Haji Ali: India court says women can enter Mumbai shrine

image copyrightAFP
image captionMuslim women are fighting for access to the popular shrine in Mumbai

A court in India has overturned a ban on women entering the inner sanctum of Mumbai's Haji Ali mosque.

The high court in Mumbai said the ban "violated the constitution" and was discriminatory to women, lawyers said.

The ban was imposed in 2012 when the trust that runs the Sufi shrine said it was a "sin" to allow women to touch the tombs of male saints.

In recent months, India has seen a number of campaigns to allow women into religious shrines that bar their entry.

Although women were allowed into the compound and other parts of the Haji Ali mosque, the 2012 ban barred them from entering the inner sanctum which housed the tomb of a Sufi saint.

Many Islamic mosques belonging to the Shia and Sunni sects, also allow women, though many keep them in clearly demarcated areas.

Activists - both Hindu and Muslim - have dragged patriarchal managements of shrines to courts all across India.

Friday's order is being seen as a big boost for other campaigns to allow women entry into other places of worship.

The Mumbai court ruling, however, does not mean that women will be able to enter the Haji Ali shrine immediately as the high court has put its order on hold for six weeks to allow the shrine authorities to appeal in the Supreme Court.

'Nothing but patriarchy'

Zakia Soman of the rights group Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), which had challenged the ban on women entering the 15th Century shrine in the high court, has praised the "landmark" ruling, describing it as a "huge victory for us" .

"The shrine management is challenging the high court order in the Supreme Court and we are fine with that. It's a democratic country and they have the right to do that. But I'm confident of a win there too," she told the BBC.

"This is nothing but patriarchy in the name of religion. And it's high time their bluff is called," she added.

Mrs Soman said Sufi shrines across the country, and globally, allow women into the sanctum and that until the ban, they were allowed to touch the tomb of the saint at Haji Ali.

Sufi Islam is "a humanist Islam which stands for peace, brotherhood, harmony and love" and that shrines of Sufi saints have "much larger appeal" and are visited by people from all religions and genders, Mrs Soman says.

"Any attempt to keep people out has to be challenged and fought," she adds.

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