Guest Post by Fahad Hashmi
[ Yesterday, the Supreme Court of India, dismissed the ‘review petition’ that had been filed with a plea to reverse the Supreme Court’s recent (December 2013) decision to uphold the constitutionality of Section 377 of the IPC. This decision effectively ‘re-criminalized’ Homosexuality in India and is a severe blow to human rights. Various religious groups, Hindu, Muslim and Christian had appealed to the Supreme Court to act against the rights and interests of homosexuals. In a sad instance of the erosion of secular and democratic values, the Supreme Court has endorsed their view. The Jamaat -e-Islami Hind, a right wing, muslim fundamentalist organization that claims to speak for Indian Muslims has welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision. This post by Fahad Hashmi attacks the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind’s position on homosexuality and challenges its claim to speak in the name of muslims and their faith. We see it as an important contribution to the ongoing discussion on section 377 on Kafila ]
“There was once…a sad city, the saddest of cities, a city so ruinously sad that it had forgotten its name.
In the north of the sad city stood mighty factories in which (so I’m told) sadness was actually manufactured, packaged and sent all over the world, which never seemed to get enough of it. Black smoke poured out of the chimneys of the sadness factories and hung over the city like bad news”.
(Haroun and Sea of Stories, Salman Rushdie)
It is one of the ironies of democracies across the world that minorities of all shades are always in the crosshairs of majoritarianism. This minority-majority is a function of numbers and power though this is not a thorough definition since we have had seen altered power equation of this binary. The apartheid South Africa is a case in point. For stating the obvious the strength of a democracy is a function of safety and rights that minorities enjoy in it. However, minorities on the whole are always drawing majority’s fire. On the subcontinent one could see this happening in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and of course India is not an exception.
Lately we are witnessing this hatred towards sexual minorities in India. Along with the majority, minorities have also tagged along in this endeavor of curbing people’s right. In the wake of the Supreme Court’s judgment on IPC 377, there is too much hullaballoo within the country as religious parties are too busy in doing tom tom over this judgment. As we know it, the judgment which has come of late has scraped the earlier one given by the Delhi High court on IPC 377, a colonial hand-me-down. In a nutshell, IPC 377 has been re-criminalized! This particular judgment is getting endorsement from a good number of religious parties. And one of them is Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JIH) which is at the helm of the campaign, and working itself into self-righteous froth over the criminalization of IPC 377. It has been busy in organizing seminars and protests rallies against this self-perceived ‘immorality’ of homosexuality. One is at one’s wit end seeing this celebration over the judgment that curbs the legal rights of sexual minorities. Of all Muslim religious parties JIH appears to be more loyal than the king! How should one understand this kowtowing on JIH’s part?
The sole aim of Jamaat-e-Islami, a politico-religious party, wherever it exists, is to establish an Islamic state premised on a particular understanding of the Quran and the Islamic history. To put it another way, JIH seeks to bring theocracy or in Maududi’s word ‘theo-democracy’, a blend of religion and politics. The ideology of Jamaat, which is Maududi’s brainchild, rests on binary opposites of Islam and jahiliyya. In traditional parlance jahiliyya means a stage before the advent of Islam. By putting a political spin on this apolitical notion the Islamist ideologue has made jahiliyya an antagonistic category which is at loggerheads with Jamaat’s understanding of Islam. This ‘Islam’ is puritanical, literalist and closed having desperation for grabbing political power only. The ‘Islam versus jahiliyya paradigm’ is the Archimedean plane—one and only plane—through which Jamaat tries to comprehend and interpret the present times. This particular way of looking at the world makes all diversities of the contemporary world an enemy of its ideology. Since Islamism talks about Islam of the high church seeing things in ‘either-or’ terms so it is forced to put things into the either two boxes of Islam and jahiliyya. There is no ‘no man’s land’ in its scheme of interpretation and understanding of the scripture. Therefore, the presence of other planes in this rich and varied world is oddities in its grand narrative. Thus, recognition and tolerance are not in the genetic make-up of this ideology. This could be seen in the intellectual and ideological milieu that the Jamaat-e-Islami in Pakistan and Bangladesh has spawned over time which has been a constant source of production and perpetuation of intolerance, fanaticism and cruel patriarchy. One knows about Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan’s role in anti-Ahmadiya movement that triggered witch hunting of Qadyanis, and that has made them constitutionally an object of hatred. The Shahbag movement catapulted Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh (JIB) to ‘fame’ showing its antagonistic role in the country’s liberation struggle. The news about the violence that is being employed on minorities there by Islami Chatra Shibir has regularly been coming.
