Days after the Shani Shingnapur temple in Maharashtra allowed entry to women in the sanctum sanctorum, activists fighting for equal gender rights gathered in Mumbai on Wednesday to show solidarity against the alleged discrimination at the Haji Ali dargah, where women are not allowed to enter the shrine’s inner sanctum.
Dr Zeenat Shaukat Ali, former professor of Islamic studies at St. Xavier’s college, Mumbai, said according to Islam, there should be no discrimination against men or women at religious places.
“Till 2012, women were always allowed to enter the inner sanctum at the dargah. Islam doesn’t say that women should not be allowed near the inner sanctum. Therefore, the restrictions by the Haji Ali trustees do not make sense,” said Dr Ali.
The Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), founded in Mumbai in 2007, had filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the Bombay high court, seeking entry of Muslim women into the inner sanctum of the dargah in August 2014.
Feroze Mithiborwala, a city-based secular activist said, “Men and women must have equal rights. We welcome the verdict of the Bombay HC to uphold the rights of women to full access to the Shani Shingnapur temple and are going to appeal to the Haji Ali trustees to uplift the restrictions on women.”
Suhail Khandwani, trustee of Haji Ali dargah, said the allegations are baseless. “We have never restricted women from entering the inner sanctum. We have only created a separate entry and exit to maintain security. The matter is in court, let us wait for the verdict.”