The Hijab Flag

A person who claims to be a liberal says that millions of parents who make their girls wear a hijab are child abusers and need to be called out. Now these allegations have become too common so I decided to understand and respond to them. There are four types of child abuse:

  1. Physical AbuseUntitledsss
  2. Sexual Abuse
  3. Emotional Abuse
  4. Neglect

I tried my best to understand how making children wear a hijab fits into the definition of child abuse but failed. At this point I was under the impression that the gentleman is repeating the New Atheist claim that teaching religion to children is child abuse (of course it isn’t).

So just to be clear I confronted the gentleman with the example of Sikhs. After all Sikhs too make their children wear a turban from a very early age. This hit a Untitledsssraw nerve. In an angry invective laden tweet Shantanu made it clear that he had no issues with Sikhs making their children wear a religious headgear and the Sikh religious headgear for children is somehow not comparable to the Muslim headgear for children which he has declared as child abuse.

Then Shantanu goes on to say that Adults have the agency and free will to choose and kids don’t. At this moment I was confused. Apparently Sikh kids have the agency and free will to choose a turban and a Sikh lifestyle but Muslim kids don’t. Strange!

I try my best to understand what the other person is trying to say. Perhaps Shantanu is not so good at communicating his ideas, perhaps he wants to say that he has no issues with parents choosing a religious headgear for children as long as it is done for the right reasons. Sikhs do it for the right reasons and Muslims do it for the wrong reasons.

Shantanu did not say how Sikhs do it for the right reasons but he knows exactly why the Muslims do it for the wrong reasons. “To protect their modesty” he says. This also adds a new dimension to the debate. Presumably Shantanu cant read Arabic, has never read the Quran in Arabic or in English, nor has he taken any interest in learning about the history or origins of Islam, yet he is suddenly qualified to issue a sweeping fatwa on why Muslim women wear a hijab (Or are rather forced by Muslim men to wear a hijab).

Shantanu pulled out the most worn out Islamophobic trick ever. Islamophobes have little idea about what Islam is so they create their own caricature of Islam out of thin air. A caricature that they can easily mock. Not only is this caricature of Islam the truest form of Islam, they claim, but every Muslim who follows it is also an extremist.

So in the caricature created by Shantanu Muslims see Hijab as some kind of Kryptonite that will save the Muslim girls from bad men. Looking at his ignorance about Islam I tried to explain to Shantanu that Sikhs and Muslims make their children wear religious headgear for the exact same reasons. Sikhs emulate their Gurus and follow the path shown by them. Similarly Muslims emulate their Gurus and follow the path shown by them.

Hijab is not a something that came with Mohammed in Arabia of the seventh century. The history of hijab is perhaps as old as the history of the Jewish tribes. Even today the devout Jewish women wear the Jewish hijab called Kisui Rosh or the kerchief. In Christian traditions, Mary the mother of Jesus Christ is depicted as a hijab clad woman. The fact that Jewish women wore some kind of a Hijab is uncontested. Mohammed in the seventh century introduced and invited Arabs to worship the God of Jews and the God of Christians. Along with that came many Jewish customs for example; Jews and Muslims don’t eat pork, they do male circumcision, Muslim and Jewish men wear skull caps, Muslims eat halal meat which is based on Jewish Kosher meat; and many such similarities. Hijab came as part of a package to Arabs. In Islam, Mary the mother of Jesus enjoys the status of being the most exalted. Devout Muslim women try to follow into her footsteps.

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Kisui Rosh, The Jewish Hijab

So wearing of a hijab is primarily not a matter of modesty, it is a matter of piety. And of course there may be many other reasons to why Muslim women wear the hijab. Pious Sikhs make their children wear a religious headgear so do pious Muslims. They are simply following the tenets of their faith which is their fundamental right. And if the argument is that parents should not be allowed to teach religion to their kids then it opens a Pandora’s box. Why stop at religion? Should parents be allowed to teach specific food choices, movie choices, clothes, school, type of education? It is open ended.

Now the question is why did Jewish women start wearing the hijab? I don’t know. Why do Muslim men wear a skull cap? Why does the pope wear a skull cap? Why did Hindus start idol worship? I can’t answer any of these questions. If we take this path of rationally evaluating faith while ignoring human emotions and spirituality then we will end up where extremist atheist end up and that is a point where they believe all religious people are deluded and they automatically have the moral authority to talk at them and harass them. The only thing that is liberal about some self proclaimed liberals today is their ability to liberally make assumptions about other cultures.

