New Delhi, India — A 46yearold Moslem woman won her battle Saturday against a village mosque council that had ordered her to receive 101 lashes and shave her head as punishment for alleged adultery and drinking liquor.
News reports said the punishment, ordered April 18 for Suleikha Beevi in southern Kerala state, aroused a public furor.
State officials declared that India’s legal code takes precedence over Islamic law handed down by village elders and on Saturday the council, called the Jamaat Committee, said it was convinced the charges against the woman, a mother of children, were baseless.
Her husband also had appealed to the elders to drop the charges, which he called false and malicious.
Mrs. Beevi, who uses her maiden name according to rural Indian practice, had refused to appear before the council and undergo punishment. She also had served a legal notice on the Beema Palla village council, demanding a public apology, and threatening to file suit for defamation of character.
In response, the council sent a van with loudspeakers around the village, accounting that the Moslem community was forbidden from talking to her and her family. The state government then posted a police guard outside the woman’s house to protect her.
Although the mosque councils in India’s Moslem villages have no legal authority, people generally obey them. Before the council changed its mind Saturday, the state government was examining the case for possible prosecution on charges that the elders usurped state authority. Abdul Wahid, Mrs. Beevis husband, said the charges against his wife were “baseless and fabricated.” He had been working in Abu Dhabi, one of the United Arab Emirates, but came home to help defend his wife, United News of India reported.
Wahid said some people who disliked his family extracted a false statement from a man accusing his wife of adultery.
About 12 percent of India’s 750 million people are Moslem. The majority of the population is Hindu.
India has no official religion, and Islamic law recently came under attack from the Supreme Court. In a ruling on April 28, it angered the Moslem community by declaring that a Moslem man must pay alimony to his divorced wife.
The ruling said Indian law takes precedence over the Moslem code, which allows men to have four wives and prohibits alimony.
Article extracted from this publication >> June 28, 1985