Moderate Malerkotla Shows the Way

Police records have no complaint of inquiry in a triple talaq case.  One of the reasons for this could be better education.

By Parvesh Sharma

The Muslim-majority town of Malerkotla in Punjab could perhaps be the only place in the country unmoved by the heat over ‘triple talaq, being debated in the Supreme Court. No one — community lawyers, the police and NGOs working there — can recall even one such case in decades. “It’s because the community believes that such ‘instant divorces’ bring a bad name to it. It’s an insult to us,” says Dr Rubina Shabnam, head of Nawab Sher Mohammad Khan Institute of Advanced Studies in Urdu, Persian and Arabic. Of 1.49 lakh voters, 60% are Muslims in Malerkotla.
It is the only town in the state where Urdu is taught in schools. It is the vegetable capital of Punjab. Famous for its badge-making industry, it has a history of producing excellent poets and qawwals. The town is also known for its local Idgah, Shaheedi Smarak, built in the memory of Kuka martyrs, the Shahi Maqbara of Sufi saint Haider Sheikh and the tombs of various rulers.

Blown Out of Proportion
The town presents contrasting pictures: burqa-clad women walk alongside their family members in all parts of the city, unmindful of the jeans-wearing girls in markets. Local Muslims prefer to duck any debate over ‘triple talaq’. But what they do say is that the issue is being blown out of proportion to divert the attention of the nation from important matters. “Our main problems are lack of basic amenities such as water, sewerage, education, jobs and healthcare,” says Shehzad Hussain, who heads Sikh-Muslim Front in the city against drug addiction.

Better Education
“We have heard about ‘triple talaq’, but I have not met any woman victim of it in Malerkotla. Since the issue has drawn national attention, we generally wonder with our family members and friends that why such a fuss is being created. Yes, there are divorce cases in the community, but these are sorted out through a system devised in our religion,” says Dr Rubina Shabnam. A recipient of Shiromani Urdu Sahitkar Award in 2008, she says though there are differences between couples in the community, but instant divorce is not a preferred option.
Police records have no complaint of inquiry in a triple talaq case.  One of the reasons for this could be better education. The number of Muslim girls enrolled in local Islamia Girls Senior Secondary School has increased each year. “In 2010, we had around 1,200 girl students. Currently we have 2,000 students out of which most are Muslims. Things for Muslim girls are changing fast and today all parents want to provide education to their daughters. We haven’t seen any instant divorce,” says Saba Shaheen, the school principal.
Malerkotla MLA and cabinet minister Razia Sultana says she usually receives cases of family disputes, but has not received any ‘triple talaq’ complaint.
(Extracted from tribuneindia.com)

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