Women at SC door for mosque gate-pass
Source: Telegraph India
New Delhi, Jan. 30: A group of Muslim women has decided to move the Supreme Court demanding entry into all mosques in the country.
The petition is expected to be filed on Monday, the advocate for the petitioners, K.V. Dhananjay, told The Telegraph from Bangalore.
The move comes at a time groups of Hindu women are calling for an end to the ban on their entry into select temples, such as the Ayyappa temple in Kerala and the Trimbakeshwar and Shani temples in Maharashtra. A petition against the bans is pending in the Supreme Court on behalf of Hindu women.
The petition by the Muslim women, a copy of which is with this paper, asks that every mosque that receives monetary aid from the government be prohibited from discriminating against women.
According to the counsel, Article 15 of the Constitution clearly prohibits discrimination by the government on the basis of sex.
“Religious bodies that ask for and receive taxpayers’ money from the government are also subject to this condition imposed by our Constitution,” he said.
“It is very unfortunate that not a single political party or a chief minister, women included, has thought of advancing the interest of Muslim women by providing them with access to mosques that receive monetary aid from taxpayers’ money. It is because of such failure that a need has arisen for Muslim women from several states to approach the Supreme Court,” Dhananjay added.
Women are allowed to enter mosques that have a separate space for them, but most mosques in India do not. Socially, Indian women are not encouraged to regularly pray at mosques even if they do have separate enclosures. Most women visiting the Jama Masjid, for instance, would be Muslim tourists in Delhi rather than residents of the capital.
Maulana Syed Ahmed Bukhari, Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid in Delhi, said there was no ban on Muslim women entering a mosque. “Islam gives permission for women to enter and pray inside,” the imam of India’s largest mosque said.
He, however, blamed male chauvinists in the community for barring women inside many smaller mosques. “Traditionally, these local committees have never allowed women to enter mosques,” he said.
But Zafaryab Jilani, member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, said: “I do not understand the logic behind such petition. We have not got any such complaint from Muslim women saying they are prevented from entering mosques.”
The petition says that the Quran does not contain any verse or commandment that prohibits women from entering a mosque or praying there. It adds that the Quran casts the same religious duty on both the sexes – women are not subject to less religious duties or obligations. Further, both sexes are promised the same spiritual rewards – men are not promised more.
The petition argues that “historical sources also show that Prophet Muhammad had himself encouraged women to actively participate in mosque congregations and prayer”.
“The most sacred mosque in the world for Muslims embraces both men and women. Also, there is complete unanimity in the Muslim community on the Masjid-al-Haram in Mecca being the most sacred mosque to all Muslims in the world; every able bodied Muslim is required to visit it at least once in his lifetime. Does this mosque allow women to enter into it and pray inside it? Absolutely,” the petition points out.
“The Masjid-al-Haram in Mecca has always invited Muslim women from every part of the world to pray in it. It does not discriminate between men and women simply because any such discrimination would have violated the Quran.
“Therefore, it could be said that mosques in India that receive monetary aid from the government violate both the Constitution of India as well as the Quran by prohibiting women from entering.”
The petition further says: “In fact, the Quran greatly frowns on efforts to keep believers away from the mosque and a plain reading of many Quranic verses will show that no special distinction is made between men and women believers.”
The petitioners have also quoted the Quran to prove that entry of women into mosques is not barred.
Zakia Soman, co-founder of the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, blamed the patriarchal mindset of a group of clerics and local masjid committees. “Islam allows women to enter and pray inside mosques but members of some local committees discourage women and prevent them to enter inside,” she said.