Why can't a man and woman be 'pregnant' for four-and-a-half months each to achieve gender equality?
This question has been posed by a Muslim cleric in Maharashtra while berating a draft Haj policy prepared by a committee appointed by the Centre that has recommended allowing women above 45 to undertake the pilgrimage without a 'Mehram' in a group of at least four.
The term Mehram refers to a male, a woman cannot marry in her life (i.e. father, brother or son etc).
The proposed Haj Policy 2018-22, prepared by the panel headed by former secretary Afzal Amanullah, has also suggested abolishing subsidy for Haj pilgrims.
"The suggestion to allow women to go without a Mehram is against Islam. This government, rather than trying to understand Islam and bringing relief to people, is increasing the problems of Muslims," said Gulzar Azmi, secretary of Jamiat Ulema, Maharashtra unit.
The proposed change regarding women will fail as the government of Saudi Arabia will not issue visa to such women, he claimed.
"If this government wishes to bring equality between men and women, they should start with child-bearing. Why cannot the man and woman be pregnant for four-and-half months each? Why are they only targeting Hajis (those who undertake Haj)," said the cleric from Jamiat Ulema, a leading Muslim religious body.
Reacting to Azmi's remarks, Susieben Shah, former chairperson of the Maharashtra State Womens' Commission, said the government should remove the age barrier for women who want to go on Haj without a male relative altogether.
"His insensitive comments only trivialise the issue. Why only the women above 45 can perform Haj without a mehram? All women should be able to pay obeisance (at Mecca) because it is their right," she said.
Indian women are secular and believe in equal laws for all, she said.
"His comments are highly condemnable and show his primitive mindset and attitude to women. We merit equality," Shah said.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)