Tag Archives: Muslim Woman

Amid hypocrisy and misogyny, Indian Muslim Women as a ‘double minority’

By Sanober Umar *

The ugly patriarchal politics of ‘Triple Talaq’ or unilateral ‘instant divorce’ through which Indian Muslim men (specifically Sunnis who follow the Hanafi school of Islamic jurisprudence), can divorce their wives by pronouncing the word ‘talaq’ thrice in a single sentence, has appeared once again in mainstream politics. In this board game played over Muslim women, you have two main players. On the one hand you have the ever-so-vocal and self-proclaimed representatives of Muslims – The All Indian Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) – and on the other hand, you have right-wing public figures of Hindutva, including our very own Prime Minister Mr. Modi, shedding tears of concern for Muslim women’s rights.

However Muslim women should not be deemed as agentless victims in this plot, and many are raising their voice against this practice by asserting their Koranic rights. Nonetheless, it is important to emphasize that while AIMPLB and Hindutva politics may seem to be polar opposites, the two have much more in common when it comes to curbing or denying Muslim women their rights. The male dominated AIMPLB is clearly vested in its project of misogyny even at the cost of denying Muslim women their Islamic right of longer procedures of divorce, that allow time and space for reasonable consideration before annulling a marriage. On the other hand, Hindutva men are no saviours of Muslim women either, as many instances both past and present have shown – including the recent spates of rape and murders ( the Haryana rapes and murders by Gau Rakshaks )and not to forget, the horrifying Muzaffarnagar violence not too long ago).

It is imperative to mention here that the kind of divorce proceedings that the AIMPLB vociferously supports is not only not followed by many sects among Muslims in India including the second largest sect of Indian Muslims, the Shias; but also not in twenty-one other Muslim dominant countries or Islamic states, including Algeria, Turkey and Bangladesh and Pakistan, which have abolished regressive practices such as triple talaaq. It is important to listen to what Indian Muslim women have to say about their own needs and rights, and how they are articulating these. Many directly seek guidance and justice through their recourse to the Koran, in effect not turning necessarily to a secular cosmology for their rights, but one that they maintain that their religion already guarantees them. However more than 50,000 women have been compelled to petition to the courts for justice that they derive from their religion, due to the unethical high-handedness of Muslim patriarchs. Misogynists from AIMPLB continue to slander these individual Muslim activists and organizations such as Bazmee Khwateen, Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Aandolan and the All Indian Muslim Women’s Personal Law Board, in a bid to override their legitimate demands. Even if these men from the Ulema concede that the demands of these women are within the Islamic tradition, they still insist on keeping an anti-women tradition alive, as self-assigned representatives of the Indian Muslim community in India. However, here is where an even more important question arises – who gave AIMPLB the right to declare themselves as spokesperson for the Muslim community?


Image Courtesy : AFP

It comes as a surprise to many that the AIMPLB is just an NGO. It does not hold any power by itself in relation to the State. It has however managed to garner popular support since the 1985 Shah Bano case, which many have noted transpired in a context where the Congress Party which was at the Centre at the time, overlooked the voices of progressive and reformist Muslims. Not a single member of the AIMPLB has been democratically elected. It is a body of mostly handpicked Muslim men who join the ranks simply based on their self-projection as scholars of Islam or social connections, with a large following of poor Muslims, many of whom as mentioned earlier, are too illiterate to even know the depths of debates and dialogues in their own faith, and therefore follow whatever these imams have to say especially at a time when they feel vulnerable as minorities in an increasingly radicalized Hindutva State. Ultimately, the Indian State historically has been conspicuously active in erasing Muslim women’s rights by according a degree of legitimacy to AIMPLB which can be over-ridden easily if the State chooses to do so, especially given how Muslim women’s rights are being evaded in such a blatant fashion and against their constitutional rights as Indian individuals.Meanwhile, the right-wing Hindu BJP claims that it cares for Indian Muslim women, which is news for Indian Muslim women themselves.

