Photo: An overwhelming 88.3 percent women are opposed to triple 'talaq'. Image from PTI, for representation only.
When an Abaya Is both Modest and Modish
Hijab-Wearing UAE Women’s Cricket Captain Hopes to Inspire More Girls to Take up the Game
French Elites Take To Abusing Muslim Women to “Save Them”
Muslim Muay Thai Fighter Launches Her Own Line of Sports Hijabs
Fighting For the Right to Worship: No Religion Can Discriminate Against Women
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
Reform in Muslim Personal Law: Triple 'Talaq' Is Un-Quranic and Must Be Banned
Zakia Soman and Noorjehan Niaz, Apr 10, 2016
Legal reform in personal laws has been one of the critical yet neglected areas in Indian democracy. This reform is for the dignity and equality of women citizens and thereby all Indians — irrespective of religious background. The Sachar Committee appointed by the Prime Minister in 2005 said that Muslims (who comprise the largest minority) live in poverty, economic and educational backwardness. The findings also suggest that on an average only four out of 100 Muslims are graduates.
Now out of these four, how many are women, is open to questioning. On the one hand, Muslim women are excluded educationally and socio-economically owing to government neglect. On the other hand, they suffer from the near absence of any legal framework in matters of family, marriage, divorce, custody of children etc.
An overwhelming 88.3 percent women are opposed to triple 'talaq'. Image from PTI, for representation only
Unlike those from other communities, Muslim women are denied their legal rights in the personal realm despite Quranic injunctions. Practices such as triple talaq and halala persist in our society despite there being no sanction to these in the Quran.
This situation has arisen thanks to the way the Muslim personal law is understood and practised in India. The whole arena is mired in ambiguity, obfuscation and gross apathy owing to the stranglehold of conservative patriarchal elements who have hegemonised this space forever. Fourteen hundred years ago, the Quran gave clear rights to women in marriage, family, society and public life but in reality there has been a persistent denial of these rights. So much so, that a perception has arisen, that in Islam, men have superiority over women.
Within several conservative sections the dominant belief seems to be that Muslim women need to live a life of subjugation within the four walls of a home. The hegemony of the patriarchal forces has continued post-1947 till date. The attempts by Muslim women such as Shayara Bano and several others is a cry for justice and for a halt to rampant violations of their rights in marriage and family.
The absence of a comprehensive codified personal law in our country has resulted in Muslim woman suffering in matters of divorce, halala, polygamy, guardianship and custody of children, share in property etc. The Shariat Application Act, 1937 is silent on all these matters. It is claimed that Indian Muslims are governed by Shariat. But the Shariat as practised currently in different parts of the country is undefined and unwritten. It is subject to multiple interpretations and misinterpretations — which more often than not, are unfair to women.
Often the injunctions of the Holy Quran are violated in the name of Shariat; widespread incidence of triple talaq is the commonest example. Unfair practices pertaining to age of marriage, mehr, divorce, alimony, child custody, property are all passed off in the name of Shariat. It is anybody’s guess as to how many ordinary Muslims understand the spirit of the Holy Quran or its underlying principles of gender justice!
It is not difficult to guess as to what is the perspective and understanding of some of those men dispensing justice in Shariat courts across the country! Most times, the verdicts in family matters end up being unfairly pro-men and entirely anti-women. This can hardly be said to be based on Quranic injunctions!
A comment on the role of various elected governments and this continued injustice is in order. In our country, Muslim women’s quest for justice is viewed with skepticism or even hostility. By recognising only the conservative religious voice as the sole voice the democratic state has failed in enabling fair representation for all sections of population including women. The conservative sections are unaware and unconcerned about the issues of Muslim women and therefore, they cannot continue speaking for them.
A national study done by us revealed that Muslim women are fed up of this oppression and want immediate redressal. We found that 55 percent of the women surveyed were married before the age of 18 years, 47 percent women don’t possess their own nikahnama and 82 percent women have no property in their name. An overwhelming 95.5 percent women have not heard about the AIMPLB — the all-India Muslim Personal Law Board. More than 40 percent women received less than Rs 1000 for mehr and 44 percent women did not receive the mehr at all. Most respondents were not aware of the empowering provisions about mehr and that it is their right to decide the amount.
An overwhelming 91.7 percent women spoke out against polygamy saying that a Muslim man should not be allowed to have another wife during the subsistence of the first marriage. Of the divorced women, 65.9 percent were divorced orally, 7.6 percent were divorced though a letter, 3.4 percent women were divorced on phone, 3 on email, 1 via SMS. In all, 78 percent women were divorced unilaterally.
