This is a guest post by JENNY ROWENA and K ASHRAF
Rayana R Khazi is a young student from Cherkalam in Kasargode. Recently she has been in the news after she came out to speak to the media about the threatening letters and phone calls that she was receiving, all of which demanded her to wear the Purdah. After Rayana’s revelations, media, human rights and feminist activists have rushed to her aid, starting off yet another round of anxieties about the growth of Islamic fundamentalism. Even as we fully support Rayana’s need for a more livable life, it is also important that, at this juncture, we look at the numerous issues that this incident brings forth into the public sphere of Kerala.
Control of Women’s Bodies
In this controversy, one of the most important issues being raised is about the control of women’s bodies by male, religious fundamentalists in the Muslim community. Such responses, be it from a reactionary, anti-Islamophobic perspective or from a more progressive view- point, which is aware of the rampant Islamophobia of our times, carries out a similar function in Kerala. Both of them strengthen a media culture which chooses to panic every time there is a violation committed in the name of Islam.
Examining media history in Kerala will tell us about the selective way in which it constitutes its ‘politics of mourning’. One does not see similar anxieties when police violently attacked so many men, women and children of the Dalit Human Rights Movement (DHRM); killed 6 Muslim men in Bheema Palli; or when Chithralekha, a Dalit woman auto rickshaw driver from Payyannur was ostracized by fellow male auto drivers. In all the above issues, the media maintained dead silences for a long time or as in the fabricated case of Love Jihad and the early reporting of DHRM, they took highly questionable and irresponsible stands.
In short, violation of human rights in general and the control of women’s bodies in particular, becomes such a public issue only when it seems to emanate from the men of particular minority community. This was what happened in the 80s too, when during the time of the Sharia debates in Kerala, Mathrubhumi Daily came out with a series of stories on the plight of divorced Muslim women.
In fact, in all this talk, what goes totally un noticed and discussed is the larger mechanism of governmental control of all male and female bodies under the Modern Indian State. Most discourses that are anxious about Rayana does not stop to interrogate this kind of a modern, secular, governmental control within which even our notions about control itself is shaped. Thus, again and again, we fail to see the High caste Hinduism that mediates our culture and State and end up targeting the minority for their “fundamentalist” attitudes.
In fact, at a global level too, it is becoming clear that Islamic fundamentalism is often equated to the patriarchal control of women’s bodies, which in turn is used to legitimize hegemonic structures, such as the violent US Empire. Writers like Bobby Sayyid, Saba Mahmood and Charles Hirschkind has pointed to the sharp connections between the expansion of global power and the use of the gender discourse in its aid. Indeed, ‘native informers’ like Ayaan Hirsi Ali (as Hamid Dabashi chooses to call them) who come out with such ‘insider discourses’ ( in the words of Jospeh Massad) often catch global attention, which is then used to legitimize all sorts of neo-colonial violence.
Actually we need to think seriously about this ‘politics of mourning’, before sliding into various arguments for and against Rayana. Just as Hamid Dabashi warns us about finding a voice outside US propaganda regarding the problems in Iran, we also need to see how our own support for Rayana does not get pulled into the ‘progressive’ discourse that works most to perpetuate the caste Hindu society of Kerala. Taking recourse to an anxious gender debate at this juncture will surely not do the needful, as mainstream feminist conversations are often colored by the very notions that construct the various hegemonies of our land.
The feminist self and the subaltern man
Patriarchal control of women’s bodies is surely a reality. However, a discussion about the same cannot be conducted from a position that locates itself outside such a control. Often such ‘free’ and ‘liberated’ locations, such as the one Rayana herself espouses, might be further enmeshed in other power systems – like that of the West and of the Hindu, Upper caste – which are rendered invisible and innocent due to their own hegemony. We do not aim to suggest an alternate free space, but would like to further widen the discussion by looking at the issue of freedom and choice itself.
If one were to review the issue of Chithralekha, it would be interesting to note that she never articulated her problems in terms of a right to individual choice. Maybe this was why Chithralekha had very few mainstream feminist takers in Kerala, remaining for long a caste issue, and taken up mostly by Dalit groups and Dalitbahujan feminists. It is time that the feminist movement in Kerala, interrogated it-self in this regard. As many who look critically at contemporary societies point out, it is the modern ideology of private property and the “birth of the self,” which creates the autonomous individual that feminist movements automatically and unconsciously adopt, when they appeal to issues like freedom of choice and liberation Often as mentioned already, this state mediated ‘liberation,’ is not only thrust upon “other” women but is also used to legitimize genocide and violence on minority communities.
