KOZHIKODE: RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has got an unexpected supporter in Kerala. Sunni scholar and general secretary of All India Sunni Jam-Iyyathul Ulema, Kanthapuram A P Aboobacker Musaliyar, has come out with a statement supporting Bhagwat’s remarks on the role of women in the Indian society.
On an interview published in the Friday edition of Siraj, the mouthpiece of ‘Kanthapuram’ faction of Sunnis, he said, “The demand for male-female equality is against nature. Man and woman have different faculties and different responsibilities.”
According to the Sunni leader, the problem is with the perception that men and women can be equal. Arguing that feminism is a western concept, he said, “When we accept ideas from outside, we need to consider whether they are acceptable to our society.”
Kanthapuram, who established Markazu Ssquafathi Ssunniyya after he came out of the Samastha Kerala Jam-Iyyathul Ulema, a body of Sunni scholars, in 1989, is perceived to be close to the Left. He was in the news recently after his detractors alleged that his move to build a mosque in Kozhikode to house a holy relic of the Prophet was aimed at exploiting religious beliefs for commercial gain.
Supporting Bhagwat, Kanthapuram said, “He has shown the space that should be occupied by women in society. Though I do not agree with his entire statement, the basic issue he raised needs to be discussed.”
Referring to the debate over the relationship between dress women wear and attacks on them, Kanthapuram said the slogan raised by protesters in Delhi was unacceptable. “‘Don’t speak about our dress, tell others not to attack us’ was their slogan. It amounts to saying that we will keep our houses open, but you stop stealing.”
Claiming that atrocities against women are less in Arab countries, Kanthapuram said it was because there are strict restrictions for women in those places. “The restrictions have not posed any hardship for the women in those countries…But here it is a free-for-all situation. Unlimited freedom is the basis of our problems,” he said.
“Strong punishment for perpetrators of violence against women alone may not suffice in solving the issue; equally important is avoiding situations that lead to such crimes,” Kanthapuram said.
All religious fundamentalists are birds of a feather when it comes to, well, fundamental issues like women’s rights. However, it was shocking that someone like Kanthapuram, whose Markaz movement has for the past 30 years stressed on education as the hallmark of social progress, should speak so patronisingly about women. Both his logic and idiom belong to some nomadic or Neanderthal past and would be laughable were it not a scary reminder of how such thoughts not only exist but are so freely expressed. Since ‘unlimited freedom’ seems to be the fundamentalists’ main grouse, should there be a ban on the gender equivalent of flat-earth theory as well? Mr Kanthapuram, any thoughts?
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