Education doesn't mean women should have more freedoms: Kerala Muslim leader

ClericAboobacker Musaliyar has said that modern times require that Muslim women are educated; however, some fundamental rules cannot be changed. (AP)

One of Kerala's most influential Sunni leaders has said that just because women are now educated, it does not mean that Islam has allowed them greater freedoms, especially in their relationship with men.

In an interview published in the latest issue of the Malayalam weekly Mathrubhumi, Kanthapuram AP Aboobacker Musaliyar has said that modern times require that Muslim women are educated; however, some fundamental rules cannot be changed.

"...Islam has not changed its decrees regarding the life of women. Muslim women should not work in a place where only a woman and a man are present. They should work only in a place where there are enough number of women and trustworthy men. Ninety per cent of jobs do not require men and women to mingle. These rules cannot be changed," he said.

Musaliyar is general secretary of the All India Sunni Jam-Iyyathul Ulema, a powerful religious figure with weighty political connections, and has a significant say in the distribution of tickets to contest elections. The cleric said in the interview that women should travel only if it was unavoidable. Even then, these journeys must be for purposes ratified by Islam, he said.

Islam does not accept the argument that women have to travel extensively these days, Musaliyar said. If they do go out, it should be in the company of male members of the family, or as part of a large group of women, he said.

Musaliyar said Muslims in Kerala did not support the move by the government to fix the minimum age of marriage of women of the community at 18, and they were exploring ways to get the government to reverse its order.

"We expect that some exceptions would apply in particular situations on the question of the age of marriage. If a marriage is not allowed for the reason that the bride has six months left to attain the age of 18, that situation might lead to adultery. In such cases, it is better to solemnise the marriage," he said.

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