There is nothing new about supremacists getting annoyed about how children are brought up in other cultures. This is exactly what led to several stolen generations in Australia where children were snatched from their aboriginal mothers and handed over to the Church and Government run institutions, all in the name of “protecting children from abusive parenting”. The issue of stolen generations still evokes strong emotions so much so that former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd issued a teary apology to the parents and kids of the stolen generation.

Thanks to bigots in the liberal garb we are now at a point where conservatism is on the rise. These people neither have the power nor the patience nor the academic reading of the subject to convince anyone to leave the hijab but collectively they have turned the hijab into a Muslim flag of defiance. It is apparent that these people are not looking for a dialogue with the Muslim community, they are merely interested in harassment. Why else would anyone start a dialogue by branding millions of parents as child abusers?

What should have been a purely social issue is now a political issue. Especially in the West. Muslim women know about the dangers they face while wearing a hijab on a public transport yet they wear it as if they are trying to make a point. It is these women who will also pass on the hijab flag to the next generation irrespective of what Muslim men or supremacist bigots think about the Hijab.

PS: I have absolutely no issues with Sikhs imparting religious education to their kids. The Sikh example was used to expose the double standards and selective targeting of Muslims by supremacists in the liberal garb. Don’t be surprised if they go after the Sikhs in near future. They pick the flavor of bigotry depending on the news cycle.

An Interview With A New Atheist

imagesI have with me Mr Aaye Noitall, the popular and dear leader of the New Atheist movement. New Atheism is often misunderstood and defamed by people who don’t know any better. Today we hope Mr. Noitall will introduce us to the philosophical thought behind the New Atheist Movement.

Mr. Noitall, welcome.

Let us begin by understanding the difference between Atheist and Religious philosophy.

Unlike religion Atheists do not believe in the idea of God or that the Universe was created by some bigger power whose existence cannot be proved in any way. Everything that has ever existed can be explained by understanding the laws of physics.

How do you think the laws of Physics came into existence?

I knew this was coming. This is a common theist question. Of course I am not referring to you as a theist; you look like an intelligent man. Laws of physics are Supreme, everything that we can see or hear runs according to laws of physics, everything can be explained using laws of physics, everything started with laws of physics, everything will end with laws of physics. We don’t know how laws of Physics came into existence but until we find out we have complete faith that laws of physics are supreme.

Would you at least concede that human consciousness and the ability to define what is right and what is wrong cannot be explained merely by laws of physics? 

Of course, human consciousness is not in the physical domain. For that we have come up with a value system called Humanism. It is a set of ideas we know are right for humanity and we want everyone to follow those ideas. Anyone who does not follow our value system is a deluded idiot.

Do you believe in Alien life?

We should never shut our doors to ideas. The universe is a vast place, there is a possibility that alien life exists but we can’t say for sure right now. There is no harm is searching for alien life. We can’t possibly find alien life if we completely reject the idea of alien life itself…unless they find us first, which is scary. I admit.

If there is nothing wrong in believing in the possibility of unknown how you can reject the existence of God? Is it possible that God may be an alien form?

If you put it that way then yeah, I suppose we can allow some humans with lower intelligence to keep looking for God. But we cannot have any laws that are given by that God.

But as per your own ideals, God does not exist. How can there be any laws given by God?

When we say “laws given by God” we are actually mocking the religious belief. We don’t actually believe that any laws are given by God. (Haha) All laws are made by humans. God is only used to stop people from scrutinizing those laws. And we avoid scrutiny merely by suggesting that our laws are good because they are not made by God.

It is often said that Atheists are supremacists who want to impose their own set of moral and ethical codes on the society. How do you respond to that?

Atheism just means that we reject the idea of God. It is a belief in nothingness. How can that be called supremacist? Yes we believe in the values derived from Humanism and they are of course far superior to the values derived from religion. In fact it is quite insulting that you think it is alright to compare the higher moral values of atheists with lowly values of the deluded religious fools.

Since God does not exist and religion is a man made philosophy just like Humanism would it be fair to say that both religion and humanism should be open to scrutiny and the best practices should be determined after careful deliberation, experimentation and data analysis?

I take strong offense at you putting the superior Humanism on the same plain as religion. Humanism is the product of high intellectual thought. How can people of low intelligence understand or scrutinize Humanism? It is good because it is the best.

Do you have a book of Humanism?

