Ban Fatwas - These have no place in a secular, modern state

The latest fatwa against MP Nusrat Jahan shows why it is imperative to come down heavily on these despicable judgements.

 |  3-minute read |   01-07-2019
  • ---
    Total Shares

The Deoband-based Muslim seminary Dar-Ul-Uloom has issued a fatwa against Nusrat Jahan, a Member of Parliament, for marrying Nikhil Jain, stating that a Muslim cannot marry a non-Muslim, and for applying 'sindoor' in her hair. 

nusrat_070119102038.jpgThe latest cause of offence. (Photo: PTI)

I never heard of a fatwa being issued by this body or any other Muslim organisation when a Hindu woman marries a Muslim man. 

As the former Union Minister Arif Mohammed Khan said about Dar-Ul-Uloom, "Are they god? They spread hatred among the people." 

In my opinion, Parliament should totally ban the execrable and despicable practice of issuing fatwas and make them a criminal offence with heavy punishment.

Till now, that was not done for fear of losing the Muslim vote bank, and so, fatwas were issued on a variety of matters, e.g. against Salman Rushdie, Taslima Nasreen, the Dutch politician Geert Wilders and Ahmadiyas (calling for their death), Muslim girls wearing jeans, Muslim girls above 13 riding on bicycles, Muslims working in banks, suryanamaskar, contraceptives, fast food, smoking, plucking eyebrows without male permission, birthday celebrations, the poem Madhushala and Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (thankfully not yet Mirza Ghalib's Diwan), modelling, vaccination, public singing by girls (which forced the only all-girls rock band in Kashmir to close down), posting pictures online, women going out alone in public, Sania Mirza wearing a skirt while playing tennis, donating blood or body parts, photography, Muslim women working at a place where men work, manufacture and sale of firecrackers for Diwali, etc.

sania_070119102335.jpgThe champion. Versus the chumps. (Photo: Reuters)

But now, the time has come to end this ridiculous and abhorrent practice. Nusrat Jahan has said she represents 'inclusive India' and that even after her marriage, she will remain a Muslim. 

But even if she had decided to convert to Hinduism, that was entirely her choice and her right. 

In Lata Singh vs State of UP (2006), a bench of the Indian Supreme Court, of which I was a member, held that once a person is a major (i.e. above 18 years of age), the person has a right to marry even outside his/her caste or religion, and even the parents cannot prohibit it. Inter-caste and inter-religious marriages are in fact conducive to national integration and should be encouraged.

As a judge in the High Court and Supreme Court, many cases came before me of an inter-caste or inter-religious couple who fell in love and got married. Often the father of the girl filed an FIR before the police, alleging forcible abduction of the girl. In all such cases, the only thing I enquired into was the age of the girl (and this can be known by school records, medical examination, etc). Once I was satisfied that she was above 18, I said she is free to go with whomever she wants — and where necessary, I ordered police protection. 

This is a free and secular country and a major can marry whomever he/she wants.

The danger of fatwas is that it may provoke violence, even if it does not say so, nor prescribe a sentence for its disobedience. A person can only be punished for an offence mentioned by the legislature, and that too after following the due process of law. Fatwas are consequently clearly illegal— but now the time has come for enacting a law clearly saying so, and prescribing heavy punishment for issuing them.

Also Read: No kid gloves for Kashmir: The Modi govt has a new iron-fisted policy for the Valley. Will it work?

Writer

Markandey Katju Markandey Katju @mkatju

Former Judge, Supreme Court of India and former Chairman, Press Council of India.

Like DailyO Facebook page to know what's trending.