The study indicates that overwhelming 88.3 percent women are opposed to triple talaq and want the legal divorce method to be the talaq-e-ahsan method spread over a period of 90 days and involving negotiation and avoiding arbitrariness. An overwhelming 83.3 percent women felt that their family disputes can be resolved if the law is codified. 89 percent wanted the government to intervene in helping codify the Muslim personal law. Over 86 percent women wanted religious leaders to take responsibility for enabling Muslim women to get justice in family and they wanted these leaders to support in bringing about a gender-just law.
It needs to be mentioned here that patriarchal forces are attempting to project that “court interference” is a violation of the Constitutional right to religious freedom of the Muslim minority. This is a lie; actually the prevalent practice of triple talaq is a violation of Quranic injunctions and therefore violates the right to religious freedom of Muslim women. And this violation is being done by self-appointed custodians of religion.
Shayara Bano and other Muslim women are seeking an end to this violation of their Quranic rights. It is the Muslim conservative forces who are violating the Islamic principles of gender justice and the Muslim women are forced to go to courts. It is only incidental that they are in violation of the Constitutional principles too. Lack of legal recourse and discrimination is a very important aspect that calls for correction while addressing the Quranic rights as well as the citizenship rights of Muslim women. Zakia Soman and Noorjehan Niaz are co-founders of Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan which seeks reform in Muslim personal law
When an abaya is both modest and modish
Shobita Dhar | TNN | Apr 10, 2016
Hip Hijabi: Mumbai girl Farheen Naqi posts her ensembles on a style blog.Hip Hijabi: Mumbai girl Farheen Naqi posts her ensembles on a style blog.
Lycra hijabs, butterfly abayas, long dresses with lace hems... online stores are bringing Islamic fashion to India
Islamic fashion has been creating style headlines in recent months. The year started with Dolce & Gabbana launching its first-ever collection of hijabs (head scarves) and abayas for the Middle East market. A few months earlier, H&M featured a hijab-wearing Muslim model, Mariah Idrissi, in one of its promo videos, and Mango launched a special Ramadan line last year. In the UK, M&S sells burkinis while Uniqlo stocks hijabs by Hana Tajima, a British Japanese-Muslim designer.
Being covered up in style is big business. According to the 2015-16 State of the Global Islamic Economy Report, Muslim consumers will be spending $327 billion on clothing by 2019 — more than the current combined clothing markets of the UK, Germany and India.
India with a Muslim population of 172 million is catching up with the trend. While brick and mortar stores continue to store the more conservative pieces, newly launched online portals like MyBatua.com, Abaaya.in, Islamicshop.in and Islamic-attire.com are selling designer abayas, hijabs, accessories like hijab pins, loose tunics, ankle-length skirts and baggy trousers to women who want to be modest yet modern. The prices range from Rs 1,500 to Rs 10,000.
Islamicshop.in caters to both domestic and international customers in the UK, Canada and Australia, says its CEO and founder Mohammed Maz. Launched last June, the portal, says Maaz, sells up to 100 abayas a month and 60% of the demand is from domestic buyers, mostly school and college girls. "They want to be in touch with their roots and identity and also look stylish," says Maaz, a software engineer who has roped in NIFT grads to up the style quotient of the clothes he retails.
So how does one make the abaya — a loose, full-length, full-sleeved outer garment — look good? Online catalogues reveal abaya dresses and gowns with A-line silhouettes that accentuate the waist. Then there is the butterfly abaya that flares at the waist and tapers at the feet. Ruched and pleated abayas make for a formal look, while a multi-coloured tie-and-dye number can brighten up any occasion.
D&G incorporates polka dots, daisies, roses and lemons into its Middle East collection. Mango's Ramadan line had long dresses in turquoise, lavender, black and white with intricate detailing and generous use of lace.
Middle-Eastern women's love for fashion and labels is legendary. In 2015, sales of personal luxury goods in the region clocked $8.7 billion, according to a report by Bain & Company. In contrast, India's fashion-conscious Muslim women may not be as affluent but they are making different sartorial choices. "The earlier generation of Muslim women were more conservative. But the new generation is open to new styles," says Deepak Devanga, founder, Islamic-attire.com which gets around 200 orders for abayas each month from across India.
