Obliterating The Taboo-Muslim Women & Sexuality Part II

Being a Pakistani Muslim feminist, I have no problems is discussing Muslim women and their sexuality, yet realistically speaking I am obstructed in doing so by standards and stereotypes that have set for “Muslim women.” My co-author for this series, the spirited British Pakistani Muslimah, Hajra Khan has covered the matters of being a practicing Muslim women in the west very well in part I, highly recommended for readers.

At length, she demystifies how western standards affect the Muslim women living in Europe and elsewhere white world where ludicrous groups like FEMEN decide to become dictatorial mouthpiece for the Muslim women. Previously I have written on this matter too and I like to call this the “Saving Muslim Women Syndrome” that 99 out of 100 westerners suffer from. Be it in their geographical setting or a so-called third world country like Pakistan, for instance take an example of myself. A while ago I gave a women rights and media reporting presentation to a group of foreign diplomats working in Islamabad; most of them were shocked out their core to face a confident Muslim woman in sneakers and jeans without any artifice of makeup so preferred by European professionals working in diplomatic and humanitarian sector. And let’s be frank, probably they expected a lady in hijab and oriental eye make, whereas I see no point in “I am high maintenance” when I work in human rights sector and a lot with grass-roots activism.

Having worked for more then 15 years with non-white colleagues, I have come to experience anger, disgust, resignation, humor and irony is their subtle and not so subtle expectations of how my sexuality should be as a Muslim woman. It’s a bizarre experience to hear western people tell me how oppressed I am for internally I know they have literally no idea what they are talking about. On the other hand, living inside a Muslim country and being a practicing Muslim woman is not a bed of roses either. I am not a hijab wearer myself; although I respect and support Muslimah sisters who actively choose it o express their Muslim women identities. But having said that I don’t agree and support hardliner religious bigots and their oppressive campaigns stating… better to wear hijab, it saves you from being raped.”

Believe it or not I have attended such public sermons events with mixed yet segregated audiences listen on as the revered cleric tells them things like… In Islam, women earn Allah’s grace by obeying their husbands, hence the messages is clear MEN RULE, women obey.

Moving forward to more disturbing analogies where clerics teach…. Women are fitna (chaos) therefore they need to be covered so the men aren’t distracted. Clearly men are ardent so their gaze on an unveiled woman is no different then a naked woman, therefore hijab is a must for all Muslim women.

It seems there is no end “to the list of dos” we have to follow as women of faith since that fateful apple theater in Heaven. Before Islam, Judaism and Christianity fueled the same war on women of faith and their bodies…with teachings like… Do you know that you are each an Eve? You are the Devil’s gateway. And so on and so forth.

Millions of Muslim sisters in Pakistan and the Muslim world continue to live under man-made laws that oppress their lives and their bodies in adverse ways. What are some of these ways? The control and violation of women’s sexuality can take forms like early/ forced marriages, honor crimes, stoning for adultery, guardianship, zina laws, marital rape and family concerns.

I will specifically remind readers that I have written on Pakistan’s Mukhtara Mai, Moroccan Amina Filali, Reyhaneh Jabbari, all these women are Islam’s greatest victims falling to man-made interpretations of zina (rape) that led their lives into complete mayhem. What are Zina Laws and how come they control sexuality in Muslim societies?

In this regard, I came across the work of Dr. Ziba Mir-Hosseini, an Iranian legal anthropologist specializing in Islamic law, gender and development; in her publication “In Control and Sexuality:The Revival of Zina Laws in Muslim Contexts” she has focused on how Zina Laws are part of a broader legal scheme for controlling sexuality in Muslim societies. The research narrates, cases from five Muslim countries including Nigeria, Iran, Indonesia, Pakistan and Turkey.

Through case examination of these countries laws and their legal frame-work on rape, it has been illuminating to note that an important aspect of resistance to the (re)criminalization of zina is to make it obvious that such a legislative development does not occur in isolation – i.e. that there is a significant incidence of gender-discriminatory laws (whether or not religiously justified) in the respective legal system, all of which are demonstrably used to control women’s sexuality. Hence, the revival, often marketed as a ‘moral reform’ par excellence, is exposed as continuation (and an opportunistic ‘upgrade’) of an established legal mechanism constructed to provide its ‘managers’ with exceptional power over the general populace and, in particular, over women. Even in societies where zina is not explicitly criminalized by law, but instead regulated and ‘punished’ extra judicially, an analysis of the domestic legal system discloses that such social malpractice continues to be effectively condoned or even encouraged by certain laws for a considerably long time. This was the case in Turkey until recent criminal justice reforms.

