provide them healthy environment to grow into responsible and productive citizens and Muslims conscious of their duties.
Much against the ulema who are blind to social realities and would tolerate no criticism of the Muslim Personal Law, the Rabita began it journey with the conviction that the Muslim society bristles with ills arising out of the blatant misuse, even bordering on the mockery, of shariat provisions. Rabita deals on a day to day basis with fugitive and vulnerable Muslim girls, girls rescued from torture from Muslim homes, physically abused girl-children, girls from the broken Muslim homes and those who were simply orphaned and had nowhere to go.
Rabita’s experience says that more than divorce, it is desertion that ruins the lives of Muslim women in slums. Irresponsible men discard wives at will, move out for new pastures for employment and marriage, and leave behind a woman with a bevy of children. The fatherless girl children are pressed into employment as maids and either end up marrying early in the life or fall prey to the lust of their employers. The vicious cycle repeats itself at every 15th year. Every girl at Rabita has a sordid tale to tell. A few specimen (names changed for the sake of privacy):
Rasheeda was a vagarant child brought to Rabita by Hoysala, Bangalore’s patrol police. She does not know who her parents were.
Rahmath (7 years) from Madanapalli in Andhra Pradesh was deposited at Rabita by mother who works with a landlord after her first husband died.
Naseema is five. She was brought here by a mother who had married a man after Naseema’s father died. The new husband refused to accept her.
Munni is 13 and sent to the Rabita from a Hindu Anathalaya (orphans home). She fluently speaks Kannada and is difficult to control.
Farzana (15) has her smile back on the face. She has no knowledge of her parents from Chennai and was brought by a Muslim couple who have moved to the US and regularly remits some money for her education and upbringing.
Thanks to the caring hands of Rabita, today 50 odd such helpless girls can see a future for themselves. Says Rabita trustee and treasurer, Naira Nazreen, “but for the timely help from the Rabita Group these women would have been contributing to the misery and misfortune of the Muslim women. More than shelter, Rabita gave them a sense of belonging to the society which in turn is at the root of the one’s self-esteem.”
According to Sofia, 12 inmates are destitute with virtually no one to care for them. Two were kidnap victims and were entrusted by the police. Six inmates have a history of being physically abused. One of the girls was rescued by a lawyer from a brothel. And some were brought by mothers working as housemaids who feared their daughters would be vulnerable at their slum abodes when they (the mothers) were out on duty.
Ever since Rabita started the work in 1993, the numbers have been swelling. The three small rooms fell short of space. In the beginning none from among the Muslims came forward to help. “Rather”, says Sofia ruefully, “there used to be calls from Muslim homes requesting Rabita to send girls for attending to infants and sick or pregnant women.” But as the Muslims grew aware of the need for such a rehabilitation home, offer of biryani and goats for sacrifice became a regular feature inasmuch as Rabita kitchen used to be closed all through the month of Ramadan. Still later, some people began offering zakat money. Now 10 girls are being sponsored by Muslim philanthropists.
But help from missionaries started pouring early. Overseas Women’s Club helped the Rabita with text and notebooks. Church of the Latter Day Saints provided furniture for dormitories. A small appeal in a local daily made the employees at the Novell Software company to organise funds to the tune of Rs. 31,000.
Very soon Rabita would be moving to a premises of its own in the outskirts of Bangalore. The new building is spacious and purpose built. Former railway minister and now Member of Parliament Jaffer Sharief arranged a small section of funds for the new building from the MP Local Area Development (MPLADS) funds.
Children are Casualty in Broken Homes
Rabita Secretary Sofia Hameed spoke to Islamic Voice on the social ills responsible for Muslim women’s plight.
On the beginning of Rabita
During my childhood the sight of girls of my age scrubbing clothes, washing utensils or small boys working in auto garages used to nag me. Even at my home, I used to watch the girls working while I went to school in snug uniform. In 1993 when I started training these women in tailoring, I noticed that there were frequent drop-outs. I went to slums to know why this happened. I found that mothers were pressing them into bidi-making and other vocations that brought instant incomes. I thought, the issue had larger dimensions. The girls needed not merely training, but there was immediate need to remove them from their decadent environment.
Rabita’s efforts are driven towards restoring the childhood to the children of the unfortunate people of the society. We believe that poverty is the root cause of all the evils and leads to exploitation — economic, moral and physical - of the children. If the children are provided a sense of belonging, the emotional security of some home, they will develop self esteem and modesty.
Why vagrants and vagabonds proliferate in the Muslim society?
Break of marriages, divorces, desertions of wives is rampant in the lower strata among Muslims. Children stick to the discarded mothers who in turn press them into employment to supplement her own meagre income from small chores.
Any way out for these helpless women?
Rising tide of desertion of wives by irresponsible husbands contributes to broken homes. We need to check this tendency. Children are the main casualty of such broken homes. But even as we infuse some sense of family discipline among Muslims, we must take care of the women who have been victimised and children.
(Rabita Welfare Group) 1/3 North Road, Cooke Town,
Bangalore-560084, Phone: 0091-080- 5464228, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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