The idea of book is appealing but if we write down what Humanism is then people may confuse us for religion. They may quote our text out of context and harass us on every internet forum available. We do that all the time to religious people. We can’t let that happen to us. We are superior and our concepts are superior and we don’t need a book to tell us we are right or wrong. It is in our good human nature to know what is right and what is wrong.

Would you also say the same for religious people? After all they are humans too.

They are humans, yes that is an unfortunate truth that we cannot deny, but not all humans are born with the same intellectual capacity. How else can you explain a healthy brain falling for stupid ideas like God?

What do you have to say to those Atheists who claim that your criticism of the religious borders on bigotry. In fact the name ‘New Atheist’ has been given to you by Atheists so they can disassociate from you. They claim you are not trying to win the hearts and minds of people, instead you are trying humiliate them into submission.

“If you’ve got them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow.” said Theodore Roosevelt. We are firm believers in this enlightened philosophy. Some Atheists don’t have the courage to take on the religious people as we do. In their cowardice they start bad mouthing courageous and noble Atheists like us.

Fair enough. Now let us move to another topic on which atheists often find them on shaky ground. How do you respond to those who say Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot were immersed in atheist thought and their actions resulted in the death of hundreds and millions of people?

Hitler, Stalin and Saddam Hussein all had moustaches. How many millions were murdered by militant Moustachism?

Stalin did not make learning of Moustachism compulsory in Schools, he made atheism compulsory, he closed down the churches and killed thousands of priests not because the priests were clean shaved he killed them because they were religious. He also had programs where youths were asked to convert their family members to atheism. If all this is done by, let us say, Khomeni you would certainly blame Islam. Then why should Atheism escape similar scrutiny?

Because Atheism is not even an ideology, it means nothing, we teach nothing, we know nothing…wait I want to take back the last claim. Atheism is simply a belief that God does not exist. What follows after that is not the responsibility of Atheism.

Then what follows after accepting God should not be the responsibility of theism. This essentially leaves us at a position where theism and atheism become completely irrelevant. So what is all the fuss about?

I don’t know.

Me neither.

Well thanks for talking to us Mr. Noitall.

 

 

Islam In The Subcontinent

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On the social media there is often talk of the so called “Arabization” of the Muslims in the subcontinent. Social media loves simple explanation but in the process loses all sense of reality. Let me explain how complex the Muslim society of India is before we even try to understand the influences that may or may not be working on them.

There are around 170 million people in India who identify themselves as Muslims. Apart from Jammu and Kashmir which is a Muslim majority state there is high concentration of Muslims in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal. In other states the Muslim population is between 6 to 15 percent of the total population of the state. In India different states have different languages and cultures and accordingly the Muslims too follow different cultural practices in cuisine, clothing and the way festivals are celebrated. Indian Muslims are just as diverse as the Indian population.

Now let me come to the interesting part of religious beliefs. The fundamental division between Muslims is on the basis of Sect. While there is no official statistics on the sectarian demographics, it is estimated that around 80% of Muslims in India are Sunnis. The division does not end there. Sunnis are further divided school of thoughts. Unlike popular belief that Muslims blindly follow the Fatwas from clerics there are various schools of thoughts among Indian Muslims that teach very different versions of theology. Since vast majority of Indian Muslims follow the Hanafi School, I will focus on explaining further differences.

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Barelvi school of thought

Barelvi school of thought is gets its name from the religious school located in the town of Bareli in Uttar Pradesh. This 19th century revivalist movement was established to counter the onslaught Christian missionaries. Believers in this school of thought see Prophet Mohammed as a supernatural being without any human weaknesses. Other defining feature of this school of thought is the importance given to shrines where there spiritual leaders of Islam are buried. They believe that praying at the tombs (mazaars) of these spiritual gurus will help the prayers reach God through the awliya (Gurus) as the intermediary.

Raza academy was recently in news for protesting against a film on the prophet of Islam. This academy is named after the founder of Barelvi Islam, Ahmed Raza Khan. The media tried to dismiss Raza academy as a fringe group when in fact it is quite a mainstream organization of Barelvi Islam.

Deobandi school of thought

The Deobandi school of thought was also established in the 19th century and it also gets its name from a town located in Uttar Pradesh. This school of thought strongly rejects the idea of shrines and declares that no intermediary is required to communicate with the omnipresent God.

This school of thought also rejects the idea that the prophet of Islam was a supernatural being and accepts him as human who lived and died a natural death. The Deobandi school of has emerged as a serious challenger to the Barelvi school of thought through its missionary work among Muslims. Some people confuse this with “Arabization” of Muslims when the fact is that this reformist movement is almost two centuries old in the subcontinent.

