Editor’s update: Although widely reported by various media outlets (including Qrius), no copy of the fatwa was produced. Fact-checking website, Alt News found that reports of the Deoband cleric citing Sharia law while criticising MP Nusrat Jahan, were later misconstrued to be a fatwa. Some media platforms, including leading newspapers, also linked the non-existent fatwa to Darul Uloom. And thus began the sensationalisation.
On June 25, as newly elected MP Nusrat Jahan took her oath in the Lok Sabha, she was issued a fatwa by Deoband-based Islamic clerics. The religious leaders criticised Jahan’s “un-Islamic attire”, namely her sindoor and bangles, and said she “disrespected Islam” by marrying into a non-Muslim family and bending to touch the feet of Speaker Om Birla for blessings. However, Jahan and her colleague, TMC MP Mimi Chakraborty hit back against the fatwa.
“Muslims can only marry Muslims and are only allowed to bend before Allah. Islam has no place for Vande Matram, mangalsutra and veremilion and they are against the religion,” said Mufti Asad Kasami, according to the Hindu.
The Islamic Supreme Council explains that a fatwa is commonly misunderstood as a death sentence or declaration of war. However, it is really a “legal pronouncement”, decree or ruling by a religious expert on a matter that requires more clarity.
Sexist trolls criticise Mimi Chakraborty, Nusrat Jahan
In the Lok Sabha elections 2019, Mimi Chakraborty and Nusrat Jahan were elected to the House for the first time as representatives of West Bengal’s Jadavpur and Basirhat constituencies respectively.
Both women swept their constituencies by huge margins: Chakraborty won Jadavpur with around three lakh votes and Jahan won with close to four lakh votes.
However, after the election, both women were mocked with sexist comments for wearing western clothes to parliament.
Journalist Saurav Datta tweeted an image of Chakraborty wearing jeans and said, “How do I unsee this? She won s seat in Parliament, hails from Bengal, and surely has mistaken the place for Calcutta’s Nicco Park or City Centre.”
Many came to Chakraborty’s defence, including respected journalists like Yashwant Deshmukh who commended Chakraborty on being a “fresh, young, dynamic” leader who “represents her generation” proudly.
Kavitha Rao, Kiran Manral, Sandhya Menon, Zainab Sikander, and Meghnad S all said there was nothing wrong with the image and they were happy to see Chakraborty excited to be elected.
Chakraborty also pointed out a double standard and asked the media why BJP MP Gautam Gambhir wasn’t criticised for wearing casual clothes to Parliament.
When Jahan posted an image of herself in front of the Lok Sabha wearing western formals and celebrating her first day in parliament, commenters were quick to go off on tangents.
Some Twitter users asked her to be a role model for Muslim women “fighting the evils of hijab & burqa” and others accused her of acting or performing in a film or fashion show.
Both Chakraborty and Jahan skipped the June 17 oath-taking ceremony. Instead, Jahan was getting married to businessman Nikhil Jain in Turkey and Chakraborty was attending Jahan’s wedding as a guest. Both were also mocked for this and criticised for not taking parliamentary affairs seriously.
TMC MPs Jahan and Mimi Chakraborty both took their oaths together on June 25 and ended their speeches with “Vande Mataram, Jai Hindi, Jai Bangla” chants.
‘No one can issue fatwa against an MP’
Jahan has since taken to Twitter to respond to the fatwa.
She said, “I represent an inclusive India.. which is beyond the barrier of caste creed and religion.. as much as i respect all religions.. i still remain a muslim.. and non [sic] should comment on what i choose to wear.. faith is beyond attire.. and is more about believing and practicing the invaluable doctrines of all religions.”
She added that paying heed to “comments made by hardliners of any religion only breeds hatred and violence”.
Some of Jahan’s colleagues have come to her support, as well. Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi, former union minister Arif Mohammad Khan, and former AAP member Ashutosh, all defended Jahan.
Union Minister of State for Women and Child Development Debashree Chowdhury said that no one has the power to call for a fatwa against an MP.
Chowdhury told ANI, “As an Indian citizen, Nusrat has the right to do what she desires. This is not Pakistan, you can not issue a Fatwah against a Member of Parliament.”
Chakraborty also responded to Jahan’s tweet saying, “We r indian and thats our only identification”.
Even singer-turned-BJP leader from West Bengal, Babul Supriyo, expressed support for Jahan.
He said, “Everybody has the right to lifestyle choice. No one can issue any fatwa on one’s personal choices. I will congratulate Nusrat who married recently. I saw her in parliament and she sported bangles and vermilion, which is her own choice and she carried herself well. She is doing the right thing.”
Rhea Arora is a Staff Writer at Qrius