The common perception that is gaining ground regarding Uniform Civil Code (UCC) is that Muslims are vehemently opposed to it, that they enjoy preferential rights above constitution, and thus they have no regard for the laws of the land. Once again the community is under the impression of misgivings.
Muslims as Law Abiding Citizens
Muslims are as much respectful to the laws of the country as any other citizens of India. They have as much rights enshrined in the constitution as those of others. Anyone who violates laws is charged with punishment applicable under Indian Penal Code (IPC).
From domestic violence to land dispute, rape to murder, forgery to dowry and so on, almost all of what comes under the purview of civil and criminal laws, Muslims, as citizens of India, follow them obediently and religiously.
All affairs of their day-to-day economic activities, banking systems, life insurance policies, to list a few, are governed by uniform laws of the country. There is no sense of unease among Muslims in obeying them.
In fact, they even don’t bother whether all those affairs of daily life are Islamic or un-Islamic, yet media discourse around Uniform Civil Code (UCC) is articulated in such a way that makes many of us believe that Muslims are more loyal to Islamic systems of justice, that is, more adamant on implementation of Sharia Law in India than the secular one.
This misplaced public perception is truly tragic and unfortunate. Muslims have been given as much rights to practice their religion as those of other communities in the country. Articles 15 and 25 of the constitution testify the resolution in that respect. However, Muslims’ practice of faith is singled out to be suspected of being against the spirit of Bharat Mata.
Muslims in India consider themselves as victims of time. They live in perpetual fear of poverty and communal violence, of constantly suspected of being sympathizer of ‘terrorists’, and currently the threatening dictates of Gau Rakhshak. It seems as if the fear has crippled the community to the incurable stage of redressal.
At times attempts are made to scare Muslims through fabrication of such an idiom as ‘Love jihad’. The frightening spectre of Ghar Wapsi, or ‘home coming’ is just one more addition to their sense of restlessness and pessimism.
The anxiety is so ingrained among them that the community has become guilty conscience for anything they do and practice. Particularly some women even avoid to travel in hijab (traditional scarf) lest they be singled out and get harmed.
In this background of insecurity, any talk about reforms concerning Muslim community such as on-going controversy of triple talaq or modernization of madrasa system of education or even the idea of Uniform Civil Code (UCC) is likely to bounce back and instill fear of suspicion in them about the possible timing and intentions of the government.
Fear and Reform are Contradictory
Fear and reform are antithetical to each other. Both cannot go together. To bring about social reforms, first it is necessary to create congenial atmosphere. Unfortunately, on this front, the Modi government in power has miserably failed. Instead rhetoric from leaders of the ruling party have only fueled to widen the gulf.
Muslims in India are very adaptive. They are uniquely different from those of Arabs in the Middle East. The way they participate in the social and political affairs of the state bear witness to their democratic and secular credentials. Their looks and habits, tastes and dresses, conventions and traditions are purely indigenous and are similar to those of any other communities in the country.
Muslims are not hostile to reforms provided the community is taken into confidence. Already voice of thousands has come to the fore to review the context of triple talaq in one sitting. However, there are still many who fear the intentions of decency behind such reforms.
‘While Muslims breathe in fear, the very overtures of reforms by BJP government stand hollow’, goes the common sentiment of the community.
Sarfraz Adil, a medical practitioner, expresses his concern: ‘They are the same people who never say a single word to support an old tired lady, Zakia Jaferi, during her long struggle to get justice of brutal murder of her husband and other fellow residents of Gulberg society…Where were they sleeping when hundreds of Muslim women were raped and gang raped in communal riots…from 2002 Gujrat carnage to the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots? Why did they not come in support of a girl, Zahira Shaikh, who was fighting cases for justice against the beasts who set Best Bakery on fire where 28 people were burnt alive. Uttering talaq to a woman is a lesser thing in comparison to the above crimes committed…They have nothing to do with worsening situations of Muslim women.’
The voice of a youth like Sarfraz Adil is the shared feelings of anguished Muslims. The government in power, if it wills, has both resources and opportunities at its disposal to address the most critical grievance, FEAR, of the community. So long as a sense of DEPRIVATION persists, sacredness of reforms will ever remain skeptical. And that is not adorable for a nation looking forward to be a super power.