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Published in the 16-31 May 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Mumbai bar girls

Eyes wide shut

By Ayub Khan

The Milli Gazette Online

Muslims are obligated by their faith to promote what is good and forbid what is evil in the societies they live in. This requirement is universal and not just limited to particular issues that concern their own community. They are indeed encouraged to cooperate with one and all irrespective of their religion in the promotion of good. Considering this, it is surprising that the Indian Muslim leadership, organizations and the intellegentsia are silent on the burning issues of the day that directly affect their community. 

One such issue is the closure of dance bars across Maharashtra. If the state government goes ahead with its plans, it will shut 700 dance bars in Mumbai and throw more than 75,000 dancers out of job. "The bars are corrupting the moral fibre of our youth," says the state's Home Minister RR Patil citing the reason for the ban. The supporters of these dance bars claim that banning them would lead these dance girls straight into prostitution and lead to further corruption of the society. They argue that the bar dancers are forced to join this profession due to straitened financial circumstances and that most of them do not engage into prostitution.

From an Islamic perspective dancing in bars is, of course, impermissible. But is it just enough to condemn the act? Shouldn't we find solutions to these dancers' plight and try to rehabilitate them? Reportedly, a large number of these dancers are Muslims. According to a report published in the Asian Tribune, the Baharatiya Bar Girls Unions has "charged the state regime with victimizing the Muslim bar girls from West Bengal state by alleging that they were from Bangladesh."

Claiming that the majority of the bar girls were from Muslim community, weaker sections of Hindu society and within Maharashtra, the Union has said that they were beaten up in four different bars by mob carrying slogans of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), a regional party, headed by Union Minister for Agriculture Sharad Pawar," the report goes on to say. (http://www.asiantribune.com/show_news.php?id=14055)

While the debate rages on, the Muslim response has been nothing but a deafening silence. From political parties to Islamist organizations to NGO's all seem to be oblivious to reality and have buried their hands in sands. Those organizations which never tire of shouting slogans like "Islam is the solution to all societal evils" are nowhere to be seen. It is about time that these Muslim groups in particular and the community as a whole wake up to the ills affecting the society and find workable and realistic solutions to them if they want to be taken seriously. Slogan shouting, endless speeches and other attention grabbing stunts simply won't do. 

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