Modi in a recent speech, shedding tears for Indian Muslim women, made remarks about how the Muslim community must come together and discuss this issue to guarantee rights for women facing misogynistic oppression through laws like the triple talaq. One may certainly agree with our Prime Minister on this point. It only seems to be a fair demand. But the politics of Muslim marginalization in India is interwoven with Hindutva demonization of the community, including positing themselves as being the bastions of women’s rights when the truth is far from it. One cannot help but wonder why our Prime Minister remains silent, let alone shed tears, for Muslim women who suffer from the violence of Hindu right-wingers? Muslim women have been brutally tortured and killed in several riots by Hindus since our Prime Minister came to power. Justice still remains to be sought for the women victims of Gujarat, Muzaffarnagar and Haryana very recently. It should not come as a surprise than that many within the Muslim community have noted this hypocrisy and taken it to social media, reminding our Prime Minister of his silence in cases such as Mewat rapes, the trauma that Bilkis Bano and several other women underwent during the Gujarat riots, Insha Malik who lost her vision in Kashmir during peaceful protests or Najeeb’s mother still searching for her son who disappeared after Hindutva goons beat him up in JNU recently. In fact, Mr. Modi’s tears is one of the premises that AIMPLB uses to its leverage when it claims that the State wants to infringe the community’s collective identity, but does not care about its interests or intervene in other situations that demand institutional inclusion and protection of minorities.

However now that Prime Minister Modi is on board for the rights of women by expressing concern especially for minority Muslim women, one would hope that our PM would extend the same empathy to his own wife, Jashodaben, whom he abandoned after his marriage. After all, the personal is political as many feminists have observed, and he would set a good example for men and women in the whole country with such a gesture of kindness towards women in his personal life. Right? Reiterating the thread of this article in sum: the Ulema of AIMPLB wants to protect Muslim patriarchy and maintain its power among the largely illiterate population of Indian Muslims, and Hindutva figures want to malign Islam in order to demonize a discriminated minority while omitting their own oppression of Muslim women. They both need each other to mutually constitute and reaffirm each other’s power and popularity in their voter demographics. One is a non-State actor, and other is the government itself.But Indian Muslim women are not in the fringes of this debate anymore, and they are finding ways to empower themselves as women and as Muslims, who carry the burden of being a ‘double minority’ in spaces occupied by misogynists on the one hand and hypocrites on the other.

* This blogpost was written by Sanober Umar. It first appeared in Kafila.

Sanober is a PhD student in History at Queen’s University in Canada. 


Palestinian woman

( for Israa’ Abed)*

What did you say
to the guns they pointed
at your heart,
heart shaped like an olive tree
they stole from your memory?

Oh, Palestinian woman,
now lying gently tilted
a dark green hijab holding your bleeding brain
black sandals facing the ground,
upside down, as if looking for a way out,
to flee this frozen moment
where the tender touch of your heels turned sore,
a sore festering, deep in you, for decades
since the night they crept into your father’s silence,
while he was writing a poem,
he never could finish,
dead alphabets of occupied languages
lay all around his pages…

bloodied and burnt
did he visit you every night
in your teary dreams,
and stand in silence like a corpse
that you forgot to bury?
did you whisper to him
” Baba, please recite to me verses
from your last poem,
this silence is poetry I cannot bear,”?

he is waiting for you, now,
near the gates of mourning
with a charred sheet of paper in his hand
where his unfinished poem killed itself
but, why aren’t you leaving yet?
why does your image
still plunge into my pupils
rippling on my resting tears?

why does your posture, calm and tragic,
still haunt my heart
which has no place to escape?
are you waiting for your three children
for the touch of their tiny palms
for the look in their perplexed eyes
still too young to know death,
still full of hope
that they think you are teasing them,

” Mama, wake up.
wake up, Mama
you won ”
‘some games you can never win,”
you say.
but they can’t hear you,
the world won’t hear you
are you still waiting
for the birds that long flew your land
to return to the nests where they loved?

for the children
crushed while they crawled
burnt while they slept
bombed while they played
to come back and collect
the pieces of their childhood
they hid in a tiny box
buried in the bosoms
of their mothers, who waited
through the moonless nights
for that wall to crumble,
walls where they wrote,

” Martrys always return” ?
do they ever leave?
you still lie,
here, there,
the moon on my terrace
looks like your closed eye
the sky smelt like a tomb
the cosmos carved for you
the sound of that gun,
a second before it pierced your life,
rings in my.ear
like a prologue to.a tragic play
I çan’t bear to see.

oh, Palestinian woman,
what did you see in the eyes
of the ones that killed you?
Stolen land?
Murdered memories?
the eyes
of people who eat popcorn
while they bomb your homes
people who sleep on the graves
of your ancestors, who they kill
again and again,
in dreams
they once occupied
and never left

*On 9 October 2015, 29-year old Isra’ ‘Abed from Nazareth was killed by Israeli police at Al-Affoulah bus station in Israel.

