July 04, 2005

If this is what secularism means,give me Hindutva

By Tavleen Singh

The Dar-ul-Uloom's fatwa last week condemning Imrana to a marital life
of unmitigated hell and absolving her rapist father-in-law comes as no
surprise to me. It comes as no surprise because last year I had the
dubious pleasure of visiting the Dar-ul-Uloom in Deoband and seeing
for myself what this Islamic school that inspired the Taliban is
really like.

It was this inspiration that caused the Taliban to execute women in
Kabul's infamous football field for crimes they often did not know
they had committed. It was this inspiration from Deoband's
interpretation of the shariyat that caused the Taliban to ban
education for women and to punish them for such supposed misdemeanors
as wearing white socks and shoes that made a noise when they walked.

Now, Deoband rules that Imrana, a mother of five children, of
Charthawal village, district Muzaffarnagar, in UP is haraam for her
husband, Noor Ilahi because she dared protest publicly about being
raped by her father-in-law, Ali Mohammad.

It is typical of the Deobandi interpretation of the laws of Islam that
they have not condemned the rapist. And, if you were following the
story you would have noticed that the bearded maulvis who expounded on
the subject on television hinted that they did not believe she could
have been raped. "Taali donon haathon sey bajti hai," said one bearded
monster with a smug smile on his face.

As a Muslim woman Imrana showed extraordinary courage in going public
at all because under Islamic law rape can only be punished if four
male witnesses exist. They never do. Her only hope now is that the
normal laws of the land are implemented and her father-in-law charged
and punished under them. Her personal life is ruined because her wimp
of a husband has already announced that he will obey the fatwa from

There are wider implications of Imrana's story and they should concern
us all. What should concern us is that the Dar-ul-uloom will get away
with its outrageous interference in the law. What should concern us
even more is that the Dar-ul-uloom should exist at all on the soil of
India. If you are shocked that I can say something so politically
incorrect let me describe for you what this institution of Islamic
teaching looks like.

During the general election in May last year I happened to drive past
Deoband on my way to cover election stories in UP and since I had
heard of how the Taliban took their inspiration from the Dar-ul-Uloom
decided that it would be worth my while to stop and take a look at
this influential school.

Deoband is a shabby, little hick town with a dusty, disorderly
collection of half-built shops as its main bazaar and its shabbiness
makes the magnificence of the Dar-ul-Uloom even more startling. But, I
go too fast. I drove through the dusty bazaar, along a gutted road to
arrive at a pair of tall, black wrought iron gates. Beyond these gates
I could see several fine, white-washed Islamic buildings and beyond
them a magnificent mosque that seemed almost bigger than the town of
Deoband. At the entrance was a white-bearded gentleman in traditional
Islamic clothing — a long kurta over loose pajamas that barely reached
his calves. I asked him if I could meet the chief Maulana and after
several minutes on the telephone to someone to whom he conveyed my
request he said I could not meet him because a) I did not have an
appointment and b) I was not veiled.

This irritated me and I pointed out that this was India and not Saudi
Arabia and in any case I was not Muslim and that if the Maulana was so
keen on purdah then perhaps he should be in it.

At this point a group of bearded students walked by and asked what was
going on. When I explained they said I should go to the main office
and make an appointment to come back another time. Knowing that I
would never have any desire to come back to the Dar-ul-Uloom I decided
that as I was there I could at least look around the famed seminary.

So, despite the protests of the white bearded watchman I strolled onto
the grounds and found myself in a little bit of Saudi Arabia. All the
men I saw were bearded and in Islamic clothes, a small bazaar on the
campus sold books only in Urdu and Arabic and when I stopped to talk
to a group of young men they said (in Urdu) that they could not talk
to me because they spoke only Arabic and I had been rude about their
Maulana. I never found out what they considered rude but thought them
not just rude but nauseatingly fanatical.

The whole atmosphere was medieval and extremely unpleasant especially
if you happened to be a woman. In the forty minutes or so that I spent
in the Dar-ul-Uloom I saw only one other woman and she was so heavily
veiled that only her eyes and a bit of her nose were exposed. So you
see why the fatwa that punishes the victim and not the rapist comes as
no surprise to me.

Finally, two questions. Why is a seminary that can only breed Islamic
fanatics allowed to exist in India? Will the government of India take
action against the maulvis who issued that fatwa declaring Imrana
haraam for her husband? Both questions demand answers from 'secular'
leaders like Sonia Gandhi and Mulayam Singh Yadav. And, if this is the
secular India they want to build then give me Hindutva any old time

No comments: