No one in their right mind will support practices like triple talaq or nikah halala. But some people, such as PM Modi, who express great concern for Muslim womens’ rights, have another agenda in mind
By Zafar Agha
Triple talaq was the issue of choice for decades; it’s nikah halala and polygamy now, even as the Babri Masjid-Ram temple issue is being heard in the Supreme Court. It seems the country has no other agenda but to fix problems within the Muslim community. Are people like Prime Minister Narendra Modi seriously working to address and fix issues of Muslim’s womens’ rights? Or, is there another agenda behind their seemingly great concern for Muslim women?
Well, who would not agree that practices such as triple talaq or nikah halala need reform. But how could those under whose regime Muslim women were raped during Gujarat riots in 2002, suddenly have a change of heart regarding their well-being!
Instead of a sincere intent towards social reform, a subtle political game is being played. Stereotyping Muslims is at the core of Hindutva politics, which is essentially divisive and rests upon polarising tactics. The Muslim is perennially available for such polarisation in Hindu-dominated India.
Polarise needs an enemy/other, and that enemy/other needs to be perceived as a villain and a threat, even if they are not so in reality. Now how to make the Muslim man villainous? If he is projected as backward, anti-women and anti-one’s faith, he fits the bill. Then, how to drill the idea of the villainous Muslim man into the minds of the public? Through a constant campaign repeating that Muslims are polygamous; they divorce their wife at the drop of a hat; they do not allow Ram temple to be built just because they had a mosque in Ayodhya. All this needs to be constantly drilled into the majority community’s minds by keeping all such issues alive.
This kind of campaign does create an image of a backward Muslim community. But it does not generate any threat to the majority. So then, Muslims must be provoked to agitate on the streets, with the hope of a counter-polarisation. How to do this? Get Hindutva goons out on the streets to indulge in mob-lynching of Muslims; get someone to make a statement that aazan on loudspeakers is a noise pollution threat; approach courts to get orders prohibiting what Muslims perceive as the legal divorce method. Then get a manufactured leadership to lead Muslims to the streets with religious slogans like ‘Allah ho Akbar’. Cue so-called Muslim leaders such as Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi, who rants and raves with subtle provocation against Hindus, coining terms like ‘Hindu appeasement’. Generate a Hindu backlash and project an Advani or a Modi as a Hindu Hriday Samrat, in the hope that a bulk of majority community voters will forget their hardships from ruinous policies like demonetisation, forget that they never got the jobs or share of black money they were promised, and vote for the same failed leaders again.
It is a constant political game that the Hindutva forces have been playing for decades now. Muslims have too often fallen prey to their gameplan. For instance, when the Babri mosque was unlocked and Hindutva forces asked Muslims to allow Hindus to build a Ram temple, suddenly a Babri Masjid Action Committee, which no one ever had heard of, cropped up. Unknown faces like Azam Khan and Zafaryab Jilani overnight turned into Muslim heroes. They promised to lay down their lives in defence of the Babri Masjid. They led huge rallies of agitated Muslims.
This went on for over a year. The media played up the Muslim rallies, generating an impression as if India will turn into another Pakistan. Vishwa Hindu Parishad entered the game, with the likes of Uma Bharti giving fiery speeches in defence of the Ram temple. Slowly and surely, the Hindu backlash began. Once enough ground work had been done by the VHP, BJP leader LK Advani’s rath yatra entered the scene. The crescendo that was built up during the rath yatra eventually led to the razing of the Babri Masjid. It transformed BJP into a national political party in the the next round of Parliamentary elections. The BJP has never looked back since.
Once again elections are close. Muslims now have to be painted as anti-Hindu to polarise Hindu voters. Another rath yatra for the Ram temple is moving across the country. Petitioners are approaching courts to examine the ‘social ills’ in the Muslim community. Media and Muslim ‘leaders’ are wittingly or unwittingly playing along. Another polarising chorus is being built up during an electoral cycle.
But, there is a catch this time. Muslims seem to have instinctively sensed that taking to the streets and responding to rhetorical speeches of manufactured leaders is inviting trouble. So, no big Muslim rallies are taking place. Even the Muslim Personal Law Board’s call to defend shariah law has not evoked much response.
This is a spanner in the works for the Sangh Parivar’s gameplan. Therefore, repeated provocations like introducing the triple talaq bill and now playing up the court case on nikah halala and polygamy are being done to agitate Muslims and draw them out into the streets. After all, you cannot generate a Hindu wave without the Muslim enemy. Let us hope that this latest cycle of attempted polarisation does not lead us to witness any communal incidents.
I do believe that Muslim society needs urgent reforms. Who in their right minds can support practices like triple talaq or nikah halala? But many of those who are now crying hoarse in support of gender justice, are not doing so out of any real love for Muslims. They have a political agenda which is ultimately very dangerous for the country.
[Zafar Agha is Chief Editor of Qaumi Awaz]