Religious practices should not be banned

Submitted by Matthew on 31 May, 2017 - 10:10

An Indian socialist presents a view different from Solidarity’s on an attempt to get the Supreme Court to rule unconstitutional the practice of triple talaq (where a Muslim man can divorce his wife in minutes by saying the word talaq three times).


In India, banning has become the response to anything that goes against the state. But the practices of nikah halala [women entering second marriages as a precondition for remarrying a first partner] and triple talaq should never be considered for banning because they are derived from religious laws which have roots stretching back 1,400 years.

As India is seeing a rise of extreme right-wing politics, and with Uttar Pradesh chief Minister Yoginath organising anti-Romeo squads to regulate sexual harassment through violence, the banning move epitomes the hypocrisy of Indian politics. The move to ban triple talaq is certainly aiding the rise of Hindu sectarian politics. The petition becomes unjust because this Muslim law is not in keeping with the Hindu code.

Triple Talaq has some conditions within it which boost egalitarian goals of all Muslim women. Claiming it is hierarchical and anti-feminist is a convenient mechanism for those arguing for the ban. On the other hand maybe more laws need to be made to regulate it.

Coming from a minority religious background (Jainism), I am familiar with a ritual of “Santhara”, which means “fast unto death”. For many liberals this is an act of suicide. But this act has religious underpinnings which mean it cannot be reduced to a form of suicide. Especially when the Indian state hovers around with its particular banner of secularism. It is against secular ideals to ban something that is held to be important to sharia law, and banning is also a violation of a sacred law.

This issue appears in various ways — from the anti-migrants ban against the Muslims in America or the passing of the parliamentary bill for a Burkha ban in Austria to deter Islamic fanaticism. The issue of triple talaq requires a distinct attention as it is banned in 25 other countries across the world, including many Islamic countries. In the rural parts of India, it has become a social norm for women to be victims of domestic violence. There is always an argument about not hurting religious sentiments, but why should the innocent suffer so that massive opposition can be avoided?

Judicial activists need to take a pragmatic response towards the triple talaq issue. Why is it necessary that every Pope needs to be male and why is it that many women are not allowed in the mosque? The answer lies in the sacred texts of each religion and their origins. Questioning is must, but forcibly changing things to bring them up to date is a violation of the religious law.

A judicial system which favours religious nationalism supersedes that of constitutional nationalism in a country like India, as religion is a precursor to the making of the nation. Nobody has the right to argue how a religion is meant to work. A religious belief cannot be overtaken by the jurisdiction of a court. Hence, the illusion of changing the Muslim law regarding triple Talaq, polygamy, and nikah halala needs to be countered as it is aimed at suppression of the religious faith. The Supreme Court has said women should also have to give consent to the triple Talaq, but the law cannot be banned because it holds a sacred place in the Muslim code.