“Women Empowerment: An Alternative in Focus”

How to celebrate International Women’s Day at Aligarh Muslim University.

Women students in flowing burqas talk about how purdah is the “purest form of existence for a woman”. They explain how capitalism — with its notions of financial independence or a career for women — is anti-women.

Models are on display to help explain how purdah is to be observed.

And then, apparently in a concession to more “modern” views, the women also speak about dowry, foeticide, sexual violence and women’s health.

All this is part of a three-day exhibition that started on Friday at one of Aligarh Muslim University’s women’s hostels, Abdullah Hall, to — ironically — mark International Women’s Day.

What did they say about dowry and sexual violence? That they’re the “purest form of existence for a woman”?

Anam Rais Ansari, one of the organisers, and a student of law, said they were providing “Islamic solutions” to women’s problems.

The group has organised a talk titled ‘Women Empowerment: An Alternative in Focus’, at Kennedy Hall on the campus on March 8.

Fliers on campus, and a huge poster at the university gate, show senior lawyer and feminist Vrinda Grover as one of the speakers.

However, when contacted, Grover said she had pulled out of the function after she came to know about the group and its activities.

“I am no longer part of (the AMU) function. The views of the organisers are extremely regressive. They are trying to tell women how to dress and how to live,” Grover said.

But Abdul Rauf, a representative of the group, who is a research scholar at the biochemistry department, said: “We have invited Grover. She will come.”

I love the title. “Women Empowerment: An Alternative in Focus” – yes that’s an alternative all right.

‘Students of AMU’ was formed in 2010, and has significant influence on the campus now. It enjoys the support of some teachers and students and, apparently, of AMU authorities as well. The group is known for its regressive views on women and women’s rights.

A recent post on its Facebook page reads: “Sisters, even though our brothers are responsible for their own gaze, we are responsible for what we give them to gaze at!!” One of the posts profiles four Western women who recently converted to Islam.

One of the over 30 lectures the group has organised in the past was titled ‘Hijab: The beauty of Islam’. The group is alleged to have recently scuttled an initiative to get men and women students of the campus together on a single platform to protest against the alleged molestation of a Kashmiri student by a teacher.

A student of the law faculty said: “‘Students of AMU’ is subverting the secular discourse at the university, and is promoting conservatism on campus. They prefer to call themselves an Islamist body.”

It all sounds very familiar. You get the same thing at UK universities, with the addition of clueless students who think they’re supporting something progressive and leftwing by supporting Islamists.


  1. rnilsson says

    Me, I’m so focused I can’t see anything beyond that Alligarch Muslim University. Big mouth sneaking up and gobbling up the naïve bay-standers. Abductah Hall, indeed. SNAP, gulp.

  2. Gordon Willis says

    “Sisters, even though our brothers are responsible for their own gaze, we are responsible for what we give them to gaze at!!”

    So women have only looks, they don’t see. Women have consideration, but they don’t consider. They are thoughtful, but they don’t think. They are completely free: of views, opinions, reactions, resentment and disgust. They never laugh at a man, in case. They are completely free of being people.

  3. RJW says

    So, subjection is ’empowerment’ and freedom is slavery—seems rather Orwellian.

    ‘Clueless’ and arrogant, easy targets for propagandists.

  4. Gordon Willis says

    ‘Clueless’ and arrogant, easy targets for propagandists.

    Yep. Innocent, foolish and vulnerable and already defensive and hostile. It’s a crime that it should happen. It’s mental cruelty.

  5. RJW says


    So, you agree.

    Students were much better informed in the 1970s, of course there was a genuine progressive Left in those days, some elements of the modern “Left” are in fact, anti-progressive, very disappointing. BTW, we could also spot a poseur when we saw one.

  6. Shatterface says

    Wondering whether my best option is to freeze my head and have it thawed out when all this shit is over with or just to fuck off to another planet altogether.

  7. latsot says

    Interesting, isn’t it, when members of a group insist that they’re empowered because they have been granted semblance of power over a limited set of things that the people who decide what gets to be in that set don’t care about. We’re equal! Because we have power over the washing up! Providing, of course, that the washing up is done before our husbands come home from their important work, which I’m not allowed to do.

    I’m not sure a person can be empowered to do the things they are instructed or expected to do. But there’s never going to be a shortage of people who insist that being told what they can and can’t do compared to other people in the same society is empowerment. I certainly can’t blame them. The main reason they are not empowered is that they don’t have the resources to change that society.

    Even the word ’empowered’ makes me cringe for a number of obvious reasons.

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