A class on gender politics in Kerala has left social media users amused with its blatant irony. Photos from the session showed students – men and women – being addressed by Dr. Abdullah Basil, the leader of the student wing of an Islamic organization in Kerala, separated by a curtain.
On July 6, the Mujahid Wisdom group hosted a seminar on ‘Understanding LGBTQIA+ from an Islamic perspective.’ Students from the Thrissur Medical College participated. Dr. Abdullah and Suhail Rasheed, the admins of the Facebook group Unmasking Atheism and the heads of the Mujahid Wisdom group’s student wing, attended the classes.
The event was heavily criticized by the social media users, whereas the officials from the college union confirmed that neither the administration nor the students’ union were responsible for coordinating the event. They said that a religious organisation had organised it near a house of worship close to the campus.
However, Abdullah clarified and even justified the action in a Facebook post. He made comparisons between liberalism and religion in terms of gender segregation in another Facebook post. He added that there are separate entrance and prayer rooms for men and women in mosques and that the curtain separating them won’t surprise Muslims.
A few days ago, Kozhikode-based architect couple Brijesh Shaijal and Nimisha went to attend their colleague’s wedding. While doing the customary wedding feast, the women were directed to an enclosure and men to a farther area. Brijesh and Nimisha insisted that they would have food together, but the caterer found it ‘improper’ and told them that men were not supposed to eat with women as they had their respective designated dining spaces.
Appalled and hurt, the couple left the wedding venue immediately. On reaching home, Brijesh wrote a note on social media: “Please don’t invite us to weddings where there is gender difference, and where people believe that having food together with one’s own wife in a public gathering is a sin!”
However, the separate dining areas for men and women is not uncommon in Kerala. In many orthodox Muslim weddings in North Kerala, the practice has been there for a long time. The intent behind the idea, many say, is to prevent women from interacting with men outside their family at such social events.
According to the Professor AK Abdul Hameed of Samastha Kerala Jamiyyathul Ulama (AP faction) stresses that it’s due to religious reasons. He said that “According to the law of our religion, men and women who are strangers shouldn’t mix with each other. Even though a couple comes from the same home, they are not supposed to see or mingle with people from outside the family. Among the caterers and guests are strangers; they are not supposed to mingle in a public space which is directly under our control. Many are breaking the rules these days, but according to religious law, separate dining is the right practice”.
Is India heading towards becoming an Islamic State?
Witnessing such incidents sometimes confused us that are we living in any Islamic country? We used to hear such news from Islamic nations such as Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. Where discrimination against women in the Muslim community is practiced not just before food, but in case of prayers and lifestyle, too. The men wield patriarchy and religious power to suppress women. The sight of people from different genders interacting insults their morality.
In Islamic nations, women are forced to wear a headscarf, also known as hijab or khimar, and loose-fitting clothing when they are in public and when they are in the presence of men who are not part of their immediate family. Some women additionally cover much of their face with a covering known as a niqab.
In Islamic nations, women are not allowed to sign a contract without permission from their guardian either, and they are to limit the times they interact with men outside their family as much as possible. That’s why many public buildings, parks, and means of transportation are segregated by sex. In court, the testimony from one man equals that of two women.
Going by the kind of incidents that happened in Kerala, we are afraid India is turning into an Islamic state, where there are no human rights for Women. You may call it a bit exaggeration, or may call it a figment of our imagination, or may say that we are thinking a bit more than what is seen.
However, the fact is, such Islamic practices start with a small incident and then radical elements capitalized on such efforts and orchestrate nationwide campaigns to implement such discrimination practices. We have seen how radical Islamists promoted the Bukha during the Islamic revolution of Iran, they labeled it as a symbol of freedom for women. However, later it turned out to be a trap to suppress the voice of women in the name of Islam.
India must treat these incidents very cautiously and carefully. We must not give the radical Islamists an opportunity to spread their ideology and brainwash people. Such incidents must be condemned and our government and administration must ensure zero reoccurrences of such instances.