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Monday, December 26, 2016

A.G. Noorani’s Massive Dishonesty With Uniform Civil Code

I was randomly browsing through to kill my time when I chanced upon A G Noorani’s post on Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in ‘The Indian Express’. What struck me at once was the complete dishonesty that Mr. Noorani tried his best to hide in his piece but failed miserably. While on a flight from Delhi, I was once honoured to have Mr. Noorani as my fellow traveller. A self-proclaimed constitutional expert that he is, we had varied range of discussions including our present day politics among other things. This was another reason why his article caught my eyes. A known name and his views on a very volatile topic certainly got the better of me. But what I found instead are a bunch of deceitfulness and a failed attempt at hiding his own inner beliefs that were astonishingly so different from what he pretended at a height of 33000 feet the other day. As tempted as one can get, I now find it as a self-inflicted responsibility to counter what he had to say in his article; more so when I have interacted with him personally. By the way, it would help if you can read his original post here before going ahead.

To start the post, Mr. Noorani delivers an abject hypocrisy in the very first line itself. The paragraph that followed isn’t vastly different from the context that he built in the first line. The paragraph questions equally his understanding of the UCC as well as his claims of being a constitutional expert. Here I am reproducing the paragraph
There is absolutely no case for enacting a uniform civil code. But there is an unanswerable case for abolition of the un-Islamic triple Talaq. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech, at Mahoba in UP on October 24, professing profuse and unprecedented concern for “my Muslim sisters”, impressed none; UP goes to polls early in 2017.
What a monumental lie that is. A constitutional expert talks about the absence of any case for UCC. If I may ask, what is article 44 then Mr. Noorani? I am no constitutional expert like you are but for sure I am aware of article 44 where the sovereign promises its citizens this – “The state shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India.” So from where this absence of a case came to Mr. Noorani’s imagination? Why lying in the very first line? In the second line where Mr. Noorani tries to bundle every Muslim woman and her plight as ‘my Muslim Sisters’ and throws his emotional dice, let me assure you Mr. Noorani, it fails to impress me at least. This is precisely what the problem with every soul that talks against the UCC. At one point they cry for the alienation that the Muslim community is facing, not just Muslim women, and at the same time they object if anyone tries to make inroads in breaking that trust factor barrier. There are at least a dozen Muslim women who are fighting it out in the Apex court to bring in UCC but Mr. Noorani seems to be too blind by, God knows what, to miss that particular development. Convenience speaks for Mr. Noorani when he probably consoles his own beliefs and claims that the speech of Modi didn’t impress anyone. May I again ask the erudite in Mr. Noorani a trivial question – how he knows that it didn’t impress anyone? It requires some high level of foolhardiness to even convince oneself on what Mr. Noorani is actually trying to convince others. He not only failed to make his point which were absurd nonetheless but also exposed how the real enemies against growth and uniformity within a community are always from the community itself.

He then goes on to push more of his own beliefs which primarily appeared, to be mild, mediaeval and based on Sariah laws. Let’s see what his second set of problems are.
For over half a century, the BJP, and the Jan Sangh before it, made the code a vital part of their election manifesto. In 1989, it was one of the three conditions that qualified its support to the National Front government. It has no issue on Article 371A on Nagaland which bars legislation by Parliament on “Naga Customary law and procedure” and “administration of civil and criminal justice” involving that law in Mizoram enjoys a similar “special status”.
Mr. Noornai seems to be blinded by many things, not just hate for BJP, which is evident enough from this paragraph. I don’t understand at all why anyone should have a problem if an individual or a group demand for something that the constitution itself has promised. Tomorrow may be, Mr. Noorani have problems with women having voting power since most Islamic countries don’t allow their women to vote but that certainly is his problems, not of those who demand equality for every gender. This perhaps exposes Mr. Noorani’s inner love for Sharia laws and how he badly wants the part where the law discriminates women be emulated in our constitution. Moveing on – by mentioning Article 371A he further exposes his dubious claims of a constitutional expert. Either he isn’t aware of Article 371A or he doesn’t know a thing about the constitution, let alone being an expert on it. Had Mr. Noorani invested half of the time that he wasted in coming up with this particular OpEd, he would have at least gone through the draft UCC legislation. The first point that the draft talks about is its overwhelmingly overriding capabilities over every existing personal law, not just Muslim personal law. In nut shell – the advent of UCC would make every personal law, including 371A, null and void. I am not sure what Mr. Noorani probably was smoking when writing this OpEd, but if this paragraph was written while being completely in his sense, then I doubt under what capacity Mr. Noorani claims himself as a constitutional expert. The basic of any argument, for or against, requires the facts be laid out first but Mr. Noornani preferred to put forward his imaginations mixed with a significant portion of hypocrisy instead.

