Inside the World Humanist Forum-Asia: A secular Muslim advocate from India speaks

Source: Facebook Page of Muslim Satyashodhak Mandal.  

Once a week, representatives of member organizations who are part of the WHF-Asia meet to interchange and connect with one another. In this report, we share the introduction done by Dr. Shamsuddin Tamboli from Muslim Satyashodhak Mandal.

The Muslim SatyaShodhak Mandal is a Muslim reformist movement founded by late social reformer Hamid Dalwai. It is a historical social movement committed to Indian Constitutional values. Although there is ‘Muslim’ in the name of the organization, it believes in the secular value of the Indian constitution. The organization focuses on Muslim problems and bringing reform to the community.

It is the first movement among Muslims to bring reform and to inculcate modern constitutional values in society. Dalwai, the founder, believed that the gap of social reform between the Hindus and Muslims should be bridged. It was essential for the welfare of the society as well as the nation. It was an attempt to bring and propagate secularism among the people and to provide social justice to Muslim women.

Here is the gist of Dr. Tamboli’s talk:

“I am very happy and I feel privileged to be part of the World Humanist Forum-Asia. The name Muslim in our org is just for the sake of name only. Our organization is 100 percent a secular organization, a progressive organization. The organization believes in equality, believes in nonviolence, believes in liberal democracy and secular values.

Definitely, we believe in the same principles of nonviolence and non-discrimination as the World Humanist Forum-Asia. But I would like to extend the concept of non-discrimination. We Muslim activists have to fight on two fronts—on internal discrimination as well as external discrimination.

Almost all religions, religious traditions, rituals or even laws also are becoming part of inequality and discrimination. Because of this, Muslim women are unable to exercise their human rights which the Indian constitution and universal declaration of human rights have given to them because of the provision of Muslim personal law such as divorce. Of late, oral triple talaq* is banned and a new law is there but another form of divorce is doing injustice to Muslim women. The orthodox clergy or the communal organizations are not willing to touch the so-called sharia law or Muslim personal law. But we are striving to bring change in the Muslim personal law so that Muslim women will be able to exercise their rights.

About external discrimination. These days, polarization, hate speeches and even mob lynchings are increasing. Some Hindu religious organizations are directly and openly giving threats to the Muslim community. So there is a feeling of insecurity among Muslims. I also accept that there are some communal organizations among Muslims. They are regressive and traditional, also creating problems.

There are two challenges. We have to fight against Hindu communalism as well as Muslim communalism.

Our motto is to make our country secular. Secularism is very close to humanism because it’s co-existence, equal respect to all religions, scientific temperament, equality, social justice, pluralism and non-discrimination.

In our work against discrimination, we have some women’s legal aid and support centers, and Hamid Dalwai**study circles. We try to give some alternative festivals to the religious festivals. For example, during Eid Ul Azaha ie. Bakri Eid, they generally sacrifice goats or some animals. For the last 10 to 15 years, instead of sacrificing animals, we are organizing blood donation camps and now these blood donation camps are not only for a day or two but for a week. This is symbolic because blood has no religion, no province, is beyond racial discrimination also. Let’s share our blood for the sake of humanity.

We have a very good connection and coordination with different social organizations that believe in secularism, democracy, equality, non-violence and non-discrimination. We usually organize programs with about five to ten organizations for inter-faith dialogue, for celebrating certain days. But our concept is not only for the sake of Maharashtra State or India. These are based on universal values that can connect the people of the world.

So I am very happy. Our World Humanist Forum is a unique platform where we all can come together to share our ideas, make some common united efforts and spread this message worldwide. I am also part of the World Peace and Friendship Mission. Just like our organization, there are members from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and other countries. The officers and members for the past 10 years are making a big effort to have a dialogue with different peoples. My organization, the World Humanist Forum and the World Peace and Friendship Mission have some common objectives. So we can collaborate.”

*Oral Triple Talaq allowed any Muslim man to legally divorce his wife by uttering the word talaq (the Arabic word for “divorce”) three times consecutively in oral, written or, more recently, electronic form.. On 22 August 2017, the Indian Supreme Court deemed instant triple talaq (talaq-e-biddah) unconstitutional. Wikipedia.

 **Hamid Dalwai was an Indian journalist, social reformer, thinker, activist, author, writer and the founder of Muslim Satyashodhak Mandal and Indian Secular Society. Wikipedia.

For more information, visit

The Forum is in the process of being built. If your organization is interested in being part of the Forum, send an email with a letter of interest and a short backgrounder to: World Humanist Forum at

The team and members of the Forum meet every Sunday so should you wish to know more, introduce your org, meet other members, kindly indicate in your email so that you can receive a link to Sunday meetings.



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