Imams against Dowry?
Aasha Mehreen Amin
Sabina Yasmin, the wife of the chief Imam
of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) Hospital
Jame Mosque, had become accustomed to a life of abuse during
her 15 years of marriage. Her husband, Hafiz Moulana Saiful
Islam had started to beat her for a dowry of one lakh taka
within a few years into their marriage. Often Sabina would
run to her father to get money demanded by her brutal husband.
When she failed, he would torture her physically and psychologically.
All this she endured for the sake of her children.
the Imam asked her to agree to his marrying again, she put
her foot down. Saiful left the house and started to live in
the mosque refusing to give his family household and education
expenses. Desperate, Sabina went to the mosque to ask for
money for her children. Saiful refused and kicked her away.
Undeterred, Sabina went again in the evening. This time she
found Abdul Kader, the muezzin of the mosque. An altercation
followed and Kader started to beat her, grabbing her by the
neck, banging her head on the wall, and then tried to throw
her out of the veranda. Her two children saved her from being
pushed out of the veranda and were also beaten. All this happened
in front of Sabina's husband Hafiz Moulana Saiful Islam. Later
Sabina, her whole face bleeding, was taken to hospital in
the incident is deplorable it is no big surprise. Instances
of religious leaders and their sycophants being obsessed with
keeping women in their control through brutal repression are
quite common. Women have been flogged in public for choosing
their partners; they have been denied the right to work and
earn, to vote, to choose when to have babies. They have been
denied the right to protest against abandonment, polygamy,
rape and domestic abuse. All this in the name of religion.
Religious sermons at congregations invariably include how
women should obey their husbands, how they should dress and
how society must be saved from the 'un-Islamic' freedoms given
to this 'inferior', 'unstable' gender. At the same time these
moral policeman have remained silent on issues like acid violence,
rape and dowry deaths. These crimes go against the principles
of religion, yet they are never referred to, forget condemned,
by these self-righteous clerics.
this is old news. But a few weeks ago a news item published
in The Daily Star last month had the most surprising story.
The heading said 'Imams Launch Crusade against Dowry.' Fifty
Imams from all over Brahmanbaria got together and announced
that they would begin a campaign against dowry, labelling
it a 'social vice that claims the lives of hundreds of girls
in the country and destroys families'. The Imams said that
they would neither accept nor give dowry and that their campaign
would target all the 3,137 mosques in Brahmanbaria. The meeting
was organised by Brahmanbaria Islamic Foundation and the campaign
included anti-dowry sermons at religious functions such as
milad or waz mahfil where a large number
of people can be addressed.
of this 'Social Revolution Against Dowry' have pledged to
stop dowry negotiations during matchmaking. Moreover, they
have decided to campaign to promote the idea that daughters
and sons are equal and should get equal opportunities for
education. The speakers categorically stated that the prevalent
dowry system was opposed to Islam and thus believers must
could be more encouraging and refreshing than the knowledge
that there are religious leaders who are progressive minded
and who preach the true essence of faith that aims to make
society more just and peace loving.
is one of the most respected persons in a community and his
views are taken as God's truth. So when an Imam says that
taking dowry is 'unIslamic', immoral and has to be resisted,
the impact on people is huge. Thus such campaigns as initiated
by the Brahmanbaria Imams, if they can be sustained and emulated
all over the country, could drastically avert dowry-related
violence. Laws that make dowry a punishable offence are never
enforced while the practice of dowry has been an accepted
custom for centuries, one that is too lucrative for the groom's
party, to give up. But if it is proclaimed as a sin in religious
terms, it will soon lose its societal immunity.
one of the few things both Muslims and Hindus of this country
have been united about is the practice of dowry in spite of
it being prohibited by law. This shows the cultural origins
of this system and the fact that it has nothing to do with
the basic principles of religion. Dowry is merely another
form of persecution of women and amounts to plain and simple
extortion. Women like Sabina, are victimised, sometimes murdered,
because their families cannot pay dowry.
ironic that only a few weeks after the campaign launched by
the Brahmanbaria Imams, right here in Dhaka City, an Imam
had the audacity to brutally abuse his wife and get her beaten
for failing to pay dowry. But campaigns as revolutionary as
this one will take time to change an age-old custom and the
general tendency to repress women. It is a small yet significant
step that the Imams of Brahmanbaria have taken. One that may
change not only medieval practices like dowry but also the
distorted image of Islam as a religion that advocates the
oppression of women.
(R) thedailystar.net 2004