How Muslim Women Can Save Indian Secularism

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Muslim Women have occupied a peculiar position in the mainstream Indian imagination. Through their (inaccurate) perception as a homogenous category, Indian Muslim Women have invoked either imagery of communal normativity through the visible invisibility of the black burqa within the public sphere, or fetishized as mysterious suffering figures who need saving. Beyond these narrative constructions, there is an overlap of this missing self-articulation within the political process as well.

Muslim Women make up 6.9% of the country’s population and yet their representation in the Lok Sabha (the Lower House of the Parliament) remains an abysmal 0.7%. With the rising wave of Hindu Nationalism in India, these statistics paint a bleak picture for secular democracy. However, that is not the argument I propose.

My proposition is that by interrogating the way the political agency of Muslim Women has emerged in recent times, especially through the 2019-20 Shaheen Bagh sit-in against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019, we might locate a nuanced understanding of how Indian secularism can be propelled forward in times of crisis. By first tracing the figure of the Muslim Woman within the political sphere through tensions against the Uniform Civil Code, and then juxtaposing it with contemporary events, I illustrate this proposition.

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