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BMMA Against Uniform Civil Code: ‘Does Not Guarantee Freedom of Religion’

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By Zeeshan Shaikh

Mumbai: The Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, which has been seeking reforms in Muslim personal law, has opposed the introduction of Uniform Civil Code in the country. “The Supreme Court observation has emanated from the need to bring about a gender-just legal framework and not from a desire to impose or force anything on different communities. This must be read as such and not as encouragement for ‘Hinduisation’ of all laws and social practices,” said Dr Noorjehan Safia Niaz, co-founder, Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA).
Last month, the Supreme Court had asked the government if it intended to introduce a Uniform Civil Code in the country. The BMMA has claimed that it is opposed to the introduction of Uniform Civil Code without taking into account the Constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion. It has claimed that the Constitution of India, under Article 25, grants the right to all, including minorities, to have personal laws based on respective tenets of different religious communities. “It is also time that all religious minority and majority communities stated their positions on the UCC. A UCC is meant for all communities and not just Muslims. Are all communities willing to give up their personal laws? It is a question that all communities have to ask themselves and state their position in the public space,” Niaz said. Rather than a Uniform Civil Code, the organisation has claimed, there is need for “gender-just reform in the Muslim personal law based on the Quranic values of equality and justice in line with Article 25 of the Constitution of India”. “It is important to point out that national integration cannot happen by a common family law, but by treating all citizens equally. There can be no imposition of any kind as this would impinge on the religious freedom and secularism principles enshrined in the Constitution,” Niaz added. She said there was a strong fear that Hindu marriage laws could be imposed on all other religious minorities in the name of the Uniform Civil Code. The BMMA has taken on the traditional Muslim clergy in the country and has been demanding that the Muslim Personal Law should be codified so that its provisions were clear to everyone. However, the conservative clergy has claimed that the codification and banning of practices such as ‘oral talaq’ are tantamount to tampering with the Sharia and the Islamic way of life. Muslims in India are governed by the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1936. This law makes the application of Shariat applicable to all Muslims. However, this law is not codified and is open to interpretations by the local clergy. Women’s groups have claimed that these interpretations are not gender-friendly and prone to be misused against women.