A Muslim man has recently come under fire from several quarters in Kerala for preventing his wife from breastfeeding their new born child.
Aboobacker Siddique claimed that feeding the child before the completion of five prayers that a Muslim says every day was un-Islamic. The family lives in Omassery, Kozhikode district
When the doctors at the EMS Cooperative Hospital at Mukkam, where his 24-year-old wife Hafsath delivered the male child on Wednesday, tried to compel him, Siddique said that he was ready to take the blame of his child's death.
He reportedly told the hospital authorities not to worry as they had not given breast milk or anything else orally to his first child as well. He claimed that it did not cause any problem in the child, who is now leading a healthy life.
General manager of the Hospital Rasika Kamar said that the man had acted on the advice of a Muslim cleric who told him that new born babies should not be breastfed before the five prayers.
“Hafsath had delivered the child at 2 pm on Wednesday. This meant that we had to keep the child without any nutrients till the next day evening. This was risky for us. We told them about the risk to the baby. They were not amenable to any suggestion,” Rasika told Firstpost.
She said that the denial of breast milk to the new born baby for 24 hours could have led to dehydration resulting in its death. The doctors had tried to give at least glucose to the baby but the mother did not allow them to give the child anything orally.
“She told us that she feared her husband might divorce her if she disobeyed him. She was not even allowing us to examine the glucose level of the child. As they remained adamant, we had to inform the police,” Kamar said.
Though the police threatened to take criminal action against Siddique for showing cruelty to the child, he did not yield. As pressure mounted, he got his wife forcefully discharged from the hospital at around 5 pm after giving an undertaking.
Salim, sub-inspector of Mukkam station said that they had registered a case against the child’s father on the basis of a complaint filed by the hospital authorities. Salim, who himself is a practising Muslim, said an investigation into the incident was on.
The Kerala State Commission for Protection of Child Rights has also taken up the issue based on media reports. Commission member Naseer Chaliyam said that he had sought a report from the District Child Protection Officer on the incident.
“The case prima facie involves violation of child rights. The child’s father has put his life under risk by denying him the basic nutrients. The denial of breast milk is a cruelty to the child under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 201,” Naseer pointed out.
He said that the Commission would prosecute Siddique if found guilty. He said that he was awaiting the report from the district official to decide the future course of action.
Sheeba Mumtaz, who is Kozhikode district child protection officer, told Firstpost that their investigation had shown that the father of the child had violated provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act. She said that she will be submitting her report to the panel recommending action against Siddique under the provisions of the Act.
The commission will also examine the matter and add additional charges if any required, Sheeba said while adding that this was the first time she heard that feeding a new born child before five prayers was un-Islamic. She feels Quran, on the contrary, encourages Muslim women to breastfeed their infants shortly after birth,” said Sheeba, who is also a Muslim.
“There is a practice among a section of Muslims to recite the prayer which is called ‘adhan’ in the infant's right ear to ensure that the first word he or she hears is the prayer. It could be recited either before or after feeding the breast milk. This is done by the infant’s father. Siddique might have misunderstood this as the five prayers,” feels Sheeba.
The incident coming in the wake of strong resistance to the immunisation of children against diphtheria from the Muslim community in Malappuram district worries health activists about the health of the children. They believe that a section of the community had opposed the immunisation even after death of five children earlier this year due to religious reasons.
Though a massive campaign was launched by the government with the help of various organisations to fully immunise all children below five years, only 6000 out of the total 42,000 unimmunised children could be immunised in the district during the campaign.
Social activists see the incidents like this as a reflection of attempts by certain sections to take the Muslims back to the primitive days. Noted writer Professor NP Hafiz feels that there was a deliberate move by certain sections to rally the youth by misguiding them about the Islamic teachings.
They are using Salafism as the rallying point. Salafism is an ultra-conservative reform movement within Sunni Islam which believes in a puritanical form of Islam opposed to Western values. The salafists adhere to Sharia law and considers cinema, music and even interactions with the opposite gender as un-Islamic.
A few months earlier, a woman trapped in a river refused to be rescued by “anyone other than her husband”. As her husband did not know how to swim, the lady had to be forcibly rescued.
“I personally feel that those behind such incidents have vested interests. They are trying to create their own sect or band of followers for personal gains. Several radical outfits like the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), National Development Front (NDF), and Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) have been formed due to these interests.” Prof Hafiz said.
“This is a dangerous trend that could lead to radicalisation. The 21 youths who went missing from Kasargod and Palakkad districts three months ago might have been influenced by salafism. They had left the comforts of their homes and abdicated the luxuries of their life before they crossed the border,” he added
Prof Hafiz said that a group had tried to establish a Salafi commune at Nilambur in Malappuram district a few years. Some 16 families joined the commune with the objective of re-creating the life the Prophet led about 1,400 years ago.
The growing popularity of such movements could help the growth of outfits like the Islamic State. The government should view these incidents of salafism seriously and take appropriate action against those promoting such kind of thinking.