 The Conflict

Deobandis and Barelvis have very serious disagreements with each other to the extent that they consider each other outside the Church of Islam.

The Deobandi movement remained on the fringes of subcontinental Islam. There was a little impetus on reformation as shrines fulfilled the necessary social and spiritual needs of the people. There was no trigger that would push for a change in status quo.

With Islam becoming a global issue due to Western media, there came a new urgency among Indian Muslims (and perhaps Muslims around the world) to understand the meaning of Islam. This is where Deobandi movement got a massive boost. More and more Muslims are associating Shrines with idol worship and disassociating themselves with Barelvi Islam. Sufism had some great thinkers and unfortunately the Sufi thought is being rejected along with the Shrines which were the crucible of Sufi enlightenment.

Deobandis have their own set of problems. There is this attention to detail in rituals. From how to eat to how to sit to how to sleep there is close attention to detail to an extent that it can become quite irritating. There is no room to question or amend the Deobandi literature, nor is there any significant impetus on building scientific temperament. But their push to educate women has yielded some good results.

Salafi School of Thought

Salafis don’t believe the four major schools of thought. As per their claim, their impetus is on understanding and redefining Islam, once again, on the basis of Quran and the prophetic traditions (The Hadits) and rejecting all other books and interpretations written by different scholars over the years. While there is nothing wrong in this idea the Salafis have been involved in or have inspired some very violent movements in the Muslim world. Salafism is what is popularly known as Islamism or Islamist movement because of their fanatical focus on politics rather than spirituality.

One of the major reasons behind Muslims of India rejecting global Jihad is their rejection of Salafism. They don’t need Salafism because their urge to reform can be fulfilled by the indigenous Deobandi movement.

Wahabism

Wahabism is an 18th century Saudi Arabian religious reformation movement against Shrine worship. Wahabism is not necessarily Salafism but Saudis have often been accused of encouraging Salafis by helping them financially. Wahabi influence in India is often exaggerated. Most people in India wont even know who Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab was.

Quranist School of thought

This is a relatively new school of thought that rejects every book associated with Islam except the Quran because according to them all the other books are corrupted and they often contradict the Quranic teachings.

This is the most puritanical movement that exists today and is slowly gaining ground among educated Muslim elites. The Quranists reject ideas like blasphemy, punishment for apostasy, child marriage, female genital mutilation because none of these appear in the Quran. There are some Quranists who argue that the prophetic traditions (The Hadits) that do not contradict with the Quran are acceptable as a source of religious guidance.

Shias

Strange as it may seem Shia Islam emerged as a distinct theological school of thoughts only because some people did not agree on the leader after the demise of the prophet of Islam. Those people who wanted Ali, the prophet’s son in law to lead were unhappy at the appointment of Abu Bakr, prophets close friend, as the next leader of the nation of Islam. To most of us this would appear to be a minor disagreement but obviously some people felt quite strongly about it. Their defection created a whole new sect in Islam called Shia Islam. Now there are many different sub-sects within Shia Islam, namely, Ismailis, Zaidis, Jafri etc. Some would argue that Bohra and Khoja sects are specialized branches of Shia Islam.

Ahmedis

You may have heard the term Ahmedi and the persecution they face in Pakistan. Ahmedis believe in the Quran and the Prophet but they don’t see Mohammed as the last prophet of Islam. They follow the teachings of their spiritual Guru Mirza Ghulam Ahmad who was a brilliant scholar of Islam.

The conflict began when Ghulam Ahmad declared himself as the next prophet after Mohammed. Ahmedis are not accepted as Muslims by any sect of Islam because of their challenge to the most fundamental belief of Islamic theology that Mohammed is the last and final messenger of God.

The Ecosystem

CWr9gGAUEAAG142.jpg largeIslam is a ecosystem which is often confused to be an echo-system. There are diverse and competing ideologies trying to gain space. As is the case with any society. For Muslims belonging to various sects and school of thoughts it is important than ever before to focus on what people can agree on. A constant focus on disagreements will only create more rifts and cause misery.

No sect is inherently evil or are seeking to do wrong with a malicious intent. Usually people do what they believe is right, you may disagree with what they believe, you may even try to convince them about your point of view, but it is wrong to declare them as enemies. While you may disagree with them on certain issues, it is very important to respect their human rights and to understand that they too are seeking to live a peaceful life as per their understanding of religion.