Mumbai-based Farheen Naqi, 23, runs a popular style blog where she shares her experiments with modest but modern fashion. In a recent post, she created a hip summery look by wearing a white crop top over a sand-coloured maxi dress and accessorising with a beige hijab, white sneakers and a blue satchel bag. She mixes and matches clothes that cover — trousers, long dresses and skirts, full-sleeved tops and tees — to create stylish ensembles.
Naqi started wearing a hijab last year. "When I was in college, I researched my religion and realized how modest dressing is essential for us. I decided to cover my head after mulling over it for a few months. It took a moment of courage to do it but now I don't feel awkward," says Naqi who shops for hijabs on international portals like Inayah and Hijab-Ista. She doesn't wear an abaya but says she could her change her mind in the future.
Anam Farzeen, a final year literature student in Chennai, has a collection that includes abayas with cinched waists and bell sleeves. She likes to accessorise with hijab brooch pins. "I mix and match with the colour of my footwear and bag," says Farzeen, who often shops on Islamicshop.in.
While Islamic fashion is making inroads, it has its detractors. Yves Saint Laurent's longtime business and life partner Pierre Berge said he was "scandalized" by the concept. "Designers are there to make women more beautiful, to give them their freedom, not to collaborate with this dictatorship ... by which we hide women," he said in an interview.
Despite what the critics say, the small tribe of Indian hijabistas seems happy to marry fashion with tradition.
Hijab-wearing UAE women’s cricket captain hopes to inspire more girls to take up the game
April 10, 2016
SHARJAH // As the tape stops on the voice recorder and Humaira Tasneem, the gently spoken captain of the UAE women’s cricket team, heads back to nets, she suddenly adopts a stern tone. “Make sure you put in the bit about the hijab, please,” she says, definitively.
Among the 40 or so women training together at the nets at Sharjah Cricket Stadium, Tasneem cuts a conspicuous figure for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, she is an outstanding cricketer. So good, in fact, she spends as much time coaching other less experienced players at the net session as she does honing her own game.
And secondly, the 20-year-old architecture student is one of the few players wearing a headscarf.
“When I was young I didn’t wear the scarf to play,” Tasneem says. “When I first did I wondered if people would ask why I was wearing it, but nothing like that ever happened.
“It is a Muslim country so people saw me wearing a hijab and said: ‘That’s great’. I don’t think anybody would be so shallow that they would have an issue with it. Nobody does.”
It has certainly not prevented her from pursuing a passion for cricket she inherited from her father, which was encouraged by her distant relative Mohammed Azharuddin, the former India captain, then developed via feisty matches with her two brothers.
She has been involved with the national team since she was 12, and wants to be a role model for other women cricketers.
“I’m pretty sure there are people hidden out there who are not playing cricket because they think a hijab means they could not play,” Tasneem, who was born in Al Ain, says.
“But it is fine. When we had the Gulf Cup [a tournament UAE won in December] felicitation, one of the girls came to me and said: ‘I hope I can be like you one day’.
“That felt so good. She was wearing a hijab and she said: ‘I want to be a cricketer, just like you’. If people see any Hijabi playing sports, it must help. I’m pretty sure there are girls out there who wear a hijab and don’t come to play sport because of it.”
Tasneem’s message is clear: there should be no impediment to playing cricket. It is a mantra cricket’s administration here are trying to get across, too. Theirs is a sport for all, and the more the merrier.
It is part of the reason the Emirates Cricket Board are currently in the midst of a nationwide talent hunt for male and female cricketers. It is a little bit like X-Factor for UAE cricket, just with less flashing lights, and more sympathetic put-downs.
At one session for men in Ajman recently, there were in excess of a hundred aspiring players. As many have 20 have been picked out for further assessment by Aaqib Javed, the national coach.
At last week’s women-only session at Sharjah, numbers were less. The fact the majority were wearing the grey, sponsor-issue training kit of the national team was a pointer to the fact most of the players were already well known to the selectors.
The others were an eclectic mix. One had played for the Pakistan national team in the past. Now she lives in the UAE, she coaches cricket, but plays little. Another, a Sri Lankan left-hander in a pink cap, batted like a female Kumar Sangakkara.
Others were less far down the development pathway. One young aspirant told the organisers it was her dream to be playing cricket. A clue to the fact she was just starting out in the game was obvious by the fact she went in to bat with her forearm guard covering her triceps instead.
Another warmed up by bowling to her eight-year-old son at the back of the nets. She said it was her dream to represent the UAE at cricket, too.
There is a practical reason the powers-that-be want to increase their female player pool. The ECB want the national team to look beyond the Gulf-based competitions they play most regularly, and start winning acceptance into International Cricket Council events.
