Talks around the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) have again come to the fore. And the response of some seemingly ‘liberal’ Muslim women, that one would expect to support the move as it frees women from the shackles of sharia that currently dictates Muslim personal law, has come as a sobering reminder of how fundamentalism still reigns supreme among Indian Muslims.
Actress and small screen celebrity Gauahar Khan lost her temper at the very mention of UCC.
Silicon Valley, USA based angel investor and philanthropist Asha Jadeja Motwani had tweeted, “Outside world doesn’t know that India still has separate family laws for Hindus&Muslims. Hindus have to abide by secular code. Muslims can have 4 wives &ban education for their wives &girls in name of Sharia. #UniformCivilCode has to apply to ALL Indians @PMOIndia@narendramodi.”
Gauahar Khan was so rattled by this factual statement, not in any way directed personally at her, that she resorted to abuse. She tweeted, “Hey loser ! I’m a Muslim , and no body can ban us from having our rights , india is secular, it’s a democracy, not a dictatorship like u would desire ! So stay put in the comfort of your American status , n stop inciting hate in my country ! (sic)”
So sharia law, which allows a Muslim man to practice polygamy, allows instant triple talaq – a practice that even fanatical Islamic nations like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia had long ago banned, but was made a criminal offence in ‘secular’ India only in 2019 – and promotes barbaric practices like Nikah Halala and mut’ah, is “our rights” for the well-educated, high-society living Gauahar Khan! Bringing UCC is akin to ‘imposing dictatorship’, and calls for debate on this issue is ‘inciting hate’.
This is Muslim privilege and entitlement talking. Gauahar Khan should talk to likes of Nida Khan and Farhat Naqvi, who are fighting for the rights of Muslim women, on the real issues afflicting her community instead of indulging in chest-thumping rhetoric based on her Muslim identity. Why are our desi liberals, seculars and feminists not schooling Gauahar Khan?
So distorted has the idea of ‘secularism’ become in this country that it is now used to justify anything and everything. In Europe, where this concept originated to curb the all-powerful Vatican, it merely means separation of Church and State. The Church retains all its rights in the religious domain, its institutions are very much in its control. Catholic Christianity even has its own sovereign territory, the independent city-state of Vatican City, that allows the Pope to act like a Head of State and dabble in international politics.
Even the much-talked about separation of Church and State is a gray zone. The German state collects a religious tax from citizens which it transfers to both Catholic and Protestant Church, UK embraces Anglican Christianity as its state religion and places dozens of unelected Bishops in its upper House of Parliament! But all laws, whether civil/personal or criminal, are controlled by the State – that is the one area that Europe has made out of bound for the Church and other religious bodies. Although with growing Muslim immigration into Europe, legal issues related to sharia are cropping up there too.
But in the Republic of India, where secularism is talked about more than any other country in the world, we have our own unique interpretation: complete control of the ‘majority’, freedom to the ‘minority’.
Hindus are completely controlled by the state – most temples are under state control for ‘improved administration’, they are restricted from imparting religious education in schools, and their festivals and traditions are under continuous scrutiny and ‘reformation’ by the judiciary-activist network. Hindu personal law is dictated by the state, of course.
The so-called minorities, especially Christians and Muslims, have a privileged position in our legal-political domain. They have control of their religious institutions, can run schools without interference from the state (moreover, madrassas receive heavy state funding), and Muslims have their own personal law officiated by a obscurantist, fundamentalist and often radicalized clergy.
Gauahar Khan’s jibe at Asha Jadeja Motwani based on her residency in USA, is also typical hypocritical ‘liberal’ behavior. On the one hand, they advocate and lobby Western governments to put pressure on PM Modi, they go ballistic if West-based Amartya Sen or other Indian-origin academic says something critical about the country, but if a PIO (Person of Indian origin) says something that does not fit their agenda, out comes the “don’t incite hate in India” card!
Even when American pop-star Rihanna – who has absolutely no connection or business with this country – took to Twitter to interfere in the internal matters of this country, allegedly in exchange for 2.5 million US dollars paid by a PR Firm with Khalistani links, Gauahar Khan didn’t feel that she needed to ask the outsider not to meddle in Bharat’s internal issue and ‘stay put in her American comfort’. Some celebrities from sports and entertainment world had come forward criticizing the unwarranted commentary of the American singer, but Khan was not among them. In fact, ‘seculars’ had slammed the celebrities who spoke up for Bharat as ‘government lapdogs’.