Ahmedis are not considered as Muslims, they can easily disassociate themselves from Islam and move on. They face all the persecution and still strive to be called Muslims because their intent is not to malign Islam. All we need here is a bit of compassion and a bit of understanding. After all that is the whole point of being religious.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How To Be A Good Indian Muslim

201518125436873734_20To be a good Muslim you have to believe that Islam is an inherently evil religion that will cause nothing but misery to anyone who follows it. Since Islam is an inherently evil religion a good Muslim will never discuss any aspect of Islam that may be seen as noble by people who are unaware of the evilness of Islam.

A good Muslim does not believe in victimhood narrative. He can see his father getting killed by mobs, his sister molested but he will still say “Saare Jahan se Accha Hindustan Hamara”. Complaining about the attack is a sure sign of victimhood while standing up and denouncing the perpetrators is a sure sign of radicalization.

A good Muslim has a visceral hate for all countries where majority of people are Muslim. Many of these countries may be far ahead on social indicators as compared to India but a good Muslim believes that these statistics hide the barbarism and cruelty that inherently exists in Muslim societies.

A good Muslim will stand for freedom of speech when people mock or abuse any aspect or personality related to Islam. A good Muslim will also denounce Akbar Owaisi for mocking and abusing Hindu deities.

A good Muslim will always vote for a secular party. All parties except BJP are secular and all secular parties either behave like BJP or can form an alliance with the BJP if required.

A good Muslim won’t complain about beef ban because eating beef is not compulsory in Islam but stopping others from eating beef is compulsory in other faiths and a good Muslim not only respects but follows the Sharia of other faiths.

A good Muslim does not say Allah Hafiz or Ramadan. A good Muslim says Khuda Hafiz because the word ‘Khuda’ is derived from the ancient Indian language called Persian.

A good Muslim looks down upon women who wear Hijab even if those women are more educated and more successful in life than he ever will be. A good Muslim should also ignore exceptions like a religious turban wearing man could be the Prime Minister of India for 10 years.

A good Muslim makes sure to tell everyone that he is supporting India when India is playing cricket. Failure to explicitly declare support is a sure sign of treason. Although an eagerness to declare support can also mean a conspiracy to hide the hatred towards India.

A good Muslim lets his secular non Muslim friends speak to and speak for him in a condescending manner. A good Muslim would not allow himself to be labelled an extremist by speaking for himself.

A good Muslim is clean shaven and prefers Indian clothing like the jeans, t shirts, suits etc. Wearing traditional attire or growing a beard is an early indicator of radicalization.

A good Muslim denounces animal slaughter in the name of religion. Although a good Muslim may choose to eat meat at any McDonald’s or any other outlets that serve non halal food. If a Muslim can’t appreciate the value of animal slaughter for commercial reasons then how can he be good Muslim?

A good Muslim believes that Islam has a special problem with women and it can only be solved when Muslims undergo reforms like Hindus did in the past. A good Muslim should conveniently ignore the fact that 50 million females have been killed in India due to selective abortions, the greatest genocide of females in the history of humanity after the supposed awakening of the Hindu society.

Despite religion inspired dietary restrictions and anti conversion laws a good Muslim has steadfast belief in the secular nature of India. A good Muslim also believes that India is secular only because of the inherent attributes of compassion and tolerance enshrined in Hindus and Hinduism.

In spite of their ongoing connections with the Mughal army, in spite of their involvement in the partition which resulted in Hindu land going to the Arabs, Hindus have allowed Muslims to live in India. A good Muslim acknowledges this and is always indebted to Hindus. A good Muslim is a thankful Muslim.

A good Muslim writes long articles on how secular political parties are in fact the communal parties and the only option left with Muslims is to vote for the BJP.

A good Muslim takes responsibility and apologizes for any wrong that is done by any Muslim in any part of the world. Also he makes sure to highlight non religious factors while explaining any problem that lies with India. Although it is advisable to ignore the faults and focus on the greatness of India.

You can either be a practicing Muslim or a good Muslim. The choice is obvious or perhaps you don’t have much of a choice. Be a good Indian Muslim.

Hindutva’s Don Quixotesque Obession

68868180The famous Aurangzeb road in Delhi will now be called A P J Abdul Kalam road. From the social media conversation around the issue it was soon clear that the issue was not about Kalam, it was all about Aurangzeb and the desire to erase Muslim history from India. In a sting operation, convicted terrorist Babu Bajrangi was caught on tape explaining how he felt after killing helpless women and children. “I felt like Maharana Pratap” he said. In his mind he was not killing innocent Indians. He was convinced that he was protecting helpless Hindus from invading Mughals. Unfortunately this sentiment is widely shared in the Indian society. Babu Bajrangi is the Jihadi John of India and he gets free time from jail so he can attend weddings. This is possible because many people empathize with Babu Bajrangi.

