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Activists protest Muslim cleric Kalbe Jawad remark

Women activists Saturday staged a demonstration against a cleric who spoke against Muslim women's participation in politics.

Around 30 activists, mostly from the Muslim community, as well as filmmaker Gauhar Raza and lyricist Javed Akhtar gathered at the Jantar Mantar observatory to protest comments made by Lucknow-based Muslim cleric Kalbe Jawad regarding women's reservation bill.

"This bill is a staircase towards improvement of the women's position (in society). Where were these Muslim clerics when over 400 Muslim women were raped in Gujarat's communal riots. These clerics only comment but don't do anything to help Muslim women when they are in problem," said Shabnam Hashmi from ANHAD, an NGO working on human rights issues.

Speaking at a religious gathering in Allahbad March 12, Jawad said that Muslim women have no role in politics and that "they should produce good leaders and not become leaders themselves."

Hashmi accused the Ulemas (Muslim religious heads), Jawad in particular, of having a narrow outlook.

"Do not preach what a muslim woman should or should not do. She is herself answerable to Allah," Hashmi asserted.

Filmmaker Gauhar Raza said: "We should not go back to an unbalanced society. Opponents of the bill can only delay the passing of the bill but not avoid it."

"They never talk about women's problems but have objections only when it comes to progress," said Akhtar.

Javed Anand of the Mumbai-based organisation 'Muslims for Secular Democracy' said the ulemas were being "hypocrites".

"These leaders talk only for themselves and not for the entire muslim community. Such attitudes put Muslim women in danger of being left out of progress and development," he said.

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