OPINION: 'Bigots like Afridi have misunderstood, distorted teachings of Quran'

Unless feudal practices are destroyed, the country cannot progress

afridi-katju Shahid Afridi (left) and Markandey Katju

"Muslims like the Pakistani cricketer Shahid Afridi who said he will not allow his daughters to take part in outdoor sports are stupid, backward, feudal minded bigots, reactionaries and fools".

Soon after I had posted this on my Facebook page, all hell broke loose. I was deluged by a tirade of abuses and personal attacks—against my female family members, too—by several Muslims. Many of the comments were so filthy that I had to delete those.

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In the past, I have repeatedly attacked stupid backward thinking and practices among Hindus too, such as the caste system, regarding cow as 'gomata' and beef-eating as evil, and regarding dalits as inferiors. For this, I was attacked by many Hindu bigots, but I stuck to my views.

Similarly, I have criticised backward laws and customs among Muslims like sharia and wearing burqa. So, I am not selective. I attack backwardness and feudalism among all sections of society, since I believe that in this transitional era through which the country is passing, feudalism and backwardness in all their forms are our main enemy. Unless feudal and backward-thinking and practices are destroyed, the country cannot progress. Why then did so many Muslims take umbrage at my remark about Afridi ?

I am, in fact, a well-wisher of Muslims. I have often praised Islam as it came in the world as a great liberating force which spread the great message of equality and gave social emancipation to the suppressed sections of society. But bigots and backward-minded people like Afridi, have today made it an enslaving force.

What is wrong in girls playing outdoor sports, provided they are not inappropriately dressed? Sania Mirza plays tennis, but she does not play it wearing a bikini or in nude. Why should not girls play tennis, hockey, cricket, football, basketball and badminton outdoors? To prohibit them reveals a feudal mindset.

Many people commented that it is Afridi's personal choice as the girls are his family members, and so no one has a right to comment on it. But why not ? The girls may be his daughters, but they are not his private property. They are human beings, so anyone can comment on such regressive practices.

This reminds me that once when I was a lawyer in Allahabad High Court, I criticised the practice of wearing burqa as a backward, feudal practice. At this a Muslim lawyer remarked, "Aap se kya matlab hum apni auraton ke saath kya bartaav karen (How is it your business what we do to our women)? You may say anything you like about women of your own religion, but you have no right to comment on women of our religion.” I replied that Muslim women are also Indians, and therefore my sisters, so I have all the right to comment about them, particularly when I feel they are being suppressed. Moreover, they are humans, not just Muslims, so, as a human, I have a right to speak about them.

This attitude that non-Muslims should not comment about Muslims is simply unacceptable. We are all Indians first, and Hindus or Muslims later. The Justice Sachar Committee report mentioned that most Indian Muslims are poor and backward. To my mind, one of the important reasons for this is that many have a backward, feudal mindset, which they must get rid of if they wish to progress, and they must get out of the clutches of feudal-minded religious leaders and people.

Somebody commented on my Facebook post that Shahid Afridi's decision about his daughters is in accordance with Islam. Tell me, which surah of the Quran says that girls should not play outdoor sports? In fact, it is bigots like Afridi who have misunderstood and distorted the teachings of the Quran and the Prophet which is giving Islam a bad name.

I, therefore, appeal to all people, particularly the Muslims of our subcontinent, to condemn the attitude and remark of Shahid Afridi.

Justice Markandey Katju retired from the Supreme Court in 2011

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author's and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of THE WEEK.