In the next paragraph Mr. Noorani jumps to the Gandhian period. How this has come to being so convenient for every kind of dishonesty to take shelter under Gandhi and Nehru as if their vision was Holy Grail. Let’s see how more confused Mr. Noorani is.
Before Partition, Muslims were offered solemn pledges of respect for their personal law; by Gandhi on October 28, 1931, the Congress in October 1937 and by Nehru on April 6, 1937. Gandhi offered “protection by specific provisions” in the Constitution. Instead, Article 44 of the Constitution was enacted. “The state shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India.”
Again a mega failure from the constitutional expert. Mr. Noorani conveniently pushes his dishonesty by citing instances of 1930s though what the UCC talks about is our constitution and what it has promised to its citizens. And it is not a secret that, we got our constitution after independence, not in 1930s. Mr. Noorani may not agree, but for me and million others, our Constitution overrides every damn Gandhi, Nehru of the world on any given day. The erudite in Mr. Noorani actually uses the constitution as per convenience. When the very constitution acts as a hindrance to his imaginations, he cries foul. Case in point – his astonishment in having Article 44 enacted, though Gandhi and Nehru had promised something different. If may I ask, who are Gandhi and Nehru by the way? Last I heard the nation isn’t a personal property of any Gandhi or Nehru. If the arguments of Mr. Noorani hold any truth, then, he in all probability is agreeing to Gandhi’s idea of a Sharia culture through his unconditional support for Khilafat movement. Mr. Noorani may salivate with that imaginary prospect but many Muslim scholars during that era objected Gandhi’s blind support for Khilafat movement. And these are not mere imaginations like those of Mr. Noorani’s but are well documented. People like Gandhi fostered the idea of appeasement and vouched for quota for the Muslims in excuse of various absurdities and irony, after 70 years, Mr. Noorani is falling for the same absurdities all over again. I call it irony because the same phony ideologies of Gandhi and Nehru that alienated Muslims back then is being employed by someone else today to actually curtail the very alienation.
   
Next Mr. Noorani goes on giving examples after examples of other countries but conveniently misses a vital point. We will see how untruthful he is here too.
Hence, the Muslims’ opposition. It is the lust for uniformity that alienates people. A small UK has two systems of criminal law. Scottish law recognises the plea of “not proven”, English law does not. There is no national bar; England has barristers, Scotland has advocates.
“National integration” is a red herring. Muslims are well integrated in Sri Lanka where they have their own personal law which a Supreme Court judge has praised. Quebec has its own legal system. Singapore and Israel accept Muslim personal law. Aharon Layish wrote a paper in July 1973 on “The Sharia in Israel”. The modern trend is for acceptance of diversity.
What is the big ‘lust’ here in demanding for uniformity? And I wasn’t aware till today that uniformity actually alienates. I was almost tempted to ask to which planet Mr. Noorani belongs, if not for the fact that I had travelled with him once. And the planet that I belong to swears by the beauty in uniformity. When Mr. Noorani lists countries after country he cleverly ignores to go to the history to find the reason. No country he mentions has a history of partition on religious lines. Since 1857, Muslims, though fought alongside Hindus in the freedom struggle, their fight was for Sharia rule, not just independence. They even didn’t participate in the educational reforms initiated by their own. The so called ‘lust’ culminated with the creation of Pakistan. Had the likes of Mr. Noornani and his forefathers wanted, they could have easily migrated back then. Little point in whining now. But what is amiss here is not Mr. Noorani's frustration in missing the bus to Pakistan back then but his inner wish to see Sharia being part of our constitution. What Mr. Noorani actually misses here is the reason why Article 44 was enacted. Our constitution, post-independence and post partition, enacted the Article 44 for this very reason of partition. The idea was to close any such germinating ground that may call for the division of the nation in future. But alas, the constitutional expert seems to be not aware of the history of our constitution. Though Mr. Noorani calls ‘National Integration’ a red herring, it actually his baseless arguments in disguise of his real intent to have Sharia law in India, that appears red herring actually.