This shows that Gauahar Khan and her ilk have no problems if rank outsiders interfere in Bharat’s internal issues; they only have a problem when their vested interests are challenged.
Being slapped on a stage while shooting for a show, by a Muslim man who attacked her for her skimpy clothes that he claimed went against the doctrine of Islam, Gauahar had once “schooled” an Instagrammer claiming, “In Islam the woman is described at not above nor below a man, it’s next to him, so she can be close to his heart. Learn n explore before u talk some bulls**t (sic).”
But some scholars argue that certain Quranic verses have a different message from what Gauahar has claimed above. For eg. Qur’an 4.34 says –
Men are in charge of women by [right of] what Allah has given one over the other and what they spend [for maintenance] from their wealth. So righteous women are devoutly obedient, guarding in [the husband’s] absence what Allah would have them guard. But those [wives] from whom you fear arrogance – [first] advise them; [then if they persist], forsake them in bed; and [finally], strike them. But if they obey you [once more], seek no means against them. Indeed, Allah is ever Exalted and Grand.
Before marrying Zaid Darbar, the actress was dating fellow actor Kushal Tandon. After their sudden breakup in 2014, Kushal had shared that Khan was forcing him to convert to Islam, which contributed to their break up.
Again, a reminder that this is a woman who has grown up in a big city, received modern education, works in the entertainment industry – yet, she is so dedicated to the fundamentals of her religion (a Muslim woman is not allowed to marry a non-Muslim man) that all talk of tolerance and cosmopolitanism goes flying out the window when it comes to religion. It is only the Hindus and Dharmiks who fall for the ‘love conquers everything’ trope, it appears!
Thankfully, Gauahar’s bigoted tweet, which was so harmful for the cause of Muslim women, did not go unchallenged. Supreme Court advocate Shashank Shekhar Jha educated her on the true meaning of rights in a democracy.
However, Khan is not the only well-educated Muslim woman in this country to take pride in medieval and misogynist practices. Anti-CAA riots accused, Jamia Millia Islamia student ‘shero’ Safoora Zargar, who was arrested in April 2020 for her inflammatory speech made in February 2020 which had instigated bloodshed in the capital city, also resorted to vile invective to counter Asha’s call for UCC.
First, she made use of the Sati jibe, a favorite tool to shame and dehumanize Hindus. This PhD student compared what ‘trads’ – Hindu traditionalists, a motley online group with contrasting views on ancient Hindu society, reviving practice of Dharma etc- in her opinion are talking about (no trad wants to ‘revive’ Sati, as far as we know), to demands for a common civil law in Bharat, similar to what hundreds of other countries have! Really makes you question the critical thinking abilities imparted in our universities.
When Zargar was called out for her support to something that is blatantly anti-woman and out of place in the current times, she resorted to another favorite slur in the Hindu-haters armory – the ‘cow urine’ jibe.
The same “cow Urine Jibe” was used by Adil Dar, the Jaish-e-Mohammed suicide bomber who carried out the 2019 Pulwama attack. Zargar claimed that her ‘right’ to be one of the 4 wives of her husband as per her religious beliefs was the same as the ‘right’ of Hindus to drink cow urine. This is how quickly Islamists resort to bigotry and dehumanizing hate, when asked to debate on serious issues. More experienced Islamists like Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind’s Maulana Mahmood Madani or AIMIM’s Asaduddin Owaisi will be able to maintain the facade of reasonableness a little longer, but ultimately they will crack too and the sheer hate at being questioned by ‘kafirs’ will gush forth.
Such episodes educate us about how deeply radicalized the cream of the Indian Muslim community is. It is this section of Ashrafis, the so-called pure-blooded descendants of foreigners like Arabs, Turks and Persians, who are the most fanatical and contemptuously dismissive of indigenous Dharmic traditions.
The way anti-Hinduism is hard wired into our secular Republic right now, it is debatable whether UCC will have its desired impact of freeing Muslim women. It might just become another legal millstone around the Hindu neck, while being de-facto useless with regards to the Muslim community as law enforcement turns a blind eye ‘to preserve peace & harmony’. What we need is a new Muslim Civil Code (MCC), while Special Marriage Act should be made the only mode for genuine inter-faith marriages.