Protests over Mumbai shrine that bans women

Featured - November 12th, 2012
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Women have been barred from entering part of a Mumbai shrine, its authorities claiming they are rectifying a mistake in accordance to Sharia law.

The ban was introduced a year ago but recently came to light when a Muslim women’s group – the Indian Muslim Women’s Movement – brought up the issue with the Maharashtra State Minorities Commission on Wednesday after visiting the shrine in July.

Women are not allowed inside the sanctum sanctorum that houses the tomb of the Sufi saint Pir Haji Ali Shah Bukhari but are not restricted from the tomb’s large and open premises.

“They can read their prayers, do namaz and offer shawls and flowers. All that we are requesting to our sisters is not to enter inside the dargah (tomb),” said Rizwan Merchant, trustee of the Haji Ali Dargah Trust. “Sharia law claims that no woman can visit a cemetery or a grave”.

While some Sufi shrines don’t allow men, the ban on women from the Mumbai shrine “wasn’t appropriate”, Sadia Delhvi, author of “Sufism: The Heart of Islam” and “The Sufi Courtyard: Dargahs of Delhi”, told the Wall Street Journal’s India Real Time blog.

“This is a very radical interpretation and I think it sends a very wrong message and reinforces the stereotype that Islam is oppressive to women”.

Authorities said they made the decision after a woman visited the shrine in “inappropriate clothing”.