Hadiya case is all about our old neurosis over Muslim men, invaders, seducers

Hadiya in Supreme Court
Hadiya Jahan (centre) appears for the hearing at the Supreme Court in New Delhi Monday | Photo by Vipin Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

The case will affect the future of interfaith marriages that are legally challenged by families.

If a woman stands in an open court and says she is an adult who married of her free will, no court should have the right to tell her to complete her studies first. This is what the honourable worthies of our Supreme court have now done. Yes, they have freed her from the custody of her parents—one step forward—but in insisting she complete her studies in Tamil Nadu—it appears to me that they may have simultaneously taken a step backwards.

As a woman who chooses to exercise free choice in all aspects of her life, I am quite unsettled at the journey of the Hadiya case. It’s not just the Islamophobia that bothers me, it’s the quiet presumption that others (mostly male) know better than the 24 year old adult woman who made the choice to convert and marry outside her faith.

There is a searing and vital principle of free will that is being repeatedly violated in the Hadiya case. An adult woman must have the right to jump hoops, marry, divorce, choose her faith, shave her head or cover it, study or count sheep for the rest of her life. No one should tell her what to do. I would go so far as to ask why did Hadiya ask to be released in the custody of her husband? Why should any man, family or institution be guardian to an adult?

Islamophobia is only a part of the story. At the heart of it is the reality of a patriarchal society that sees women as chattel that belongs to them, represents their wealth and standing in the social pecking order and therefore has to be guarded like property. That’s how Khap panchayats, not far from the national capital, see their women and fight over those who choose to romance or marry outside the caste lineage.

The thing about chattel (a personal possession) is that it is owned by others and representative of their honour or lack of it. It’s the same kind of psychology that decides that Padmavati (whether she existed or not) is a symbol of honour and is possibly being dishonoured by a film that no one has seen. To add to the paranoia, there’s a lurking Muslim invader, who certainly did exist, in the frame!

Let me recount what the late VHP leader Giriraj Kishore once told me back in the late 90s when I started covering the BJP. Muslim men, he said, cast lascivious eyes on innocent Hindu maidens and because they have a particular surgery, they can pleasure many at one go. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry but for those who don’t get it, he meant circumcision. The spectre of Muslim men/invaders/ seducers therefore is an old neurosis that is carried by some members of the VHP type organisations and presumably by some of those who now argue that Hadiya was brainwashed (possibly a result of seduction by men of a particular faith?)

In spite of all our patriarchal attitudes, modern law decrees that women have equal right and freedoms. It is a particularly perverse national imagination that continues to insist that a woman who has broken the norm in a traditional social order has been “brainwashed”. Some of the language used by the National Investigative Agency (NIA) includes the phrase “psychological kidnapping”. On a lighter note, one could say that if one reads about the science of falling in love, there is an element of psychological kidnapping in the entire process!

The Hadiya case is important at several levels. Currently, her marriage to Shafin Jahan stands annulled following a Kerala High Court order earlier this year. The Supreme Court has yet to rule on the validity of her marriage and the next hearing will be in the third week of January 2018. The case has a standing on the future of interfaith marriages that are legally challenged by families.

The case will also eventually weigh in on the concept of Love Jihad, first used in the Mangalore and Kerala coast in 2009, but now applied indiscriminately to any area where Muslims are present in large numbers. Is there really an organized conspiracy of Muslim males sent to seduce women in order to brainwash them to become terrorists?

Women are such silly creatures, after all, who would do anything for a man that’s seduced them… so who knows.

Let me also make a full disclosure. I am not an objective party in this matter. I do confess to being from a family of jihadis, that is, people who married and produced children with partners across the barricades of religion. Our misguided family thought they were making love not war. Now we know better: it is love in the times of hate.

7 COMMENTS

  1. Before you start talking big things & pontificating, you have to check some basic facts so you don’t ridiculous in the end, as often you do. Hadia was not in her parents’ custody. She was housed in an independent place with police guard all along. The fact is she was just taken out of her “husband’s” custody. Anyway, if the marriage has been annulled by Keral HC, it is natural that she could not have continued with the “husband”. But what is surprising everyone alike is that it is the terror angle (PFI & its connect with ISIS and consequent anti national activities) that should have been the focus as it is the critical thing affecting the country as a whole. Instead we get to hear about a marriage that has gone sour and still the wife wanting to get united with the husband which is of least importance from the national perspective. Even the media, instead of focusing on the terror angle, is preferring to talk about feminism and issues relating to women being objectified et al. The phrase “love jihad” itself was coined by a communist leader some 15 years ago. What is the point of bringing in BJP /RSS into this and further analyze Indian ‘neurosis about muslim men? Be better next time and write sense.

  2. Whether your father was from a jihadi family or mother. Make the disclosure clear. Because in 99.9% of the so called inter faith marriages it is the male from non Hindu religion and female from Hindu religion and the female partner invariably “converts” to the non Hindu religion. Well it is Islam or Christianity. I have yet to see an inter faith couple where the Muslim boy converts to Hinduism and the boys family accepts it. If you have come across any Muslim boy having converted to Hinduism after his marriage and the parents are comfortable with it please make it public.

  3. Honestly I give a shit to what this so called journalist has to say on matters about religion or politics, however thought of reading this article out of curiousity, maybe I was foolish to assume she would give a perspective. But she being what she is, her article turned out to be another crap. Just wanted to know from her, is it mandatory for girl to convert to islam? Why cant the guy convert to Hinduism? while one may argue, its the matter of choice, its been the pattern across. It would be naive to believe that ppl convert to islam bcos they liked it.

  4. Saba – I loved your piece and accept everything you say as is ‘xcept this – “If a woman stands in an open court and says she is an adult who married of her free will, no court should have the right to tell her to complete her studies first” because it actually confuses your take that “I would go so far as to ask why did Hadiya ask to be released to the custody of her husband? Why should any man, family or institution be guardian to an adult?” Even financially independent women in India today are not “independent” – for this reason alone I would have loved it that Hadiya converted (or not) but finished her studies and stood on her own 2 legs instead of her father/ her husband… Yes: her father has no right to choose how she wants to live and with whom but as a parent who has (most likely) paid thro his nose to get her admitted to this private Homeopathy college for a professional degree that can secure her future – he does have a valid point of view too – one that has been missed completely because this is what we would have said had the offensive flag of Love Jihad not been waved vigorously – not just by the so called right wing but by our dear liberal communist ruling party of Kerala. So sadly, much as I would like to celebrate Hadiya’s speech and appearance at the SC, I have a sinking feeling the whole lot of them have made fools of we the people by unleashing one red herring (Padmavati) after another. Incidentally, the much-maligned father of Hadiya is an ex-serviceman and an atheist according to The Hindu report (http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/who-is-hadiya/article19862371.ece) which also mentions that Hadiya joined her Homeopathy course in 2010 and is yet to complete it in 2017? I refuse to be called cliched to repeat what everyone knows – what liberates a person is Education (mentally) and a job (practically).

  5. Women are not “silly creatures”.
    But “would do anything for a man” out of love and affection.
    The first such woman for a man would be his own mother.

    This is sad because not all such men deserve this.

    You have said “I do confess to being from a family of jihadis, that is, people who married and produced children with partners across the barricades of religion.”. That means it is one sided right ?

    You have said “Our misguided family thought they were making love not war. Now we know better: it is love in the times of hate.”.

    But Si this “love” of the man woman kind the response to hate?

  6. Poorly written, could have done better research and analysis. arguments lack depth and don’t represent things from a historical perspective. Typical arguments of an educated but no wisdom person.

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