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Opinion

Aijaz Zaka Syed
December 1, 2017

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Faith, love and justice

Faith, love and justice

Love conquers all. Hadiya is an inspiring example of what the love for faith can accomplish when it is pitted against the greatest of odds.
The frail young woman, a Hindu student from Kerala who embraced Islam while studying medicine in Tamil Nadu, has demonstrated extraordinary courage of conviction. She has been at the heart of a major political storm roiling India right now and has paid a tremendous price for remaining steadfast in her new faith.
Hadiya has incurred the wrath of her family, including her typically male chauvinist father who insists that he cannot accept a “terrorist” in his family and has gone to absurd lengths to force his 25-year-old daughter to leave her new faith and her Muslim husband.
She has faced a hostile judiciary who, instead of giving her justice, questioned her “motives” to convert, annulling her marriage and handing her “custody” to her parents. She has bravely put up with physical torture, extreme mental pressure and abuse by Hindutva groups during her detention at her parents’ home for the past six months but has never once wavered in her faith.
She has faced a barrage of absurd accusations and insinuations from an incredibly hostile, Islamophobic media which has suggested that she and her husband have Isis links and are planning to fight in Syria. Indeed, in her quest for justice, Hadiya has taken on the entire system and triumphed with a dignity that should shame all those who ever questioned her faith or her motives in accepting it.
The tremendous faith and steadfastness of character that this lone young woman has demonstrated should perhaps also shame all of us who were born into Muslim families with Muslim names but have never truly understood what this faith stands for and demands from us.
Most of us ‘conventional Muslims’ tend to take our faith for granted and have nearly forgotten its liberating teachings, which were meant for the whole of humanity and not just for Muslims. Once in a while, a Hadiya comes along to remind us of the gift of the faith that we possess and yet have curiously remained unaffected and untouched by. So hats off to Hadiya! By the way, Hadiya in Arabic means gift. And thank God for such a gift.
More and more people continue to accept Islam notwithstanding the vicious, relentless global campaign against the faith and the far from impressive conduct of ‘traditional’ Muslims. Of course, there is no dearth of those who snigger that women like Hadiya are victims of ‘love jihad’ – an offensive term used by Hindutva groups to dehumanise all those who are crazy enough to embrace the hated faith or fall in love with the ‘enemy’.
The Right has long alleged that young Muslim boys are being used as part of a ‘love jihad’ campaign to ensnare impressionable, gullible Hindu girls in order to convert them and eventually change the demographic equations in India. It has successfully used this malicious propaganda to prey on the insecurities of Hindus across the country – especially in North India – with disastrous consequences for communal peace and Hindu-Muslim relations.
The infamous Muzaffarnagar riots in western Uttar Pradesh that killed nearly a 100 people and forced out thousands of Muslim families was a result of the same sinister campaign by BJP politicians like Sangeet Som. As the BJP looks for a foothold south of the Vindhyas – especially in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, which are long known for their tolerance – it has stepped up its insidious campaign against the usual suspects, crying hoarse about ‘love jihad’ and the tourist paradise of Kerala becoming a haven for ‘terrorism’.
What else can you expect from a party whose very raison d’être – justification for existence – remains the pathological hatred of Muslims and their elimination from Indian soil? However, what is quite alarming is the role and conduct of the judiciary. The judiciary comes out of this saga of love, faith and betrayal hardly with flying colours.
If the judges of the Kerala High Court confounded everyone by questioning the “motives” behind a woman’s conversion and her subsequent marriage to a Muslim man and declaring her to be of questionable emotional and mental condition, the Supreme Court of India has not been of much help either.
Although the top court has released Hadiya from the clutches of her tyrannical father, it has denied her justice by not allowing her to join her lawful husband. Strangely, the court has sent her back to her medical college in Tamil Nadu where she will be watched over by the dean of the college and a large posse of cops.
When the SC asked if she wanted anyone as her guardian at Salem College, Hadiya pointed out that her husband is her guardian. The court silenced her by declaring that her husband cannot be her guardian and instead appointed the college dean as her guardian.
Also, she is not allowed to meet or talk to her husband who has been kept away from her for nearly a year. As the persecuted woman at the heart of this farce points out, she is being transferred from one prison to another – in this case, her college. And, of course, the court has yet to address the twin issues at the heart of this controversy: her conversion in 2013 and her marriage in 2016.
Do you call this justice? If the highest court in the land cannot or does not deliver justice, who will? Where do we turn for justice?
By the way, the Indian constitution, which is supposed to be protected by the judiciary, recognises both rights – the freedom of practice one’s faith and the freedom to choose one’s life partner.
The Indian judiciary, which has long been credited for its independence and integrity, has been one of the key pillars of the marvel that is Indian democracy. Indeed, no democracy can work or survive without the strength and independence of the two key pillars: an independent judiciary and an independent media. And both pillars seem to be increasingly under siege in India, as the nature of its polity undergoes disturbing changes that are in sync with the rise of the right.
As has been the case with all other branches of the republic, the pernicious influence of Hindutva and its exclusivist worldview has started affecting the judiciary as well.
Whether it’s the Allahabad High Court’s verdict in the Babri Masjid case, the Delhi court’s judgement in the Hashimpura massacre or the summary execution of Afzal Guru and the death sentence handed down to Yaqub Memon, there have been a number of instances when the judiciary appears to have been influenced by the popular mood and majoritarian instincts rather than the demands for justice and fair play.
The courts are the last hope of the dispossessed and disadvantaged and of the minorities in any society – more so in a democracy. If the courts act in a partisan manner, stand with the powerful or are influenced by factors other than justice, there is no hope for that society.
As the Roman poet Juvenal famously asked: quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (who will watch the watchers?)
The judiciary is supposed to protect the rights of all citizens that are granted under the constitution. One of these rights is the right to equality before the law. Unfortunately, this right is being increasingly trampled upon in Modi’s India.
Justice is vested not in being neutral between right and wrong, as former US president Roosevelt argued, but in upholding the right against the wrong. Without justice, no society can survive.
The writer is an award-winning journalist.
Email: aijaz.syed@hotmail.com

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