Kerala Muslim mother fights fundamentalists: 'So what if my daughter married a Christian?'

The woman said that her daughter has every right to choose her partner- from any faith- and that the family is unfazed by ostracisation.
Kerala Muslim mother fights fundamentalists: 'So what if my daughter married a Christian?'
Kerala Muslim mother fights fundamentalists: 'So what if my daughter married a Christian?'
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A wedding is generally a time to rejoice, but for Najma and her family, troubles began as soon as they announced the wedding of their daughter.

This Muslim woman from Kerala however says she is unfazed by the negative reactions that have been pouring in from various quarters, after her daughter decided to marry outside their faith. 

27-year-old Jaseela Yusaf, a native of Malappuram district, married Tisso Tomy, a Christian on October 19 under the Special Marriages Act. The couple had been in a relationship for the past several years. 

Though Jaseela's parents and family agreed for the wedding, what they did not anticipate was the action from the mosque Mahallu committee, calling for a social boycott of their family. 

Two weeks after the wedding and a public reception, Jaseela and her husband Tisso have flown back to the Gulf, where both of them work. At their home in Malappuram district, Najma and her husband Yusaf are noticing a sudden shift in the way their neighbours interact with them. Or the visible lack of an interaction. 

On October 19, the secretary of the Madarul Islam Sangham’s Mahallu committee (the mosque’s administrative committee) issued a special circular urging all people connected with the mosque to break ties with Kunnummal Yusaf and his family.

"The members of the committee needn't cooperate with the family, either for mosque-related issues, or anything else," the one-page circular in Malayalam said

The circular was issued two days before a wedding reception was held.

Speaking to TNM over phone, 47-year-old Najma said that while the mahallu committee's circular has influenced other people,  it has had little effect on their extended family.

"Recently, a woman who does not stay close to my house came and told me that she supports us for how we stood for our daughter. She told us that it was people who did not know true faith, who are calling for such boycott. This woman had in fact knocked on a neighbour's door previously seeking our phone number, and was told that they had deleted our number, since we acted against our faith. Such is the effect of this circular...people who are closer have turned against us, but we are getting support from unexpected quarters," said. Najma is also CPI (M)'s Manjeri area committee member. 

Asked about the wedding, Najma said that the family approved of their daughter's choice of her partner, irrespective of what religion he belonged to. 

"What is wrong with my daughter marrying outside her faith? By agreeing to it, we haven't gone against our faith, but have in fact respected our daughter's choice. She is a mature woman, capable of deciding for herself," she said. 

Najma’s support for an inter-faith wedding comes at a time when there is much public debate in Kerala on such weddings. The narrative on conversion and inter-faith weddings has become so polarized that the Kerala High Court had to recently warn parents not to use the “Love Jihad’ excuse to break up all inter-faith weddings.

After doing MCA in Coimbatore and later an MBA, Jaseela was insistent that she would get married only after securing a job.

"When she took such a stand, we stood by her. I believe that all women need to be educated and be employed and be independent. Jaseela worked in Kerala for more than a year, before securing a job in Abu Dhabi six months ago. It was only after she got the job, that she spoke to us about her marriage plans," Najma said. 

As a parent, Najma said that they spoke to both Jaseela and Tisso about the realities of marrying outside one's own faith. Tisso is a native of Nilambur. 

"Both are mature enough and they patiently listened to what we had to say. And they stuck to their decision to marry each other. It is our responsibility to conduct the wedding. That we did. The two had decided among themselves that neither of them will convert," Najma said. 

About the circular calling for a social boycott, Najma said that they hadn't informed the committee that the family was to conduct the wedding. 

"The Mahallu functions within its own closed circuit. The committee could have ignored the matter, since we did not say anything against the committee while conducting the wedding. If we had indeed informed them about the inter-faith wedding, they would obviously have objected to it. If we had gone ahead despite their objection, they would see it as us going against the mosque. We wanted to avoid all that complication," she said. 

Although the committee asked the members to stop cooperating with the family in matters of the mosque, what Najma objects to, is that they have also asked the people to ostracise the family in "other matters." 

"The committee can decide on matters of mosque, but cannot dictate that people must stop cooperating with us in all the matters. That's unfair," she said.

Why did Jaseela's wedding offend the mosque?

Najma said that although inter-faith marriages are not a new thing in the district, for the people of Keezhattur panchayat where they live, it is a new event. 

"I have heard mahallu committees calling for boycott of families in other places, but our committee has never done this before. An inter-faith marriage has not happened in this panchayat. This was the first and so attracted such a response," she said.  

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