Diktats against Western-style toilets, secular wedding venues leave Bohra community baffled


New ‘advisories’ have included strictures against secular wedding halls and the amount of mehndi brides can apply.

On Wednesday evening, Zoher’s aged mother received a call from a representative of her local mosque, who asked her an unexpected question. “He wanted to know what kind of toilet we use in our house, Western or Indian,” said Zoher, a businessman from Maharashtra’s Jalgaon city who wanted to reveal only his first name.

This was the second time in a week that his mother had received such a call from their Dawoodi Bohra community representatives, and Zoher was stumped. On both occasions, his mother informed the caller that the family had installed a Western-style toilet at home. “The first caller told her that the Bohra authorities were just collecting information. But the second caller asked my mother to talk to the aamil sahab,” said Zoher.

As a pious member of the Dawoodi Bohra Muslim sect, Zoher’s mother did as she was told and called up her aamil or priest. The aamil asked her to explain why they had chosen a Western toilet, to list the number of family members with knee or other health problems, and told her to meet him when she went to the mosque next.

“If they had called me, I would have told them that they have no right to ask personal questions about what I do in my house,” said Zoher, whose Bohra friends and neighbours have also received similar calls from their mosques. “They are deliberately calling only the ladies of the house.”

Zoher is not the only Bohra baffled by the community’s toilet inquiries. In the past few weeks, Bohras in several parts of India, particularly smaller towns and cities, claim to have received phone calls or home visits by mosque authorities who allegedly asked them to shift from Western toilets to Indian-style toilets.

This initiative, which a Bohra spokesperson described as part of a “wider ongoing upliftment and awareness drive”, follows close on the heels of a controversial set of rules for weddings that have created a storm in the community.

These rules forbid Bohras from hosting or attending wedding functions in secular, non-Bohra party halls, ban sangeets and other dance functions and also place restrictions on the amount of mehendi the bride can apply for her wedding. In the past two weeks, several Bohras in Mumbai have lost lakhs of rupees in the process of cancelling wedding parties at the last minute and shifting their functions to Bohra community halls.

The rules have disturbed a large section of the Dawoodi Bohras, a small but wealthy Gujarati Shia sect headed by spiritual leader Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin. The community has been in the news for the past few years for a heated legal dispute over the seat of the Syedna, alleged excommunication of dissenting members and for its defence of the practice of female genital cutting.

‘They are infringing on our privacy’

While some Bohras have described the new rules as “diktats” from the clergy, an official spokesperson for the Anjuman-e Shiate Ali, the administrative body that manages community affairs, specified that these norms are merely “advisories and instructions” for its people.

Scroll for more

Comments are closed.