The underlying ideological position of renaming road is exactly the same as the underlying ideological position of demolishing Babri Masjid. A large section of Indians have been brainwashed into believing that Taj Mahal, one of the most iconic building of India should be converted into a Shiva Temple. Such bizarre ideas stem from the ideological position that anything that reminds of the Mughal rule also brings back the humiliation of the great Hindu civilization succumbing to the barbaric Muslim invaders. These memories have to be erased and Hindu hegemony has to be re-established. Only then India and the Hindu civilisation can be reinstated to its former glory.

The Aam Admi Party has weeded out all the prominent left leaning leaders and is now positioning itself as a long term alternative to the BJP. By renaming Aurangzeb road they have sent out a signal to the Hindutva brigade that they empathise with the larger cause of Hindutva. The move to rename Aurangzeb road is disappointing for Muslims who believed that Aam Admi Party will never indulge in communal symbolism. Parties like MIM will go to Muslims and reiterate the fact that they can never trust so called secular parties because all of them use secularism to hide their alignment to the larger cause of Hindutva.

Muslims don’t see Aurangzeb as their hero. This is evident from the fact that a sufi saint Shah Muntajab whose tomb is barely a kilometre away from Aurangzeb’s tomb attracts millions of more devotees than Aurangzeb’s tomb does. Renaming Aurangzeb road sends a message to Muslims that the politics of Babri Masjid is still alive. In the aftermath of the Babri Masjid demolition thousands of Indians have lost their lives in riots and terrorist attacks. Any communal politics which is similar in nature to the anti Babri Masjid movement is bound to make the minorities nervous.

Historians have presented varying views of Aurangzeb’s legacy. Some depict him as a tyrant and some depict him as simple man who rejected the philandering ways of his predecessors. If someone says that Aurangzeb should be erased from History “because he tormented Hindus” then why not erase Guru Golwarkar from the public memory for his passionate defence of the holocaust? The Jaipur High Court has a towering statue of Maharishi Manu in its premises. Only recently a UP khap panchayat ordered that two Dalit girls be raped and paraded naked because their brother dared to fall in love with an upper caste woman. And this is surely not an exceptional case of injustice against Dalits. There are justifications of such acts in the Manusmriti. Anything that may be offensive to women,Dalits or minorities can be acknowledged and even celebrated as a part of “Hindutva” history but anything remotely offending to the upper castes should be erased?

I find it amusing when some Pakistanis deny their pre Islamic ancestry. Pakistan has a full scale project of rewriting history where they focus only on the real or perceived acts of goodness done by the “Muslim” Kings who came to invade the Indus valley from central Asia and Afghanistan. But rewriting history is not so easy. You may feed your population a bunch of lies but it is harder to convince the wider world about your version of history. Same is the case with India and its Hindutva project. The more India tries to distort history the more it aligns with the nationalist ideology of Pakistan.

Around the world when people think about India they think about population, call centers, poverty, democracy and yes the Taj Mahal. Petty acts like renaming of the roads won’t erase India’s Mughal legacy. It will only expose the Hindutva brigade as bunch of insecure people who have absolutely no confidence in their own ideology, who are embarrassed of their past and uncertain of their future.

Uniform Civil Code And The Majoritarian Agenda

In the west the liberal movement is demanding that polygamy should be made legal because people having multiple partners is a reality and the government has no business to tell people how they should form their civil unions. In India however the push is to ban things. Ban beef, ban polygamy, ban porn, ban dance bars, ban noodles. Just ban anything that the Hindutva elites are uncomfortable with.

Some people have a special obsession about freeing Muslim women who they say are being treated as slaves by evil Muslim men in India. If you believe the ongoing narrative you can be forgiven for thinking that most Muslim men in India have multiple wives who are being employed as baby producing machines so Muslims can beat the demographic advantage Hindus have over Muslims.

Forget the fact that the sex ratio is cruelly tilted towards Indian men due to rampant female foeticide in all communities including Muslims. There are simply not enough women to marry men. Polygamy is rare in India and not specific to Muslims.