Moreover, the issue of masculinity also goes ignored in many feminist debates in Kerala. If one were to look at the Rayana case with some understanding of masculinity, one could easily see the various insecurities and pressures that the secular world places upon the Muslim man. Such a reading would surely not reduce the whole issue to a larger, monolithic entity called “patriarchal control.” It would see the nuanced and local ways in which such controls are effected in a given community, throwing light not only on the crimes of this community, but also the social and cultural milieu in which such crimes are carried out or perpetuated.
Rayana and After
It is clear that Rayana as a “discourse” becomes feasible for public consumption, only in combination with so many other factors such as the hegemony of the modern State, citizenship, masculinity, secularism, etc., all of which also work to maintain the minoritarian identity of the Muslim community. Such a situation then is surely not the creation of religion or fundamentalism alone, and it cannot be contained within a simple, progressive, gender narrative. Actually this incident opens a door of opportunity before us, to think about gender issues in a much more nuanced way, and to encounter the anxieties evoked by emerging minoritarian subjectivities, which, to a large extent, is also responsible for the outburst of such public discourses.
32 thoughts on “Rayana R Khazi and The Specter of Religious Fundamentalism in the Kerala Public Sphere: Jenny Rowena & K Ashraf”
I would add there a link to the statement of the Revolutionary Association for Women of Afghanistan
(RAWA), delivered at the 7th anniversary of US invasion:
“Forgetting their foremost duty of giving awareness, a portion of the intellectuals of our country are engaged in shameful deeds of creating and igniting the ethnic, religious and linguistic differences among people on which the occupations are pouring fuel too. Some have taken this to such a level of disgrace that they believe the Taliban to be the rescuing forces; and the band of the murderers and agents of the “National Front”, and the groups attached to the US and NATO to be the sources of prosperity.
The Afghan intellectuals who see the remedy of freedom from the captivity of Taliban and Jehadis as leaning on the US have no idea about the history of the US; more importantly about the bourn of Afghanistan in the past seven years. Neither can they present a single example of a country that had gained freedom and democracy with the help of the US military invasion nor can they bury the secrets of the bloody wars and invasions of the US in different parts of the world. Thus, the mentioned intellectuals are practically known as “agents of CIA” in the political scenario of Afghanistan. “…..”RAWA strongly believes that there should be no expectation of either the US or any other country to present us with democracy, peace and prosperity. Our freedom is only achievable at the hands of our people. It is the duty of all the intellectuals, all the democratic forces and progressive and independence-seeking people to rise in a constant and decisive struggle for independence and democracy by taking the support of our wounded people as the independent force, against the presence of the US and its allies and the domination of Jehadi and Taliban criminals. Combating against the armed and alien forces in the country without being loud-mouthed against the Talibi and Jehadi enemies would mean welcoming the misfortunes of fascism and religious mafia. Also, struggling against this enemy without fighting the military presence of the US, its allies and its puppet government would mean falling before foreign agents. The path of the freedom-fighters of our country without doubt, will be very complex, difficult and bloody; but if our demand is to be freed from the chains of the slavery of foreigners and their Talib and Jehadi lackeys, we should not fear trial or death to become triumphant.
Neither the US nor Jehadies and Taliban, Long Live the Struggle of Independent and Democratic forces of Afghanistan! “
Sorry..sorry, for having to read this sweeping generalization against all progressive ideas to grappling with the idea of freedom:
[What do yo like to propose instead?Any short cuts avaliable for Rayanas and Taslimas enabling to express themselves unoffending ways and without the fear of having to pay heavy prices?]
I mean especially these words by Jenny and Ashraf K; take a look at these words, if you please! :-
“The feminist self and the subaltern man
Patriarchal control of women’s bodies is surely a reality. However, a discussion about the same cannot be conducted from a position that locates itself outside such a control. Often such ‘free’ and ‘liberated’ locations, such as the one Rayana herself espouses, might be further enmeshed in other power systems – like that of the West and of the Hindu, Upper caste – which are rendered invisible and innocent due to their own hegemony. We do not aim to suggest an alternate free space, but would like to further widen the discussion by looking at the issue of freedom and choice itself”
Again, what is meant by ‘West’ in the post?
