SUMAIYA ROSHAN, newly elected President of National Federation of Girls Islamic Organisation was born and brought up in Bangalore. A law graduate practising as an Advocate in Bangalore, and active member of GIO (Girls Islamic Organisation), was elected State President of GIO Karnataka in June 2021. In an interview with MOHD NAUSHAD KHAN, the first President of the Federation said they would not only be focusing on Muslim issues, or Muslim women issues, but also be giving voice to all those who face injustice and are oppressed.

As the newly elected president of National Federation of GIO, what are the challenges before you, keeping in mind the present situation in the country?

I think to create a platform for equal representation of girls and women across the country. This is also one of the important objectives of our National Federation of GIO. The focus of National Federation is to have interaction between the states. The federal committee consists of 25 members from various states in India where GIO is established. One of the most important objectives is to give them a platform where they can share their ideas, interact and have flow of diverse ideas by virtue of their diverse backgrounds and cultures among each other.

The next important objective is to give platform to women, not only Muslim but women in general to raise their voice on important issues. This organisation is one of a kind as we don’t have any precedent. Everything we will be doing will become a way for others to follow. I think that would be one of the challenges, to understand how we can give this platform without any discrimination to all women so that they can get some representation not only in media but everywhere.

So, you mean to say that National Federation of GIO will not only work for Muslim women but also will be voice of all women and girls in India? 

As a Muslim, I believe that we are not just voice of Muslims but we are voice of people who are oppressed and all those who face injustice. So, accordingly, we will not only be focusing on Muslim issues, or Muslim women issues, but our aim is to give voice to all those who face injustice. We welcome all women and we also wish to interact and engage with other women activists and social activists so we can all work together to fight injustice.                

There are some age-old prejudiced narratives against Muslim women? What will be the approach of National Federation to deal with such negative thoughts?

There are certain stereotypes and prejudices against Muslim women. But, interestingly, we don’t see so much of that in our inner circle. I will give you an example of how GIO runs in each of the states. We all have girls who are married, who have children, who have their careers, who have Masters and PhDs. Even in our federal committee, you can see everyone is well educated; they have various skills and talents. We know that the Muslim women today are not oppressed the way society sees them.

We will also work in this direction to bring this to the society and to the world and tell them that Muslim women are not as they perceive – forced to do anything, to wear hijab, to sit at home, or to get married early. These are all stereotypes prevalent since ages. But that will change now because the contributions these girls have to make to the development of the society is much more than what society thinks.

India Muslim women issues are generally dragged into controversy? How will you try to deal with such a situation? 

Not only Muslims, but all women have been targeted every now and then. You see the hijab issue, the Sulli Deals and so on. Our approach will be to give voice to those who have no voice, who are oppressed and subject to hate. And if such a situation arises, we will see that as we raise our voice against it, how we can also actively bring a change and give some positive approach to deal with these situations.

What role do you think GIO can play for the empowerment of Muslim women?

As mentioned earlier, our intent is to give due space to women that they deserve in society. Our plan also includes to train our committee members, our cadre to be able to become good representatives and to empower them so they be able to contribute with their skills and ideas to the upliftment and development of society in whatever capacity they can.

How do you think the energy of youth can be channelised towards nation building, progress and growth of our country?

The age we are in is a very crucial age. We have a lot of ideas and thoughts. We have so much to give to the world. Girls in our community are also very skilled and they too can contribute to reconstruction of society and nation building. They are writers, journalists, advocates and in various fields. If given right direction, their ideas, thoughts and energy can be used in the most productive ways towards nation building without wasting their talents and skills.             

As a lawyer, what do you think should be done to ensure constitutional culture in India?

In think the most important thing is awareness among youth and people of all ages, awareness on the idea and the foundation of the Constitution. People should also be made aware of their duties, rights and responsibilities. Individual and group discussions on their ideas on democracy, secularism, justice, equality and fraternity will surely help ensure and promote the idea of India and constitutional culture.

Finally, what is your expectation from the newly elected president of India?

I think anyone in power has a greater responsibility of looking into the interest of the weaker sections and minorities. One of the most important things is inclusiveness in every filed. It could be administration or legislation and so on. In the past few years, we can see inclusivity and the idea of ‘unity in diversity’ has been threatened, Muslim community has been otherised, women don’t feel safe. It is important that the idea of unity and brotherhood needs to be inculcated, taught and celebrated more.

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