Many Muslim feminists and reformers have time and again critiqued the legal frame-work on zina matters and how it deliberately allows men to hold power over women. Others have written extensively about how male notions of female sexuality lead to the creation of gender biased laws prevalent in modern day Muslim countries. Feminist scholars such as Fatima Mernissi and Amina Wadud point out that this male fear of ‘uncontrolled women’ stems from the time of the newly formed Muslim community, when men feared that the Prophet Muhammad was encouraging a women’s rebellion (nushuz) by stopping violence against women (Mernissi (1996). How is that for a reality check? 

There is also a deep notion of taboo and stigma over discussing sexuality in most Muslim societies; it is quite common to see Muslim brothers young and old speaking on sexuality at public forums and penning literary publications. However the same societies don’t accept so easily Muslim women writers or speakers on the topic of sexuality. Still there is hope because many young Muslimah sisters have gone and broken the stereotypes and created alternative spaces for themselves to be heard both collectively and individually.

It is also interesting to note the stark difference between past and present day Islam, in the past, Quran and early Muslim scholars dealt with topics of sex and sexuality with an openness and positively. Where as today, in the back streets of hustling bustling city like Karachi, there are dawas and dars (religious lectures) promoting the need for male control of women’s sexuality, prohibiting birth control as western agendas and so on.

Lets face it, Muslim societies are highly patriarchal and have misused the religion throughout history to exert control over Muslim women sexualities. Last week, in a shalwar kameez (national dress) along with a chador I was riding in a public bus for office,soon a perverted took upon himself to touch my back twice. I and another young girl politely informed him against repeating it – while the bus passengers openly gaped and some angry ones told us in clear words how shameless and honor less we were to protest for it and be rude to a man. A man, oh really a man. Opps.. really I am sorry in my world men ARENT Gods and aren’t getting any Godly status either.

 

Pakistan| Rampant Discrimination Against My Mohajir Identity

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A seasoned writer, Vikhar Ahmed Sayeed in his publication says that “The Mohajirs of Pakistan were the Muslims who migrated to Pakistan after Partition of British India. They were going not as refugees but as citizens of a promised homeland – a country for Muslims where they would not face political or religious discrimination. How then did the Mohajirs of Pakistan, four decades later, find themselves moved from the core to the periphery, marginalized and divided by ethnic conflict?.”

The long standing ethnic discrimination institutionalized against the ethnicity of Mohajirs is not a news to most in Pakistanis. Usual Pakistanis think Mohajirs are represented by the political party MQM, which is no way less violent and corrupt than other national level political parties. But Mohajirs themselves are heavily divided on the MQM factor  and do not consider the Altaf Hussain/ MQM as their representative, a fact known to most.

Politics aside, let me narrate a recent incident to you which is illuminating and outrageous.

Unlike the country’s other major ethnic groups, Mohajirs are not treated as “people of the soil” because their roots  lie in areas that are outside of what today is Pakistan. Yes, their roots are in India. OH, dear India. So its quite common for fellow Pakistanis to ridicule and mock Mohajirs by calling them Makkar (Betrayer), Panahgeer (Refugee), Bhaiyya (slang for ganster), Matarwa (looser), Hindustora (coming from Hindus which  frankly this I find very cheap and racist) etc.

Recently, a senior senator of ruling party PML-N(off course Punjabi ethnicity), Salim Zia, senator on a live TV show called Mohajirs  foreigners and Kalay Kalootay people (black colored people) and all this happened on 16 April, 2015. Its not just him, there are other leaders who also openly share their hatred against Mohajirs.

In all my life, I have listened to this sort of nonsense despite being born inside the borders of a country, called Pakistan. At school I was the “Bhoke Nangey Mohajir zaat”( hungry, naked refugee race) and my fair complexioned class-fellows would tell me that I should quit school  because later on my role would be of a domestic servant in their homes and other interesting slave like roles.

When I was young, it used to annoy me how everyone around me had a problem with Indian origin Pakistani Muslims identifying with their ethnic and cultural identity. Whereas, Punjabis, Pathans, Baloch and Sindhis can make jokes, brag about and display arrogance in general when it comes to their ethnic background, but the second an Urdu speaking Indian origin Muslim would says or do anything showing pride in his/her identity, they would start questioning why and proceed to humiliate the person into silence.

