Muslim women, 6.9% of the population, 0.6% in the Lok Sabha

Five of the 16 Lok Sabhas since Independence did not have a single Muslim woman MP. Their number has never crossed 4 in the 543 house. In IndiaSpend I look at the question of their representation. 

Nuh (Haryana), New Delhi, Mumbai: She may be the head of her village, but making rotis for her extended family of 22 is still her responsibility.

Hunched over the small chulha (earthen stove) in the family house at Hussainpur village in Haryana’s Nuh district, her hands efficiently slapping a small piece of dough into a round roti, Farhuna (she uses one name),  smiled when she recalled the circumstances of her marriage–and election.

It was early in 2016. The panchayat elections were around the corner and the Haryana government had recently introduced a new eligibility condition. To contest the elections, women needed to prove that they had cleared their eighth standard exams; men had to be matriculates.

That year, the seat at Hussainpur was reserved for women. The problem: No woman in her husband’s family had ever been to school.

So Farhuna’s father-in-law began looking for a bride for his son. His only condition: Education. “He didn’t even take any dowry,” grinned Farhuna, proud holder of a bachelor of arts degree.

Continue reading “Muslim women, 6.9% of the population, 0.6% in the Lok Sabha”

A voice for Muslim women

Progressive Muslim women’s organizations look to help women solve problems within the code of Islamic law.

Mumbai: The women in the airy, well-lit room could be women anywhere talking of things that women often talk about. An adult son who won’t contribute to the household expenses. A daughter who is finding it difficult to adjust to married life. A husband who threatens to get a second wife.

Seated in a circle at the office of the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) in Mumbai, the women are looking for solutions to their problems and they are seeking them within the code of Islamic law. “Most come from poor backgrounds and do not have access to the legal system,” says Khatoon Shaikh, one of the mediators of BMMA’s Shariah Adalat that meets four days a week. “We try to solve their problems in a manner that is fair, just and in accordance with the Quran.” Continue reading “A voice for Muslim women”

Book Review | A Rebel And Her Cause

Physician, writer and avowed communist, Rashid Jahan was an inspiration for young Muslim women.

Woman of fire

In the winter of 1932, three men and a woman published a collection of short stories and sparked a literary storm. Sajjad ZaheerAhmad AliSahibzada Mahmuduzaffar and the woman, Rashid Jahan, were writing an angry book, Angarey (embers) that railed against social inequity, hypocritical maulvis and the exploitation of women in a deeply patriarchal society.

The book was publicly condemned at the central standing committee of the All-India Shia Conference at Lucknow as a “filthy pamphlet” that had “wounded the feelings of the entire Muslim community”. The Urdu press called for a ban. Clerics issued fatwas. Demonstrations were held outside book stores and the publisher had to issue a written apology and surrender unsold copies to the government. Within three months of its publication, the British had banned this “immoral” book. Today, apparently just five copies of the original version exist. Continue reading “Book Review | A Rebel And Her Cause”