Valley Women Rise In Protest Against Fatwa On Imrana
1 July 2005
The Indian Express
Srinagar: Far away from the fatwa and the politics surrounding the rape of a Muslim woman in Uttar Pradesh, voices of protest from women are emerging from Kashmir on the issue, the only Muslim majority state in the country. However, in the Valley, where religious identity forms the nucleus of a separatist struggle, most of the top religious leaders are supporting the fatwa. The only exception is Shia cleric and Hurriyat leader Moulana Abbas Ansari, who thinks that the fatwa does not conform to the tenets of Islam. The fatwa was issued by Mufti Habibur Rahman of Deoband after Imrana, a woman from Muzaffarnagar, was allegedly raped by her father-in-law. The edict, which advocates the cancellation of Imrana's marriage, kicked off a political controversy after Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Malayam Singh Yadav publically supported the fatwa, while arch rivals BJP and CPI(M) opposed it. Ruling People's Democratic Party president and top woman politician of Kashmir, Mehbooba Mufti expressed grave concern over the fatwa, saying how a woman raped by her father-in-law automatically becomes the mother of her husband. 'It is misrepresentation of the religion by a particular school of thought,' she said, adding, 'This is not good for the image of Islam, which is one of the most emancipated and just religions and was the first to give women their rights and a respectable position in society.' She cited the example of Mukhtaran Mai of Pakistan, who was raped and then the culprits were let off by the court. 'Examples like these do no good to our Muslim identity,' she said. She termed the edict as a misinterpretation of the religion by one school of thought. Prominent women's rights activist and wife of Hurriyat leader Naeem Khan, Prof Hameeda Nayeem, is anguished over the fatwa. 'It is a grave matter,' she said, adding, 'Fatwa is a misinterpretation of the normative principles of Islamic justice. Ulemas take some specific application of the basic Islamic principles in a particular context and period and make it an absolute precedent for future problems.' Naeema thinks such fatwas are giving a bad name to Islam as these reflect the letter rather than the spirit of the religion. 'It is grave injustice that a woman who was sinned against has to be punished for the misfortune. What was her fault?' she asked. Social activist Dilafroz Qazi, one of the nominees for the Nobel Peace Prize this year, minced no words about being anti-fatwa. 'I have a strong moral stand on this. The woman (Imrana) should be allowed to stay with her husband and five children,' she said, adding, 'We should see her (Imrana's) interest. The culprit is the father-in-law, who should get punished.' However, the only religious leader who has categorically opposed the fatwa is Moulana Abbas Ansari, who belongs to the Shia sect. 'Rape in any way did not take away from the sanctity of the marriage between Imrana and her husband,' he said, adding, 'The decision to part ways should best be left to husband and wife.' He called for the harshest possible punishment for the father-in-law. Other religious leaders, especially from other schools of thought, think that the fatwa issued by Deoband is correct. With one rider though: That it cannot be applied until the crime is established. 'I stand by the edict as it has come from Darul Aloom Deoband, which is one of the foremost Islamic seminaries in the world,' said Mufti Nazir, Sadr Mufti of Darul Aloom Rahimia. Besides, the fatwa only says what is written in our scriptures, he added. Nazir, however, said the marriage was valid until rape was proved beyond doubt. He also dismissed the prevailing hue and cry over the matter as media hype. The grand Mufti of Jammu and Kashmir, Bashir-u-Din, while absolutely supportive of the fatwa, disagreed with Mufti Nazir that the marriage could continue till the incident was established. 'The controversy about the relationship between Imrana and her father-in- law has suspended the marriage and it can only be restored if rape is not confirmed,' he said. Speaking about incestuous relationships in general, Mufti Bashir said marriage can be rendered invalid even if the wife is intimately touched by the husband's father. Though most religious leaders did not conflict with the fatwa, they tried to explain that the religious decree should be understood in its proper context. The head of Darul Aloom Almustafi Baramulla, Mufti Raheem, said the fatwa was not binding on the couple and that only a court decision in the light of Muslim Personal Law could force a break-up. He likened the fatwa to the religious observation on a pressing social problem. 'It is a bonafide scriptural solution (fatwa) which is given when sought,' he said, adding, 'The media, by focusing only on marriage, was seeing only a branch and neglecting the tree as the sin has a larger fallout on the family which cannot be overlooked.' However, when contacted, chairman of Hurriyat Conference (G), Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Amir of Jamaat-I-Islami, Nazir Ahmad Kashani, refused to comment as they did not want to be drawn into what was a purely religious affair and said the matter was best left to theologians. Geelani said he agreed with the fatwa in general terms, as it had been issued by Deoband.