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Muslim women: Victim of half-baked thinking on triple talaq

But Muslim women groups believe the BJP’s attempt to politicize this entire debate within their community could well result in their facing a fundamentalist backlash.
Triple Talaq

The Muslim community is watching with apprehension as Prime Minister Narendra Modi has stepped into the political battle over the Muslim practice of triple talaq.

More than 24 Muslim women activist groups have written to Modi demanding reform to the existing Muslim laws on divorce and polygamy. Some of these groups have also filed a petition in the Supreme Court.

But Muslim women groups believe the BJP’s attempt to politicize this entire debate within their community could well result in their facing a fundamentalist backlash.

Hasina Khan, founder of the Bebaak Collective, a Muslim women’s organisation based in Mumbai, admitted that her group has taken a strong stand against triple talaq and have become a co-petitioner in the Supreme Court but at that same time they find it extremely problematic for the saffron brigade to want to take over their struggle.

She admits Muslims’s women organizations are fighting against the absolute powers being given to men under the Muslim Personal laws by allowing triple talaq but we are also conscious of how the BJP is trying to link this entire issue to open a debate on the Uniform Civil Code.

Said Khan, `I find the questionnaire prepared by the Law Commission extremely problematic. It is obvious the government wants to open a debate on the entire issue of UCC but this is not the way to do so especially since they want the answers in a `yes’ and `no’ format.’

Khan believes the needs of Muslim women need to be addressed keeping in mind their low socio-economic condition. She quotes the latest Census data to show how Muslim women comprise the largest number of separated women. `Muslim women account for 75 percent of the women-to-men separated population ( within their community) while Christain women comprise 69 percent of the separated population within their community.
But there are other organizations working for the rights of Muslims who claim their women members are being forced to sign a form supporting triple talaq.

At least two organizations working for the rights of Muslims have come forward to state that Muslim women claim their members are being forced to sign a form supporting ‘triple talaq’, even as a signature war erupted in the community in support and against the Islamic way of divorce.

While the All India Muslim Personal Law Board has launched a nationwide drive to collect signatures of people “to save and protect Shariat Laws” — related to marriage, divorce and inheritance, women’s rights groups have come up with a counter-campaign.

Lucknow-based Zafaryab Jilani, an additional solicitor general of Uttar Pradesh, believes that reform of the personal laws must come from within the community itself.

He believes the government needs to hold a referendum on this entire issue especially since 90 percent of the Muslim women support the Sharia law.

He maintains the move to `ban triple talaq is a conspiracy to impose a UCC. The Muslims will not tolerate any interference in their personal law,’ Jilani added.

Dr. Kancha Ilaiah, a Dalit activist and writer, is also skeptical about the reform agenda being pushed by the government. ` The UCC questionnaire pretends to ask questions about Islam, Christianity, and Hinduism but it is obvious they are targeting Islam.

`There are so many issues within Hinduism including widows being given the right to remarry. The issue of polygamy affects everybody. This entire UCC debate was ignited when Vajpayee was prime minister. My question is why the BJP wants to create a crisis for Muslims every time they are in power,’ Ilaiah added.

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