The observation came during the hearing of a petition file by an NGO Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) which had flagged the issue for consideration by the court in 2004. In the 18 years that have passed since, the Centre has failed to file any response in the matter.
The matter raises also raises a familiar debate within Islam, many of whose proponents have long claimed that there is no caste system in Islam - a claim that has been contested by members of Pasmanda Muslim communities of South Asia.
upper caste Hindus who converted to Islam are broadly considered be Ashraf. The neologism Pasmandas (meaning those who were left behind) is used to refer to Ajlaf and Arzal Muslims, considered lower in the social heirarchy by the Ashrafs, who have historically dominated the social, political and economic sphere. Ajlafs' statuses are defined by them being descendants of converts to Islam and are also defined by their pesha (profession). Marriages between Ashrafs and Pasmandas are still looked down upon in several places. In the Bengal region (including both Bangladesh and West Bengal, a 2009 paper titled “Caste-based Discrimination in South Asia: A Study of Bangladesh" by Iftekhar Uddin Chowdhury noted that there were as many as 35 Muslim castes in Bengal. Largely, the Muslim society in West Bengal has been divided into three hierarchical categories: Sharif/Ashraf at the top, followed by the Atraf (low-born), and with the Arzal or Ajlaf at the bottom. Lower castes historically are not allowed to enter mosques or be buried in the public burial ground.
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