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Posts Tagged ‘Islam’

I have, before this, spoken of the eventual irrelevance of ‘religion’ in the affairs of the human species. It may not seem to be near at hand and neither is it, but I believe its gradual marginalization is a historical trend, and it must die out ultimately when men will have no use for it.  Surprisingly, its staunchest proponents are the ones who perceive this clearly, and never cease to find out absurd ways and means to stem this inexorable tide. The plea before the Indian Supreme Court by a section of the Muslim community to allow veiled women to be photographed (with veils on) for voter’s ID cards is one such example of absurdity and desperation. (Click here for the story.) The Supreme Court has rightly dismissed such pleas with the comment that those Muslim women who do not wish to be seen by men need not come out and vote. No matter what its origins may be, the burqa system is a blot on the seemingly liberal character of our society, and far from being a symbol of faith, it is today a glaring symbol of oppression of women. What can be worse, those who support this depravity do so on the grounds of religion, something which is above and beyond any debate.

While it can not be ignored that in some ‘liberated’ Muslim societies where burqas have been banned, women have themselves come forward protesting this ban and asserting their right to sport that particular piece of clothing as a symbol of their faith, I still believe this has been more out blind belief in religious diktat rather than prudence or reason. (The Nobel Prize-winning writer Orhan Pamuk’s novels portray the pro-burqa movement by women in Ataturk’s secular Turkey.) Whatever these women may be fighting for, they are doing little to further the cause of the millions of women who are being subjected to emotional as well as physical torture behind the shadows of the burqa.

Coming back to India, we have a society which has ‘given to itself’ a constitution, which in turn guarantees it the right to freely profess, practise or propagate any religion, subject to public order, morality and health. By this token, an instrument of religion like the burqa which is blatantly immoral in as much as it encourages oppression of women and denies them another fundamental right, that of free expression, ought to be declared as an infringement upon the constitution and comprehensively banned along the lines of other social evils like Sati and untouchability.

There was a time not too long ago in our nation’s history when Indians across religious lines came together to cast off and burn pieces of clothing that had become a symbol of oppression. These were the foreign-manufactured clothes, and their mass burning became a rallying point for the Swadeshi movement and the fight against British rule in India. We may have won that fight, but we are yet to win another one in which once again a piece of clothing has come to symbolize institutionalized oppression against women in our society. Once again, we must cast it off and burn it, not just symbolically, but for good measure. The initiative rests with our brothers and sisters in the Muslim community. They have the option of perpetuating this social evil under the guise of religion, or casting it off once and for all and revealing the truly liberal face of India to the world. Theirs indeed is the historic moment, either to seize or to let pass idly.

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