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Women activists hail Bombay HC verdict on Haji Ali


New Delhi: A ‘welcome move’, echoed women activists across the board about the Bombay High Court’s verdict allowing women to enter the Haji Ali Dargah in Mumbai.

The verdict came on Friday after a two-year battle which began in 2014 when a petition was filed by members of the Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) against the restriction.

The ruling once applicable will allow women to enter the ‘sanctum sanctorum’ of the shrine located on the sea coast in Mumbai. The restriction on the entry of women was imposed in 2012 by the Haji Ali Dargah Trust, which called it a sin to allow women to be in proximity of the dead saint.

Kamla Bhasin, a feminist activist and an advisor at Sangat, South Asian Feminist Network, called the verdict a victory for women organisations and for equality and justice.

Bhasin told IANS in Delhi: “Today our Constitution should be the biggest authority, it should be our ethical and moral guide; and it’s our Constitution that has given equality between men and women, equality between different religions, equality between different castes.

“All these systems of castes and patriarchy are really against the Indian Constitution and I hope this will just be the beginning and it would not stop with Haji Ali.”

Shabnam Hashmi, Founder member of ANHAD (Act Now for Harmony and Democracy), also appreciated the verdict as a positive step but at the same time remarked on other serious issues which need to be addressed.

“Although it’s a welcome move, there are other issues like plight of Dalits, adivasis and minorities in general which need to be tackled,” Hashmi told IANS here.

She also attacked the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) calling it “only a registered NGO” and said “It has been made larger than life chiefly by media and politicians… It has no more authority than an NGO. Every time there’s an issue related to Muslims their opinion is sought.. What can you expect a maulvi to say when media asks him about Sania Mirza’s attire on tennis court.”

She also said its a well thought out pattern, and not mere ignorance about Muslims’ affinities, when Jama Masjid’s Shahi Imam’s patronage is sought during every election.

“If you follow the trend of Muslim voters you’ll find that it’s not very different from minority voters.. as far as today’s verdict is concerned, we’re happy,” she added.

“It’s a welcome move … and it will go a long way in restoring the faith of the people in equal rights and gender justice…,” said Zakia Soman, one of the petitioners and founder member of BMMA, speaking to Times Now TV channel.

“Gender justice is fundamental to Islam. Men and women both go to Haj.. there women are allowed to go right up to Kaaba… women can go to mazaars all over the world…,” she added.

She also called the verdict “fair and just”.


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