India: Talaq talaq talaq mullahs to Supreme Court

India Times
Sheikh Mohammed of Bhadrak district, Orissa in a drunken state pronounced triple talaq to his wife Najma Bibi, but next morning realised his mistake and decided to live with her and their three young children.
Mullahs in Bhadrak issued the Fatwa declaring that the couple were divorced, and Najma Bibi with all her children was forcibly sent to her father’s house
The edict ruled that if Najma wanted to live with her husband she must perform Halala, which meant that she must marry another man, consummate this marriage, then divorce and re-marry Sheikh Mohd. Najma refused and went to the court against the fatwa and sought police protection from her community men who were harassing the couple. They were also ostracised by the Muslim community in Bhadrak.

The Supreme Court of India last month directed Orissa state government to provide police protection to the family and ruled that “No one can force them to live separately. This is a secular country. All communities— Hindus or Muslims—should behave in a civilized manner”. The Orissa unit of Jamait-ul-Ulema took strong exception and retorted back “The SC has no power to intervene in religious matters. It should confine itself to other litigations and should have consulted religious institutions and clerics before taking such a decision”.

What should the secular India do ? Najma’s case is not the first or an isolated one. Shah Bano, 20 years back, was triple talaq’ed by her husband after 43 years of marriage and was thrown on the street without any financial support (mehr) as required under Muslim law. SC had ruled it could not accept her husband’s plea that he was only bound by Islamic laws. A husband must assist his wife financially after a divorce if she has no other means. Such was the fury of the agitation that followed in all major cities of India supported by eminent journalist MJ Akbar (The Asian Age editor) and controversial RJD MP Syed Shahabuddin that Rajiv Gandhi government in 1986, agreed to their demands, and using Congress majority dilued the SC ruling through a legislation citing it as an example of "secularism". The result of this act was that in several states of India, divorced Muslim women could not claim maintenance beyond the ‘iddat’ (three menstrual cycle) period.

From the historic case of Shah Bano, which changed the political contours of the country and in addition to Bofor scandal was one of main cause for the Congress defeat in 1989, to the saga of Saddiqunissa in Lucknow and the soul-stirring tale of Gudiya in Meerut (see links), Muslim women have been at the receiving end of the obscurantist mullahs, who have not even spared tennis sensation Sania Mirza and suggested an Islamic dress code for her.

Even in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan a husband has to notify an arbitration council/Shariat court about the Talaq immediately after its pronounced which freezes the talaq for 90 days during which the council tries to bring about a reconciliation. After 90 days, the talaq takes effect only if there is no patch-up. Moreover, the man has to apply to the council to marry a second time giving exact reasons why he wants to do so.

The lives of Muslim women cannot be governed by archaic practices like triple talaq. Muslim women should be governed by laws that treat them as equal citizens of democratic India.

Are the Mullahs, the "progressive" Muslim leaders like MJ Akbar and Syed Shahabuddin, and above all the “secularists” Congresswalahs listening ?

Perhaps not …. they are busy counting their votes ….

posted on Tuesday, May 09, 2006