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Indian Muslims say Modi’s legal reforms divisive

Protests follow plans to introduce a common civil code for all religions

18:22 October 13, 2016

New Delhi: An influential Indian Muslim group on Thursday accused the country’s Hindu nationalist prime minister of triggering an “internal war” with plans to introduce a common civil code for all religions.

The Indian constitution currently allows the country’s 1.2 billion citizens to be governed by their own religious laws when it comes to marriage, divorce and property inheritance.

But Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government wants bring in a common civil code that it says will enhance national unity.

On Thursday the All India Muslim Personal Law Board said they would block any attempt to abolish Islamic family laws.

“You can’t impose a single ideology in India. Modi has triggered an internal war in India,” Maulana Wali Rahmani, head of AIMPLB, told reporters at a press conference in New Delhi.

“A uniform civil code is not good for India, which has many cultures and religions. It will divide India,” he said.

India’s Law Commission has sought public feedback on a common law that would ban polygamy and triple talaq divorce.

The development comes days after the Union government told the Supreme Court that triple talaq and polygamy were not integral to the practice of Islam or essential religious practices.

Calling the questionnaire “misleading and divisive”, Rahmani said Muslims will not respond to it.

“We will boycott this questionnaire. No Muslim will respond to it because it is misleading and deceitful. The Uniform Civil Code is divisive and will lead to social unrest,” he told media persons here.

“The uniform code is not suited for this nation. There are so many cultures in India and they have to be respected. A uniform code is against the spirit of the Constitution, which safeguards the right of citizens to practise their culture and religion,” he said.

Questioning the timing of the move, Rahmani said the Narendra Modi government had deliberately thrown up this issue now to “hide its failures in the last two-and-half years”.

The commission said the objective was to “address discrimination against vulnerable groups and harmonise various cultural practises.”

Muslim personal law has long been a controversial issue in India.

Some Indian Muslim women have in recent years launched legal challenges to triple talaq, which they say discriminates against them and violates their human rights.

A case in the mid-1980s involving Muslim woman Shah Bano, who took her rejected demand for alimony to the Supreme Court, triggered debate across India over whether the court had authority over Muslim personal law.

The court upheld her right to alimony, but its verdict was reversed by a law passed by the then-Congress party government after Muslim groups reacted angrily.

Any attempt since then to bring a common civil code has proved deeply divisive in the officially secular but mainly Hindu country.

Other prominent Muslims who represented their respective organisations at the press conference here included Maulana Arshad Madani (Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind), Mohammad Jafar (Jamaat-e-Islami Hind), Maulana Asghar Imam Mehdi (Markazi Jamiat Ahle Hadith), Maulana Mahmood Madani (Jamiat Ulema Hind), M. Manzoor Alam (All India Milli Council), Naved Hamid (All India Majlis-e-Mushawarat) and Maulana Abul Qasim Naumani (Rector, Darul Uloom Deoband).

Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind President Maulana Arshad Madani said: “The Muslim Personal Law is based on Quran and Hadith and we cannot alter it.”

“Modi-ji (Prime Minister Narendra Modi) wants to impose dictatorship in the name of democracy,” he added.