Is it not an implicit assumption that the meaning of the expression is fixed once and for all, and understood by everybody in only one sense? for example, just the other name for a culture of greed and aggression? if that is the case, I’m afraid you are suggesting nothing different from what Samuel Huntington had to propose in his theme of ‘clash of civilizations’..clash and only more clashes, but the dirty role that corporates and global war mongers- the capital – plays, is rather protected from any debate.
Debate about the ‘West’ and ‘Culture’
Keep silence about the Political Economy of Capitalism ,War and Violence!
Native Stooges of religious fundamentalsm accusing the victims of Islamist violence as ‘native informers’ is real fun to read. and indian feminists borrowing such sexist/racist arguements are nothing but sheer stupidity.. can these nivedita and jenny go to Saudi Arabia and talk about feminism?!! Just because Rosa Park has force the americal society to realise how race and gender works in tandem, are we not allowed to talk about the terror of Islamist fundamentalism? thse apologetic frames will only help khomenis.. and khomenis cannot produce obamas…
Request to read the article authored by Dr Ambrose Pinto S J, the principal of St Joseph’s College, Bangalore.
an excerpt from the same
“The first issue is whether what the question the lecturer asked was defamatory. To deny even hearing him or to attribute motives in spite of an explanation by the professor would mean that society hardly cares for the truth. It is only through listening to divergent opinions, free and frank discussions, truth can be arrived at. Some others may argue that truth is not so important than maintaining peace. What kind of peace do we desire to maintain in a democratic society? Peace cannot be at the expense of opportunism in any society.
ya warm welcome to this topics and our media take this issue against muslim here thanks to jenny and ashraf……
my opinion here:
It will be a careless reading to get a meaning of a distinct cultural identity from the notion “west” in this context… I don’t know whether one can have a alternative/better signifier to denote an enterprise of a hegemonic white supremacist colonial orientalist narrative that has “othered” and subordinated all the other voices, cultures and identities that are unlike to it, to define its own self… So rather than understanding it in Lewis’ or Huntington’s terms one has to understand “west” as a discourse…
“However, a discussion about the same cannot be conducted from a position that locates itself outside such a control.”
What does it mean? What is ‘such a control’?
off course, as you correctly raise, the gender issues is not a lonely issue; there are a host of other issues to be addressed; also there can be some hidden agendas from some corners for raising this particular issue as the core one… but to say any thing against a practiced nonsense, one should be ‘inside that control’ is is a dangerous proposition. a modern society can not accept this kind of logic.
One of the main failures of liberal left in India is to provide a critique of Islamic extremism in India , to provide a liberal alternative to Islamic community.
The above article is an example. Instead of properly evaluating the causes and rise of fundamentalism behaviour in Kerala , the authors threw punches in all directions most of which have no relation with the issue of Rayana.
Very different approach is adopted by Pakistani liberals when it comes to Islamic extremism. Its time Indian liberals learn something from their Pakistani counterparts…..
Can we expect an article like the above from Indian Liberals??
ron,thanks for providing the link..
and your question to the liberals will be a big no.
in the indian context such article from anyone will be rated as majority appeasing trash!
I also feel that we need to interrogate more into the conflicts between the ‘subject of religion’ and ‘subject of the secular state’. Rayana incident in that sense is one instance of the failure of modern democracies revealing the limitations of the quasi-secular framework they draw upon.
What do yo like to propose instead?Any short cuts avaliable for Rayanas and Taslimas enabling to express themselves unoffending ways and without the fear of having to pay heavy prices?
There is no shortcuts… The choices are extremely narrow.. Importantly the choices that this discourse has given to us are quite disabling…
We have to make a distinction between Rayana as a human being and Rayana as “discourse”… What Jenny and Ashraf were trying was to help us rethink about the nuances of the context that Rayana becoming a discourse and about the power structures enabling it and what this discourse is trying to suppress… Having said that I dont think there is any disagreement regarding Rayana as a human being needs all our support without any argumentation…
Continuing from my previous comment……
Have a look at this article , where the author says “import” of Arab culture and “dressing” for women into Kerala as being “transformation” to “knowledge” …….
