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India: The Jihad (struggle) for Love!

Monday 15 September 2014, by siawi3


Saadia Azim: The Jihad (struggle) for Love!
11 September

I mind . . .
September 7, 2014

With the controversy surrounding mixed religion marriages in India these days and terming them as ‘Love Jihad’ or part of a greater conspiracy, it seems it is time for me to stand up and share my story of ‘my JIHAD FOR LOVE’. After a long challenging battle for social acceptability and stability for more than fifteen years I eventually come out today as just another common Indian married woman living life in my terms. The only difference here is that I am married by my choice to a man from another religion who I met, fell in love and married.

I wonder if this is the right time to recall, tell and retell my journey of the ‘jihad for love’ when all that is being propagated is the word ‘Love jihad’!
Indeed today I am comfortably married to a person of my choice only because the Indian constitution permitted me to. Or else I would have had to back out, break up the relationship and look for other options of love and marriage at a convenient place and then recall my love story as just another teenage fling. I feel deeply concerned and shamed for a society and community that forbids people to marry by choice although the existing law of the land permits it magnanimously. If there were fewer takers for it, why had the law makers thought about the minuscule minority with criminal intentions?

But before this separate discussion of ‘who marries how’ it is important to share my very personal story.

I met the guy when I was in my teens, fell in love in my early twenties and married a few years later.

I come from equally traditional Muslim family that teaches vehemently the concept of ‘jodis (couples) made in heaven’ and ‘without a Nikah’ the marriage is not ‘solemnized’; Muslim girls can marry to only ‘Ahle Kitaab’ ie to the ‘people of the book’. So marrying a Hindu is completely non acceptable within the community leave aside ‘marrying by choice’.

The Initial Concerns! ‘Our women their women syndrome’

It was as it happened that my family considering I was the woman to be taken away by another family seemed to be more concerned of ‘losing out’. My father who loves me the most in this world was troubled that ‘I will not be allowed to live like I was’ and ‘will have to follow the diktats of the family I move in’. “That is how it is. Women move to other people’s home and just not by virtue of religious conversion but by exciting societal norms live according to the rules of the family of her husband†. He had tried to show me reason. “This is how it is for all women in our society because women live not according to what they learn from the family of their birth but in accordance to the family of the MAN, be it women from the same community or otherwise†.

Since my father had put in all efforts to groom me up and had never differentiated between my brother and me, the discussion at that point seemed to be the issue of his heart that feared ‘losing out’ a battle, a valuable ‘possession’ to someone else who did not deserve it. It wasn’t about two equal adults wanting to start a family but it was about who would gain.
My mother a pious lady regular with her five time namaaz had other concerns. “Look when a woman gets married she has to adapt to her new home, new identity. What will you start doing, change your name and start worshiping idols†.

Strange times, strange issues!
Well, here I was talking about marriage and here came issues of religion, rituals, belief, future, family name and lineage.
I knew the guy through close friends. We met, I liked him, he professed, I accepted, we shared, he proposed, I desired and we decided to get married.
“Which religion your children will follow†, my childhood friends were worried .
“What will happen when you die?â€
“How can you follow both customs? It is easier said than done†.
“Are you going to run away?â€
“Your parents will never agree; Think about your old parents!â€
“Your family name, your brothers, your sisters†, “they do not deserve this†; “Don’t bring them shame!â€
“What, how, where…..why….Can’t you, Don’t you; It isn’t fair; try and understand; how will you?â€
“How can you. No don’t ! Never …the lineage, the community; Don’t lose …your honor; No No…No!
“You cannot be so selfish ….oh please!
“What if you are dumped? Don’t come back†.
It was not easy! It was the battle. The Jihad (holy war) for LOVE!
I said “I will…because I want to, this is what I want†.
‘Why shouldn’t I†? Oh Allah! Save me! I am just marrying, I want him, I want just him, I want to settle down, as all others, all my friends; God! Please help me…Please, no one else, but him, I love him, can’t live without him! Is that seriously a crime I will be committing?’
“You will go to hell†? “Seventy thousand feet below†to the fire!
Okay but I will…I love him. I will not back out. Let it be, I can’t marry anyone else. Let me live in peace. I will not come back. Allah! Please help.

