By Kouser Fathima
A tweet by a leading Indian TV anchor about the state of Indian Muslim women has led to a very unexpected but positive response from Muslim women. These Muslim women started a hashtag – #Muslimwomenachievers – to highlight the success stories of thousands of Muslim women from various fields. Starting from Razia Sultana, the ruler of Delhi, to the present day achievers, the stories were inspiring and eye-opening to many people, who were genuinely unaware of realities. There were others who deliberately tried to ignore the success stories by quoting examples of Muslim women, who were abandoned because of the misuse of the Instant Triple Talaq (ITT, henceforth) by their husbands. I don’t deny that the ITT is misused by many Muslim men, despite their small number. But the efforts on the part of Indian media to use the ITT to undermine the achievements of Muslim women are quite deplorable. This raises serious doubts in the minds of Muslim women that the actual intent of all activism associated with Triple Talaq is to brush aside their positive achievements.
Most Muslims, especially women, have time and again spoken against the ITT and have asked it to be removed. Every time there is a case of ITT, many non-Muslims from the majority community expect Muslims to reiterate their views on TT. The answer remains the same but the questions are rephrased and asked repeatedly. The views of Muslims on TT have become the new test for their liberal values and commitment towards gender issues. The ITT has become a stick to beat Muslims with and divert attention from bigger issues faced by the nation. Any debate on the ITT by news channels has people hooked to the idiot box and the television channels love it because it garners TRPs. There are endless debates and discussions on TT without any proper solutions. People using TT to paint Muslims negatively forget that Muslim women and activists are tirelessly working against the practice, supporting the victims and fighting for their rights. Many of these Muslim women fighting against the ITT have been accused of being instigated by the right wing and the RSS. Nonetheless their fight against the ITT is commendable and cannot be ignored.
With so much happening within the community, the efforts to constantly tag the whole community only with the issue of ITT is disappointing and suspicious. The issue has been used by many to fuel Islamphobia and create hysteria against Muslims. The ITT is used to paint all Muslim women as oppressed, who need to be saved. While the victims of the ITT need solidarity and genuine support, this single issue can’t be used to undermine the achievements of other Muslim women.
The journeys of these successful Muslim women have not been easy. They have worked hard to achieve their success. Many have faced criticism for choosing some of the ‘not so common’ fields of work. However, they have been able to break the glass ceilings with the support of family and by dint of their sheer will power. Apart from medical profession and teaching, you will find Muslim women working as journalists, news anchors, techies, activists, lawyers, entrepreneurs, filmmakers, etc. The list is endless. People just need to look around without any prejudice to see these success stories. These Muslim women have faced similar challenges like other women at every step without any extra privileges. They have faced the same amount of work pressure, societal pressure, and discrimination at every step because of their gender. So why undermine their success only because of their faith? When the media tries to portray all Muslim women as victims, it hurts the cause more than aiding the fight against the ITT.
While we applaud and celebrate the success stories of many Muslim women, we do not forget or ignore the victims of the ITT or domestic violence. Muslim women have always supported and will continue to support and speak for the victims. Their hardships and humiliation will never be forgotten. A lot of effort is being made by Muslim women activists to garner support against the ITT, provide legal aid to the victims, and help them get justice. One can’t ignore Muslim women activists’ long struggle against many social and religious practices. In spite of all the criticism, many of them are working tirelessly to help the victims. The sudden focus on Muslim women’s issues by media has also compelled other women from the community to take note and speak for them. Many of them, who were somewhat indifferent toward the victims, have started showing solidarity with them and work for them. There is a conscious effort on the part of women within the community to address the issues that are harming other women. Their problems are being discussed, debated, and efforts are being made to find solutions.
While there is already churning within the community, the external pressure to reform or change does not help much. Many Indian Muslims are suspicious about the hidden agendas and are reluctant to blindly believe the media stories. When media tries to use issues like the ITT to undermine Muslim women, it is sure to backfire. Many Muslim women have decided that enough is enough and it is time to take charge. That’s how the hashtag – #Muslimwomenachievers – came into being. This hashtag successfully highlighted many positive stories of Muslim women and busted some of the myths about them. While the efforts are commendable, the anti-Muslim comments never seem to end.
The idea of an oppressed Muslim woman, who needs to be rescued, sells better than that of an empowered Muslim woman. The media right now is trying to cash in on the ‘oppressed Muslim women’ narrative. However, it has managed to cause more harm to the fight against the ITT, further alienating Muslim women from the mainstream.
Dr. Kouser Fathima is a Bangalore-based dentist who writes on issues concerning women, especially Muslim women. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @kouser2012
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