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Muslim women challenge Shariat laws

They say the laws are against the basic concept of Muslim religion of justice & equality, reports Chetan Chauhan.

india Updated: Jan 10, 2007 22:16 IST

A group of Muslim women under the banner of Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan on Wednesday challenged the Shariat laws and the Muslim Personal Law Board's regulations on marriage and termed them discriminatory.

Sona Khan, a Supreme Court lawyer, questioned the legal tenability of Shariat laws by saying that they can't be above basic tenets of Quran. Dr Asghar Ali Engineer of the Institute of Islamic Studies said, "The basic core of the Quranic message was that of justice, a comprehensive concept that included gender justice as well. Quran says men and women have equal rights but Shariat laws are against the basic concept of Muslim religion of wisdom, compassion, social justice and equality". Others also agreed with them.

Before fighting against discriminatory laws, Khan urged Muslim women to be aware about their rights in the present legal system. The Constitution and the Supreme Court has provided protection to women from such discrimination, she said and added that they should fight for their rights. Giving a specific example, she pointed out, that the law provides that Wakf Board would arrange for expenses of separated women, who have no means of earning. "It is seldom done as women are not aware about their rights," she said.

Muslim women from different walks of life urged the government to allow women representation in different Islamic bodies like the personal law board and madarsas to make it more gender sensitive. Quoting the findings of the Sachar panel report, the government also asked to initiate special schemes to ameliorate the marginalised and backward Muslim women.

The andolan launched with the help of Action-aid, an NGO has formulated a vision statement for Muslim women with an idea of equality and bringing them into the mainstream of education and politics. "The idea of Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan was born out of the necessity for the Muslim women to speak for themselves and demand social, economic, political, civil, legal and religious rights for the realisation of equal citizenship", said Zakia Jowhar of ActionAid.

"We want a platform which can counter the hegemony of kazis and men", said Naz, one of the participants. "The campaign seeks to create a national entity with a formal democratic structure with a system of accountability duly in place", said Dr Razia Patel from Pragati Vikas Pune and one of the founding members of the Andolan. 
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