TEL AVIV – A leading Muslim cleric and scholar who made headlines by claiming that gender equality is against Islam and women are only fit to deliver children is now hoping to spread his influence in the West with the construction of a new mosque in New Zealand.
Kanthapuram AP Aboobacker Musliar, leader of the traditionalist Sunni Muslim community in the southern Indian state of Kerala, visited New Zealand in January of this year in hopes of strengthening his base of followers in the city of Hamilton by building what he called “a beacon of Islam” in the area.
At a conference of the Muslim Students Federation (MSF) toward the end of last year, Kanthapuram, who frequently calls upon men to “lord over their women,” was attacked for his misogynistic statements.
“Gender equality is not Islamic, wise, or humane,” Kanthapuram said. “It [gender equality] is not going to happen. Women can only deliver babies. This world is controlled by men. Women can’t withstand a major crisis and they even lack courage to perform major surgeries including open heart procedures.”
The 76-year-old Islamic scholar also spoke out against reserving seats for women in elections. He remarked that the 50% of seats reserved for women in civic polls was “too high.”
Kanthapuram claimed that allowing women and men to study together in colleges was “part of a calculated move to destroy Islam and culture.”
“The obstinacy that boys and girls should study sitting on the same bench is an indirect attack aimed at destroying Islam and its culture,” Kanthapuram said.
Kanthapuram also rejected allegations of sexual abuse in Kerala’s madrassas (Islamic religious schools). “Those who raise the allegation should bring evidence for it,” he said.
Kanthapuram later issued a statement claiming that his words had been distorted. “Islam is a religion that respects the role of women. There are women who deliver services like angels in education, health care, and the running of families. But unlike men, women have certain limitations. She needs to be given special protection and consideration. Giving birth and raising kids are the special blessings given by nature to woman. I have only touched on this greatness of womanhood in my speech. But it has been distorted,” he said.
Kanthapuram has come under fire for his treatment of female journalists, barring their attendance at events and refusing to be interviewed by them. One journalist said his followers cursed at her and told her that Kanthapuram believed “girls to be haram [forbidden].”
Kerala has attracted attention for an increase in Sunni religious extremism. A journalist from Kerala recently went to Syria to join the Islamic State and some Muslim youths from the southern Indian state were deported from the UAE back to India because of their pro-IS connections.