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IRENA AKBAR | 30 DECEMBER, 2017

Why I am Standing Up For Muslim Men

#StandUpForMuslimMen I refuse to be used by the state in this war


I am a Muslim woman. And it’s a historical day for me.

Finally, the bane of my life – the “vile” Muslim man – is being shown his place.

If he dares to text or shout “talaq, talaq, talaq”, be sure I am soon going to be “empowered” by law to send him to jail, where he can rot for three years, and thus be unable to reconcile with me or earn to feed the children. And if I am not able to go to the police to complain, the whole nation can get him to jail.

The Triple Talaq Bill, after all, allows even a third party to complain to the police about an errant husband, who can arrest him without a warrant.

Isn’t that a cause for celebration? A photo-opportunity to stand hand-in-hand with fellow Muslim women against the monster of a Muslim man? And yes, I must profusely thank my “Hindu brothers in the BJP” for showing the Muslim man his place, once again? It’s a moment in history for Muslim women, isn’t it?

Yes, it is. Except that it is a unique moment in history where Muslim women, specially educated, privileged ones like me, must stand up in defence of and in solidarity with the Muslim man. Because in the state’s undeclared, psychological war on the Muslims of India, it is the Muslim man who is painted as the biggest villain. If anything, it is the “Muslim man” who is the victim of the state’s dirty politics, and not the “Muslim woman”. Since May 2014, when the BJP was elected to head the Central government, it has, through proxies such as “cow vigilantes” and “fringe elements”, used every possible tool – from the cow to the Hindu woman to medieval Muslim emperors to a fictitious Rajput queen – to paint the Muslim man as the enemy of the undeclared “Hindu rashtra”.

The cow can obviously do nothing about its use by Hindutva elements against the Muslim man. The Hindu woman has done little to combat the false narrative of love jihad; I had hoped that at least liberal, educated Hindu women would protested against their portrayal as unthinking, powerless women who can be trapped into marriage and conversion. The one who did stand up – Akhila aka Hadiya, a Hindu convert to Islam– has been punished by the courts to stay away from her Muslim husband. The Muslim emperors are long dead to defend themselves, and historians are too refined, too polite to explain the nuances of history to bigots, while the Rajput queen Padmavati, if she ever existed, would probably have been less hysterical about her honour.

But I, the Muslim woman, protest my use as a tool by the state to harass the Muslim man. Or to break the Muslim family. For that is exactly what the Triple Talaq Bill seeks to do. Far from “empowering” Muslim women, it only disempowers them. The bill purports to invalidate instant triple talaq, i.e. a marriage won’t irrevocably dissolve with such an utterance, but it contradicts itself by prescribing a three-year imprisonment for a Muslim man in case he does utter/write “talaq, talaq, talaq”. When the marriage has not been irrevocably dissolved because instant triple talaq is null/void, then why put the man in jail and close doors for reconciliation? And how will a man provide for his family if he is behind bars? The most absurd part of the bill – someone other than the wife herself can file a complaint. A neighbour, an enemy in an unrelated dispute, almost anyone can complain against the Muslim man if this bill becomes law. And the police can arrest him without a warrant. The National Crime Records Bureau shows that Muslims make up 15.8% of all convicts and 20.9% of all undertrials in jails across the country—higher than their 14.2 % share in the national population. These numbers include the many, many Muslim men who are arrested on terror charges, and after spending a decade or so in jail, are acquitted for lack of evidence.

It is for these reasons that I, along with other educated, liberal Muslim women, have begun the hashtag #StandUpForMuslimMen, in solidarity with and in defence of the Muslim man.

For me, this represents a tipping point in the vilification of the Muslim man. It forces me to specifically use my identity as a Muslim woman to speak up for the Muslim man (and not just generally for Muslims).

For far too long, the state and the media have used the contrasting narratives of the “pitiful” Muslim woman and the “vile” Muslim man to malign the Muslim community. The “sorry figure” of the Muslim woman is actually a derivative of the more brazen construct of the “vile” Muslim man.

Oh, the vile Muslim man – the one who is a beast in the bed, forcing his wife to produce multitudes of children, thus putting her life at risk, and increasing the population of this country.

The vile Muslim man who would force his woman to wear a burqa, and not let her step out for work.

The vile Muslim man who would, in a fit of rage or under the effects of alcohol, shout or type ‘talaq-talaq-talaq’ thus ending the marriage, and for all practical purposes, the life of the Muslim woman.

The vile Muslim man who traps my unthinking Hindu sisters into marriage and thus conversion to Islam.

The vile Muslim man who is inherently violent, and is thus naturally inclined to take up the morbid, unclean profession of butchering animals, and thus deserves none of our sympathies when he is meted out a violent death by those who lynch him in the name of the cow. (Never mind the fact that the cut-pieces of the animals also land on the tables of five-star hotels).

The vile Muslim man of today, who still carries the genes of the vile Muslim men of the past – Aurangzeb, Alauddin Khilji and Taimur. Oh, did I forget Akbar – the vile Muslim man who was also a hoax, pretending to be secular!

And the “pitiful” Muslim woman? She has been standing in the shadows, her burqa-clad image patronised by anti-minority and anti-women politicians in order to malign the Muslim community, specially the Muslim male. Not anymore. At least, I, the educated, empowered Muslim woman, stand with the Muslim man in the state’s fight against him.

And I refuse to be used by the state for this war.

(Irena Akbar is an art curator and former journalist)
 

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