While the US-based Pew Research Centre in its recent survey revealed the fact that most Muslims worldwide favor Islamic sharia to be made the “official law of the land”, the Muslims of India scored a point by actually setting up the first such court at the initiative of All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) in Mumbai, the economic capital of India. As reported in a section of the media this sharia court or Darul Quza was formally inaugurated on April 30 in Anjuman-e-Islam, in Mumbai’s Muslim-majority Nagpada area fulfilling the “long-felt need” of the community.
Increasing the population and then demanding to be governed by the Islamic sharia laws has been the strategy of the Muslim community world over. Especially, in countries like India where they are busy in developing their pockets in sensitive areas, such demands are likely to crop up in future. Already, sharia courts are functioning in Muslim majority Hyderabad, Patna and Malegaon cities of our country notwithstanding the long-pending demand for common civil code.
The quazis appointed by the Board will be dealing with cases related to marriage, divorce and inheritance cases. “This court will function to settle mainly family disputes pertaining to marriage, divorce and inheritance. Marriage disputes will be settled quickly and the couples will be told to either reconcile or separate if reconciliation is not possible. It will save the community much time and money as fighting cases in civil courts is expensive and time-consuming,” said AIMPLB secretary Maulana Wali Rahmani.
In the United Kingdom too, the Muslims have recently organised demonstrations demanding sharia courts. Their pleas failed to get justice by the British law and as such wanted sharia courts. It is the natural fallout of the considerable growth of Muslim population in the UK and other European countries.
Though the percentage of Muslims in favor of sharia being made “official law of the land” varies widely around the world from fewer (Azarbaijan 8 per cent) to near unanimity (Afghanistan 99 per cent), solid majorities in Middle East, North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia favor the establishment of sharia as official law.
The survey covered Muslims living in 39 countries of Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa showed that they found themselves most comfortable with using sharia in resolving domestic matters, family or property disputes, matters of divorce etc.
The survey also pointed that most Muslims believed that “Islam is the one true religion leading to eternal life in heaven” and that “belief in God is necessary for being a moral person.”
More than four-fifths of the 38,000 Muslims interviewed in 39 countries said non-Muslims in their countries could practice their faith freely and that this was good.
This view was strongest in South Asia, where 97 per cent of Bangladeshis and 96 per cent of Pakistanis agreed, while the lowest Middle Eastern result was 77 per cent in Egypt. In Pakistan Muslims said that “non-Muslims are very free to practice their religion”.
The survey also pointed that most Muslims see no tension between being religiously devout and living in a modern democracy. They also see no conflict between religion and science. Many favored democracy over authoritarian rule.
Democracy wins slight majorities in key Middle Eastern states – 54 per cent in Iraq, 55 per cent in Egypt – and falls to 29 per cent in Pakistan. By contrast, it stands at 81 per cent in Lebanon, 75 per cent in Tunisia and 70 per cent in Bangladesh.
In most countries surveyed, Muslims were more worried about Islamist extremism than any other form of religious violence.
Violence and terrorism in the name of religion did not find many supporters among the global Muslim community, the survey noted. Violent acts like suicide bombing, or violence against civilians, have found a small number of supporters who justified these acts to defend Islam. 26 per cent in Bangladesh, 29 per cent in Egypt, 39 per cent in Afghanistan and 40 per cent in Palestine justified violence in the name of Islam.
However, half of the Muslims in most countries surveyed said that they were concerned about the religious extremist groups in their respective countries. 67 per cent in Egypt, 67 per cent in Tunisia, 68 per cent in Iraq, 78 per cent in Indonesia expressed concern over religious extremism.
Islam and Women
In most countries surveyed the majorities of Muslim women as well as men agreed that “a wife is always obliged to obey her husband”. Over 90 per cent Muslims in Iraq, Morocco, Tunisia, Indonesia, Afghanistan, and Malaysia expressed this view. Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Azerbaijan, Palestine, Malaysia and sub-Saharan African countries supported polygamy.
However, in reality the picture appears to be strikingly very different. Take the case of Hindus and Christians or Ahmadiya Muslims in Pakistan and Bangladesh against this finding of the survey that “non-Muslims are very free to practice their religion”. What is the condition of Hindus and Christians who are minority in Muslim countries? Thousands of Hindus and Christians in Pakistan are subjected to mindless violence, and atrocities of all kinds leaving them with two options –either accept Islam or get killed or leave the country. The recent waves of Hindu refugees from Pakistan to India and their resolve that they would prefer starvation and death over going back to Pakistan reflected on the Muslim psychology behind granting “religious freedom” to people of other faiths.
In Saudi Arabia, Kuwait or other Islamic countries the people professing other faiths are not permitted to perform their religious ceremonies and have their worshipping places erected. They are made to follow the Islamic laws and rules and any violations thereof are liable to the punishments according to sharia.
In the recent violence that erupted following action against the Jamat-e-Islami leaders in Bangladesh, the Hindus were made the target. They bore the brunt of the violence targeted against them by the rampaging Muslims mobs. How can one justify “freedom of religion” vis-à-vis this stark reality in these Muslim countries?
The survey also pointed to the inclination of most Muslims towards democracy than authoritarian rule. In principle it may be so. But in reality there is hardly any Muslim country where democracy thrived. Pakistan is again a glaring example where dictators ruled for a long time in between short spans of democratic governments.
Religious extremism is another major problem in all the Muslim countries. The treatment meted out to Ahmadiyyas and Kadiyanis in Pakistan is yet another example. It is raising its head in various European countries. The Pew survey, unfortunately does not throw light on this conflicting issues in Islam.
(Inputs from www.pewforum.org)