Interview with Zakia Nizami Soman, Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan
Based in New Delhi, Zakia Nizami Soman is one of the founder members of the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan(BMMA), a movement of Muslim women across India struggling for their citizenship rights. In this interview with Yoginder Sikand, she talks about the BMMA's work and reflects on the daunting challenges facing Muslim women in India today.
Q: How did the BMMA start? What made you and your colleagues feel the need for a separate Muslim women's movement?
A: The BMMA was formally inaugurated in Delhi in January 2007, but before that we -- numerous Muslim women -- were working in our individual capacities on issues related to Muslims, particularly Muslim women, in different parts of India. I was working in Gujarat, my home state, before that, with Action Aid, in the wake of the state-sponsored genocidal attacks on Muslims in 2002. In a sense, it was the Gujarat genocide that brought us Muslim women, scattered across India, together. We met at numerous conventions, rallies and public hearings that were held in different parts of the country in the wake of the genocide. We were all Muslim women who were deeply concerned with the plight of the Muslims, including and especially Muslim women, and the enormous danger of Hindutva fascism, and who were trying, in our own ways, to intervene. That was when we decided to form a loose collective of our own. We felt that the issues of Muslim women were somehow being sidelined in a climate of heightened Muslim insecurity. We urgently felt the need for Muslim women to speak out, not just against patriarchy within the community and unjust personal laws, but also against growing anti-Muslim discrimination, against Muslims being treated as second-class citizens in this country and against neglect, indeed, discrimination by the state and other forces. We felt the desperate need for a Muslim women's voice at the national level.