Monday, April 4, 2011

A Question Of Inheritance

New Age | Newspaper: "A skirmish between Islamic Law Implementation Committee activists and law-enforcers left one man killed and at least 30 people injured in Jessore on Sunday.

The clash erupted when the police intercepted a procession brought out by the Islamic bigots to drum up support for today’s countrywide general strike called by the ILIC in protest against the Women Development Policy 2011 that they claim to contain anti-Islamic provisions ensuring a spectrum of women’s rights.

The deceased was identified as Hafiz Hossain Ahmed, a student at Madaninagar Hafezia Madrassah and son of Ismail Ahmed of Chakla under Monirampur upazila of Jessore.

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Notice the language of the New Age: the protesting mullahs are 'bigots' and 'zealots'. Is this reportage? Naturally, such language diminishes the death of the young student, who was nothing but a 'bigot' and a 'zealot'.

I sympathise with Anjuman-e-Hefajat-e-Islam (Society for the Protection of Islam), though I deplore their method: instead of a hartal, they could have resorted to peaceful protest.

These people are struggling against 'desacralisation', though they would not use the term. Islamic law has, since the encounter with the west, been whittled down to Muslim Family Law: the clerics are struggling against even this remnant being whittled away. For the government, NGOs and western donors want to repeal the Muslim law of inheritance and give equal inheritance rights to women. The mullahs have nothing against women: women are the safest in the Muslim world, thanks to Islam.

In a brilliant letter to the editor in the now-defunct Bangladesh Observer (no other newspaper would have printed it, certainly not the New Age or the Daily Star), a writer argued thus: "...whenever questions of inheritance comes it seems that a hundred per cent of the people take for granted that each and every parent leaves behind a (sic) huge property and their heirs are just to distribute them and enjoy. In fact, this is a misconception. Many a father leaves behind huge debts. Who pays back the debts? Usually in our society not a single girl is asked to pay the debt of her father (Md. Shah Jahan, Letter, 4 April 2008). "

When a father passes away, and his janaza is held at the mosque, it is the son who tells the congregation that if his father had any debts, the debtor should come to him. Daughters never do this. Culture, religion and law are perfectly aligned here.

The above writer foresees "doomsday" for women if they are also expected equally to inherit assets as well as liabilities. It is only the propertied elite that leave behind property.

"It is the microscopic wealthy section of society, which may claim for equal right of inheritance for boys and girls but the majority of girls will not prefer to pay debts of their parents. They are far greater in number and their voice is not heard." True.

Equality is a western obsession born of the experience of freedom, a preoccupation unknown in the rest of humanity.

More generally, people who hate Islamic law are quite happy to live and work in the UAE, for instance, protected by the sharia and the monarchy. My uncle lived in Abu Dhabi for years, made a packet and moved to Canada, from where he looks down on 'autocracy'. It seems that people like to go where the money is: mullahs can offer very little cash unlike NGOs and western donors.

I hope for the best for the Anjuman-e-Hefajat-e-Islam.

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