‘Education is the best way to overcome social barriers’
Professor Abdul Shaban of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) was a member of the chief minister’s study group which went into the backwardness of Muslims in Maharashtra. Speaking to dna’s Dhaval Kulkarni, Shaban stresses the need to “look at the grievances (of the Muslims) and take pro-active steps to bring the community to the larger fold of society”. Excerpts:
What are the reasons for backwardness among Muslims?
Internal and external. Lack of education, opportunity and infrastructure are internal reasons, while external ones include counting them as aliens when there is a problem. The community has to understand that education is perhaps the best way to overcome social and developmental barriers. I am happy that there has been some realisation on this front in the last 10 years. Work participation rate in women is very low. However, the low participation rate in women can also be seen in developed states like Punjab and in the Rajput community. Lack of education among Muslim women and dominance of Muslim men in jobs like mechanical work and carpentry ensure that women can’t work in urban areas. The middle- and upper-class Muslims, who form around 15% of the community’s population, search for jobs like teaching and medicine for women.
The report spells out the need for reforms in antiquated personal laws. Many reformers have objected to triple talaq and nikah halala.
When a community feels threatened at a psychological level, it closets itself. So, issues like the status of women and caste get marginalised. There is now a need to take up issues related to women and reforms (in personal laws). (Regarding triple talaq) many are searching for solutions within and outside the sharia. It takes a larger consciousness level to accept suggestions for solutions outside the sharia. Many things needed by the community are present in the Sharia. (Triple and arbitrary talaq) was not the tradition of the Prophet and was adopted later on. There must be a debate and the community must adopt the best laws as per the need of the hour.
Coming to Islam, women have traditionally more rights than others. Other religions have seen reforms like the right to property for Hindu women. However, only 1- 2% Muslims have granted property rights to women.
What about the demand for a uniform civil code (UCC)?
This is like asking a premature baby what it needs to have. There is a difference between a criminal procedure code and laws related to personal life, inheritance and marriage. Society is heterogeneous and many groups are embedded in cultural issues. (On the UCC) we have perhaps not evolved to a level where we can sort and keep the best. The fear in the community is this will be used to impose western (values) or (values) from the dominant group’s religion. Let’s work hard and if all groups and people develop, this question will be irrelevant. If you want to bring it, do it only for disputes. More than the UCC, the pressing issue is security of people. Why doesn’t the dominant community demand an anti-riot act?
The government granted reservations for Muslims. What more should be done?
There are many softer issues, particularly housing. People will not be able to come out of their problems if they are ghettoised. Mixed housing should be created based on a system of FSI, tax sops and benefits for developers and a cultural diversity index should be implemented.
Source::: DNA, 17.10.2014, p.07, http://epaper.dnaindia.com/story.aspx?id=71951&boxid=34967&ed_date=2014-10-17&ed_code=820009&ed_page=9