Zakia Soman (51) the co founder of the Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan speaks toabout the verdict.
How do you react to this judgement?
We are overwhelmed. We are planning for a party. The verdict has shown the strength of our democracy. This verdict will go a long way in challenging hegemony of patriarchal forces that operate in our society.
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What prompted the BMMA to take up this issue?
The BMMA has been fighting for the Quranic as well as the Constitutional rights of Muslim women. A Sufi shrine can be no place for practicing discrimination. The Dargah Trustees by doing what they did were acting against the ethos of Sufism and Islam. It was basically a fight between a peaceful and an extremist version of Islam. Today they had stopped Muslim women, tomorrow they would have put restrictions on someone else. This behavior had to be challenged. Whatever we did was within the purview of religion and the rights that have been given to Muslim women in Islam.
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Would we see more such instances of the judiciary being called to resolve matters of faith?
It will definitely strengthen women’s resolve to get access to their rights that have been denied to them by patriarchal forces. There is a trend where women are approaching courts.
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A section of women’s organisation have questioned the BMMA’s approach of taking a confrontationist stand with the Muslim community at a time when it is facing an onslaught both globally and nationally. What do you have to say about that?
Let me tell you that we did not approach the courts directly. We tried every way. We sought meetings with trustees, asked government agencies for help but nothing happened. We went to the court as a last resort. A lamb will approach the court if the the tiger is hell bent in devouring the lamb. We are fighting through democratic means to get the rights promised by our religion. However injustice has continued against us for 1400 years. In a democratic fight whom do you approach if not for democratic institutions. I know we have been attacked by some women’s groups but we believe that they are our sisters and in a battle we should not attack our own soldiers.