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Lectures by Megan Robb

Muslim Representations of Women in Medinah Newspaper, Bijnaur

Graduate Seminars in Indic Religions
10 May 2013

This paper will look at the representation of female sexuality in the "women's newspaper" sections of the Urdu language newspaper Medinah, published in Bijnaur district of Uttar Pradesh, India. The paper’s analysis focuses on the Urdu-language newspaper Medinah, which was published in Bijnaur district of the then United Provinces, India from 1912 until 1975. In 1912, Maulana Majid Hasan started a new publication named Medinah, named for both the holy city of Islam and the boat that carried George V to his coronation darbar in Delhi. Despite Hasan’s nod to royal authority, complete with sketches glorifying the boat Medinah that had brought the English king to South Asian shores, the newspaper became sympathetic to the Khilafat Movement and, eventually, the call for self-government. The newspaper published columns from adherents to the Deoband reformist movement, other prominent ‘ulama, and laymen in an attempt to establish a space where South Asian Muslims could carry on discourse on issues of spiritual and social importance in their native tongue. Medinah grew into a significant voice for Muslims, loyal to the British Empire but nevertheless critical of the West. As social and political realities rapidly transformed society, the editors and contributors in Medinah sought not merely to report on the diverse attitudes of Muslims toward these changes, but more importantly it sought to shape discourse on what it meant to be Muslim in the first half of the twentieth century. Women remained a major focus for the newspaper, which boasted a “women’s newspaper” section regularly published on issues of particular relevance to women. Through reading these women’s newspapers, as well as Medinah‘s coverage of newsworthy women, a portrait of female sexuality emerges as being closely tied to the well-being of the Muslim community.

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