Monday, May 17, 2010

Women reject Muslim clerics’ regulations

A Catholic nun has joined some women leaders in denouncing regulations issued by a Muslim clerics’ body, including one that says Muslim women should not talk to men at the workplace.
Darul Uloom, a school established in 1868 to propagate Sunni Islam in the Indian subcontinent, decreed on May 12 that Islamic Shari’a law prohibits physical proximity of men and women at the workplace.
The ruling came in response to a query by a Muslim woman, who wanted to know if Muslim women are allowed to work to support their families. The clerics said it is illegal for women to work.
The clerics’ body, based in Deoband, in Uttar Pradesh state, reportedly said that if women go to work, they should use a veil and avoid talking to men.
These decrees “impinge on a woman’s freedom to live with dignity, with respect,” said Sister Jessy Kurian, a Catholic nun and Supreme Court lawyer.
She said a woman has the right to choose her work and to speak to anybody she wants. “Men and women are equal in the Indian constitution and women’s dignity and freedom should be respected,” she said.
Other women who rejected the clerics’ ruling include Ranjana Kumari, director of the Centre for Social Research, an NGO working for women’s empowerment. She said the decrees were “absolutely unacceptable.”
She said since Muslim men are allowed to have “more than one wife, there is no choice for a woman, but to work and support her family.”
Shabnam Hashmi, a Muslim human rights activist said the rulings “aimed at subjugating women” and would have no impact on educated Indian women.
Kumari said that such regulations are part of fundamentalism, adding that she “admires” Muslim women who work and who are able to give “a befitting reply” to such rulings.

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