It is this kind of thinking which resulted in Rayana case…….
the media has been so obsessed with taliban, pakistan, isi that the role of saudi arabia and wahabism has been overlooked. leading urdu papers have been bought over with saudi money and mosques and madarsas have also received funding for many decades. this has been true of mosques, madarsas and the malayalam muslim media in kerala as well. also the large number of kerala muslims in saudi arabia and the gulf emirates are an easy target for salafi propaganda. it is all starting to kick in. the bitter tree of saudi fundamentalism is now bearing fruit.
the issue should be seen in the light of Islamist imperialist discourse rather than that of the West. the hegemony of this violent entity over south asian region and in the soil of kerla through its sea-entry need to be inquired. poor west has nothing to do with the violence of this islamist self. islam as the dominant discourse in north kerala has to be the focus. the fact that mulisms of kerla weild not only econimic power but also political and cultural power (unlike dalits and tribals) clearly indicate their dominant power position within kerla along with the upper castes .and it s a pity that those who clamour for the subaltern are doing this blunder of seeing islam as blind spot. islam’s war should not be fought with using the case of dalits or tribals’ marginalisation. so poor chitralekha need not be brought into the discourse.. her fight is also against this ‘hegemonic islam.. islam’s war need not be won on her behalf. such politics is dangerous.
I do agree with the general spirit of jenny’s and ashraf’s post (especially in the first part) but feel that some of their arguments are particularly close to being reductive — indeed as reductive as some of those being advanced by those who would transform Rayana from being a real person to a counter in a power-game.
First, I feel the distinction between Rayana as herself and Rayana as discourse is not well-specified in this account. Rayana’s own discourse, as far as I know, is not readily classifiable as ethnocentric-feminist. Therefore to readily assume that her plea for control over dressing choices as an ‘espousal’ of ‘free’ and ‘liberated’ spaces which are infected with western-imperialist feminist venom looks unwarranted to me. Such reading only reinforces dangerous and ethnocentric binary thinking: the plea for voice in the matter of dressing by a woman who explicitly declares her allegiance to Islam cannot be simply read as collapse into hegemonic feminism. In any case, if she indeed chooses to collapse thus, she should be free to move out and there the story ought to end. I’d think that if a woman chooses to move out in this fashion, the male elite (in Rayana’s case, in her immediate locality) ought to introspect about their own failings that ended in such desertion instead of using veiled coercion.
Secondly, while I do agree with the argument that reads the threats in the light of a threatened Muslim masculinity, I also feel it should be used with greater care. The norms of such efforts of control tend to be hegemonic/brahmanical, and they need to be fought. While it is possible to understand the response it such terms, these terms cannot be used to justify such acts. Therefore, the later attempt by a member of the Solidarity team which visited rayana to persuade her to wear the burqa after all the trouble had subsided is understandable, but certainly not justifiable, especially because the suggestion was made in a charged context in which her basic rights were being curtailed for non-compliance.
Thirdly, I do think that a more serious effort should be made to think of such incidents through multiple axes of power. Ayaan Hirsi Ali may indeed be the stooge of imperialism but that does not warrant us to ignore the question of race in Saudi-style Islam. Rayana’s case may indeed be an instance of how Muslim women are being ‘seduced’ by non-existent freedoms outside the community, but the question of the agency of the non-Saudi Muslim woman to devise their own dress-style remains.
Fourthly, I do feel that these questions can be ignored simply because they are raised often by those elements hostile to Islam (who may be more or less than the average islamophobic person). One is reminded of the innumerable instances in history in which women were instructed to sacrifice their concerns within a larger political movement on the grounds that group solidarity will be affected! All their concerns were silenced precisely by pointing to them the hostile exterior; they were warned not to step out even when they never showed any sign of wanting to. I do hope we do not replay thus mode of exercising power.
Lastly, I do feel we need to think more on what the best response to Islamophobia may be. Is it citing the dangers of the outside (thereby implying the potential safety of the inside) and the vulnerabilities of a threatened masculine (that still can control women openly in the name of general good) — a defensive response, I would say, at the best, or an active effort to democratise discourses and practices around the community that would actively reshape it in the full presence of all its constituents, including women and dalit muslims? I tend to think that the latter response would strengthen the community against imperialist attack — and it would also allow the community to take the voices of people like Rayana more seriously and indeed harness these voices to the general good of the community.
