Muslim women in India seek equal rights under personal law

Zakia Soman, founding member of the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan. Photo: CivilSocietyOnline.com

Muslim women in India are organizing against what they see as unfair laws regarding marriage, divorce, and property rights. Although the Indian Constitution offers all citizens equal rights irrespective of gender and religion, these rights do not extend to personal law. India does not have a uniform civil code; in family matters, legal decisions are based on religious law.

Muslims in India are governed by the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act of 1937, which defines the scope of Muslim personal law as including all affairs regarding succession, marriage, dissolution of marriage, guardianship, and property rights. Muslim personal law is largely uncodified, and legal decisions are made by courts on the basis of the Qur’an and hadith. Organizations like the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind (JUH) see themselves as spokespersons for the Muslim community, and lobby the government in cases where they believe Muslim law is being impinged upon.

Women’s groups have criticized the AIMPLB and JUH for their retrograde views regarding women’s rights. Continue reading

Tennessee Islamic Center delayed on procedural technicality

The sign has been spray-painted with the words "Not Wanted." Photo: CNN

The proposed Islamic center in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, is no stranger to controversy. Since 2010, plans to set up the facility have been constantly thwarted by opponents. Some argued that Islam is not a legitimate religion and thus not protected under the U.S. Constitution. Others protested that the mosque would create traffic problems and lower housing values. Still others decided to take the law into their own hands, spray-painting “Not Welcome” on signs announcing the center, and even setting fire to construction equipment and vehicles.

The center prevailed through a string of lawsuits, so opponents adopted another tactic, this time attacking the planning commission who granted the building permit. Now it seems that construction may be held up on procedural grounds. On May 30, a county judge ruled that plans for the center, which had previously been approved by the planning commission, are now “void, and of no effect.” Continue reading

Will Muslim athletes be at a disadvantage during the Olympics?

Noor al-Malki, a Qatari sprinter. Photo: Associated Press

Muslim athletes attending the London Olympics this summer will face a unique set of challenges, as the dates of the world’s largest sporting event overlap Ramadan almost exactly. The Games run from July 27 through August 12, while Ramadan commences on July 20 and ends a lunar month later. So Muslims athletes will be affected both in the run up to the Games and during the entirety of the event.

In an environment as mentally and physically taxing as the Olympics, Muslim athletes will have a difficult choice to make—either compete at the top of their form or observe Ramadan and abstain from food and water from sunrise to sunset. Continue reading

Indigenous Mexican Converts

Imam Salvador Lopez Lopez (a.k.a. Muhammad Amin) performs zikhr, or remembrance of God, in a San Cristóbal mosque. Photo: Radio Netherlands Worldwide

In my recent post about the history of Islam in Mexico, I mentioned that Muslims in the country are generally concentrated in four cities: Tequesquitengo in Morelos, Torreón in Coahuila, San Cristóbal de las Casas in Chiapas, and Mexico City.

While Muslims in Mexico represent diverse Islamic denominations, Muslims in San Cristóbal de las Casas are different from the other groups in the country. For one thing, they’re all converts. For another, they’re mostly descendants of the Mayan and Tzotzil indigenous groups.

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Islam in Mexico

In Chiapas, Mexico, portions of the indigenous populations, such as Mayans and Tzotzils, have embraced Islam. Photo: Tumblr: Ihavefaith

Nayantara Mukherji is a journalist, editor, Inside Islam radio producer, and a recent addition to our writing team.

Although traditionally known for its strong Catholic community, Mexico is also home to a small yet diverse community of Muslims. According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, the country had about 110,000 Muslims in 2009. That’s less than 1 percent of the population of Mexico. But according to Zidane Zeraoui, professor of international relations at the Technological University of Monterrey, the history of Islam in Mexico goes back to its earliest days.

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Senator Russ Feingold Takes on Islamophobia

Today is the beginning of a two-day conference co-sponsored by Inside Islam, Islam and Democracy, to be held in Madison, Wisconsin. Although Senator Russ Feingold is not expected to speak at the conference, at an event earlier this week, he highlighted issues that will be discussed in detail at the conference. Islam and Democracy will feature over 30 speakers, including keynote addresses by John O. Voll and Seyyed Hossein Nasr. See the conference website for more information.


Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI). Photo: BarackObama.com

Nayantara Mukherji is a journalist, editor, Inside Islam radio producer, and a recent addition to our writing team.

Former Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold is known for taking on monumental challenges. In 2001 he was the only senator to vote against the Patriot Act. These days, Feingold has turned his attention to another cause—US foreign policy. At a talk in Madison, Wisconsin, about his new book, While America Sleeps, Feingold argued for increased American engagement with the rest of the world. He said 9/11 highlighted the importance of engaging and understanding the rest of the world, and criticized Democrats and Republicans alike for failing to heed the message. Continue reading