Protest over Haji Ali curbs

The famous religious shrine of Haji Ali Dargah is embroiled in a controversy with women activists protesting against the “move to segregate” devotees on the basis of gender inside the sanctum sanctorum.

While activists condemned the decision to ban entry into the shrine housing the tomb of the 15th century Sufi saint, the managing trustee of Dargah, Abdul Sattar Merchant refuted the charges against the trust.

Talking to the Deccan Herald, Merchant said : “ It is baseless and ridiculous.These women activists are just trying to seek publicity. The ‘dargah’ always had separate entries for men and women. And this has always been the tradition...the women have always sat in a specially constructed room overseeing the tomb. And Haji Ali is one dargah which is visited not just by Muslims but by people from every faith and religion. We have never discriminate women. We are just following the tradition.

However, Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) activist Noorjehan Safia Naaz, said : “He is lying. It is true that there has always been two entries to the inside room, but the entry to the ‘mazhar’ (tomb) was never blocked. I have been going to the shrine since my childhood days.  And when some of us from BMMA asked A S Merchant, his reply left us speechless...he said ‘women dress inappropriately’ and this ‘blocking entry for women should have been done earlier’.” Noted Islamic scholar Dr Asghar Ali Engineer also noted that such practices found only in South Asia should be done away with.

“It is strange that while in places like Iraq or the holiest of holy Kabah this kind of segregation does not exist. In South Asia you find discriminatory practices being imposed under the garb of tradition. And if a tradition is discriminatory and oppressive then it needs to be changed,” Asghar said.

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