Wrong but valid, key Muslim body’s stand on triple talaq draws flak

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The Triple Talaq issue seems to have stirred a hornets’ nest and is the hottest debated topic in the country on all platforms. The matter acquired national colour ever since the time the Union law ministry had opposed the practice in the Supreme Court on October 7, 2016. But it acquired global attention when the BJP made it part of its election manifesto for the 2017 Uttar Pradesh Lok Sabha election. It would have continued to simmer and not manifested into flames had the BJP not returned to power in UP with a thumping majority. The victory gave BJP the moral right to take up the issue immediately and make it part of its focused agenda emanating from its poll promise made to UP.

Though considered sinful, the triple divorce is unfortunately legally enforceable in the Sunni Hanafi law, a law which governs the majority of the Indian Muslims. Triple talaq is not prevalent in Shia sect. Their leaders have right from the beginning taken a back seat on the issue and even dissuaded their community to refrain from taking an active role in the debate raging the country. While there is a universal condemnation across all sections of society of this abhorrent practice which gives a Muslim man the right to pronounce the word thrice and orally and unilaterally divorce his wife

While there is a universal condemnation across all sections of society of this abhorrent practice which gives a Muslim man the right to pronounce the word thrice and orally and unilaterally divorce his wife on reasons which may be as trivial as there being more salt in the dish, there is an equal anger at the way the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) has reacted to the entire issue. While accepting that triple talaq is wrong, the Board members, it is alleged instead of making any strict laws against it have in a recent national meet in Lucknow in April suggested that there should be a social boycott of those men who use Triple Talaq. This they propose to do from loudspeakers after Friday prayers in the mosques. Women activists in the country are up in arms against this stand of the Board. Condemning this as a soft stand they have demanded strict and legal measures on Triple talaq in the name of gender justice. It maybe pointed out here that triple talaq is banned in Muslim nations, including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia

While there is a universal condemnation across all sections of society of this abhorrent practice which gives a Muslim man the right to pronounce the word thrice and orally and unilaterally divorce his wife on reasons which may be as trivial as there being more salt in the dish, there is an equal anger at the way the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) has reacted to the entire issue. While accepting that triple talaq is wrong, the Board members, it is alleged instead of making any strict laws against it have in a recent national meet in Lucknow in April suggested that there should be a social boycott of those men who use Triple Talaq. This they propose to do from loudspeakers after Friday prayers in the mosques. Women activists in the country are up in arms against this stand of the Board. Condemning this as a soft stand they have demanded strict and legal measures on Triple talaq in the name of gender justice. It maybe pointed out here that triple talaq is banned in Muslim nations, including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia

The AIMPLB has made its stand clear and also declared that it has the Constitutional right to take decisions on behalf of the community. They have also defended their stand by asserting that the nation- wide signature campaign they had launched last year against the government affidavit in the Supreme Court which has shown that the majority of the Muslims, including women do not want any change in the Sharia laws that govern the Indian Muslims.

The Union Ministry of Law and Justice had on October 7 2016, opposed in the Supreme Court the practice of triple talaq, ‘nikah halala’ and polygamy among Muslims and sought a relook on grounds like gender equality and secularism.

In its affidavit it had had referred to constitutional principles like gender equality, secularism, international covenants, religious practices and marital law prevalent in various Islamic countries to advocate that the practice of triple talaq and polygamy needed to be adjudicated .

The Board even accused the Centre of interfering in the rights of minorities and preparing ground for introducing Uniform Civil Code of conduct and taking away with the community’s right to enjoy being governed by the Muslim Personal laws.

But a lot of questions are being raised by various women organizations on the support to the AIMPLB by the community on the issue. Mumbai based Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) has raised the loudest voice against Triple Talaq.

