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‘Sacrificing women’s rights to appease Islamists is in the DNA of Congress’: Shehzad Poonawalla pulls up Rahul Gandhi for promoting Hijab politics

"When he legitimizes a young girl putting Hijab over Kitab, who is he appealing to? Hardliners who Rajeev Ji appealed to when he overturned Shahbano's judgment or the ones he appealed to by opposing Triple Talaq's judgment", Shehzad asked.

On September 20, Bharatiya Janata Party’s national spokesperson Shehzad Poonawalla criticized Rahul Gandhi and the Congress party for his appeasement politics. He expressed his anguish over a photograph of Rahul Gandhi where he was seen walking with a girl child wearing Hijab on September 19.

Notably, the post by the Congress party with Rahul’s photograph came at a time when anti-Hijab protests have been happening in Iran following the death of Mahsa Amini, who was reportedly beaten by moral police for not wearing the hijab properly. At the same time, Muslim girls and women, aided by Islamist groups are “fighting” for their “right” to wear hijab in educational institutes in violation of the uniform dress code, and the matter is sub-judice in the Supreme Court of India.

In his tweet thread, Shehzad pointed out that he was not speaking as a political person but as an Indian and an Indian Muslim. He said, “Forget BJP/Congress today. I speak as an Indian & an Indian Muslim. This picture smacks of the worst form of appeasement, like his father in the Shahbano case. Is Rahul Gandhi unaware of Mahsa Amini & women trying to break off the shackles of patriarchy peddled in the name of religion?”

He pointed out that by publishing such photographs, Rahul legitimised a young girl putting a hijab over her Kitab (book). He questioned whom he was appealing to by posing for such a photograph. He said, “When he legitimizes a young girl putting Hijab over Kitab, who is he appealing to? Hardliners who Rajeev Ji appealed to when he overturned Shahbano’s judgment or the ones he appealed to by opposing Triple Talaq’s judgment?”

Further, Shehzad added that the hijab is not even an essential part of religious practices under Islam. He said, “Is Hijab essential to Islam-NO – ask my mom, ask Courts.”

He added, “They say ladki hoon lad sakti hoon, but they endorse this? They have always sacrificed women’s rights at the altar of appeasement politics. Shame on Rahul & his ilk.”

“This is how Congress stoked & engineered even the Hijab controversy with PFI in Karnataka where courts exposed them. Their leaders said the most horrible statements inciting a vote bank to put Hijab above Kitab. Remember how Congress furled violence with these statements? Today Congress has betrayed Mahila for kattar fundamentalists & Islamists,” he said.

Speaking to OpIndia on the matter, Shehzad said, “I am hurt as an Indian seeing how Rahul Gandhi has completely supported and became a poster boy of appeasement with this picture.”

Shehzad said the photograph was not an innocent post. It was not put out to show Rahul Gandhi cares about children. “It was put out to send a devious message at the time when the entire world and particularly Iran and middle-east are grabbling with the aftermath of the Mahsa Amini killing.”

He said, on the one hand, there are women who are saying they want to break the shackles of patriarchy. On the one hand, there are women who want to break the imposed bondages that have been put on them in the name of religion. “This is the time when the hijab issue is going on in courts. At this time, Rahul Gandhi is giving a message that he stands against this kind of outdated patriarchal system. That child should have been pictured with a Kitab, not a hijab,” he added.

Shehzad said, “But you know this is the nature of Congress. Its DNA has been to sacrifice women’s rights on the altar of fundamentalist Islamist politics. Whether it was Rajiv Gandhi in the Shahbano case, or Congress party in the Triple Talaq case, or let it be Rahul Gandhi who, in the name of being pro-choice, has sided for hijab. Now hijab is not mentioned in the Quran in the context it has laid out to be. There is no sanction in Quran that says women have to wear it. My mother never wore a hijab. No women wore in the 70s and 80s. Women did not wear it until Congress started the game of identity politics. The court itself has not held hijab as part of religious practice unlike Pagdi of Sikhs that is part of the five Ks.”

