Haji Ali equality activists slam patriarchal mindset; challenge dargah authorities to open debate

The Haji Ali equal access issue is ratcheting into high gear. Trupti Desai made an early morning entry into Haji Ali dargah on Thursday, (though the activist did not breach the line, till where women are allowed).

Haji Ali Sab Ke Liye members put forth 14 questions. Pic/Datta Kumbhar
Haji Ali Sab Ke Liye members put forth 14 questions. Pic/Datta Kumbhar

Then the Haji Ali Sab Ke Liye forum held a press conference yesterday, at the Mumbai Marathi Patrakar Sangh at Azad Maidan. The forum, comprising activists and ordinary citizens fighting for women to have the right to go to the inner sanctum of the dargah, saw Muslim members Mumtaz Shaikh, Shabana Ansari, Mariam Dhavale, Nasreen Contractor, Javed Anand, Firoze Mithiborwala, Hasan Kamaal, Rahman Abbas, Shahbaz Khan and Qader Qazi release an open letter to the Haji Ali trustees.

Javed Anand said, "We have tried our best to reach out to the Haji Ali trustees, but, they keep postponing the matter. They harp about Islamic laws, but never explain what these laws are. We are thinking Muslims, who have read the Quran and the Hadith so we have questions."

They claimed that they were open to a debate between two people from the forum and two from the trustees. The Sab ke Liye movement, is seeking answers in terms of, 'yes' and 'no' from the trustees, as they claim that the Haji Ali trustees tend to give vague replies. One of the questions states that Prophet Muhammad was buried in a room where his wife Hazrat Aisha lived, then why are Muslim women not allowed to visit the grave of a holy man? The forum said that at Mecca Muslim men and women pray together in one mosque.

In their letter to the trustees, the forum asks: You say that the restriction for women is for their safety, but if millions at other Islamic holy places can be kept safe, then why Haji Ali fails to do likewise?

Another point their letter makes is that: Dargah trustees say women wear wide necked blouses and show their breasts while bending down. The forum says they should tackle the men, rather than blaming the women.

The forum asks trustees whether they are saying that women come to the dargah to flaunt their sexuality, than out of piety? Anand added, "We condemn this shameful mindset. This is like people who look at Sania Mirza's skirt length than the way she plays." The letter has 14 questions.

Mithiborwala added, "We will soon announce a visit to Ajmer dargah, it may happen next week. Women from our group will carry a chaddar and go into the mazaar at the shrine of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti and offer reverence. The Ajmer dargah trustees have called us." The forum hopes this will inspire Haji Ali trustees to also allow women into the mazaar of Haji Ali. Several questions about Trupti Desai were dodged, saying she was fighting in her way and the forum wished her well.

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