BJP has always brought up three issues before elections. Abrogation of article 370 which gives special status to Kashmir, building a grand Ram Mandir at the same place where Babri Masjid was demolished by Hindutva extremists and the implementation of Uniform Civil Code. Abrogation of article 370 is about establishing complete Indian domination over Muslim majority Kashmir that went into dispute after partition and hence has special status. Building of Ram Mandir has a symbolic meaning that finally Hindus have arrived and the construction of Ram Mandir by demolishing a mosque will firmly establish the second class status of Muslims in India and finally the Uniform Civil Code that aims to replace the personal laws with one unified code that will be decided by the majority.

If we look at the bigger picture all these issues are about establishing a majoritarian hegemony over minority, especially Muslims, who form the largest minority group in India. So what does Uniform Civil Code really mean? Well we don’t know the exact answer to this question because there is no draft document that has been presented for public consultation. However when Uniform Civil Code is discussed some issues are highlighted regularly. It is said that Uniform Civil Code will make it illegal for Muslim men to get into a polygamous marriage. Uniform Civil Code will give better inheritance rights to Muslim women and will make it harder for a Muslim man to divorce his wife.

Now let us look at these issues independently. Why should polygamy be made illegal? Because it is unfair for men to given the right to marry more than once but the same rights are not available for women. That is a fair argument. To rectify this issue, the government can make it legal for both men and women to enter into a polygamous relationship. Next question is why should only Muslims be allowed to enter a polygamous relationship when others are barred from it? That is a fair point too. No one should be barred from entering into a polygamous relationship. Many Hindus nominally convert to Islam just to get into a polygamous relationship. Most prominent among such cases are Dharmenda and Hema Malini. Ironically both are associated with the BJP.

There is another argument that is often made in support of asking for a government imposed ban on polygamy. “No woman wants to share her husband” they say. I agree that most women would hate the idea of sharing their husbands with another woman just like most women wont like the idea of their husbands cheating on them. However extra-marital affairs are a reality. More than ever before men and women are getting into relationships after marriage. The rate of divorce has dramatically increased since the availability of access to social media. Consenting adults should have the right to form a polygamous relationship if they wish to do so. Government has no business to tell Dharmendra , Hema Malini and Prakash Kaur how they should be living their lives as responsible adults.

Now let us talk about the fundamental question. Is polygamy worse than monogamy? In India since there are 50 million females less than males due to rampant female foeticide it can be argued that polygamy will further reduce the chances of men finding a partner. This is by far the most logical argument against polygamy. Ideally polygamy is not advisable in India but people do fall in love after marriage and have children from their extra marital affairs. Polygamy provides those children with some rights. Would you rather prefer Hema Malini to be Dharmendra’s lawfully wedded wife as she is now or a mistress who enjoys no legal rights for herself and children born out of such arrangement? Add to that the social stigma of being a mistress.

Polygamy can be just as bad or good as monogamy. It is up to the responsible adults to decide what they want from their life without allowing the government to enter their bedrooms. The same argument applies to same sex marriage.

The issue of instant talaq (divorce) is less complicated. There is a genuine push among Muslims to stop that practice and turn it into a more formal process. In spite of all my disagreements with religious leaders like Zakir Naik he has done well to oppose instant divorce. There is nothing wrong in government making it mandatory for couples to go through a formal process of divorce but an out of court negotiated settlement is preferable in India where millions of cases are stagnant in the justice system. People prefer to get on with their life and find new beginnings. No one likes to spend thousands on lawyers to get tareek pe tareek.

Financial settlement after the Muslim divorce has been an often discussed topic since the Shah Bano case. Should a woman be entitled to life long maintenance from her ex husband? This is not an easy question to answer. If the children are young then the father should be responsible for at least half the care and expenses of the children until they become adults. If the woman has sacrificed her career for the family then of course the woman should be entitled to some compensation too. Codification of this law will help Muslim women. Then there is something called the Nikah Nama or the prenuptial agreement. Any modern law will accept a prenuptial agreement as legally binding. Muslim women can use this agreement to include divorce settlement clauses.

According to Islamic traditions a girl child is entitled to half of what a male is entitled to in inheritance. Parents can only give away a third of their wealth to charity the rest goes to children and other relatives. Some people say it is discriminatory against women and Muslims argue that since women are entitled to dowry from the man it is fair for them to have half the inheritance. Ideally everyone should be free to do whatever they like with their wealth. There are cases where people have given their wealth to their cats. So I am still not sure what reforms people want in this area when any “liberalization” would mean people can still distribute their wealth unevenly between their children.