He further added that it was Congress and PFI that pushed the protests in Karnataka in favour of the hijab. Shehzad said the idea to back the protests and put up such a photograph was to please the vote bank. He said, “It shows they stand with fundamentalists and hardliners while they say ‘ladki hun lad sakti hun.'”

Speaking about the arguments given in the Supreme Court in favour of the Hijab, Shehzad said, “The kind of arguments given by the Congress party, especially by Advocate Dushyant Dave who said it is the garment of dignity. Does he mean to say that those who don’t wear hijab, including my mom, are not dignified women? Does he mean to say that dignity only comes from a garment? Dignity does not come from a garment. Dignity comes from your character. Does that mean if I do not wear a particular piece of clothing, I am a bad Muslim? If I wear it on my head and do the most corrupt thing, how am I dignified? And if I do not wear it on my head and do the noblest thing as per my religion or constitution, am I undignified?”

Shehzad gave the example of Khap Panchayat. He said when Khap Panchayat orders to wear this and don’t wear that, the Congress ecosystem attacks them. They are able to attack them because Khap Panchayat is not their vote bank. “Agenda is not about the women. The agenda is about the vote bank. Islamists that are rejected even in the Islamic nations, they are their [Congress’s] vote bank.”

Some time back, when the hijab issue was being discussed in Karnataka Court, advocate Nizam Pasha published a tweet saying, “Holy Quran 33:59 explains why Muslim women should wear a hijab. “So that they can be recognized as Muslim and not be harassed.” The hijab is meant to tell people that this is a strong woman with a strong community standing behind her that you are taking on, so tread with caution.”

Speaking about such a mindset, Shehzad said, “You see, this is the kind of skewed logic even Congress leader Zameer Ahmed made that those women who are in hijab don’t get raped and those who are not in hijab get raped. Tell me, when a girl of 1-year-old or 2-year-old is raped, how does that happen? What does clothing have to do with that? The logic that harassment happens because of what the women wear is absolving the mindset of the rapist and them. This is the same mindset Ashok Gehlot has. He said don’t blame the rapist, blame the rape laws.

Shaming the victim is a common tendency among these people. Therefore saying harassment will not happen if you identify yourself by hijab and harassment will happen if you do not identify yourself by hijab shows you are victim shaming. You are survivor shaming. Tell me, have no women wearing hijab got harassed or raped? Is he saying that? Is there a 100% guarantee that women wearing hijab will not get harassed or raped? If that is so, why are there reported cases of women who wear hijab being harassed, killed, or thrown out of houses for patty reasons like ‘daal mein namak kam hai’? There is no connection between the hijab and women being harassed. It is about the mindset of the harasser or the rapist. It is not about the garment. Women can be in miniskirts, full salwar kameez, hijab or saree and still get harassed. We need to correct the mindset of the harasser and not the harassed.

Speaking about the goalpost shifting tactics of the so-called liberals like Kavita Krishnan of the Indian society who, on the one hand, support ‘protests in favour of hijab in India’ and on the other hand support ‘protests against hijab in Iran and other countries, Shehzad said, “Those who are leftists can never be liberal. Left in itself, it is illiberal. These people who call themselves left-liberals or Lutyens liberals are actually pseudo-liberals or just fake liberals. They are fiberals and not liberals. They support and push the most outdated value systems. These are the people who, in the name of secularism, bat for the most orthodox, conservative, and regressive personal laws.”

He added, “For example, the Uniform Civil Code, which is a constitutional requirement, was applied to Goa when Congress was in power. But today, the Uniform Civil Code, which is the biggest tool for women empowerment and gender equality, is being opposed by them in Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh.

Similarly, a campaign for population control, ‘Hum Do Humare Do,’ was given during the time of Indira Gandhi. Everybody says a moderate-sized family is the way of sustainable living. The resources are limited. The environment cannot survive if we keep mass-producing children. There was a forcible sterilization drive by Sanjay Gandhi. It was fine then. But today, they oppose it because it will ‘target a particular community. Those who were in favour of amending Hindu laws in the 1950s and 60s, now when Triple Talaq was banished by the Supreme Court and a law was brought, they say it is targeting Muslim laws. What kind of double standard is this? These people are fake liberals. They do not represent liberal values.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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B.Sc. Multimedia, a journalist by profession.

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