Meet the Muslim taking on Talaq
Zakia Soman recently made national headlines for her campaign against a word which has marred the lives of vast sections of Muslim women, when used indiscriminately thrice in a row. Having secured over 50,000 signatures for her crusade against triple talaq and nikah halal, the co-founder of the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan talks to Chandrakanth Viswanath about her mission and the challenges facing her and her organisation. Edited excerpts:
There is an allegation from some quarters that you have started the campaign at the behest of some organisations like the RSS?
We have heard some of these allegations. I must say those who make such allegations have no idea about us and our work. We started this organisation post 9/11 and post-Gujarat riots. In our country while the community was facing challenges from outside, women were additionally facing challenges within the community. Hence, we decided to work for the citizenship rights as well as Quranic rights of women.
Is the name Bharatiya is one of the reasons behind this allegation?
Maybe. But we used the name Bharatiya with a purpose. We want to say we are Bharatiya and we are Muslim and there is no contradiction in it. All Indians have the right to be called Bharatiya. Of course, some other names too were suggested. But we decided not to have any Urdu or Hindustani words and called ourselves Bharatiya. We were making a political statement. We don’t have to be apologetic about it.
So you started the organisation as a fight for identity ?
We started a movement for justice and equality for Muslim women. She is a citizen of India, a Muslim and a woman — she has multiple identities. She must be enabled to be an equal citizen and an equal human being.
When did you decide to work for the rights of Muslim women?
Initially, our focus was citizenship entitlements mainly within the framework of the Sachar Committee report. But when we were working on education, livelihoods, health etc, a large number of women came to us seeking help in triple talaq and other personal law matters. We know that ours is a patriarchal society. However, Quran gave equal rights to women 1400 years ago, whereas in reality the society denied it to them.
Why did you choose the Triple Talaq and Nikah halal for the campaign?
First of all there is no mention of triple talaq in the Quran. Even in countries like Pakistan or Bangladesh where Islam is the State religion, triple talaq is not legal. We get lots of calls from women saying, “I am divorced instantly; where do I go with my children; my parents are too poor to support me.” A large number of victims of the triple talaq are economically deprived women with no education or means to support themselves. Even Kerala is no exception. The worst is the case of Nikah halal. How can you force your own wife to marry another man?
You have questioned the triple talaq in the Supreme Court?
Yes, we want abolition of triple talaq and Nikah halal. Both are unQuranic.