There are major feminist issues in India like closing the gender population gap, family planning, education, hygiene and access to better medical care. When people ignore these humongous challenges and focus on non issues like polygamy and hijabs then it is reasonable to assume that they are driven by something else rather than an honest desire to see the welfare of women.

The Hijabs are Coming

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If aliens ever come to planet earth will we try to understand their culture or start calling them names for the way they appear?

In this blog I discuss the arguments around the Muslim head gear and the social issues surrounding it.

How can a modern enlightened state to allow its people to follow their evil cultural practices?

Had we not forcefully stopped the Hindu religious practice of Sati women would still be killing themselves after the death of their husband. Why should Muslims have any objection if the state forcefully stops women from donning the hijab/niqab/burqa. The argument that women voluntarily wear some form of the Islamic headgear is not enough to make it legitimate. After all some Hindu women voluntarily killed themselves in the name of Sati.

If the above passage made sense to you then let me explain why it should not.

  • Two cultural practices cannot be equal just because they are cultural practices. It would be same as saying a Burqa is same as the bikini because both are pieces of clothing.
  • While a modern state cannot allow every cultural practice a modern state cannot prohibit a legitimate cultural practice just because it is a cultural practice. Every cultural practice needs to be evaluated independently.
  • The cultural practice of donning a headgear is in no way comparable to the cultural practice of a woman being killed or choosing to die after the death of her husband.

Let us now test the argument that that Sati and Burqa are both oppressive and hence they can be equated. Sati did not stop because there were laws against it. There is absolutely nothing that a state can do if the woman decides to commit suicide after the death of her husband. The Hindu woman has decided that she will no longer follow this barbaric practice and hence the end of Sati.

On the contrary there is empirical evidence that most Muslim women wear the headgear voluntarily as a part of their cultural identify and do not see it as either barbaric or oppressive. Had this been the case there would be no Muslim women in the western world wearing the hijab. Turkey aggressively tried to enforce a secularist culture. Hijab clad women were banned from universities and after several decades of secularism most Turkish women still prefer some form of Islamic head covering.

Well how can you say that they voluntarily choose to wear the headgear when they are conditioned to wear the headgear since they are children?

Good question. There is no society in the world in which parents do not influence their children. You are most likely to identify yourself as a Hindu if you grow up in a Hindu family in India. You are most likely to identify yourself as an atheist if you grow up in an atheist family. You are most likely to identify yourself as Muslim if you grow up in a Muslim family. And when you identify yourself as a Muslim the Hijab may come as part of that cultural identity.

Thousands of women convert to Islam every year around the world and they are more likely to wear the Islamic headgear as compared to someone who was born in a Muslim family. This is a clear indicator that is not always about cultural conditioning but about a legitimate cultural choice.

The Islamic headgear is as cultural as it is Islamic. You will hardly find anyone wearing a burqa in Turkey. Unlike the subcontinent burqa was never a part of the Turkish Islamo-cultural identity. People often become more protective about their cultural identity when they see that it is under threat. A Hindu is more likely to search for his cultural roots after migrating to the west. The idea is to preserve and protect the culture in face of the pressures to conform to the dominant culture that surrounds you.

Why the fear of Hijab?

Once can understand people’s discomfort with the face covering niqab because face is an important of identity and it can be quite confronting to talk to someone “face to face” when there is only one face available in the conversation. Then there are security concerns. A person wearing a balaclava or a helmet cannot be allowed into bank so why a niqab clad woman should be allowed inside a bank in the name of culture? These are legitimate concerns and should not be seen as an attack on culture.

The attack on the Hijab is however a completely different matter. The idea is the force the woman to conform to the ideals of the dominant culture. For e.g. you will rarely see Oprah Winfrey in her naturOprah-Winfreyal Afro hair. She has to look whiter than white. How many white women that you see around you choose the afro hairstyle? Hardly any. How many African American women do you see with blonde wigs and straitened hair? Many. The minority should conform to the dominant culture of the majority or else get ready to be ridiculed, mocked and shunned from the civil society.

In the western societies the debate about the Islamic headgear is as much about the Western Identity as it is about the Islamic identity. There is no reason for these two identities to clash. There are hundreds of examples where hijab clad women have made it big in their professional careers. Muslims must also do their bit by discouraging the practice of niqab. Feminist extremism challenging the cultural identity of Muslim women is having exactly the opposite of the desired effect.

Islam is not going away, Muslims are not going away. There will more and more Hijabs around us in the future. The choice is ours. Either we can remain in a perpetual state of confrontation or we can just accept it as a part of multicultural society and move on. The Hijabs are coming.