Liberals fume as leading dargahs in Mumbai bar women from sanctum Liberals fume as leading dargahs in Mumbai bar women from sanctum - The Times of India ************************************************** Sufi shrines have an inclusive approach to devotees. However, the Haji Ali shrine in Mumbai has started segregating men and women, as have seven other dargahs. More are to follow suit. The article states: The Mahim dargah on redevelopement will have a separate enclosure for women as is in Haji Ali which deny access to women to the astana (sanctum sanctorum). This issue and the development at the seven dargah have been brought to public notice by the the advocacy group Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), which recently surveyed 20 dargahs in Mumbai. The women are banned from entering the mazaar as reported by Noorjehan Niaz, their head. The Sunni and Deobandi cleric are delighted at this new development of banning of women as they claim that "The sharia does not allow intermingling of men and women at any place. The visit of women to graves is forbidden. It is welcome that the dargahs are following this rule," Maulana Athar Ali, a Sunni cleric stated this and a senior Deobandi cleric Maulana Mahmood Daryabadi endorses this view. He stated that "They should have done it much earlier. I am glad they are now following a rule sanctioned by the sharia". That said the liberal Muslims are inflamed. Javed Anand, who is of Muslims for Secular Democracy has said, "This is shocking and shameful. This is a regressive step that will further fuel Islamophobia and encourage the detractors of Islam to allege that the religion practices discrimination against women". There is no doubt that his is a regressive, if not a silly step and it will surely encourage and fan Islamophobia. Interesting is what the Urdu columnist Hasan Kamaal has said. He said, "If women and men are allowed to go around the holy Kaaba, and perform haj and umrah (mini-haj) together, why cannot they pray at the dargahs together? It is an insult to the legacy of Sufism, which is moderate and inclusive". However the Dargah trustees are adamant on their decision. Suhail Khandwani, managing trustee of the Mahim dargah and also a trustee at the Haji Ali dargah, said trustees were only following what muftis, or clerics who issue fatwas, have demanded for long. "Muftis have time and again pointed out that Islam does not permit women to visit a cemetery. While we prefer to call dargahs resting places of the saints, they are in fact graves and the sharia does not allow women to visit graves." Still, he admitted that barring women from the astana at Mahim dargah would be difficult. "Haji Ali is an isolated dargah, but the Mahim shrine is right in the middle of a residential area. So, residents, including women, feel a sense of ownership. Also, the dargah is a resting place of the saint as well as his mother. So, it is rather difficult to tell women not to go in." What worries the BMMA is that dargah trustees may not stop with banning women from entering astanas. "They might bar entry for non-Muslims as well, which would damage the secular fabric of the country," said a BMMA member.