India’s Haji Ali Dargah opens doors to women after 5-year ban

Dozens of women enter the inner sanctum of the historic mosque after winning legal battle

Afp November 29, 2016
Indian women leave after visiting the inner sanctum of the Haji Ali Dargah in Mumbai on November 29, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

MUMBAI: Dozens of women entered the inner sanctum of a historic mosque in India on Tuesday after winning a bitter legal battle for a ban on female worshippers to be lifted.

The Haji Ali Dargah trust agreed last month to lift the ban on women entering the landmark mausoleum off the coast of Mumbai after a group of women campaigners launched a legal case. The trustees put the ban in place in 2011 arguing that allowing them near the tomb of a revered saint was a "grievous sin" in Islam.

Indian women leave after visiting the inner sanctum of the Haji Ali Dargah in Mumbai on November 29, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

Campaigner Noorjehan Niaz called it a "victory for women's rights" and said it would set a strong precedent for similar cases. "We are very happy the ban against women's entry into the shrine was lifted," she told AFP. "Credit must be given where due and the trustees ensured our visit to the inner sanctum of the mosque was peaceful... We even had chai (tea) with them after the visit."

Mumbai's Haji Ali Dargah ordered to lift ban on women

Haji Ali Dargah is one of Mumbai's most recognisable landmarks and receives tens of thousands of not only Muslims but Hindu devotees and sightseeing tourists every week. The mosque is located on an islet accessible via a causeway at low tide. It was built in memory of a wealthy Muslim who gave up his worldly possessions and went on to perform Hajj in Makkah.

Women in India have been intensifying their campaigns to be allowed to enter a string of Hindu temples and other religious sites. Hundreds of women staged a protest march to a temple in Maharashtra state in January, leading the high court in Mumbai to strike down a ban against women entering a shrine there.

Around 80 per cent of India's 1.2 billion population is Hindu, but the country is also home to large numbers of Muslims, Christians and Buddhists.


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