Since JIH has stopped its ideological pronouncement openly given the Hindutva juggernaut and communally charged environment of the country so this particular issue of homosexuality has given this party an opportunity to put forth its ideology to the outer world under the guise of ‘morality’, ‘eastern culture’ and ‘India being a religious country’. Therefore, the party is trying cashing in on people’s sentiments for getting approval of being a righteous party working for the betterment of Indian society, and thus a soft spot for itself. However, when it comes to Muslim Personal Law, JIH including All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) and a string of Muslim organizations take recourse to the same constitution and constitutional morality which promises the minority its cultural, educational and other rights. For instance, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Shahbano case was perceived an intervention in the sacred realm as personal law, to these guys is premised on the divine principle and nobody is allowed to change even an iota in that realm. Slogans like ‘Islam in danger’, ‘personal law is our right’ etc. were being put forth. While using the idea of freedom, they join the chorus of those championing Muslim women’s right to wear scarf or hijab in France and other secular countries. These people eulogize activists and intellectuals, such as Arundhati Roy and Teesta Setalvad when they write against victimization of Muslims. But the same people go into a sulk when such activists or intellectuals criticize Muslim fundamentalism. What is the point in endorsing the judgment when it does not concern the community at all? The claims to any just claim for right has to be universal. It is sheer inconsistency of the stance where rights are denied to others that we claim for ourselves.
Since we are living in a democratic country therefore it possesses a constitution and this constitution ensures certain rights to its citizens including minorities to live their lives as per their cultural and religious world views. Sexual minorities, too, are supposed to get their share of right by the same logic and reason that has ensured religious minorities and other ethnic clans their rights. Getting carried away by theological impulse every time and trampling upon the rights of ‘unpopular’ minorities ought not to be trapping of other minorities. Are we supposed to rhyme with the majority on such issue as it marginalizes, humiliates and weakens other minorities? The obsession with hem line, neck line and sexualities of others is a conundrum that calls for an answer from the self-proclaimed guardians of the community!
It would not be wrong to say that curbing people’s right to choice and human freedom in the name of religion also sows the seeds of Islamophobia on religious groups’ part. Such proclamations tacitly imply that the religion possesses an innate proclivity to intolerance, violence and homophobia. The type of placard that has been used against LGBT’s rights by JIH’s Mumbai zone is nauseating, downright disgusting and morally untenable. Riding rough shod over people’s rights, and ramming ‘morality’ down people’s throat makes religious teaching a calculated affront on other’s life. These so called guardians of religion are themselves responsible for the islamophobia that they generate.
To add to this, the language that has been employed in the recent write-ups from within the community in support of collectively fighting this injustice of criminalization of homosexuality has its own problematic. A secular state should recognize the rights of its sexual minorities by ensuring its legal right to what the Supreme Court has termed ‘unnatural’ sexuality in the same way in which it recognizes the rights of its religious minorities. This simply means that all well meaning people ought to forge alliances and struggle together to ensure people’s rights, and the rights of all minorities, religious, or sexual. The language of patronage in which the necessity of extending support to LGBT has been articulated is tantamount to giving charity—unwillingly or willingly—which is pathetic and a sad commentary on our discretion. I would hasten to add that our struggle should be based upon human dignity, inclusion and universal ideas of justice.
Iqbal was right:
Ajab wayez ki deendaari hai ya rabb!
adawat hai ise sare jahan se
http://jamaateislamihind.org/eng/joint-statement-of-religious-leaders-on-supreme-court-order-on-article-377/. Accessed on January 26, 2014.
http://jamaateislamihind.org/eng/sc-verdict-against-homosexuality-is-welcome-ameer-e-jamaat/. Accessed on January 26, 2014.
http://jamaateislamihind.org/eng/religious-leaders-join-jamaats-campaign-against-homosexuality/. Accessed on January 26, 2014.
http://twocircles.net/2014jan09/jih_holds_out_protest_against_homosexuality_mumbai.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Twocirclesnet+(TwoCircles.net). Accessed on January 26, 2014.
(I am pursuing M.Phil in Sociology from DSE, University of Delhi)