Triple Talaq, or talaq-e-bidat, is one of the most debated issues in the Muslim world. From time immemorial, Islam has been plagued by the portrayal of Muslim men as regularly misusing the perceived “right” to divorce their wives instantly by the simple utterance of the word “talaq” thrice. The Supreme Court of India, in the landmark judgment of Shayara Bano vs. Union of India, has taken the step to declare this form of talaq unconstitutional and to strike down the practice.
Salman Khurshid, senior advocate in the Supreme Court of India, is a former Cabinet Minister of External Affairs, Law and Justice, and Corporate Affairs, Government of India. He is a celebrated author, well-known public figure and a member of the Indian National Congress. Here he speaks to TIO’s Bureau Chief Shirin Abbas, on the issue that he has extensively explained in his just released book, Triple Talaq: Examining Faith (Oxford University Press), and on other issues.
TIO: What was your role as Amicus brief in the Triple Talaq case?
Salman Khurshid: I was not party to the proceedings – the court did not move to make me appear. I felt I should be there and shouldn’t stay out of it since I had something to offer as an amicus curie brief and I did. Despite any number of judgments which are sound and wise ones, there is still amazing ignorance about Islam and I include here people who are liberal and not hostile to Islam. People who speak a different language on the issue are perceived as wrong. I see this perception widely. So you come to ask yourself, ‘What is the solution? How do you get over it?’
TIO: Do you see the Prime Minister’s Triple Talaq bill a move to demonize Muslim men?
Salman Khurshid: The bid to attach criminal liability to Triple Talaq is absurd. It is a planned attempt to manipulate the opinion of those that don’t understand Islam and some people who believe in Islam but not deeply enough, to come up with appropriate responses. The public is made to feel that this is the representation of the views of 50per cent of Muslim women. The fact is that it does not help women in any manner whatsoever. Her iddat starts the minute the first ‘talaq’ is uttered. It is sad that a government needs to reduce itself to this type of conduct as a populist measure.
TIO: Why do you feel this is more a move against Muslim men than a bid to safeguard the future of Muslim women?
Salman Khurshid: Triple Talaq a actually a silly move taken by a man. It is more against him as it takes away some rights that he has. It’s not against women as she gets her right to iddat the minute the word ‘talaq’ is uttered. The man loses his right to reconsider the decision and possibly remarry heart the end of the three-month period. Frankly how many women have benefitted from the people taking back Triple Talaq? And are there any statistics on how many women have been given Triple Talaq? Triple Talaq is not intrinsic to Islamic Laws. 1400 years ago Islam gave a system of marriage and divorce that the whole world is catching up with today. Why then the attempt to tarnish it as a regressive religion that curbs the rights of women?
TIO: Do you think you have managed to prevail over the Congress party and impact its views on Triple Talaq?
Salman Khurshid: I cannot surely say that I have, but I surely hope so. I was against the concession being made by the other side that the Parliament can intervene in the matter. The theoretical issue within Islam is that it sees marriage as a contract and provides for everything while the contract exists. Everything that is required to be given to the woman to safeguard her rights and interests is required to be given during the marriage, not after it. This issue was also raised by late Rajiv Gandhi who was seeking some provision wherein alimony and one time settlement could be given at the time of the dissolution of marriage.
TIO: So would you say this entire issue was an attempt to embarrass Islam and an exercise in political optics?
Salman Khurshid: I would say it was part of a random search for anything that can make the minority community embarrassed.
TIO: How would you describe the turnaround of votes in Himachal and Gujarat where they have turned against the ruling BJP?
Salman Khurshid: I would like to see it as the beginning of the end. We will have to calculate and extrapolate the results to arrive at a logical decision. But I would like to say we are well on the way to recapturing the lost ground of 2014 but we cannot and must not rest on our laurels. We are up against a very clever and calculating adversary. Many steps will have to be taken by the party. We can surely say we are on our way back when we have actively engaged the public and got them involved in our mission.
TIO: Do you think the change in leadership of the party into the hands of Rahul Gandhi will tip the scales in the favor of the Congress in Elections 2019?
Salman Khurshid: I really cannot say that my previous leader, Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, was in any way lacking. We cherish and value her leadership. It was her decision that it was time to pass the torch to a young, new, energetic leader who would obviously bring great vigor and give us the extra traction required to gear up for 2019.