Stop Romanticising Interfaith Marriages Blindly; Marrying Muslim Men Has Serious Legal Consequences For Non-Muslim Women

by Arihant Pawariya - Oct 19, 2020 04:18 PM +05:30 IST
Stop Romanticising Interfaith Marriages Blindly; Marrying Muslim Men Has Serious Legal Consequences For Non-Muslim WomenRepresentative image (Freepik)
  • The rights of women marrying under the Hindu Marriage Act or Special Marriage Act vary greatly from rights of those who wed as per the Muslim Personal Law. This has real life consequences.

One of the greatest tragedies of modern political discourse is not the divisiveness that has become so rampant but the sheer dishonesty in deliberately not engaging with the bona-fide positions taken by the opposite side.

The tendency, nowadays, is to cherry-pick the absolute nut jobs on the other side, elevate their viewpoints as the mainstream and then valiantly pretend to strike those down and present oneself as a great intellectual gladiator of this farce duel in the social media arena.

The present situation is culmination of the loss of the great Hindu tradition of purva paksha — genuinely understanding other’s point of view before criticising — which used to be one of the most important aspects in ancient debates.

The recent controversy over the Tanishq ad has again highlighted the sorry state of affairs and degrading discourse.

Most on the so-called Right-wing aka the Hindu side have lambasted the ad accusing Tanishq of promoting ‘love jihad’, a term used to describe relationships between Muslim men and non-Muslim women where the former traps the latter primarily for the motive of conversion rather than out of love.

Their main contention is that Tanishq dares not to show a Muslim woman marrying a Hindu man. As if Tanishq showing Muslim woman marrying a Hindu man in the ad would solve the real issue at hand. It won’t.

The Left, which excels in labelling people, is calling the ones outraging over the ad as bigots. Most are focused on blindly romanticising interfaith marriages as a virtue in itself and worse, treating all such alliances as the same.

They are not.

The real issue is neither Tanishq’s pseudo-secularism nor the bigotry of the Right. It is separate and unequal rights regimes that exist between Hindu Marriage Act (HMA) or Special Marriage Act (SMA) and Muslim Personal Law (Sharia).

The rights of women marrying under the HMA or SMA vary greatly from rights of those who wed as per the Muslim Personal Law. This has real life consequences, especially for non-Muslim women.

Under Sharia, these women have to convert to Islam first because this is the condition for marriage under Sharia. This means that any non-Muslim woman marrying a Muslim man instantly loses all her rights as she enters from a more-rights legal regime to one with few rights.

And it’s a non-reversible process because punishment for apostasy in Islam is death. Many women who convert de jure for the sake of getting married but harbour intentions to de facto keep practising their faith are quickly belied of this notion because Islam doesn’t permit shirk which these women would be indulging in for all practical purposes if they worship idols while being a Muslim officially.

Hindus consider marriage as sacred where even divorce is considered an anathema (but allowed legally). Muslims treat it as a contract where men could divorce their wife orally and instantly by simply saying talaq thrice (until last month). The gulf is that big between two legal regimes.

On top of this, many women have to go through the humiliating practice of halala where they have to sleep with a stranger if they wish to be accepted by their ex-husband again after divorce.

This is what the future can potentially hold for non-Muslim women if they marry Muslim men under Sharia.

On the other hand, if a Muslim woman marries a non-Muslim man either via a Hindu Marriage Act or the Special Marriage Act she gets promoted to a better rights regime.

In the latter situation, the woman benefits, in the former she is put at a huge disadvantage.

Some interfaith marriages are less equal than others. Marrying Muslim men has serious legal consequences for non-Muslim women. It’s not bigotry but a fact. And all women must be made aware of this.

Blindly promoting interfaith marriages and pretending that all such alliances are of the same nature is dishonesty on part of the Left. Additionally, it obfuscates the real issues and tries to paint a rosy and romanticised picture of all interfaith marriages.

Such misinformation could seriously harm non-Muslim women, who make hasty decisions without understanding ground realities.

In earlier pieces, I have recommended a simple solution to bridge the inequality that exists between various marriage acts due to simultaneous existence of personal and secular laws. The government should outlaw marriage between any woman (who isn't a born Muslim) and a Muslim man under Muslim Personal Law. If they wish to get married, they can do so under SMA.

As I have explained here in detail, this one step will be immensely helpful in stopping the abuse that has become so common in such matrimonial alliances.

Moreover, if a woman is a Hindu and if she decides to not marry under the Hindu Marriage Act, she should also be made to give up all the rights that other Hindu code bills give her, such as in succession, property, etc.

This would deter anti-social elements from other religions who target Hindu women for their property. Given that Muslim women have lesser rights in ancestral property than Hindu women, this asymmetry also needed to be addressed.

Arihant Pawariya is Senior Editor, Swarajya.
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