In a double bind, facing conservatism and politics

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In a double bind, facing conservatism and politics

  • The campaign of Indian Muslim women to occupy public spaces and protect democracy is a lonely one
  • It has less to do with religious stipulations, and mainly related to deep discomfort from seeing Muslim women occupying public spaces in India.
  • Muslim women: 6.9% of the Indian population
  • 2019 report: only 0.6% representation in the Lok Sabha.
  • Despite various personal Muslim laws Country’s Islamic leadership failed to treat the misuse of legal provisions as an internal matter.

Aiding a narrative

  • Exclusion of women from spaces of prayer and community is a deep injustice
  • Largest mosques claim: no room to spare for women.
  • Spiritual and social needs of women play second fiddle to masculine comfort.
  • These conditions are damaging to social fabric of Indian Islam as a whole.

As a target

  • The situation is more complicated when Muslim women do occupy public and political space.
  • With Citizenship (Amendment) Act protests, and others , visual of veiled Muslim woman stopped being synonymous with passivity.
  • The consequence of this has been brutal.
  • Women protesters at the site were described in humiliating terms.
  • The Right section has turned to a hypersexualisation of Muslim women.
  • Online campaigns have seen videos and songs encouraging the abuse of and violence against Muslim women.
  • Prominent figures are often faced with barrages of abuse and hate messaging.
  • This took a particularly crude turn with Sulli Deals (in 2021) and its successor, Bulli Bai (in 2022) where images of influential Muslim women were ‘auctioned’ online.

Affecting a right

  • The hijab row issue is a direct violation of the girls’ fundamental right to education.
  • Barring Muslim women from secular spaces unless they literally strip off markers of their faith and identity is vitriolic.
  • Serves no purpose but to propagate a malicious narrative
  • On one hand pretends to save Muslim women and on the other denies them tools to craft their own narrative.
  • In this way internal fear that occupation of Muslim women occupying public spaces leading to shame has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  • They are left outside the insular, safety net of the community and in turn face vilification by the growing Right.


  • Lack of middle path here means that Muslim women are forced to occupy spaces on two ends of the spectrum:
  • One that requires a compromise of political agency and second that requires accepting an exclusion from one’s own community.
  • This sorry state of affairs bodes poorly for Indian democracy
  • In a country with as many intersecting identities as ours, no issues or circumstances exist in silos.
  • The campaign of Muslim women to occupy public spaces and protect democracy is a lonely one.
  • However, in the current political climate, it remains necessary to fight this fight — and protect an equal, democratic India.