I wish to ask Afthab just a question, the answer of which perhaps I don’t know either!
You can and I can live as full citizens, at least in the secular part of India..Well, how can one suggest that Rayanas have practically no choice but to forgo their faith?( let alone the full citizenship) Isn’t it absurd asking them to pay dearly just for dressing the way like most Malayali Muslim women did until recently? From where does come the new genre of threats, which were unheard of until recently? And, that too in the form of unsigned letters and threatening phone calls by unknown persons? Still stranger that persons on either side do not want to hear Rayana in first person (or even as a piece of reported speech)!
People who have already conversed with Rayana apparently avoid telling others how she would persevere and how she would rather continue as a believer , and so on..That kind of reportage would have been perfectly in order, even one’s intention is just to create a discourse. Exclusivity of the discourse is particularly condemnable, when one takes into account the fact that the snowballing effect of overriding patriarchal factors is too conspicuous to miss; passing rash judgments against even educated female subalterns striving for freedom, would come from all places, faiths or no faiths!
Mostly in agreement with you here..
But shouldn’t we make an attempt to carefully deconstruct the difference between the Rayana’s own discourse and the discourse “for” Rayana? Isnt there a difference between her plea for control over dressing choices and atleast some of those discourses to “protect” her rights (” ‘espousal’ of ‘free’ and ‘liberated’ spaces which are infected with western-imperialist feminist venom” to quote you) that really immersing Rayana’s own account that decalre her allegiance to Islam (at least until now)…
Drawing a parallel, in the height of Sari’a controversy, remember Shah Banu’s dilemma in coming out distancing herself from the dominant secular and uniform civil code discourse, saying that she would rather choose to be a “muslim woman” (in all its male centric terms), than an “impious” women…
This is unfortunately the how the muslim woman’s voice is trapped and silenced by the uppercaste hindu normative secular discouse making here equally vulnerable to the mulim male attempt to capture her back in his control…
I dont think Hirsi Ali’s personal account is also much far from this…
The Future of Islamic Feminism:
Interview with Margot Badran
by Yoginder Sikand
“….Q: What do you see as Islamic feminism’s future?
A: Ah the crystal ball question! What we need at the moment is to build local, that is, national, social movements from within that are informed by the principles of equality and justice that Islamic feminism shares with democracy and human rights ideals. We all possess multiple and highly layered identities connected with race, ethnicity, nationality, and creed, and we need to manage these as individuals and members of groups in a way that honors the human dignity and rights of all. As we live in pluralistic societies, nothing less will do. As I just mentioned, Islamic feminism is showing signs of being narrowed down and ‘controlled’ by gatekeepers who deploy religious identity as a new sign of authority. Oddly enough, this is coming from those who resist and defy the authority that the religious establishment has always sought to retain for itself. We are not used to seeing progressives act this way. As for Islamic feminism’s future, it struck me back in the early 1990s when it was making its debut that Islamic feminism would become more secular in the sense that it would become part of a complex weave of multiple voices clamoring for gender justice and gender equality. I see that Islamic feminism is presently ushering in what I call “the new secular feminism” — a secular feminism re-invigorated by a more robust discourse of gender equality in religious language — which celebrates inclusivity. Multiple streams will feed the new secular feminism which belongs to us all as we build it collectively…”
I dont think we are in much disagreement here… In Rayana’s case our responsibilities are in 2 fronts, though it will collapse into one.. One, is the immediate political responsibility to stand by Rayana and do everything morally and politically to ease her pain and to ensure the rights of choice on her dress and life, at the same time exposing the forces that want to turn this discourse to reinforce the prejudices and hatred towards muslims… The second one, I belive this is what the authors tried to do here, is to try to understand the larger context of this discourse and to deconstruct and dismantle the different power structures acting on this discourse…
I agree, but my point is that this post does not do this with clarity. Rather, it tends to reiterate the image of Rayana that is emerging through the dominant discourse, only inverting it. If the dominant media would want ‘Rayana’ to be evidence that Muslim women’s desire to be ‘freed of their community’ and enter (supposedly flawless) ‘secular space’, this post actually agrees, only that it perceives this putative desire to be unacceptable. In both instances, Rayana’s agency, I’d think, is equally comprised, so also the agency of women who choose to stay within Islam who would want a say in deciding how a Muslim woman should present herself.
