Kerala Muslim groups clash over women's right to education

The issue was reignited with the speech of Samastha Kerala Jem-Iyyathul Ulama president Syed Muhammad Jiffiri Muthukoya Thangal on July 26, where he said his organisation was never against women’s education.
Representative image
Representative image

KOZHIKODE: Education for women has once again become a topic of heated debate in the Muslim community in Kerala with the Mujahids asking the Sunnis to tender an apology to women for “obstructing their right to education for over a century”.

The issue was reignited with the speech of Samastha Kerala Jem-Iyyathul Ulama president Syed Muhammad Jiffiri Muthukoya Thangal on July 26, where he said his organisation was never against women’s education. Thangal asserted that the Sunnis only insisted that girls’ education should be “within the stipulated limits of the religion”.

Reacting to the speech, Kerala Nadvathul Mujahideen (KNM) said Samastha should offer an apology for “obstructing women’s education for over a century”. In a statement issued after the leaders’ meeting on Sunday, KNM said the Samastha president’s claim that the organisation did not stand in the way of women’s education was against truth.

“Samastha should clarify whether it still upholds the resolution adopted at the Mannarkkad conference in 1930, which said women should not learn writing. If not, the organisation should tell the public that the resolution was a mistake,” KNM said.It added that it was the Muslim Aikya Sangam and its offshoots that taught the community the importance of education and those who ridiculed the Mujahid movement for over a century should do an introspection. KNM also asked the Sunnis to open the doors of the mosques for women to enable them to offer Friday juma prayers.

Samastha, however, reiterated that it never imposed a blanket ban on women’s education but only suggested certain ‘restrictions’. Sunni Yuvajana Sangam (SYS) state secretary Abdul Hameed Faizi Ambalakkadavu said no one who believes in moral values can find anything wrong in the suggestions.

‘Any topic can be pursued by all sections’

“A souvenir published as part of the seventh Mujahid conference has quoted a fatwa by Salafi scholar Ibn Baz, who was asked whether women are permitted to study topics such as physics and chemistry. The answer was that women need not study such topics which are not suitable for them. The Mujahids should clarify whether they still uphold the fatwa of the Saudi scholar,” Ambalakkadavu said.

He said Samastha’s view is that any topic can be pursued by all sections, irrespective of their gender.

The SYS leader wanted to know which are the mosques run by Mujahids where women offer prayer five times a day like men.

Ambalakkadavu added that Mujahids have taken a U-turn on many issues, including those related to ‘spiritual healing’. “The Mujahids should clarify as to why they changed their stance that such spiritual healing was polytheistic,” he said.

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