Protest against Haryana Government

NEW DELHI, INDIA OCTOBER 25: Two Dalit children burned alive in Faridabad Dalit Shoshan Mukti Manch supporters during A protest against Haryana government at Jantar Manter in New Delhi.(Photo by Qamar Sibtain/India Today Group/Getty Images)

Burn-able bodies

burning in my eyes,
ashes falling down as tears,

tears of a history,
tears of a people,

crumbling under the burden of fire,
like sentences,
breaking in the middle
with words jumping, letter by letter,
into the abyss of silence
almost as if
they were never written
almost as if
they were never born

yet to learn a language,
that only spoke with limbs,
shuffle within the flesh of those flames
for a syllable that resembles kindness,

all it found,
guiltless gerunds
churned from vitriolic verbs,
they knew,
there was no dignity left
in the language of humanity,

wake up in coffins
that smell of burning wombs
those coffins
that don’t want to be buried
not before this nation douses itself
in disgust of its own reflection
in those half-open beady eyes
their mother can’t bear to close

once flaming with hope
now drenched in despair
that shouldn’t be touched
but only burnt
that shouldn’t be seen
but only slaughtered
some old
some young
some in the day
some in the night
some near the feet of temples
some near the mouths of sewers

a habit that never leaves,
but only creeps, deeper,
like death into the cemetery,
into the eyes of a Republic
that never regrets

*On October 20, Upper caste Rajputs set fire to the home of a Dalit family in Sunpedh, a village in Faridabad near Delhi, killing both the sleeping children inside aged 2 years and 9 months while their parents have suffered severe burn injuries.

Mob Kills Man, Injures Son Over Beef Rumours In Greater Noida

GREATER NOIDA, INDIA – SEPTEMBER 29: Family members of Mohammad Akhlaq (50-year-old man) mourn during his funeral at their village in Bisada on September 29, 2015 in Greater Noida, India. Akhlaq was beaten to death and his son critically injured by a mob over an allegation of storing and consuming beef at home, late night on Monday, in UPs Dadri. Police and PAC were immediately deployed in the village to maintain law and order. Six persons were arrested in connection with the killing of man. (Photo by Burhaan Kinu/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

None left

I bow
to the cow
munching my mother’s bones
near the windows of my burning house

” I am your mother”,
it moos, in maternal delight,
for her deserted sons

I hear,
in the silence of its hooves,
the final moan of my mother

” Fly away, Aslam,
before the tunes of these deaths
reach the graves of your ears

Fly away, child,
the warmth of my womb
is drenched in this doom

Fly away, darling,
these saffron skies
have no space for broken moons

before you fly,

forgive all the mothers
whose kids never returned

forgive all the silence
whose words never formed

forgive all the seas
whose shores wounded you”

last wishes,
they say,
are final verses
of a poem whose time to end
has come

I take the bloodied pen
from my mother’s cold fingers
tear a piece from her white saree,
a canvas to conclude this parting poem,
with holes that smell of stubbed cigarettes

a country smokes
in the shadows of its temples

the ash
sprinkled all across its twisted map
are leftovers from our lynchings’

I try to finish the tear
that started in my mothers eye

I realize
that I am already dead
the pen has left the ink
the eyes have left the tears
the birds have left the wings

there is no end
to this poem
there are no eulogies
to these funerals
there is none left
to weep or to write

*On October 1, 2015, Mohammad Akhlaq, a 50 year old muslim man, was lynched by a mob of 100 over the rumors of carrying beef. On October 10, 2015, Zahid Ahmed Bhat, a 20 yr old belonging to Kashmir, was lynched for the same.

Stories of a graveyard

Azaan stabs the dawn
with its absence

Aziz chacha kills himself
with poison he bought
by pawning his bronze-coated Quran

kids from the madrasa
tearing their skull caps
run across the streets
writing on the walls
with blood from their burning eyes
the Arabic word they learnt
the day before

(until we meet again)
-their tongues folded like waves
that vomit corpses onto the empty shores

the leaves with dew on their lips
wilt into parched shrouds for dead roses

the domes of the mosque
crumble into wounded sparrows
climbing up the stairs
that touch the skies
only to slip onto the cracked soils of cemeteries
as tombstones waiting for the corpses

Khaja mama who guards the graveyard
writes a rhyme he always forgot in the school
on one of the blank gravestones
then gently sleeps inside the grave,
asking his wife to cement the top with her tears

Wazira who died two days ago
walks out of her coffin
undressing the rags on her body

stretch marks on her womb
flayed skin on her fingers

At the door of the burial ground
she sits naked
with her legs wide apart
a frozen teardrop twinkled on her bosom
a flock of butterflies huddle on her shoulder blades

*On October 23, 2015, unknown youths dug out the body of a Muslim woman, buried two days before, from her grave and allegedly raped the corpse.

All the poems were penned by Abul Kalam Azad.

Abul Kalam Azad is a student at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, Chennai. He can be contacted at saka16492@gmail.com