This is an incisive article sent by Ms Taji M which raises several intelligent and debatable points. Right now we are witnessing a debate on need for reform in religion. This article provides a woman’s perspective and argues that due to orthodox and literal interpretation of religion women in our society are not getting a fair deal. We expect healthy debate on this article.
By Taji M
I have a friend, university educated, upper class, stylish and religious but not an extremist way. She is a on the whole a very sensible person. Over the years we have debated religion extensively; I have more reformist thoughts and she is more mainstream. She is of the firm belief that present orthodox version of Islam offers the best position for Muslim women; in one of our debates she said something like this “Look at me, I am much better off than the western women slaving away in offices and then scouting for boyfriends and eventual husbands. Before marriage my father took care of me, he treated me and my brothers equally. During his lifetime he divided the property between me and brothers and I ended up getting a larger share as I got a lot of gold in my jahez also. I got married without going through the humiliating boyfriend search, and now have a loving husband and two cute kids. I am a stay-at-home mom out of choice not due to my husband’s insistence. And the nice house we live in is in my name. I am protected under the safety of Islam which offers the best to all good women”.
She is not alone in coming to that conclusion, a large number of educated class Muslim women share this attitude. They have been convinced that they have gotten best deal possible. I have a problem with this belief though. And I have told her and other similar women, that their experience is not out of the fruits of orthodox version of religion, but of the good luck of being associated with decent men. In case of my friend, her father bypassed the law and divided his estate in his life time so that she won’t get half share later on. Her husband, a really nice guy, ensured her financial security by keeping the house in her name. Otherwise in case of widowhood, the wife gets one of the smallest shares, and if there is a divorce she gets nothing from the family wealth. Of course she gets the Meher, but how many women can survive for long on that amount. Continue reading
They say in Africa that when elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers. To this Julius Nyerere had once added that when elephants make love, the grass still suffers. Nyerere had made this witty remark at a summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in the 1970’s. The organisation had been formed to extricate as much of the world from suffering the same fate as the grass in this African proverb, during the Cold War. Yet, it failed Afghanistan as most of NAM’s members were anything but non-aligned. Unfortunately, this included its leading lights.
The US decided to give the USSR a bloody nose in Afghanistan. It seemed no one cared for the poor country caught in the crossfire. Washington found Gen Zia ul Haq’s Pakistan to be a more than willing partner. For the Pakistani dictator, this was an unbelievably lucky opportunity to gain international ‘legitimacy’, even recognition. But for Afghanistan and her people this superpower showdown meant the worst misfortune, misery, death and destruction in the country’s history. The misery continues even two decades after one of the superpowers is no more.
The following article is a short trip down memory lane by an Afghan expat, Muhammad Qayoumi, for Foreign Policy (May 27, 2010). It is one glimpse, through a particular little window, of how three decades of war can push a country six centuries back in time. It is not claimed that Afghanistan did not have large areas which were, as it were, centuries behind parts of Kabul, Herat and Mazar e Sharif, even 30 years ago. But what is most saddening about this little window on the past is the realisation of the damage that has been done to the psyche of the Afghan people, regardless of who they were, where they lived and in which ‘century’. To regain self-confidence, and to let go of anxieties of more than one sort, would perhaps be the most difficult task faced by the Afghans in their efforts to try and rebuild their country. They will have to relearn to be Afghans, rediscover their own history and not only find hope and security, but once again get used to feeling hopeful and secure. They will have to learn to smile again. (bciv)
Once Upon a Time in Afghanistan…
Record stores, Mad Men furniture, and pencil skirts — when Kabul had rock ‘n’ roll, not rockets
On a recent trip to Afghanistan, British Defense Secretary Liam Fox drew fire for calling it “a broken 13th-century country.” The most common objection was not that he was wrong, but that he was overly blunt. He’s hardly the first Westerner to label Afghanistan as medieval. Former Blackwater CEO Erik Prince recently described the country as inhabited by “barbarians” with “a 1200 A.D. mentality.” Many assume that’s all Afghanistan has ever been — an ungovernable land where chaos is carved into the hills. Given the images people see on TV and the headlines written about Afghanistan over the past three decades of war, many conclude the country never made it out of the Middle Ages. Continue reading
By Adnan Syed
It does not matter if niqab is indeed mandated by Islam or not. For those few hundred women out of 1 Million Muslims living in Canada, or for that matter in Europe or anywhere in the world, niqab is mandated by Islam. They prefer to move around behind this hideous and dehumanizing dress, happy with their chastity preserved, away from the prying eyes of lustful men, and feeling liberated while being covered from head to toe.
They and I can go on quoting our versions of whether niqab is mandated by Islam, or it is a redundant cultural attic from tribal and patriarchal societies that we just do not want to part with.
