In his last Mann Ki Baat address of the year on Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached out to Muslim women, highlighting his government’s attempt at facilitating women’s travel for Haj pilgrimage without a male companion.
“For decades, injustice was being done to Muslim women but there was no discussion on it. Even in many Islamic countries this practice does not exist,” the PM said.
“Our Ministry of Minority Affairs issued corrective measures and we eased this restriction by phasing out a tradition that had been in practice for the past 70 years,” Mr. Modi pointed out.
“Today, Muslim women can perform Haj without Mehram or male guardian, and I am happy to note that this time about 1,300 women have applied for Haj without Mehram and women from different parts of the country, from Kerala to North India, have expressed their wish to go on Haj pilgrimage.”
He added: “I have suggested to the Ministry of Minority Affairs that it should ensure all women who have applied to travel alone should be allowed to perform Haj. There is a lottery system for selection of Haj pilgrims, but I would like that single women pilgrims be excluded from the system and given a chance as a special category.”
Mr. Modi said that on January 26, leaders of all 10 ASEAN countries would visit India as chief guests for Republic Day.
“Twenty-sixth January, 2018, will especially be remembered through the ages. The Republic Day will be celebrated with leaders of all 10 ASEAN countries coming to India as chief guests,” he said.
The Prime Minister said the largest Cleanliness Survey in the world would be conducted from January 4 to March 10 so as to evaluate the achievements of Swachh Bharat Mission in urban areas.
This survey will cover a population of more than 40 crore in over 4,000 cities, Mr. Modi added.
According to the Ministry of Minority Affairs, now Muslim women aged above 45 will be allowed to go for the pilgrimage without ‘mahram’ in a group of at least four.
The PM said removal of the restriction of having a male guardian or ‘mahram’ may appear as a “small thing”, but such issues “have a far reaching impact on our image as a society”.
“Why this discrimination? And when I went into the depth of the matter I was surprised to find that even after 70 years of our independence, we were the ones who had imposed these restrictions. For decades, injustice was being rendered to Muslim women but there was no discussion on it,” he said in his broadcast.
While referring to Muslim women and their rights, Mr. Modi did not mention the Bill passed by Lok Sabha last week which bans the practice of instant triple talaq. He, however, had referred to the issue of instant triple talaq or ‘talaq-e-biddat’ while inaugurating the 85th Sivagiri Pilgrimage Celebrations at Sivagiri Mutt in Kerala via video conference this morning.
Referring to Christmas, he said Jesus Christ taught us about the spirit of service or ‘sewa bhaav’. “Be it any religion, caste or creed, tradition or colour in this world; the spirit of service is an invaluable hallmark of the highest human values,” he said.
He also recalled the life of Guru Gobind Singh which was full of instances of courage and sacrifice. On the 350th anniversary of the Sikh guru, he said Guru Gobind Singh preached the virtues of sublime human values and at the same time, practiced them in his own life in letter and spirit.