To do that, they need a proper domestic competition. It is hoped the talent hunt will help attract players to help fill a new, four-team tournament scheduled for late April and May.
“That will provide a chance to get some stats on each player,” said Andy Russell, the development manager who is overseeing the restructuring of the grass-roots game.
“Throughout the summer we will bring them all together again, for training throughout the three months.
“It gives them some sort of structure, and something to do every month. In the past it was from tournament to tournament, and that could be one year at a time.
“We wanted to get away from everyone training together because that is not really how you grow the game. This is the first step towards getting the players to enter more leagues.”
French elites take to abusing Muslim women to “save them”
Apr 9, 2016
“We are tired and sick of always being targeted, of being the subject of stereotypes and racist fantasies,” Sihame Assbague told AlterNet over the phone from her home in Villetaneuse, a suburb north of Paris. “Muslim women are talked about every day, but we are not given the right to speak. Other people speak for us.”
An activist against state racism and organizer for the website Contre Attaques, aimed at countering Islamophobia, Assbague is not alone in her frustration. Muslim and Arab communities find themselves increasingly attacked by discriminatory house raids and warrantless arrests, over four months into aheavy-handed “state of emergency” imposed and then extended by the French government in the wake of the Paris attacks.
This state violence is abetted by those in France’s intellectual and political classes who are calling for the intensified criminalization and public shaming of Muslim women in the name of “saving” them. Predictably, such figures have declared open season on the veil.
Assbague put it succinctly: “Muslim women are being used to divide the communities that are being targeted.”
French intellectuals and politicians publicly shame Muslim women
The latest flood of anti-Muslim vitriol was unleashed last week when France’s Socialist minister for family, children and women’s rights, Laurence Rossignol,used an anti-Black epithet to compare women who wear the veil to African-Americans who defended slavery. “Of course there are women who choose [the veil]. There were American negroes who were in favor of slavery,” Rossignol told a reporter, using the French word “nègres,” which has colonial and racist connotations.
The statement provoked an outraged response, with over 30,000 people signing a petition declaring, “It is terrible to see that persistent anti-black racism is used to justify and legitimize a gendered Islamophobia.”
But numerous powerful figures have since rushed to Rossignol’s defense, including the billionaire French writer and feminist Elisabeth Badinter, who urged a boycott of “those labels which have decided to create lines of clothes dedicated to Islamic fashion,” according to an interview recently published in Le Monde. Badinter’s statement was a reference to a handful of high-end fashion lines which have began releasing products that include hijabs and “burkinis.”
While Badinter conceded that Rossignol had used an “unfortunate word,” she argued that the minister was fundamentally right “in terms of ideas.”
However, Badinter is chair of the supervisory board of Publicis Groupe, a French multinational advertising and communications firm that was hired to do public relations for the Saudi Arabian government. The kingdom is notoriously oppressive towards women, imposing a discriminatory system of male guardianship, under which women are prohibited from “obtaining a passport, marrying, traveling, or accessing higher education without the approval of a male guardian, usually a husband, father, brother, or son,” as summarized by Human Rights Watch. Independent reporter Chris Green recently pointed out that the firm stands accused of “helping Saudi Arabia ‘whitewash’ its human rights record.”
Meanwhile, powerful figures continue to pile on Muslim women living in France.
France’s Socialist Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who has called for France to impose a state of emergency until the “total and global war” on ISIL is over, jumped into the fray on Monday. “The veil does not represent a fashion fad, no, it’s not a color one wears, no: it is enslavement of women,” he said at a roundtable on Islamism. Anne Hidalgo, the Socialist mayor of Paris, publicly backed Badinter in statements made Tuesday.
The crescendo of resentment directed towards women who wear the veil immediately heightened concerns among many Muslims, who are already living in a politically suffocating environment where hate crimes are becoming commonplace.
“There is an increase of hate violence, racist violence and racist discrimination,” said Assbague. “A lot of women who wear the veil are prevented from going to school and working in public space. Every day we hear about a woman wearing the veil who is assaulted, arrested, and so on.”
Rania Masri, associate director of the Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship at the American University of Beirut, told AlterNet: “Elisabeth Badinter, who claims to be a feminist, is at the same time denying agency for women.” Masri added, “My respect for agency and self-expression and freedom is what causes me to object fundamentally to invasive, discriminatory laws.”
