While Swara and her husband can have a blast in their upcoming celebrations, they need to remember the ordinary Muslim men and women who can’t enjoy such freedoms despite the Constitution of India giving them the right to do so.
Indian actress Swara Bhasker got married to Fahad Ahmad, a political activist and leader of the Samajwadi Party youth wing. They had a court marriage on January 6, 2023, under the Special Marriage Act. Swara announced her wedding on February 16, 2023, with a video that showed their love story. The Special Marriage Act is a law in India that allows people of different religions or faiths to get married without following their traditional rituals or customs. It was passed by the Parliament of India in 1954. It requires both parties to give notice to the Marriage Officer of their intention to marry and register their marriage in court. Now congratulations have been pouring in from across the spectrum for the happy couple, celebrating these freedoms available to all citizens under the Constitution of India.
There has been some toxicity too that the newly married couple faced after the announcement, such as unsolicited opinions not only from netizens of all hues but also from the usual fatwa-laden mullahs or scholars of Islam who cited Islamic scriptures about how the marriage of the Muslim man was invalid, Swara being a non-Muslim. In Islam, Muslim men are permitted to marry women from the People of the Book, which includes Jews and Christians. However, it is generally not permissible for Muslim men to marry women who are not from the People of the Book, such as atheists or people who follow other religions. It is also worth mentioning that although a Muslim man may be allowed to marry a non-Muslim woman under certain circumstances, it is generally recommended in Islam for Muslims to marry those who share their faith and values. It is important to note that even if the non-Muslim woman is from the People of the Book, the marriage would still have to meet certain conditions and requirements set by Islamic law. For example, the woman must be willing, and she should not be actively trying to convert him away from Islam.
Let’s see what provisions there are for Muslim women. In Islamic law, it is generally not permissible for a Muslim woman to marry a non-Muslim man, regardless of his religion or belief system. The primary reason for this is that Islamic law requires that the husband be the head of the household and the leader of the family, and it is believed that a non-Muslim husband may not be able to fulfil this role in accordance with Islamic teachings. However, some modern Islamic scholars argue that under certain circumstances, a Muslim woman may be permitted to marry a non-Muslim man. For example, if the woman is living in a non-Muslim country and cannot find a suitable Muslim partner, or if the woman is facing extreme hardship and marrying a non-Muslim man is the only way to escape the hardship, then some scholars may permit such a marriage. Nonetheless, it is frowned upon, and the social stigma attached to such an alliance discourages the women from following through.
Then there is the social evil of honour killing to ensure that Muslim women do not fall out of line in matters of the heart. Honour killing is a form of violence in which an individual, usually a Muslim woman, is murdered by a family member or a community member in the name of preserving or restoring the “honour” of the family or community. This can occur when the victim is perceived to have violated a cultural or religious norm, such as engaging in premarital sex, marrying someone from a different ethnic or religious group, or refusing an arranged marriage. Honour killings are a violation of basic human rights and are illegal in most countries around the world. They are not sanctioned by any religion, including Islam, even though they are sometimes referred to as “honour killings” in many regions with Muslim populations. The practice is condemned by Islamic scholars and organizations.
Honour killings as a social evil clearly stem from patriarchal cultural mores such as khap panchayats in India and the Pashtun culture in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The infamous Manoj-Babli honour killing case and the Mukhtar Mai assault case are examples of the honour mentality tied up to women’s bodies. Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy’s Oscar-nominated short documentary “A Girl in the River” examines an attempted honour killing in the Pakistani province of Punjab. Honour killings are not limited to the subcontinent but are prevalent in the West too where Muslim immigrants have settled. Efforts are being made by governments, human rights organizations, and community groups to address and prevent honour killings. This includes promoting gender equality, educating communities on human rights, and providing support to victims and their families.
Now while positive people are happy for the couple, it is their political and social activism which is being questioned that falls under the ‘regressive left’ term – Indian Left-Liberals’ tendency to uphold the ecosystem that enables this regressive practice among Muslims to go unchecked. The term “regressive left”, coined by former Hizbut Tahrir member British-Pakistani Maajid Nawaaz, now reformed activist is a political term used to describe a group of left-wing individuals or movements that are criticized for being intolerant of free speech and open debate, particularly when it comes to discussing certain topics such as regressive practices in Islam and political Islamism. The term is often used by those who believe that the left has abandoned its traditional principles of liberalism, and instead prioritizes group identity politics and social justice activism over individual freedoms and rational discourse. This can include labelling those who express opposing views as “bhakht,” “Sanghi,” or “right-wing,” in the Indian context and dismissing or silencing their arguments without engaging with them on a substantive level.
So, while the couple can have a blast in their upcoming celebrations, they need to remember the ordinary Muslim men and women who can’t enjoy such freedoms despite the Constitution of India giving them the right to do so. When they practice their political or social activism, never is it seen that they raise their concerns for the ordinary Muslim men and women who are held under the stranglehold of ulemas, issuing diktats about lifestyle choices, belief systems and other liberties that the liberal democracy of India gives to every citizen. News anchor Rubika Liaquat faces a lot of ire for her stand on the CAA and NRC while donning the saffron colour which she calls as the ‘Chisti-colour”. Sara Ali Khan, daughter of Saif Ali Khan and his ex-wife Amrita Singh is facing a lot of online vitriol because of her photos of Maha Shivratri Puja, despite her grandmother being of Hindu heritage too.
When the Left-Liberals (regressive left) purport speaking for the 174 million Muslims who they feel are being unfairly targeted by Hindus of all shades, they ought to go to the root cause of othering among Muslims, their “us vs them” mentality, which amplifies Muslim separatism. We have already been partitioned into two because of the unchecked Islamist supremacy and the seven decades of Muslim appeasement and vote bank politics haven’t benefited the community or brought modernisation to them. They still keep opposing progressive laws such as banning triple talaq (banned in many Muslim countries) and Uniform Civil Code (UCC). Therefore, the elite Muslims who play safe and do not question the ulema, and their non-Muslim allies, inevitably on the Left give them cover fire and apologia for the Islamist among them, are disconnected from the realities of the common, ordinary Muslim men and women, integrated into the idea of India but are constantly fed on the victimhood narrative, the likes of Swara and her hubby keep amplifying. That is a huge betrayal to the victims of Islamism and conservative Muslims.