Muslim women In India
A good way to understand the situation of India’s Muslim women is to read newspapers. Using India’s Muslim women to be the key words, and search them on newspapers’ websites. We can find that there are large amount of information about those women, and most of news focus on poverty, domestic violence, and religious discrimination. For example, a news posted in Times of India wrote that a Muslim lady was forced to move out her apartment because she is a Muslim. She tried to find help by telling her story to social medias, but her effort is useless.1 It is a fact that religious discrimination has been an long term problem in Indian society, and also an important aspect of social inequality. Furthermore, sex discrimination is still haunting the Indian Muslim women. They have to follow their religious norms, and obey their male relatives. Therefore, Indian Muslim women unexpectedly become a neglected group in India. In other words, India’s Muslim women are suffering serious discrimination from the society and their families because the apathetic attitude of government, the strict religious norms, and sexism.
According to 2001 Census, India has 953 millions population, 12% of the national population is Indian Muslims. In this 12% of the national population, 62.5 millions
1. Anahita Mukherji. “Muslim Woman Denied Flat in Mumbai.” The Times of India, May 27, 2015. Accessed July 30, 2015.
are India’s Muslim women.1 In fact, for a long time, India was a Muslim country. In 712 CE the Arab armies of Mohammed Bin Qasim captured a part of Baluchistan, stopping at the borders of Sindh. In fourteenth-century Kashmir, Sufi implemented some new policies in Persia and Central Asia. He merged local customs and traditions with the massage of Islam. Comparing with the caste system, those polities were more spirituality, egalitarianism and tolerance. For the results, people started to against the norms of Brahminic society, and part of low-castes were attracted to change their religion, and became Muslims. In the wake of the Delhi Sultanate in 1192 CE, Muslims occupied one fourth of the Indian population. However, Muslim rulers also robbed unbelievable amounts of wealth from India. For example, in 1206 Mahmud of Ghazni plundered huge loots to build museum and mosque in his homecountry.1 In any case, Muslim government controlled this country for almost 8 centuries. This was the beginning of the long term conflict between Muslim and Hindu.
It is worthwhile to note that Muslim government established the pro-women legislation from classical Islamic law. An important piece of legislation was women had the right to get family property. However, due to social prejudice and resistance, this piece was seldom practiced. At the same time, dowry, one of the extremely negative customs had been adopted by Muslim. 2
1. Annie John and S. V. Shinde. “Educational Status Of Muslim Women In India,” Review Of Research (2012) :2.
2. Seema. Kazi. Muslim Women In India (London : Minority Rights Group International). 4
3. Kazi. Muslim Women In India. 4
At the end of nineteenth century, Raja Ram Mohan Roy, a Bengali social reformer paid his attentions to the inferior position of Hindu women, especially for polygamy, female infanticide, and sati. Even though his social reform debate didn’t include India’s Muslim women, it had aroused different responses from Muslim. India’s Muslim modernists suggested to abolish the traditional gender roles in Muslim law. They thought that they can provided equal rights for Muslim women by reforming the Muslim law. In the meantime, the problem of female education had been came up by those people. Seema Kazi wrote, “ Mumtaz Ali and his wife Mohammadi Begum founded a newspaper Tahzib-un-Niswan (Women’s Reformer) which took up the issues of female education, the age of marriage, the importance of a girl’s consent to marriage, polygamy, a woman’s role in marriage and purdah.’’
Ameer Ali, the Bengali lawyer, and Rokeya Shakhawat Hossain, the advocate of social reform also against to the unfair treatment for female, and uneducated India’s Muslim women. 1
However, there were still contradictions within the modernists. Some opponents were powerful on India’s Muslim society. Even though they supported the modern education system, they argued against the idea of educating women. For example, Mohammed lqbal believed European suffragettes were some kind of boring, forced, and useless ideas. He was a famous poet and philosopher, and had the certain influence in the Muslim world. 2Those people’s opinion was strangling the process of
1. Seema. Kazi. Muslim Women In India (London : Minority Rights Group International).7
2. Kazi. Muslim Women In India.7
India’s Muslim women’s liberation. Moreover, part of neutrals thought women had the right to receive education, but they should be controlled by the society, and continued to obey the sexual hierarchy. 1The neutrals’ idea was also an obstacle for India’s Muslim women’s liberation.
No matter how opponents disliked, with the nationalist movement, the movement of women’s rights was beginning to emerge at the beginning of twentieth century. After All India women’s Conference ( AIWC) was found in 1927, Amir – un – Nisa formed the Anjuman-e-Khawatin-e- Islam (The Muslim Women’s Association) in Punjab. 2 Some Muslim women participated into this movement, and made contributions to raising women’s right. However, it was still hard for Muslim women to be accept by other groups because the religious differences and progressive politics eschewing community. 3 During the 1930s, the movement of women’s rights was encountered resistance from some of their male political allies. In order to find ‘a more comprehensive secular legal code’, women’s organizations decided to alienate Muslim women supporters. 4 In other words, India’s Muslim women were abandoned by their Hindu allies. They were left in a hostile world, high and dry.
But the worst thing was still to come. After the independence of India, a long term Hindu-Muslim conflict was begun. A 1947’s news shows that Indian Communal
1. Seema. Kazi. Muslim Women In India (London : Minority Rights Group International).7
2. Samita Sen. “Toward a Feminist Politics? The Indian Women’s Movement in Historical Perspective,” POLICY RESEARCH REPORT ONGENDER AND DEVELOPMENT 9 (2000):14
3. Vrinda Narain. Reclaiming the Nation Muslim Women and the Law in India (University of Toronto Press).65
4. Sen. “Toward a Feminist Politics? The Indian Women’s Movement in Historical Perspective,”30
Strife killed at least 10,000 people in Hindu-Muslim riots. Indian Communal Strife killed at least 10,000 people in Hindu-Muslim riots. The Indian National Congress claimed to be non-communal, but All-India Muslim League didn’t appear to recognize the danger of communal strife. They didn’t want to make a concession.1 The conflict stirred up hatred between nations. It became more and more intense, and finally turned into a national war. With the conflict, the situation of India’s Muslim women was getting more ugly.
Also because of the Hindu-Muslim conflict, Indian government developed a unique legal system. Indian Constitution protects the freedom and equality of Muslim women, but it also admits Muslim personal law governing family relations. However, the problem is the families of Muslim women living are structured by “explicitly discriminatory laws”, which are set up as a closed religion group. According to Muslim personal law, Muslim women have to abide several stricter regulations. Moreover, it also supports that female must stay in the subordinate position. A great example for the between Indian Constitution and personal law is the trial of Shah Bano, which happened in 1985. Shah Bano was a divorced Muslim women, and she sued her husband for financial support under the general secular Indian law. However, her husband declared that his religious law didn’t require him to do that. Finally, her husband got plenty of backing from Muslim groups and won this lawsuit. 2 This
1. Our Delhi Correspondent. “Indian Communal Strife.” The Times February 10, 1947.
2. Narain, Vrinda. “Muslim Women’s Equality in India: Applying a Human Rights Framework.” Human Rights Quarterly (2013): 92-96
result caused a lot of negative impacts. One of the worst influence is that it push India’ Muslim women away from the equal citizenship. After the trial of Shah Bano, government started to ignore the similar things.
In conclusion, the situation of India’ Muslim women is very bad. They are victims of the long term Hindu-Muslim conflict and historical issues. As a result of their religion, it is hard for them to be accepted by other India’s women groups, and also the mainstream society. However, their religion is also limiting their freedom and human rights because they are women. The ground floor of the sexual hierarchy.
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