In solidarity with Shehla Rashid

Shehla Rashid AISA protest.jpg

By Sana Khan for

So much has already been written, in support of her and against her, so much so that a few AMU students have called her Gustakh-e-Rasool, and even filed a police complaint against her. As for me reading all these posts – hateful, in solidarity, Shehla’s posts, her clarifications – I feel this is yet another time when religion is being used as an instrument to suppress a woman who is free, independent and well opinionated.

I have seen Shehla from simply attending a public meeting to speaking at one to leading movements. Many of us admire her; salute her courage; love her for what she stands for. She stands for a voice that resonates with the masses. She stands for what is right (Yes, one may have different political positions than hers but what cannot be denied is the strength with which she stands for humanity, for nonviolence, for reason, for love).

I read what she had written, and as a believer, a practicing Muslim woman I do not think she wrote anything that should ‘hurt’ the sentiments of anyone. These ‘protectors’ of religion who get hurt on smallest of the things, need to be asked, is your faith, your religion so frail-so fragile that any statement (even though in this case it has been misquoted/misused/abused) made by anyone would make it fall?

It is these kinds of incidents that happen when one understands why liberals or Marxists hate organised religion. It is because it is centered on the notion of fear. Marx called it the ‘opium of the masses’ for its falsifying reality and healing contradiction. Freud in his ‘Future of Illusion’ called it ‘collective neurosis’ where one depends upon religion for everything. If such incidents keep on happening from any of the communities belonging to any religion, one grows skeptical of organised religion. And such incidents pave path for further skepticism; and it is concluded that religion has no liberating potential. How do we come out of all this? It could be done by cultivating reason.

Reason, which also emanates from a religious ideology. It was the Prophet’s reason that helped raise the status of women as part of religious conviction and not just state policy. The popular term to describe someone who works for the upliftment/empowerment of women could be called a feminist. Shehla in calling the prophet a feminist commits no blasphemy. I have been growing up listening to stories of the Prophet since my socialisation has been in a Muslim household. Consider this story, during the Prophet’s time in the seventh century Arabia when a boy would be born, around hundred goats would be sacrificed to rejoice whereas on a birth of a girl child she would be buried alive and people would mourn. Prophet made a custom that when a boy is born, one should rejoice by sacrificing two goats and when a girl is born, one goat should be sacrificed, and snap! female infanticide was abolished.

Or a story which records that Prophet had said that a birth of a girl was the biggest blessing. Once a person asked the prophet, “what does God do when he is happy?” Prophet replied, “it rains”, again he asked, “what happens when God is too happy?” and the Prophet replied, “It rains”. Again the person asked, “what happens when God is extremely happy?” and the prophet said, “it rains”. And yet again he asked, “what happens when God is ecstatic?” and the prophet said, “a girl is born”. This story points to the fact that as a religious conviction, one was bound to see birth of a girl as a blessing, instead of burying her alive one must take good care of her. Another point to be noted, this was a time when only men owned property, Prophet got women inheritance rights. This was a revolution in itself. There are many such stories which push the case of Prophet being quite radical. Why am I sharing all these stories, only to again stress that as a believer my sentiments were never hurt reading Shehla’s posts. And when she shares what an army of troll writes upon reading her arguments, whether its hate speech or not nowhere does she disrespect any religious faith.

Today we face a massive threat from the fascists and if we divide ourselves over these issues then no one wins but the fascist forces. AMU is supposed to be carrying Sir Syed’s legacy, we can’t abandon reason. And because of a few sentimental fools let the main issue of Najeeb not get lost.

P.S- Muslim men, whether condemning Shehla or supporting her, using #OurProphetOurHonour, you are neither the custodians of religion nor the protectors of women. Don’t forget, ok! : )

Sana Khan is a student in Delhi.