Ordinary voices: Findings from a Bohra online poll

  • Manoj Nair, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Sep 12, 2014 18:44 IST

A majority of the respondents said they were ‘spiritually pained’ when the dispute over succession broke out in the open. They talked about ‘spiritual paralysis and betrayal’.

The survey asked the Mumineen, the term the community uses when they talk about themselves, about their social environment after the death of their leader and the dispute. The 20 questions covered some of the most important sources of debate in the community. One issue is that of Misaaq, the oath of allegiance to the Syedna. Every Bohra undergoes this sacrament. Of the respondents who had not, nearly a quarter said they would do so reluctantly or because they felt they had no other choice, even though some objected to it on moral grounds.

Another issue that was discussed was excommunication of members. Only 3% of the survey respondents said they had no problems ostracising or socially boycotting fellow Bohras.

A fifth of the respondents said they were ‘absolutely sure’ that Mufaddal Saifuddin, the son of the last leader, is the rightful successor. A little less than a fifth said his uncle Khuzaima Qutbuddin should be the successor. One of every four respondents said it did not matter who the rightful successor is.

Among the respondents were a small group of former Bohras who l eft the community for various reasons, including excommunication. Of those who identified themselves as Bohras , a significant 12% said they stayed in the community out of ‘fear’.

One of the limitations of the study, the survey evaluators said, was their inability to reach out to those who do not use computers. Other community issues, like the allegations of female genital mutilation, were kept out of the survey because it was felt that this was not an appropriate subject to raise at this stage.

The survey was conducted through a portal that offers respondents t he greatest anonymity possible. “Even if people came to me to ask about the identity of the respondents I would not be able to reveal anything because the portal has no IP,” says Farida.

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