…and of course, I do agree that Muslim women can perfectly well, and very often do, find their community identity valuable and worth striving for. But this does not be read to mean that they will, therefore, also accept internal hierarchies in the bargain and that if they don’t, it necessarily means that they have capitulated to imperialist discourses of ‘women’s freedom’!
In this particular juncture of the history of our society in which a large number of young Muslim women are gaining education, why is there so much fear, such reticence, about them entering the internal public sphere as full members of the community? I do feel that if these women do manage to break through the barriers — set up variously by Reformer-Men (the older ones, from Rayana’s case, seem to deploy either veiled coercion, or resort to cajoling, and the younger men, to just the latter!) — it is they who will strengthen the community beyond all expectations.
now poor muslim woman has lost her voice of protest. suddenly her rebellion has been theorised as upper caste hindu secular and all.. what non-sense. such apathy is more dangerous than those idiotic patriarchal norms of Islam that has universally oppressed not only Rayana and Ian Hirsi but also scores of tribal populations across the world.. and their poliitcs against the oppression of Islam cannot be reduced to mere “native stooges” vocabulary.. it will be bombard on ur universals and will annihilate this violent oppressive religious universal forever.. let us wait for that day..
@ devika, we share with you the urgency of the many questions you have raised. actually our main point is that there should be a larger debate on all these questions.
some thoughts towards this – when actively taken up by mainstream, secular feminists, secular muslim men like karasserry with a long history of anxieties about muslim women and organizations, right-wing oriented magazines and other malayalam papers who never show similar anxieties about any “other” women, papers like “deshabhimani” that had done so much to harass women like chithralekha and even “yukthivaadi” (atheist) groups, we are forced to think of the rayana discourse as falling under the hindu, secular progressive agenda in kerala. rayana’s own position gets articulated through these forces and surely it cannot avoid the consequences of this, can it?
secondly, we were not talking about an understanding of masculinity as a way of condoning of male violence or justification.
and about women being asked to keep quiet for the sake of larger causes, is this applicable in this issue? given the fact that today wars (like that in afghanistan) are being conducted in the name of muslim women’s oppression??
maybe in this context, one should have a thorough discussion about the basic values and agendas of feminism itself, which are said to apply to ALL women as victims of patriarchy. this we feel is the need of the hour.
>>> democratise discourses and practices around the community that would actively reshape it in the full presence of all its constituents, including women and dalit muslims?<<<<
isn’t the process of democratization quite a complex one, loaded with the pressure of various power structures ??? and surely it is not what kerala mainstream progressive discourses can/should take up and think about, in the name of a minority community. isn't it time we recognize the sheer violence behind such democratizing attempts, which kerala is carrying out with such relish, as some of the comments in this space itself prove ?
Yes, the ‘defence’ of the woman ‘victim’ is often disingenuous, or simply ignorant – of her own non-individualistic perspective; of the range of views on the issue within the ‘victim’s’ community; of the uncriticised perspectives and values of the defenders themselves. In the UK, Jack Straw, a government minister, describes his misgivings about niqab bearing women – whom he always asked to reveal their faces in private meetings with him. But, he notes, they always complied. So what is the problem? It was clearly more about positioning himself for his own political agenda. Such stories frequently arise in our press, critical of actions within the minority community but obtusely concealing that those actions (wearing a niqab?) are conscientious free choices; and that the women who make these choices are, of all groups, the leadt threatening to our societies. But, hey , easy targets …
one should discuss how the islamist politics and religious discourse positions the womens question before jumping on to the feminist movement.. why spare such violent universals tht have been operational since ages and hanging above our head for long. the muslim women’s protest against Islamist violence should not be masked by citing other discourses. this s the gross injustice done by this very theorisation and analysis.. it s pity that it s being celebrated in the name of muslim woman. the muslim clerics seemed to be matured than these “modern” analysts whose concerns seems to be personal and individualistic than any thing to do with the debates within the community- especially the significance of the emerging critique of islam from within which is much needed in order to save islam from the evil hands of some fundamentalist clergies.
