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22 Apr 2019, Edition - 1378, Monday

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Coimbatore

Rahman row: Burqa protects but is always a personal choice for Islamic women, say activists

Sunandha Vijayakumar

Mozart of Madras, AR Rahman, is in the centre of a controversy when his daughter made a telling statement on freedom and insecurity when she made an appearance on a television programme wearing a burqa.

This kicked off a storm over the cyberspace with social media sites getting into hyperactive mode, with scores attacking Rahman for his regressive stand on religion as also on freedom of women. All his clarifications that it was a choice his daughter had made and that she had a right to express herself as freely as she wanted to made little sense or difference to some netizens who used the occasion to litter the social media with hate messages.

Rahman, whose achievements the country is proud of and also the person who took Indian film music onto a global stage, was trolled very badly for allowing his daughter to come clad in a burqa at an event held to mark the 10th anniversary of Slumdog Millionaire, for which Rahman won the Oscar awards for original film music at the Film Academy awards event in 2009.

Rahman was criticized for enforcing rigid patriarchy and also for his family’s ‘backwardness’ and many expressed anguish over the whole affair. “Sir I thought your religion was music, I was wrong”, tweeted a fan.

Rahman, reacting to the spate of comments on social media, tweeted a picture of Khatija with her mother and sister with a tagline #freedomtochoose. In the picture, they are seen along with Nita Ambani, where the other women of Rahman’s family were not sporting a burqa. The picture was only to prove that Rahman himself was progressive and was open in his outlook.

Khatija herself had posted her view on this, in an attempt to end the controversy. She said in a tweet, “My recent conversation with dad has been doing the rounds although I didn’t expect such an overwhelming response. However, there were certain comments which said that this attire was being forced by my dad and that he had double standards. I would like to say that the attire I wear or the choices I make in my life do not have anything to do with my parents. The veil has been my personal choice with complete acceptance and honour. ”

The Covai Post spoke to R. Fathima Musthafa from Tiruppur, an Islamic social activist belonging to Women India Movement. She told Covai Post that Islam gave more freedom to women than any other religion in this world, and to guarantee that they use this freedom to the fullest, Islam had set certain guidelines to safeguard women from the cruelty of the world.

She said, Islam has given the women, the right to re-marry, which is frowned upon other religions. Burqa is one such guideline, which protects the women from prying eyes of the opposite gender, she added. She described that Burqa was a defence mechanism against the immoral thoughts a man could have while seeing the flesh of woman.

Fathima applauded that Khatija has understood the religion well and took a strong stand in the eye of the public. She added that the other women in Rahman’s family should also follow Khatija’s footsteps.

Nargis (name changed) 21-year-old college student, from Kovai told The Covai Post that she was not forced to wear burqa by her family members. Even though some in the family do. She said she was trying to understand her religion and felt that it was not required to follow all these guidelines strictly in these modern times.

According to her, both men and women are educated and empowered nowadays and the unfortunate situation is that rape can happen to even an eight-year-old. Wearing a burqa won’t protect a woman from rape until the entire society’s mindset changes and proper sex education is given to both genders, she added.

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