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India: No lip-stick in Seelampur (Delhi)

Monday 20 February 2012, by siawi3


TNN | Feb 19, 2012, 07.21AM IST

[Sana Yaseen]

If your daughters are going to coed schools or wearing Western
clothes, then it is a very dangerous sign." The fairly straight,
no-frills lecture blared out of a loudspeaker on a mildly cold winter
day as the ominous words wafted through an impoverished locality
characterised by potholes, broken footpaths, garbage dumps and naked
wires dangling from electric poles. But, wait, where was this coming
from? Afghanistan? Saudi Arabia?

Startling as it may seem, it was Seelampur, in the heart of Delhi. "It
is uncomfortable and embarassing," says Habiba Rasheedi, a
20-something marketing executive who lives in the colony. "Such
announcements can be heard in almost all Muslim concentrated
localities. From asking girls to be married at a young age, cautions
against applying nail paint, lipstick, and wearing bindis, the
warnings cross absurd limits. In the end, though, it makes it
difficult for young Muslim girls and women to step out of the house."

It doesn’t stop there. Besides the announcements, printing and
distributing of books listing similar fatuousness is also prevalent,
usually by maulvis preaching along the lines of the Taliban. Of
course, activists like Mumbai-based Asghar Ali Engineer are struggling
to clear the mist, but it isn’t easy. He says, "What all is being
taught in the name of religion are only cultural practices. Nothing
like this is written in the Quran. Therefore, it is essential to take
workshop of these maulvis as well to create awareness“”Things changed for all Muslims across the world post 9/11," says Juhi
Irfan, a B Com student. "We were told the world outside is unsafe for
us. But it is worse in certain quarters, like here. The distance
between Seelampur metro station and my house is about 20 minutes. But
it might as well have been 20 years. Be it within the walls or
outside, Muslim women are under cultural and moral scrutiny." But all
that might just be changing. The women, mostly young and frustrated
with medieval diktats, have now begun to openly challenge what one of
them calls the "perverse expectations of people caught in a time
warp". There is a quiet, seething rebellion in the ghettos and Naish
Hasan, founder member of Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, Lucknow, says
the girls won’t take it anymore.

Last year, a group of women thrashed a maulana and madarsa employees
for endorsing one-sided talaq in Lucknow. "It’s a classic example of
women standing up for themselves,“Hasan says.”Women who are ignorant
and uneducated may not be able to confront the maulvis, but they, too,
are steering away from such ideas and refusing to get influenced. It
would help, though, to have the maulvis monitored. The state should
ban groups of such selfproclaimed torchbearers of religion who are
only harming the mobility and freedom of Muslim women." Educated and
aspiring women like Juhi have reason to feel angry. Data from the
National Sample Survey Organisation shows that barely 3.6 % of Muslims
are graduates. The Sachar Committee Report-2006 says that women
wearing burkha find it difficult to get work in corporate offices.
Poverty and the community’s inability to see education translating
into formal employment has further resulted in countless children
being pulled away from schools. Girls, especially, are put to work to
earn extra income. "Many self-employed Muslim women work in poor
conditions with almost no security benefits and health insurance,"
says Seema Biswas, associate professor, department of Islamic History
and Culture, University of Calcutta.

In such a scenario, it was obvious that women would stop to say
“enough”. That’s exactly what software developer Sadiya Khan did. She
was shopping with a friend in Old Delhi when a young maulvi asked -
with a straight face - her friend to take off her sunglasses. He was
offended when they burst out laughing at the reprimand. Then Sadiya
did something she had been meaning to do. She called the cops.

Fatwa Special

In 2008, the Muslim Fatwa Council in Malaysia issued a fatwa
cautioning girls against behaving like tomboys

In December, an Islamic cleric in Europe issued a ban on women
touching fruits and vegetables like cucumbers and bananas, as "they
were shaped like the male organ and could arouse sexual thoughts"

An internet forum, Multaqa Ahl al Hadeeth, in 2007 proposed a ban on
chat emoticons, saying "a woman should not use them when speaking to a
man who isn’t her mahram (close male kin)."