@ Devika. The question of young educated Muslim women entering the internal public sphere is a very complex process. First of all I feel these young educated Muslim women do not share a common platform or identity within Islam or outside it. There are different positions of being a Muslim (muslim woman) in India and therefore it is impossible for someone from one political position to be the interlocutor. for instance someone like Sharifa Khanum cannot be the interlocutor for a whole group of practising Muslim women who in themselves are feminists through their active engagements with contemporary realities of Muslim women. Someone who claims to practice the religion in her own ways and definitions need not be in a position to translate the experience of a pious observer of Islam. This is the complexity involved in Rayana’s case as well.
The threat to Rayana’s fundamental right has to be questioned and the state has the duty to ensure her the constitutionally assured right. But at the same time building up a discourse based on this issue, expecting to develop a discussion within the community regarding the patriarchal structure of Islam is too romantic a target to aim at I feel.
Here I would also like to recollect the feminist discussions related to Mangalore pub issue. why did we, the feminsts look into it as a form of patriarchal imposition on women’s freedom than looking at it in terms of the fundamental expectations of Sangh Parivar agenda to mould Hindu women over Sita -Savithri images?
In warding off issues of appropriation we sometimes land up in confused terrains ruling out possibilities of a dialogue. Possibility of appropriation exists very much within Islam also pertaining to the different levels of experiencing Islam as a way of life. Rayana cannot voice the political position of many practising muslim women in Islam.
As much as she claims to be a Muslim, the subject position Rayana holds is one among many within the possible Indian Muslim subjectivities. The secular state allows her the right to hold on to such a position. But she cannot represent the community in terms of her aspiration for the choice of clothing or freedom of expression as many of us cannot. ( or it would be safer to say, it is for the religion to decide whether such a position should be included. But we cannot again come to the unilateral conclusion that religious position is determined by male choice here. Are there not again plenty of ‘educated muslim women’ who consciously decide to choose Islamic mode of clothing?) I really feel therefore the discourses built up around Rayana issue should have been more in terms of her identity as a subject of the secular state. Her claims of adhering to Islamic values is a personal way of experiencing religion and therefore how far she can represent ‘women in Islam’ who experience religion in terms of a community of pious observance and obedience is a debatable point. The village I hail from has muslim women’s communities coming together in terms of belief and with a purpose of learning Quran. These groups are not in any way controlled by the Jama At committees or political Islamic organisations. They also take it up as a task to educate muslim women regarding Islamic ways of life, which they believe is the most important duty of a Muslim. I feel that these women share a kind of notion of religion and agency that cannot be understood from Rayana’s position. Nor do i feel a more educated woman from the community (for instance myself) standing in a progressive protocol can claim to have the right to speak for the community over these women. Also I am skeptical about the role of education in determining one’s hierarchical position in terms of being an interlocutor.
on second thoughts I also feel that I should add my anxieties over the ‘rightness’ of the time in which this discourse has been brought out. As responsible feminists we should have been more careful about the context of those Chendamangallur-Karissery network of secular liberal subject positions ,an increased islamophobic context resulting from prof. Joseph’s incident in Kerala and wider concerns related to Maudani’s arrest and so on. (not to ignore the larger frame of an imperialist islamophobic global perspective). Discourses on Rayana issue in a way diverted (as many had wanted) the debates over these issues. By asserting Rayana’s Muslim identity rather treating her as an anomaly in the failed project of secularism, I feel we all have in a way failed in terms of our subaltern concerns and empathy.
perhaps we consider the issue on the ground of secular modern analytical method.after forming identity on the basis of modernity, we going to interpret such these issues.. that’s the problem.by the overview on previous remarks,sometimes i feel they are on Marxist modern conservatism. actually we could have made new texts to read rayana’s issue………
Do the western critics of the West and many of their counterparts here mean same things?
I doubt… Aren’t quite many people missing the importance of being humans in any the universal sense , with their preferences for water tight definitions in their journeys exploring identities?
“The Collapse Of Western Morality
By Paul Craig Roberts
Yes, I know, as many readers will be quick to inform me, the West never had any morality. Nevertheless things have gotten worse”
when,a muslim girl, who had dispelled from her school just because of her ‘maftha’,the sign of muslim fanaticism, there were no voices from the mainstream barbaic secularists like hameed , hafiz np……………………..now they make dirty noises ……………oh..god………….