The storm over the marriage of Hadiya is yet to settle, and already another has erupted in Kerala. The inter-faith wedding of a Muslim woman and a Christian man from Malappuram last week, though, is different. For one, it was done with the blessings of the families of both Jaseela, the bride, and Tiso Tommy.
Besides, no one cried religious conversion.
What triggered the controversy was a directive from the mahal committee of Jaseela’s village, telling residents to stay away from the reception. It also asked them “not to cooperate” with her family in future. Mahal refers to the locality under the jurisdiction of a particular mosque.
The majority of people from Kondiparamba mahal heeded the directive and skipped the wedding reception. A week later, the people are still reluctant to talk to Jaseela’s family.
“It is nothing but ostracism,” said Jaseela’s mother Najma, visibly angry. “The mahal committee wanted to show their power. What would happen to us if people who supply milk, newspapers and run shops were from this mahal? They would ignore us fearing actions from the committee. We would be forced to leave this place. Fortunately, people outside the mahal are helping us to live here now.”
The mahal committee said ostracism was too strong a word to describe its action. “The mahal committee has certain powers,” said Abdul Salam, the committee’s president. “We had invited Jaseela’s father Yusuf to give an explanation for conducting the marriage and reception. But he didn’t turn up. So we decided not to cooperate with the family. We haven’t ostracised his family. It is too strong a term.”
Jaseela and Tommy’s marriage was registered under the Special Marriage Act at Nilambur Sub Registrar Office in Malappuram on October 19. The reception was held two days later.
Apparently angered by a Muslim woman marrying outside the community, the Kondiparamba mahal committee hurriedly called a meeting of its 21 executive members on October 18. The mahal has around 500 households.
The meeting decided to call for a boycott of Jaseela’s family. “The committee unanimously decided not to cooperate with Yousuf’s family on mahal-related and other issues as his daughter has married a non-Muslim man,” read a notice put up outside the mosque by the committee.
The boycott was also announced from the mosque’s public address system.
‘We will fight’
Najma said her family hasn’t received the notice so far. “We will fight it legally when we get the notice,” she added. “The mahal committee does not have any right to ostracise us.”
She said Yusuf could not meet the committee’s officials when he was called because he was busy with his work. Yusuf is an assistant executive engineer with the Kerala Water Authority in Malappuram.
Najma said the family had not informed the mahal committee of Jaseela’s marriage. “We knew they wouldn’t approve of an inter-faith wedding,” she said.
Not that Jaseela’s family needed it. “They fell in love seven years ago when they were in college in Coimbatore,” Najma said. “Now, they are both in the Gulf. They are working professionals, both 27. Even if we tried to stop them, they would go ahead and get married. So we decided to support them.”
Nisar, a local leader of the Indian Union Muslim League and gram panchayat member, said what perturbed the committee was Yusuf’s decision to arrange a reception. “No one would have cared about the marriage if there was no reception,” he claimed. Nisar is a former office-bearer of the committee.
Najma does not get the logic. “Do they want to keep the marriage a secret?” she asked. “It is impossible for us to do so. We are proud of our daughter’s decision. We believe she has every right to choose her partner.”
Kondiparamba is in Keezhattoor panchayat. Here, the Indian Union Mulslim League dominates both political and religious life. It seems that local political rivalry played a role in the mahal committee’s intervention. Najma is a leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), elected to the gram panchayat for three consecutive terms from 1995 to 2015.
“During election campaigns, the Indian Union Muslim League leaders would unleash false propaganda branding me a Communist who doesn’t follow the Islamic way of life,” Najma said. “But I won despite their campaigns.”
Najma suspects that mahal committee’s call to boycott her family is “another way” to corner her. “I am their target,” she said.
Meanwhile, realising that its inference in Jaseela and Tommy’s marriage has triggered widespread outrage, the mahal committee has softened its position. “We will revoke the decision if Yusuf tenders an apology,” Salam said. “It was a minor issue. Media had played it up.”
Najma insisted her husband will not apologise. “The committee took a wrong decision, and they have to correct it,” she said. “We are not going to apologise.”