Man goes to Madarsa to understand Muslim viewpoint, is accused of interference

Dehradun based Alok Bhatt decided to take an extra step and learn about common Indian Muslim’s views on issues like triple talaq and Uniform Civil Code (UCC), but little did he know that he will find himself in middle of a controversy and unknown calls following this rather admirable effort.

Alok, who is an active Twitter user, visited a local Madarsa on Saturday and talked to a few children studying there and other men accompanying those children or managing affairs of the Madarsa. Later, he shared his experience in shape of a series of tweets.

In his tweets, Alok praised the hafiz (caretaker) of Madarsa for being welcoming and talked to a few students about their studies, career plans, etc. Later he talked to a couple of men about their views on ongoing debate over triple talaq and UCC.

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One of the men, Alok spoke to, opened up and told him about his sister who was divorced by her husband and she was left to fend for herself. He accepted that it was unfair on his sister, but claimed that triple talaq was part of the Holy Quran, as was told to him by a Maulavi the previous day.

Alok was given some pamphlets, which were distributed in the Madarsa for the women in local community to fill up. Muslim women were supposed to sign these pamphlets and declare that they were “fully satisfied” with rulings of Islamic Shariah, particularly about marriage, inheritance, and divorce, and that they “fully support” the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (which has vowed to retain the triple talaq practice).

Pamphlet to support personal laws
A sample pamphlet that Alok saw in the Madarsa (a higher resolution variant can be seen by clicking here).

It should be noted that the Law Commission has asked people to send their views on UCC and other related issues, and it appears that Madarsas are being used to create this public “support” in sync with views of the AIMPLB. This “wave of support” will later be conveyed to the Law Commission, declaring that Muslim women in India are happy with the status quo.

But are they really happy? When Alok probed the man further and asked for his views on triple talaq given what his sister had to undergo, the man got emotional, and said – what can we do? we are poor – and went inside.

Alok later shared his experience on Twitter and made a case about importance of understanding Indian Muslims by having a dialogue with them as a commoner – a conclusion anyone can hardly disagree with.

However, phone calls started coming in the following day after his series of tweets were shared by many. People claiming to speak on behalf of Muslim organizations told him that he shouldn’t have visited the Madarsa and talked about issues like talaq to young children (even though he talked to them only about studies).

There was a call that virtually accused him of trying to “interfere” in religious matters and of “misinterpreting” Islam. Perhaps this accusation flew from the fact that Alok had asked one Maulavi about proof of triple talaq being present in Quran – an argument many Muslim scholars too have made (that triple talaq is nowhere mentioned in the Quran).

These phone calls didn’t stop and Alok found himself in the middle of a controversy that he never intended to trigger. His tweets had suddenly become “controversial”. He even tweeted “I will NOT delete the tweets” last night, but found the pressure from certain quarters a bit too much.

“My entire intention was to reach out, but I was being accused of interfering,” Alok said when OpIndia.com got in touch with him, “As tone of calls changed, I realized that perhaps it is better that I don’t talk about this. I don’t want to get into some legal trouble, being accused of blasphemy or creating enmities between communities when my intentions were just the opposite. What better proof of my clear intention than the fact that I left my telephone number with the Madarsa teacher?”

As a result, on Monday morning, Alok deactivated his Twitter account.

He still can’t believe that he had to face this after such an honest dialogue without any ill will or bias.

“It was so poignant, humbling, and yet so troubling experience when I heard the story of someone’s sister,” Alok told OpIndia.com on phone, “But I didn’t know that I will have to face calls from unknown people asking me to explain my visit and intentions.”

Alok told OpIndia.com that he will wait for the “controversy” to die down and then will decide whether to be back on Twitter.

And while Alok decides not to tweet or say anything on the matter, those pamphlets are being signed by Muslim women, who perhaps don’t even know what they are signing on, telling the Law Commission that they don’t need any change.

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