Published: 26th April 2019
Study, but stay within limits and wear purdahs: Why AMU Islamic student group's poster reeks of patriarchy
Islamic Youth Federation of Aligarh Muslim University had put out a poster saying how a Muslim woman should be like a caged bird and be protected from communism, feminism, liberalism and atheism
The bird stalks down her narrow cage.
She can seldom see the bars of faith, dignity, submission, peace and morality.
Right outside the cage, there stood four dragons - liberalism, communism, atheism and feminism, set to prey on her, the moment she flew out of the cage.
This isn't a 17th century narrative to Maya Angelou's famous poem, but this is the poster circulated by an Islamic student's group in the Aligarh Muslim University. The bird here is a Muslim woman, who deserves to be protected from the 'dragons'. The poster, that was circulated on the Islamic Youth Federation AMU unit's social media handles had created a clamour in the university, especially among the female students. Nevertheless, the IYF was unaffected by any critcism. That much was evident in their statements, "There are certain groups that want our (Muslim) sisters to be let out of their houses, be free and roam around in the markets. But our Islamic principles and way of life don't agree with this. So we propose that they stay inside their houses and do the household chores," says Mohammed Aqmal, an IYF representative.
So what was it that prompted them to put out this poster, we wondered. To this, Aqmal says, "In our university, there is a set of strict rules. Men and women aren't allowed in each other's hostels. That is our culture. But many women in AMU are demanding the sort of freedom that the women in universities like JNU enjoy. This is unacceptable to us." He adds that a group of women in AMU are in support of the poster and their ideas.
The poster was circulated in the group of a university, where a considerable number of Muslim women study. So, is the IYF implying that these women must discontinue their education and stay back at home? "No, that is not what we want," says Aqmal. " Let them study, but the must stay in their limits and wear purdahs. This will protect their honour," he adds. He also says that the poster is the group's first initiative to ensure that society is safe for women — by asking them to stay at home.
The IYF has also written in their Facebook post that the representation of the cage was carefully chosen, in order to display their protest against the women students' movement Pinjra Tod (which translates to Break the cage). The group actively campaigns against patriarchal hostel rules in Indian campuses and towards the removal of curfew timings in the hostels.
The women students of the university expressed their disapproval in a rather strong manner. "We're tired of their (IYF) misogynistic interpretation of Islam. This isn't what Islam is to us," says Afreen Fatima, AMU's Women's College Students Union President. "The religion has a lot of sections and different ideologies. It also gives room for communism and liberalism," she adds.