Haji Ali Must Give Access To Woman, Says Court

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Mumbai: Women have the right to enter the core or inner sanctum of Mumbai’s famous Haji Ali shrine, the Bombay High Court has ruled. However, women cannot avail of the order just yet – the trust that runs the shrine wants to appeal the decision in the Supreme Court, so today’s verdict is suspended or put on hold for six weeks.

The trustees of the 15th century shrine say it would be “a grievous sin” for women to be allowed near the tomb of the Sufi saint housed within the mosque; they imposed the ban five years ago and were taken to court by the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) – a Muslim women’s rights group.   They have been backed by the state government.

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Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has spoken out against discrimination in worship and said tradition must accommodate change. The High Court today said any restriction on women at the dargah violates fundamental right to equality.

Today’s court order bolsters a nationwide campaign to allow women entry to all places of worship. Earlier this year, women won the right to full access of Maharashtra’s famous Shani Shignapur temple, dedicated to Saturn or Shani.

The Haji Ali mosque, built on an islet about 500 metres from the coast, can only be reached at low tide and draws tens of thousands of worshippers. The fight to allow women into the shrine gained momentum after a petition was lodged with the Supreme Court demanding access for women to the Sabarimala temple in Kerala.

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