NRIs React to Supreme Court’s Verdict on Triple Talaq
Supreme Court's ruling against triple talaq is being hailed by many Indian Muslims across the world. Little India spoke to a few of them.
In a historic decision pronounced on August 22, a five-judge constitution bench of the Supreme Court set aside the triple talaq or instant divorce practice by 3:2 majority and termed it as unconstitutional.
Triple talaq is the practice under which a Muslim man can divorce his wife by pronouncing the word “talaq” three times.
Called unjust to Muslim women who see it as a threat to their fundamental rights, the Supreme Court verdict was hailed by many.
The judgement, which calls the practice of triple talaq “gender discriminatory and violation of right to equality” came two years after Shayara Bano from Uttarakhand approached the court after her husband of 15 years sent her a letter with talaq written thrice and left her.
Four other women — Ishrat Jahan, Gulshan Parween, Aafreen Rehman and Atiya Sabri — joined Bano’s petition.
Indians across the world have reacted to the Supreme Court’s ruling, some celebrating the victory, some angered at the judicial interference in a religious practice.
Talking to Little India, Mike Ghouse, president of Center for Pluralism, Washington D.C, welcomed the judgement, saying it was “much-needed”.
“This is something that should have been done long time ago. However, there are two sides to it. Removal of this [triple talaq] is like curing a cancer,” he said.
Dr. Saif Shahin, assistant professor at the Bowling Green State University in Ohio, also told Little India that he “wholeheartedly” supports the ban. Dr Shahin moved to the US from India five years ago.
However, some people, while terming the verdict as a positive one, feel that the judgement doesn’t affect that many.
“Triple Talaq is wrong in that way Quran doesn’t permit it and it is unjust to women,” Ghouse said. “Only 0.56 per cent Muslims have gone through divorce, amongst them only 0.8 per cent is through triple talaq, which is very insignificant. So if we look at that way, the decision is meaningless because it is not affecting that many people.”
He adds, “It is not practised anywhere in the world, it is not Islamic practice. I don’t know why it got stuck in India.”
Judicial Interference Questioned
Even though Supreme Court’s judgement is seen as justice for many silent sufferers among the Muslim women, some view it as interference of judiciary in religious practices.
The verdict termed triple talaq as unconstitutional, which didn’t go down well down with everyone. “The three majority judges should not have called triple talaq system ‘unconstitutional’, as religion and constitution are inherently two separate matters,” Kaleem Kawaja, executive director, Association of Indian Muslims of America, said, in an email interview to Little India. “In general judiciary should not interfere in the religious laws of any community,” she added.
Dr. Shahin said that in principle, he thinks the judiciary should stay away from passing judgments on personal laws. “India’s religious minorities have the right to formulate and follow laws based on their faith, and that’s a good thing,” he pointed out.
But most of them see the verdict as an exception. “Triple talaq is not Islamic to begin with, as several Islamic scholars have pointed out,” Dr. Shahin told Little India.
Kawaja too says that the practice of triple talaq is not in accordance with the core belief system of Islam and that it “is a man-made innovation”.
More than a religious issue, it’s a social issue, Dr. Shahin adds. “To my knowledge, it is already outlawed in many Muslim-majority countries. Also, it has been a social issue as much as a religious one. Countless Muslim women have suffered because it allowed men to divorce them on a whim. As such, it was perfectly alright — even necessary — for the judiciary to intervene.”
Explaining further, Ghouse says that if in our neighbourhood a woman is harassed by her husband or in-laws, it’s no longer a family matter. Her protection is the society’s responsibility. “As people of India we have made judiciary a body to monitor what is just and unjust so they have every right. It’s not interfering, it is correcting what is not just. And it is not religious. This is not Islamic,” he emphasises.
Political Move by BJP
Among the jubilations are also worries that the verdict will be politicised by the Bharatiya Janata Party, the ruling party led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Dr. Shahin points out that this is also a political issue, a part of India’s long history of identity politics. “India’s Muslim leadership has typically supported such regressive — and often un-Islamic — practices in the name of minority rights,” he says. “The Congress party has backed such leadership, and such so-called religious practices, because it allowed them to win Muslim votes.”
The BJP is no different, he adds. While the verdict wouldn’t have come if Congress was in power, he believes that the BJP and its sister organisations like the Sangh Parivar also support this ban not because they have any love lost for hapless Muslim women but because they see it as a victory for the kind of majoritarianism they espouse, an example of Hindus showing Muslims their place as second-class citizens in India.
But he does believe that the verdict is ultimately a socially progressive move. He says, “I still favour this ban because it benefits Muslim women, who constitute one of the most underprivileged and voiceless segments of Indian society.”