All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) president Asaduddin Owaisi is supposed to be one of the more modern leaders in the Muslim community. But at a time when the Haji Ali Dargah has agreed to let women into its sanctum sanctorum in compliance with a court order, Mr Owaisi has said India cannot have a uniform civil code and has accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of interfering in the matter. According to Mr Owaisi, the need to review triple talaq and polygamy in the Muslim personal law must be answered by Islamic theological ulemas and Muslim scholars. These are the very people who have been in favour of status quo. The views of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) are decidedly anti-women and seek to justify triple talaq on specious grounds. The push for a reform in the personal law is coming from Muslim women, and Mr Owaisi’s party presumably represents women as well.
The Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) has raised the issue of mullahs and their political supporters portraying the common civil code as posing a threat to Muslim culture and identity to prevent any reform. It is by and large women who are uneducated or economically dependent who are the worst sufferers of the arbitrary talaq pronouncement. According to a survey BMMA conducted, 92% of Muslim women among the respondents wants this practice to be banned. It also found that 95% of the women were not even aware of the existence of the AIMPLB which claims to speak for all Muslims.
Experts have said repeatedly that the triple talaq has no sanction in Islamic jurisprudence and in fact many Islamic countries have banned the practice. Mr Owaisi has taken the path of least resistance. The Law Commission is examining the views of all stakeholders after which it will submit its findings to the government.
None of this, as Mr Owaisi seems to suggest, is an attempt at imposing anything on Muslims. The fact that triple talaq is used by men to divorce their wives, often for the most trivial of reasons, does not credit to the Muslim community.
People like Mr Owaisi should be leading the charge for change. Even the former chairman of the National Minorities Commission has spoken out strongly against the views of the AIMPLB, to the extent of saying it should be abolished.
It is clear that while accusing others, it is Mr Owaisi who fears a political backlash from many men in his community. But in arguing against any reform, he is doing a singular disservice to the other half of his community which is clamouring for change.