Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, one of the largest Muslim women’s groups in India questions the credibility of Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind’s new-found concern for Muslim women’s rights
By Noorjehan Safia Niaz
Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind, one of the leading Islamic ulama organizations in India, passed a resolution on the rights of women at their public convention held in New Delhi on 19th May. Of the 17 resolutions, the 16th – titled as Resolution about the Rights of Woman – reads “…. this general session of Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind feels that today’s Muslim society is callous towards the rights of woman. It is a matter of anguish that girls are treated as burden and they are denied well- upbringing, education and right to inheritance. Injustice and cruelty to wife and divorce is rampant in Muslim society….. Therefore this General Session of Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind appeals to the Muslim community to act on Islamic instructions about rights of woman.”
It is definitely a welcome change that a religious organization like Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind (JUH), with grassroots network across India has passed a resolution showing concern over Muslim women’s status in the country. However, one wonders whether it is just paying lip service, considering the fact that women’s rights have never been an issue for most religious organizations, including JUH in the country.
Muslim women cannot ignore the fact that powerful and influential bodies like JUH are extremely patriarchal and almost exclusively male and have conveniently ignored the basic premise of Islam which is equality and justice. Issues like women’s rights, patriarchy, and domestic violence are alien to them. For years these groups have usurped for themselves the right to read, translate and interpret the Quran. Many translations of the holy book on key issues concerning women are in their own notions of patriarchy. Quranic verses have been twisted out of their contexts to deny women what has already been ordained.
How genuine is this call when we know that these demands are made at the absence of Muslim women? There was not even a single Muslim woman present at the Ramlila Maidan event. If JUH had made any serious attempt to talk to women and understand their issues, they would have sought representation of Muslim women at the event.
We, as Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), challenge the JUH that if they are genuinely concerned about the status and rights of Muslim women, they must throw open their membership to Muslim women and give them space to discuss their problems. Muslim women’s rights are human rights too and it is time influential Islamic bodies like JUH make an honest attempt to talk, discuss and engage with the women in the community.
Noorjehan Safia Niaz is the founder member of BMMA. She has been working for many years across the country to mobilize Muslim women’s leadership.