The Man’s world!
First the generous letter from his old father.
“It does not matter. Our family has been liberal and we have accommodated people of all types†. The sooner you decide the better†. “Well, but he cannot be waiting in a state of uncertainty for long!â€
Then the family-
“We are non- interfering people. You can go to Arya SamajMandir and we will arrange. It just takes a few minutes for the wedding†. “This is the fastest way to get married†!
A right wing ideologue friend!
“You should do stuff right away†. Don’t mind, Man! These people come with the intention of converting Hindues. Just be very cautious. It does not work smoothly always.
Oh that girl! Yes, she is a Mia’s daughter. “Muslims can marry more than one but for us Hindues vivah is a sanskaar and the loyal wives pray to get the same husband in seven life times†.
His loyal friends!

“You are a very brave girl†. We haven’t seen any from your community marry Hindu boys. Usually it is only Hindu girls getting married to Muslim boys†.
“It is so nice you are so liberal. We don’t mind. This talk about religion is just useless. You must get married soon†. “Parents do not accept now but they will once when you have children†. “By the way which religion will your children follow?â€
“Usually it is the father’s†, adds another friend. “But you will have to leave home. Your parents will never agree†.
“We can take you to the Arya Samaj Mandir, the process there is very easy and simple†.
This way, that way, just now!
“She has to agree†“Why wouldn’t she?†, “If she loves you†, ‘Whether she will; Wont she; she should; she has to and why can’t she……there is no option; it happens; this is how it is!
The battle goes on and on!

Paper Marriage!

We were in the hurry of getting registered as man and wife.
I personally to lessen the guilt of embarrassing my parents of ‘losing out†their possession ie the daughter..the ‘ghar ki izzat’ who was not being ‘given away’ but who decides to be ‘taken over’.

Whereas he, probably in the hurry to take control of the reigns of the ongoing battle.

He had connections in right places and we managed. Three witnesses, no prior intimation to anyone concerned, and the wedding was solemnized with back dated applications in front of the magistrate who gave that discerning look to the girl who had shamed her community by ‘losing out’ and intruding into someone else home.

The war does n’t end here either!

“Well it is a gain†, ‘welcome to the family†, was the note from a dear family member of my new home.
“When they have children things will settle down†. “We should not gift any valuables now. Who knows how long the relationship will last†.
“Yes this is the custom. Women should be known by the names of their husbands. People add the name of their husbands because they love them†, advices from senior family member in the family.
“They are bound to have issues. It isn’t that simple†were a few other observations.
“This is how we do stuff†. “Now since you are a part of our family, you should learn these†,

“Have you made up with your family†, “Have they acceptable you now†.

Uhh..The Matter of Choice!

Fifteen years and the matter did not end still. Each day I live answering, convincing, explaining, arguing, persuading that that the choice made is right. To my family it is that I have not changed and that the ‘others’ have not over powered me whereas to those who happen to be my new family members I keep reassuring that I am very much like them, have adapted to the new customs, culture, thought process and life. The battle goes on and on!

And here I am standing by the choice I made, because this is what I always wanted.

Here, I am also talking on behalf of the hundreds of women like me who have dared, made these choices in life, lived according to their wishes and want their families to be a part of their life.

Marriage we know is a ritual that unites people…families, societies and cultures. Those who object to women’s right to choose for fear of losing the ‘ghar ki izzat’ has to start believing that women happen to be equal human beings with equal rights to choose, influence, impress and inspire.

To all those who complain that women are being ‘taken over’ , and influenced and cannot make the right choices, also need to understand that stopping someone else by force or by influence to live on their own terms is a criminal offence in the law of the land. Tying a rakhi to men of the community to save them from bad company will only make women vulnerable and captive. Give people the right to think right so that women by virtue of marriage become agents of ‘integration’ and not ‘division’.