There are many pseudo religious practices that the modern societies have banished. From the extreme Hindu religious practice of Sati, to the female genital mutilation that is still disturbingly practiced in the Muslim African societies, the world has taken a clear stand against the atrocities in the name of religion. Such practices go against the principles of equality and welfare of the population; where members of the society are either coerced into acting in a certain way, or are too young and helpless to stop their own genital mutilation.
Over the next few days, we will run various articles that debate the arguments for and against the niqab legislation that is underway in European countries. Niqab, or full face and body covering introduces a conundrum in Western societies, and we suspect this issue will not be limited to only the Western societies in the near future. While religious considerations must be respected in secular democracies, there come instances when the religious argument runs afoul of the society safety and welfare of its members. We must remember that the argument is between extreme interpretations of religion that runs against the law of the land. There have been reports of Jehovah’s Witness members refusing modern medical treatment. The Western Governments took clear stand against the fact that extremely sick people were not treated in the name of religion. Canada has seen observant Sikhs demanding their religious and symbolic right to carry ceremonial sword, yet the state stood against this extreme interpretation of Sikh tenets.
Does the Niqab symbolize extreme Islamic values, or is it a cultural issue. Does it keep women sequestered in urban ghettos in societies that encourage women to participate? Do women that don burqa day in and out suffer from serious medical conditions due to the absence of Vitamin D? Is a sight of completely faceless person covered from head to toe a security concern for the hundreds of people walking in the same enclosed space with that same person? Niqab is indeed a complicated yet fascinating issue as an increasingly secular world seeks to accommodate free practice of religion in its diverse and multi-religious societies.
Beyond the Veil
Monday, April 5th, 2010
The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.
– American novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald
By Fitzgerald’s standards, the wave of anti-veil rhetoric sweeping across Europe has probably catapulted the continent’s politicians into the intellectual equivalent of the Andromeda galaxy.
Posted by Raza Rumi
Zubair Torwali has reported from the field and debunked the perverse myths on the flogging video. This is followed by the brave and daring Samar Minallah’s account of the flogging saga and what more proof do Taliban sympathisers want. PTH is carrying these two pieces in solidarity with these two individuals who believe in a progressive and peaceful Pakistan and condemn militancy at great personal risk.
Swat has witnessed many harsh and cruel days. For about two years, it presented a view of Afghanistan during the heyday of the Afghan Taliban. The man who ignited the situation against the state of Pakistan — Sufi Mohammad — was spared (seemingly by design) for about three years. The MMA was then the ruling government in the province. In 2008, a half-hearted operation was launched under the name of Rah-e-Haq but it was evident then that the action being taken against the insurgents was not serious. However, soon the situation became very grave and serious when the hanging of slit-throated and beheaded bodies became a routine, and the Grain Chowk in Mingora became notorious as the ‘Khooni Chowk’. Upon intense pressure from the people of Swat and the media, the government decided to try and settle the issue peacefully. A long deliberation and negotiations were carried out at the start of 2009 to reach a settlement. In the wake of this endeavour, a peace deal was signed with the Taliban in February 2009. Emboldened by the very apparent capitulation on the part of the government, the militants expanded their writ to the nearby districts of Buner and Dir. The people’s reaction to the peace deal was mixed. Some thought it would bring permanent peace to the Valley but there were many who were cynical and thought that the peace deal was carried out on the terms put forward by the militants. They were of the opinion that since the Taliban were non-state actors, they would not comply with the truce. Their apprehensions proved true and the Taliban extended their ‘rule’ beyond Swat. Continue reading
Dr. Tahir Rauf
New sexual harassment legislation, an amendment to the Criminal Law was passed in the National Assembly and later signed by the president Asif Ali Zardai this week. The bill provides protection to “working women at workplace” against harassment and intimidation. The offence is punishable with either three years imprisonment, Rs.500, 000 fine or both.
Sexual harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances and the victim(s) may be a woman, or a man or a child. In a civil society, the victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct or associated with the victim or offender.
However, many women rights groups and NGOs have expressed an overwhelming response to the legislation. Without a doubt, this passage of legislation advocates limiting behaviors on the basis of morality and promises new cultural and social values of the daily norms. Laws are made about defending people’s rights from being violated by others. However, the new law’s implementation is an implicated issue considering moral and social behaviors based upon an evaluation of the current circumstances in Pakistani society. Continue reading
Religion and Women
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
Published: January 9, 2010
All rights reserved with New York Times Company
Religions derive their power and popularity in part from the ethical compass they offer. So why do so many faiths help perpetuate something that most of us regard as profoundly unethical: the oppression of women?
It is not that warlords in Congo cite Scripture to justify their mass rapes (although the last warlord I met there called himself a pastor and wore a button reading “rebels for Christ”). It’s not that brides are burned in India as part of a Hindu ritual. And there’s no verse in the Koran that instructs Afghan thugs to throw acid in the faces of girls who dare to go to school.