In the next paragraph Mr. Noorani bares himself and shows his love for Sharia. Though from the beginning I was sure of his real intents, I wanted him to open up and admit his so called ‘lust’. Here what he has to say.
Sir Norman Anderson, an authority on Hindu and Muslim law, wrote, “It is the family law that has always represented the very heart of the Shariah for it is the part of the law that is regarded by Muslims as entering into the very warp and woof of their religion.” It has been “basic to Muslim society down the centuries”. A former vice-president of India and Law Minister, G.S. Pathak told the Lok Sabha, on May 17, 1966, that he appreciated that “personal laws are mixed up with religion” and that “we cannot coerce people to accept our views about their religion and customs”.
So here is exactly where Mr. Noorani wanted to end up at. Since Sharia was a basic for Muslim families, it has to continue in a secular nation. What kind of argument is this? Citing the name of Norman Anderson, Mr. Noorani again proves, he isn’t aware of the history of India. The British, who were known devil in the field of ‘divide and rule’, would actually end up as the example stones for integration in Mr. Noorani’s world. The knighthood Norman Anderson was conferred with, were very specific for a cause. And that cause was to divide India successfully on religious lines by coming up with two sets up laws. And Norman Anderson was too successful in achieving that to miss the praise of the queen herself. Now history turns a full circle, only to be picked by a certain Abdul Gafoor Abdul Majeed Noorani, and hail a divisive entity of yesteryears as a proof of his own wretched ideas about uniformity. Irony again, I must say. For Mr. Noorani to cite pieces of the past as per convenience, it must come with either lack of knowledge or interest or may be both. What appealed in 1966 may not be relevant in 2016. People like Mr. Noorani may want to live in the mediaeval era but that is not what the country wants, including the modern day Muslim women. They too want their piece of freedom and equality which dishonest individuals like Mr. Noorani are too reluctant to give.

Then Mr. Noorani goes ahead to cite the beauty of Sharia law. Though I am aghast seeing this coming from an educated man, it is worth debating here.
Justice Baharal Islam of the Gauhati High Court took the same view in 1978: “In my view the correct law of talaq as ordained by the Holy Quran is that talaq must be for a reasonable cause and be preceded by attempts at reconciliation between the husband and the wife by two arbiters — one from the wife’s family, the other from the husband’s. If the attempts fail, talaq may be effected.” Both judges were elevated to the Supreme Court.
Mr. Noorani cites something from 1978 but conveniently misses to point the recent high court ruling on the same issue. No wonder I was correct in assessing Mr. Noorani as an intellectual of convenience. Though the holy book talks about ‘a reasonable cause’, it fails to describe what can be considered as a reasonable cause. I have enough evidence of local Mullhas granting divorce to the male for silliest of reasons; some time as basic as, not able to cook tasty meals. By default, any cause furnished by the man is accepted as a reasonable cause. Once the triple ‘Talaq’ is cited, there isn’t anything left for the girl, or her family to do, except may be, plead the boy’s family to reconsider, which people like Mr. Noorani prefers to call as arbitration by both families. In reality there is no room for arbitration in Sharia other than whims and wishes of the man and his family. This is another dishonesty that intellectuals like Mr. Noorani want to be passed through as a valid argument. Though Mr. Noorani cites the 2002 case of Shamim Ara, he somehow sidesteps the massive jolt the entire Muslim women got in Sahabanoo’s case. Mentioning couple of judges and how they got elevated must not blind Mr. Noorani and his ilk that judges and their judgment on any particular case is subjected to test of law and time, which probably warrants a change in perception more than living with absurdities.

Mentioning his beloved country Pakistan and the changes they brought about in personal laws actually defeats the whole argument that Mr. Noorani tried to build over his OpEd. Though a country carved out on religious lines agrees to mend the mediaeval practice of subjecting women to the mercy of her husband and in-laws, here back home we have intellectuals who argue to continue with the Sharia law. But irony, if one asks the likes of Mr. Noorani, how about having a separate criminal justice system based on Sharia for Muslims alone, the hell breaks loose even before you could realize. I wasn’t aware, even the word hypocrisy fails to explain an enigma like Mr. Noorani. And as someone correctly said – these are the so called intellectuals that we used to tolerate during every day prime time.

On hindsight, I shouldn’t have been so much surprised with Mr. Noorani’s claim of his constitutional expert stature and his unconditional love for Sharia. After all, I have read his book on Babri demolition. Haven’t I? That was some dishonesty wrapped over a 400 page ranting and I am only bothered for a two paged OpEd? Shame on me!!! 

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