Saturday, April 30, 2022

Why is the AIMPLB Crying Hoarse Over a Non-Existent Uniform Civil Code?

By Arshad Alam, New Age Islam 30 April 2022 They Should Wait For A Draft Before Declaring It ‘Anti-Muslim’ Main Points: 1. The UCC was termed anti-Muslim by the AIMPLB in its meeting on the 24th April. 2. This, when there is no draft as yet of the UCC circulated either by the central or any state government. 3. Shouldn’t a draft first emerge and then be debated and discussed within the community before arriving at any decision? 4. This is only adding to the perception that Muslims are always opposed to the government. ------- A couple of days ago, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) issued a statement terming the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) ‘unconstitutional’ and against the ‘minorities’, particularly Muslims and various tribal communities. The general secretary Khalid Saifullah Rahmani argued that “separate personal laws have been granted for minorities and tribal classes according to their customs, beliefs and traditions, which does not interfere with the constitution in any way”. The press note also claims that the real purpose of the UCC is to divert the attention of people from issues like inflation, price rise and unemployment and has been brought to promote an agenda of hatred and discrimination. Rahmani also added that “the UCC is not acceptable to Muslims at all”. This comes in the context where the government of Uttarakhand, Himachal and Uttar Pradesh have started talking in terms of a UCC. Home Minister Amit Shah recently also stated that the Centre was toying with the idea of UCC. As a self-appointed body of Indian Muslims, the AIMPLB had to react. But this reaction of the AIMPLB is hardly new. In 2016, they, along with many other organizations had come up with a similar statement rejecting the UCC. The curious thing though, is that all this while there has been no draft of the UCC that has been circulated. It is almost as if the Board is making itself clear on something which is not in existence at the moment. Muslims are certainly under a lot of pressure in the current dispensation and even before that. A perception has arisen and taken root about Muslims: that they are always in opposition to whatever the government has to say. Through a series of measures like the anti-CAA movement, etc., that perception has only solidified under the current ideological government. Given such a situation, wouldn’t it be prudent on the part of the Board to issue a much more measured statement rather than a blanket condemnation? Since there is no draft of the UCC per se, we do not know what the government has in mind. And certainly, in the context of the bewildering religious and cultural diversity that exists in India, the UCC is not just a Muslim issue but will also be looked at critically within many Hindu communities as well. So why should Muslims be the first to issue a condemnation? What purpose does such a politics achieve except for re-establishing that Muslims are always in opposition to whatever the government does. Why couldn’t the AIMPLB simply say that since the draft of the UCC is not yet ready, it will be premature to comment on it. One can only oppose or support a policy when it has been thoroughly studied and debated within the community. But then, the AIMPLB doesn’t want to lose that oppositional space and hence even without the existence of a draft, it has rejected the UCC! Moreover, there is a canard being spread that with the UCC, the Muslim faith will cease to exist in India. Nothing can be more ridiculous than this. The UCC does not mean that all laws in the country will be replaced by a Hindu law. For example, aspects of UCC are in existence in Goa but Muslims in that state have continued to practice their faith like before. The way in which UCC needs to be understood is that it should make the personal laws of all communities harmonious with the constitutional vision. But we know that when it comes to the Islamic faith, certain provisions are not at all in tune with the republican vision. Take for example the issue of divorce which should be a matter of right for all women irrespective of religion. But the Muslim personal law does not give this right to its women. She is only entitled to take the khula which is basically a request that she be divorced, which the husband can refuse at will. Also, the Muslim women is denied inheritance if she initiates khula proceedings. Next, we should also look at the issue of inheritance within Muslim society. According to the Muslim personal law, women and men cannot inherit equally. We need to recall that Islam was one of the first religions to grant property rights to women. But that spirit should have continued and it should also have been the first religion to grant equal property rights to women. It didn’t because it remained frozen. On the other hand, religions who had no concept of property rights for women could evolve themselves to the extent that now men and women can inherit equally. What a shame this is for the Muslim Sharia to evolve with changing times. Certain aspects of the Hindu personal law are also discriminatory but then there is no one who argues that since it is divinely ordained, it cannot be changed. However, we Muslims make such arguments when it comes to denial of rights of women. What is the logic behind not giving women their due share (according to Islamic law) in agricultural property? When it comes to the Ulama, the misogyny is so bad that they wouldn’t be willing to give even what is promised to women in their personal laws. Just think of what the institution of Meher Maafi by which the Muslim wife is pressured formally and informally, to forgo even the little amount that she gets as part of her marriage. Muslims must realize that their religion is not special. Followers of all religions believe that their laws are God given. But with times, religions have been able to move along and have changed their discriminatory laws. The same cannot be said about Muslims leading to the perception that they (Muslims) are rigid, orthodox and inflexible. It also leads to the perception that Muslims always keep their religion above national needs. Muslims have always countered this argument by stating that it is the Indian constitution that gives them the right to free expression of religion. This is certainly true but the same constitution also demands certain liberalism and sensitivity towards gender justice. When will Muslims be in a position to fulfil those constitutional obligations? ----- A regular contributor to, Arshad Alam is a writer and researcher on Islam and Muslims in South Asia. URL: New Age Islam, Islam Online, Islamic Website, African Muslim News, Arab World News, South Asia News, Indian Muslim News, World Muslim News, Women in Islam, Islamic Feminism, Arab Women, Women In Arab, Islamophobia in America, Muslim Women in West, Islam Women and Feminism

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