Of course, high-end fashion lines are hardly vehicles for women’s agency. Dolce & Gabbana, one of the companies in question, has been criticized for poor labor practices in its supply chains, as well as for racist clothing lines, including earrings worn by White models depicting the faces of Black women.
But in the context of France’s ever-widening civil liberties crackdown, which has been denounced by United Nations experts as “excessive and disproportionate,” the mounting attacks on the veil from society’s rich and powerful further marginalize Muslim women. This public shaming coincides with the implementation of a new European Union plan to mass expel refugees in the midst of the worst crisis of human displacement since World War II. Meanwhile, France is currently dropping bombs on Iraq and Syria as part of the U.S.-led military coalition against ISIL.
As Socialist Party leaders line up to support anti-Muslim sentiment, the far-right, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim National Front Party is gaining ground. As the New York Times recently put it, the extremist organization now has “the political winds at its back.”
“This is a very difficult time for us here in France”
Mainstream anti-Muslim sentiment is certainly not new in France. The country has multiple laws on the books that are ostensibly premised on the French principles of secularism and universality but, in practice, disproportionately criminalize Muslim women. These include a 2004 ban on religious signs such as the hijab in public schools, as well as a prohibition on face coverings that wasupheld by the European Court of Human Rights in 2014.
While some French feminists have thrown their weight behind these measures, others have vigorously opposed them, arguing that the focus on the veil has roots in French colonial history—and is being used as a tool for violence and discrimination against Muslim women. The well-known feminist Christine Delphy wrote in 2015, “Feminists are failing Muslim women by supporting racist French laws.”
Meanwhile, those feminists who are publicly condemning Muslim women have plenty of company, including Charlie Hebdo writers who survived a mass killing last year. The French satirical magazine published an article over the weekend claiming that all Muslims are responsible for acts of terror—and implying that women who cover their hair are hiding bombs. The outrage and despair this piece provoked was perhaps best captured by author and historian Teju Cole, who wrote: “Reading this extraordinary editorial by Charlie, it’s hard not to recall the vicious development of ‘the Jewish question’ in Europe and the horrifying persecution it resulted in.”
According to Assbague, “This is a very difficult time for us here in France. Communities are being targeted for who they are, whether they are Black, Muslim or Roma. Islamophobia is coming from the state, political leaders, intellectuals and a lot of journalists.”
Despite the climate of repression, massive protests against the state of emergency have swept France.
“We know we have to organize ourselves to fight for our rights, our freedom, for justice, and for the respect of our dignity,” Assbague emphasized. “We are trying to do our best, but it’s a lot of work and energy, and the government is policing us. Because right now, when you say something which is against the politics of the government, you become a suspect.”
*This article was updated to add information about Badinter’s ties to the public relations efforts of the Saudi Arabian government.
Sarah Lazare is a staff writer for AlterNet. A former staff writer for Common Dreams, she coedited the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahlazare.
Muslim muay Thai fighter launches her own line of sports hijabs
April 9, 2016
British champion muay thai fighter Ruqsana Begum (right) trains with a student wearing one of her sports hijabs.
Michael Jordan has his own line of shoes. Tiger Woods has his own line of golf apparel.
And now Ruqsana Begum, a Muslim muay Thai fighter, has her own line of sports hijabs.
"I'm fighting for a world title and launching my product at the same time, so this is huge for me now," said Begum, the British champion of female Atomweight muay Thai boxing.
As a Muslim woman and martial arts fighter of Bangladeshi background, Begum described herself as "a minority of a minority of a minority."
"Being a Muslim I understand the need for a sports hijab, to feel empowered by a sports hijab," she told CNNMoney, speaking by phone from her family's home in London. "Sports need to be open to all backgrounds including Muslim women who might be intimidated by the idea of walking into a gym."
The hijab is a head covering worn by some Muslim women. Although Begum doesn't wear the hijab, she figures there's a market for a stretchable, £16 ($22.50) Lycra head covering that doesn't come loose while fighting.
Related: Muslim-American feminists fight Islamophobia
Begum led a double life when she started training in 2002 at age 18, hiding her muay Thai involvement from her traditional parents for years. But they eventually came around to it, she said.
"They've kind of adapted to the changes in the society and they've seen me hold on to my tradition and my culture, so they don't feel threatened by it," she said.
British muay thai champion Ruqsana Begum is launching a line of sports hijabs as she gears up for the world title fight.
Since then she's won a bronze medal in an international competition in Bangkok, she became the British champion in her weight class and captain of the British team, won a gold medal in a European competition in Latvia, and was a torchbearer at the 2012 Olympics in London.
