I am not a Muslim. Nor do I practice any organised religion, so planning to attack me based on my so called religious beliefs after reading this will be of no use.
A few days ago, I happened to read a statement by the Kerala Sunni leader Kanthapuram AP Aboobacker Musaliyar on how gender equality as a concept is against Islam and it is being promoted to destroy the Islamic culture. How exactly can a person who has lived out the better part of his life come out in public and make statements about how a woman is not capable of anything except producing babies?
My limited understanding of the Quran from conversations with my Muslim friends made me look up if the Quran actually says this and if Aboobacker Musaliyar is just stating facts. Not surprisingly, the Quran does not state anywhere that women are not equal to men. In fact I came across a few ayahs that clearly state that God does not distinguish between men and women.
“I shall not lose sight of the labor of any of you who labors in My way, be it man or woman; you proceed one from another…” (Quran 3:195)
“If any do deeds of righteousness,- be they male or female – and have faith, they will enter Heaven, and not the least injustice will be done to them.” (Quran 4:124)
“Whoever works righteousness, man or woman, and has Faith, verily, to him will We give a new Life, a life that is good and pure, and We will bestow on such their reward according to the best of their actions.” (Quran 16:97)
“He that works evil will not be requited but by the like thereof: and he that works a righteous deed – whether man or woman – and is a Believer- such will enter the Garden (of Bliss): Therein will they have abundance without measure.” (Quran 40:40)
“O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Verily, the most honorable of you with God is the most pious. Verily, God is All-Knowing, All-Aware.” (Quran 49:13)
Also here is another quote from the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) on how men and women are to be treated equally:
“Whosoever has a daughter and he does not bury her alive, does not insult her, and does not favor his son over her, Allah will enter him into Paradise.”
It is seriously shameful to conveniently forget these quotes from the Quran and use religion to espouse one’s own bigoted low lying prejudices on people who look up to you for guidance.
What is even more shameful is that prominent social (media) activists in Kerala who come out with an opinion on everything from culling of stray dogs to the much talked about #beefban has chosen to remain silent on this. No women rights group has decided to raise their voice against this nor has prominent members of the film fraternity stood up against this.
I waited for a few days and scanned my social news feeds to know if anyone decides to say anything about it. So far – zilch. Then I asked myself why this is so?
Is this a fear to brand the leader of a minority community a bigot because it might affect the secular credentials of the above mentioned activists? Or did the incident of the backlash against the V P Rajeena, the journalist who tried to expose sexual abuse at madrasas scare you off?
Then I realized… It must be none of the above as I was jolted back to past while I was a 11th Std student at Chinmaya Vidyalaya, Kolazhy Thrissur.
I was an avid public speaker and I jumped at the opportunity to take part in a debate organised by the school, with the topic “Is this a man’s world?”. To cut a long story short, my team lost but I was awarded the Best Speaker. Today when I look back, some of the highly passionate statements I made to prove my point in order to win make me squirm in my seat. My speaking skills made me an immediate sensation in school but very few people actually paid attention to what I actually said.
I do not remember the exact statements but they were on the lines of –
“Men are better than women in all aspects…”, “Women cannot compete with men physically or mentally…”, “Most CEO’s are men…”, “Fastest and strongest world records are held by men not women…” etc. Stuff that today I would not even utter in a heavily drugged state. There was one statement however that caught the attention of the school management. I had said, “There is a perfect example of how men are better than women. Boys are selected as House Captains while girls are selected as House Vice Captains. Is this not proof enough?”
The management immediately did away with the Vice Captain tag and made both male and female flag bearers have the same title of House Captain. A small victory dance would have been due if that was my actual intent. Today I consider that a minor achievement albeit not being an intended one.
I feel extremely happy that the management decided that it was time to adopt a major change in policy because of the wrong idea it was giving to its students. But do you know what would have been truly impactful? It would have been a complete paradigm shift for me if the principal and vice principle sat that brash, hot headed, arrogant 16 year old down and explained that both men and women have an equal standing in the society and why men only “seem” to be better. Unfortunately they did not.
Maybe they considered it a waste of time. Or maybe they felt that it was a harmless debate and I would mature over time changing my opinions (which I did). Maybe they felt that it was an innocent rant from a 16 year old trying to impress his classmates. I am not sure till this date.
But this silent acceptance of gender inequality has not changed in the past 15 years. What happened that afternoon back in 2000 is repeating all over again with AP Aboobacker Musaliyar. The only difference is the intent of the speech and the age of the speaker. The mental maturity of the speaker and the indifference of the audience eerily remains the same.
Today, I shudder and hope that my teachers, female classmates and everyone who was in the auditorium did not think of me as I think of AP Aboobacker Musaliyar.
I have an excuse…
I was 16 and did not know better. Nobody bothered to correct me and I had to learn it as I grew up.
I will not trivialize this issue by asking what excuse AP Aboobacker Musaliyar has.
But I definitely want to know… What excuse does the audience have?