Report by Santanu Ganguly, Jaipur: Introducing an illustrious panel on the Islamic Sharia Law, which included human rights lawyer Sadakat Kadri, Islamic scholar Asghar Ali Engineer, journalist Mary Harper, and author Tom Holland, moderator Reza Aslan recalled a saying that likened the Sharia to water, since ‘it takes the form of any vessel it is poured into.’
The discussion began with Sadakat Kadri talking about how he was inspired to write his book, Heaven on Earth: A Journey Through Sharia Law, post 9/11 and 7/7, when none of his friends or his devout father could answer his questions about what the Islamic Sharia Law said about killing and violence. His research revealed that practices justified as sacred over the course of history were extremely diverse. “Etymologically, sharia in Arabic means 'path' or 'direct path towards water', both for survival and metaphorically towards salvation,” he said. “As such, an attack on Sharia could be interpreted as an attack on God, so one must start any debate about Sharia with that understanding. ”
Mary Harper, Africa editor at BBC World Service, spoke about how Mali was a great African success story in terms of democracy until a few months ago, when a coup took over two-thirds of the country. A draconian application of Sharia has been instated, she said. War by the West wasn't a solution, she felt, as the jihadi would simply move on to the next area, since this was a phenomenon that occurred from Nigeria in the west to Somalia and Kenya in the east in Africa.
Islamic scholar Asghar Ali Engineer emphasised that in the Quran, much was written about women’s rights and men’s duties, concluding that it was “a declaration of equality between men and women in Islam”. He also pointed out that it was men, and not God, who had imposed bans on women entering mosques or leading prayers, joking that “there’s something wrong with men if even in the presence of God, they cannot control their desires”. The panel concluded that there were contradictions in all sacred texts, as well as the cultural contexts those texts were being read in.
The DSC Jaipur Literature Festival is considered to be Asia’s leading literature event, celebrating national and international writers, and encompassing a range of activities including film, music and theatre. The festival has already hosted some of the best-known national and international writers including Orhan Pamuk, J.M. Coetzee, John Berendt, Kiran Desai, Christopher Hampton, Ian McEwan, Vikram Seth, Wole Soyinka, Salman Rushdie, Pico Iyer, Simon Schama, Thomas Keneally, Hanif Kureishi, Vikram Chandra, Anoushka Shankar, Michael Frayn, Stephen Frears, Alexander McCall Smith, Donna Tartt, Tina Brown, Shashi Tharoor, Mohammed Hanif, Paul Zacharia, among many others. The Directors of the DSC Jaipur Literature Festivals are William Dalrymple and Namita Gokhale and the festival is produced by Sanjoy K. Roy and Sheuli Sethi of Teamwork Productions. DSC Limited is the principal sponsor of the DSC Jaipur Literature Festival.
Teamwork is a highly versatile entertainment company with roots in the performing arts, social action and the corporate world. Our expertise lies in the area of entertainment and includes television, film – documentary and feature, and the creation and development of festivals of contemporary performing arts, visual arts, and literature across the world.
They currently produce 17 performing and visual arts festivals in 21 cities across 11countries, including Australia, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Israel, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, UK and USA. Teamwork produces Asia’s biggest literary gathering – the annual DSC Jaipur Literature Festival – as well as the Hay Festival in Kerala. ‘Celebrating India in Israel’, ‘Indian Summer in Canada’, ‘Eye on India in Chicago’, ‘Kahaani Festival’ and ‘Strings of the World’ are five new annual performing and visual arts festivals that have been launched in 2011-2013.