She had to let go of one part of her culture, though. She said that fasting for Ramadan during training left her "shattered," especially after she was diagnosed with chronic fatigue in 2010.
Unlike Jordan and Woods, who partnered with Nike (NKE) for their sports apparel launches, Begum designed her own line and outsourced manufacturing to a factory in Pakistan, after trying unsuccessfully to line up a manufacturer in England.
Begum didn't invent the idea of a sports hijab. Soccer players and other athletes, primarily from the Middle East, already wear sports hijabs of various brands, like Capsters.
"I was the inventor of the sports hijab," said Capsters co-founder Cindy van den Bremen, a Dutch designer who isn't Muslim.
She said she designed the sports hijab in 1999 for a Muslim student in the Netherlands who was "expelled from gym class because of her supposedly unsafe hijab." She established the Capsters brand two years later, and co-founded the Capsters company in 2008. She sells different styles online, including watersports, football and runner, for € 22.50 ($25.66.)
"We think it's great what Ruqsana has done," said Bremen, a teacher at Design Academy Eindhoven in the Netherlands. "It's a pity we didn't know Ruqsana was looking for sports hijabs."
Fighting For the Right to Worship: No Religion Can Discriminate Against Women
April 10, 2016
It's a common trend that where social, political and religious systems fail, the judiciary steps in - as in the case of the entry of women to the Shani Shingnapur temple.
A centuries-old bastion of the patriarchal social construct was smashed to smithereens. The women activists from the Bhumata Brigade, led by Trupti Desai, were successful in entering the sanctum sanctorum of the Shani temple. Trupti hailed the decision of Shani Shingnapur temple trustees to open the gates of the sacred chabutra (platform) for men and women devotees, and said it was a prudent step on their part.
"Der aayad, durust aayad!" said a spirited Trupti and hoped the trustees at the Trimbakeshwar and Mahalaxmi temples in Nashik and Kolhapur too would follow suit to treat women devotees at par with men.
One would congratulate Trupti for her stoic resistance as it was after her activism that TV debates were generated and many storms raised in teacups besides the national print media highlighting the issue.
Priyanka Jagtap, another member of the Bhumata Brigade, celebrated the court's observation at the temple premises by distributing sweets. "It's a big victory for all the womenfolk of Maharashtra and the country. It is an occasion to celebrate," she said.
The main question that needs to be asked is whether this outburst of activism against ritualistic practices in Hindu temples is a legitimate effort to break the almost 400-year-old tradition.
What's unfortunate is that most religions talk about gender equality, but it is either totally defunct or reduced to lip-service as totem. The question is whether it is the followers of Hinduism or Islam or any other religion,who vie with one another to deprive their women of equal rights.
The aim of these lines is to convey a message to the custodians of women's rights - the men - to remind them of the cultural traditions that are mired in gender discrimination. In this context, whether it is Shani Shingnapur, Haji Ali Baba or Kerala's Sabarimala temple, all these famed religious places have banned the entry of women.
Politically, the BJP has been accused of vitiating the atmosphere in Sabarimala. However, it would be preposterous to suggest that all villagers in this temple town are BJP or right-wing activists. According to social commentator Sreemoy Talukdar, the patriarchal mores lie so deep that even women (and probably more so) were the first ones to take umbrage of the 'breach' which they fear will bring calamity on their families.
Talukdar feels that Kerala's Sabarimala temple authorities have stuck to their stand - in the face of legal scrutiny from the Supreme Court of banning all women between the ages of 10 and 50 from entering temple precincts citing ritualistic practices and traditions.
They claim Lord Ayyappa, who attracts more than 50 million devotees each year, is a sworn celibate. They do not want the apex court to interfere in religious practices.
In Mumbai's Dargah Haji Ali Baba, it is really something totally inexplicable that women are not allowed to enter the sanctum sanctorum in spite of the fact that Islam has granted equal rights to woman. During the days of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), Muslim women used to go to the mosque to pray. However, after him, some myopic and orthodox Muslims asked women to stay at home.
Nevertheless, the larger question is about the general exploitation of women by men from all religions.
They are not given their rights and, at the slightest provocation, are maltreated, beaten, divorced and even murdered.
Trupti's campaign - that of challenging the patriarchal hegemony over religion, its practices and ending stigmas against women - would only materialize truly if the activism continues.
(Firoz Bakht Ahmed is a grandnephew of Maulana Azad and a commentator on social and cultural issues. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)