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Seminar on Muslim women's rights
By K. Hamza, Calicut

In a two-day seminar held at Calicut in Kerala on 21-22 February under the joint auspices of The Centre for Study of Society and Secularism and the Institute of Islamic Studies, Mr.Asghar Ali Engineer, the reputed writer, stressed the need of emancipation of Muslim women, who are still under the domain of male chauvinism, and relegated to the bottom rung of social and political ladder in the State. He said the empowerment of Muslim women was crucial for the success of efforts towards the development of the nation.

Mr. Asghar reiterated that all communities should come to the aid of Muslim women to enable them to face the new challenges of the modern world. The first step towards this objective is to help them to overcome their backwardness. The minority communities remain in a state of ignorance of their rights and hence concerted efforts for the improvement of the Muslim women in particular and the Muslim community in general require top priority in the agenda of national development.

The Qur'an and the teachings of the Prophet clearly guide the women to gain literacy and knowledge for their improvement in this world and the next. But unfortunately, Mr. Asghar said that some Muslim scholars’ 'misinterpretation’ of the holy verses led to the present agony of situation and status. He also warned the Muslim community against the rising tide of Hindutva proponents who are communalizing the Muslim women's problems as an integral part of their secret agenda. According to Mr. Asghar, Muslim women should not hesitate to change their traditional attitude towards of family planning and higher education.

Mr. Asghar said that promises are often made by the ruling parties for the improvement of women and Dalits but these fail to materialize. For example, the former Prime Minister, Mr. Narasimha Rao had proclaimed to set up a development fund of Rs. 500 crores for minorities and Dalits, but the fund's allotment was only Rs. 50 crores. At the national level, the disturbing reality is that illiteracy and poverty are more among Muslims compared to women in other communities. He admitted the fact that Muslim women in Kerala have achieved some enviable status in literacy and social fields. They are better off than the women of the county in the northern States. He appealed to Muslim women to study the Qur'an and understand their rights in Shari’a so that they can improve their status and eradicate their present agony under the male chauvinism. 
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