May 2023 Be The Year When The AIMPLB Becomes History
If the Indian Muslims do not want to be labelled as the most regressive bunch among the global ulema forever, which they are, this NGO must be relegated to the dustbins of history in the twenty-first century.
How does a non-governmental organisation (NGO), established 50 years ago, continue to function as the gatekeeper of Islamic law and as the sole spokesperson of 17.2 crore Indian Muslims when it has no legal sanction nor official approval?
More importantly, why have the progressive secular Muslims as well as the ever-helpful Left-Liberals of Hindu heritage not opposed the regressive organisation for thwarting every attempt at reform and modernisation of laws for Muslims in India?
Even the founding of the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) in 1972 was a disingenuous move by chauvinist male scholars opposing the introduction of the Adoption Bill in Indian Parliament.
One can trace the panic among the ulema and alim at this subversion of the Sharia law through parallel legislation and as is always a convenient 'war cry', scream 'Islam khatre mein hai’.
This is translated to an attack by Hindus on Muslim identity and religion or in the actual words of the AIMPLB in 1972, "an attempt to dilute the separate identity of Indian Muslims".
What follows is a textbook toolkit from the Muslim Brotherhood, CAIR groups in disinformation, misinformation campaigns every decade and every time an attempt is made to liberate the exploited, vulnerable Indian Muslim women from the regressive Sharia laws that discriminate against them.
What is even more incredulous is that the AIMPLB encroaches upon rights of vulnerable groups that have been recognised in the twenty-first century as priority for protection.
They oppose recognition of the rights of children, the LGBT, the Ahmediyyas, the freedom of expression of authors, poets and even judgements by the judiciary.
The list is long. The activities of the AIMPLB infringe on the rights of Muslim women by objecting to any change to divorce laws, as was evident in the banning of the triple talaq (biddat) which surprisingly Pakistan had banned in 1965 and is banned in several Muslim majority countries since aeons.
To deal with the clamour by Muslim women about men throwing them away on frivolous pretexts and announcing talaq three times on WhatsApp or by post, they deceitfully came up with a 'model nikahnama', urging Indian Muslims to go to 'Sharia courts' instead of secular courts of law.
Kanchan Gupta's 2015 article 'Secular? That's a laugh', gives a detailed description of this 'cosmetic tinkering' of how under the guise of reform the AIMPLB galvanised Muslim masses for a Khilafat Movement 2.0 to 'save shariah'.
This campaign has meant that the Sharia laws have been kept effectively beyond the reach and scope of India's courts of law. It doesn't stop there.
AIMPLB is opposed to the Right of Children for Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, believing it infringes upon the madrassa system of education. This objection extends to the Child Marriage Restraint Act, amended in 1978 to fix the age of marriage at 18 years for girls and 21 for boys. The regressive NGO insists on following the 1937 act introduced in British India (age 12 or lower, whenever puberty sets in) which technically endorses child marriage (in my opinion paedophilia too).
Again, disingenuously, they do not promote this stand but practise it in the spirit of the 'Muslim obfuscation' which Hamid Dalwai, secularist and social reformer, warned about in the 1970s, by saying people need to have a choice.
It not only opposed the Jaipur Literary Festival in 2012 for video conferencing with Salman Rushdie but also opposes Taslima Nasreen for her stance against the persecution of Hindus in Bangladesh by Muslims for which she was forced to take asylum in India.
Staying true to character, the AIMPLB opposed yoga as part of the curriculum in Indian schools, as well as objected to the Indian courts overturning the 1861 British India laws criminalising same-sex marriage and consensual intercourse which infringes on the LGBT rights.
Criticism of this regressive NGO has come from within the Muslim community itself with towering personalities like Indian legal scholar and author Tahir Mahmood and currently serving Governor of Kerala Arif Mohammad Khan asking for its abolition.
Retired Supreme Court judge Markandey Katju also advocated the shutting down of the AIMPLB, rightly so for an organisation that in the twenty-first century discriminates against the Ahmediyyas, not even considering them as Muslims.
How the 'personal enterprise of ulema, alims and a handful of maulanas teaching at seminaries' continues to be the self-proclaimed guardian of a faith that crores of Muslims follow with their various sects, creeds and understandings of their rights is not baffling when the vote bank politics of the Congress party is brought up.
It was Indira Gandhi who created this wily but useful body, selfishly as a fiefdom of India’s intellectually regressive Muslim leaders who in their turn anchored her political arithmetic.
And eventually Nehru's grandson Rajiv Gandhi chose "political security over social change" when the conservative resistance screamed conspiracy in the 1984 infamous Shah Bano case (M J Akbar’s words in his foreword to Arif Mohammed Khan's Text and Context: Quran and Contemporary Challenges).
The All-India Muslim Personal Law Board has been consolidating its position as the only arbiter of Muslim destiny in secular, republican India.
If the Indian Muslims do not want to be labelled as the most regressive bunch among the global ulema forever, which they are, the NGO must be resisted and thrown into the dustbins of history in the twenty-first century.
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