According to BMMA survey 92 per cent Muslim women have gone in favor of a total ban Triple Talaq which the women have termed the oral and unilateral divorce as a bane of Muslim women.. Questions about being asked about plans which AIMPLB has on how it will support a divorcee of Triple Talaq to take up again her thread of life, her maintenance rights, support for children etc are being asked aloud. The AIMPLB will have to answer these questions otherwise its survival will not be easy.

Shaista Ambar, founder of All India Muslim women Personal Law Board has vociferously shouted down the stand of the AIMPLB. “The signature campaign was not to empower Muslim women but to mislead them,” she had told the media. According to her the Board, which is totally male dominated has failed to address the plight of the Muslim woman who has to face the torture and humiliation of Triple talaq.

“uski zindagi jahennum sey badtar hai, woh ek insensitive mausherey mai tanha reh jatee hai”, ( Her life is worst than hell, she is left all alone at the mercy of an insensitive society) Ambar told Tehelka. She said that she along with her supporters will fight tooth and nail against this ill practice. Ambar’s case is listed in the Supreme Court of India on May 11 and she says she has full faith that the legal system will give respite against the oppressive and totally anti-women practice of triple talaq.

“Triple talaq is against the very spirit of Article 14 of Indian Constitution that gives both men and women the Rights to Equality,” asserts TV journalist turned politician, Shalab mani Tripathi. As spokesperson of UP BJP, he defends his party’s right to support the Muslim women who are being victimized because of this repressive personal law. Tripathi said that his party had made this their election issue and now they are morally bound to give all support to victims of this ill practice wherein Muslim women are being subjected to extreme humiliation and torture for no fault of theirs.

At the BJP national executive meeting in Bhubaneswar, Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated, “When we speak of social justice, our Muslim sisters too should get justice. We do not want to challenge the Islamic law but we are dead against the exploitation of our Muslim sisters.”

Those women who are speaking against the triple talaq are asserting that this is not in the Quran and is based not on Sharia but jurisprudence thus it has no religious sanctity. Halala or marrying another man after divorce if the woman wants to marry her first husband again is a very practice that is being condemnd .

“Quran does not allow instant divorce but a step by step procedure spread over three months, it gives the Man time to rethink, reconcile and rectify his mistake and if even then he feels that his action is justified he should go ahead,” says Sabiha Khatoon, from a slum in old Lucknow.

“Nikah in a Muslim wedding is a contract and contract is between to equal parties and consent of both parties is essential even when done over phone how can thus this contract end through a oral triple pronunciation , through a text message, on Whatsapp or on skype,” asks Sima (name changed). She says that this is a cruel, arbitrary and anti- woman practice of ending a relationship that started on a mutual contract,clearly signifying that both the parties are equal when they sign this pious contract of marriage.

Speaking on the issue senior advocate, Mrs. Shahnaz Zafar Mehdi, says that first and foremost she has objection to the word triple. “It is just one talaq so why call it triple” she asserts. While she feels that it is unjust and in fact cruel practice and against women she is of the opinion that the issue must be best left to the community and that political parties must not politicize it nor should the media be allowed to sensationalize it.

There is a charge against the Board, that its 200 odd members are mainly male and their decisions are coloured too. Senior journalist turned politician M J Akbar has in fact called AIMPLB as “male personal law board” and charged it as being “only interested in oppressing women”.

The battle against the AIMPLB took centre-stage due to the non-renewal of the term of Rukhsana Nikhat Lari, one of the four women added to the 51 member AIMPLB executive committee in 2010. Ms Lari is alleging that her term was not renewed because while she did not actively participated in the signature campaign in favor of Triple Talaq taken up by the Baord she also came out and spoke against the Triple Talaq.

Saner voices in the Muslim community have expressed deep anguish at the way the Board is not taking stock of the situation. A senior Muslim advocate has , on condition of anonymity said that with saffron gaining power not just at the centre but also in the states the Muslims will have to play safe and AIMPLB must make it its sacred duty to keep the flock together and ensure that it offers them adequate protection and advise instead of antagonizing them on issues which are sensitive and involves the community interests.

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