(The opinions expressed are the author’s own, and may not necessarily reflect those of Thomson Reuters)
Mumbai’s Sufi shrine Haji Ali Dargah Trust has barred women from entering the sanctum that houses the tomb of the Sufi saint Pir Haji Ali Shah Bukhari. The reason: authorities said that they saw a woman visit the tomb in inappropriate clothing.
This might not be entirely surprising. The mosque and dargah – or tomb – sit on a tiny island in the waters off Mumbai that is connected to the mainland by a tiny causeway. It is one of Mumbai’s most well known tourist attractions, and many people from India and other countries walk past the mendicants and beggars, some of whom are missing limbs and often chanting, on the causeway to admire the architecture and the view.
The decision to ban women from the tomb reportedly is a year old, but came to light recently when a women’s group, the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan — the Indian Muslim Women’s Movement — visited the shrine in August. The group plans to write to state authorities to try to stop this from happening.
There are other instances of preventing women from visiting shrines and other holy places. The Lord Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala in the state of Kerala bars the entry of women aged 10 to 50, the years in which they are most likely to experience menstruation. Last year, the temple high priest performed a purification ceremony there after a 35-year-old woman entered the shrine.