The second dilemma is that most ethnicities have been flourishing and their cultural traditions have been preserved, but there is strong resistance on Mohajir ethnicity people to preserve their culture. It all comes under the so-called “complete integration into becoming a true Pakistani nonsense.” The community despite having shaky start has been integrating into the more rural and feudal culture of Pakistan but stands out due to its more urbanized literate backgrounds.

It took a personal journey into Pakistan’s daily life for me to become more attached towards my identity as a Mohajir.

Things didn’t change much despite my growing up into an adult, even today my Mohajir identity comes under fire anywhere any time, thanks to my darling fellow Pakistanis. I have written about another interesting issue faced by Mohajir women over here, check it out.  Today’s Pakistan has become an intolerant and oppressive state for most of its citizens, a country where ethnic and religious minorities suffer the most due to the ineffectual governance. Be it Balochis, Hazaras, or Mohajirs there is a strong sense of being let down, by most.

There are times, when I feel like I’m labelled as an outsider on account of being Urdu speaking or having Indian origin elders who gave up everything to migrated 1947 in Pakistan to start a new life as its new citizens. Yet the label continues till today and there are hundreds, if not thousands who would try patting my back  and inform me that all this nonsense exists only inside my paranoid head.

No, it isn’t. Do not think my blood doesn’t boil when I hear people telling me what proof I have that my grand parents were married, what proof I have of my ancestral tree, who knows from “whom and where” my parents were born and usually the commentary ends with Mohajirs are Indian dogs.

Frankly I have no problems with dogs themselves and my world doesn’t end if a dog jumps over and licks me either. For the record, I also do not have any problems with India or fellow Indians. But its very telling to note that most Pakistanis use such phrases to insult Mohajirs hailing community.

Now many offended citizens of Pakistan will come forward to comment that this is a useless rant, by Mohajirs who aren’t as patriotic as they are. Let it be said on record, that I nor Mohajirs need no lessons in patriotism or nationalism from others.

And on a final note,  dear country men and women, do me a favor and please refer to me as a Pakistanis and not Mohajir or Urdu speaking. Thank you. 

 

Genocide|Myanmar’s Killing Fields of Rohingya Muslims and Tribal Peoples

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The ethno-religious violence in Burma between the Buddhist majority and other groups, such as the Rohinga Muslims, has existed for many decades if not centuries. Yet the world continues to watch in silence as Rohingyas are butcherred and sliced by the radical militant Buddist monks. Over the last few weeks, there have been an increase in ethnic cleansing in the Rakhine state on the country’s west coast.

Thousands of desperate and terror struck Rohingya people are stuck in the sea waters because hardly any Asian country is willing to receive them. The plight of Rohingya boat migrants is the most bizarre example of a growing migration crisis confronting Asia: An estimated 6,000 to 20,000 migrants are right now at sea, fleeing ethnic persecution in Myanmar and abject poverty in Bangladesh, while the countries are pointing fingers at one another and declining to take humanitarian responsibilities towards human lives that are at stake.

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As most governments continue indulging in the usual game of “look busy-do nothing” many regional human rights activists are condemning their governments stance on Rohingya boat migrant treatment. Many local activists are busy in mobilising the call for humanitarian assistance to Rohingya boat people. We contacted Malay human rights defender, Adrian Pereira, who has been very critical of the ASEAN states closed door policy towards the Rohingya.

He feels that ASEAN member countries need to jointly address this refugees issue before it becomes disastrous and out of hand, putting the effectively stateless Rohingya people at greater risks.

The Asia division of Human Rights Watch states that the three countries Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand involved should stop “this cruel game of human ping pong”. Many of the refugees had been at sea for weeks or even months, and are running out of food and water.

Elsewhere, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi continues to feel that she does not know whether the Rohingya Muslims qualify for becoming citizens of Myanmar and has been very politically motivated. In a genocide silence is complicity and Myanmar government’s on going persecution of the Rohingya has reached a level so untenable that the vulnerable community are faced with two cold blooded options, to remain and die, or else flee.

While thousands of desperate Rohingyas are at sea risk of peril, a pro-democractic Aung San Suu Kyi is mum on the treatment of minorities. One wonders where is her famous ‘moral authority’ as Muslim Rohingya homes are razed to the ground?

The History of Pakistani Feminism Part 4|Islam, Women Political Leaders & Birth of a Nation

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Talking about feminism in Pakistan it would be futile, if I do not bring forth the most key aspect of this country’s birth and the religion Islam. Female identity in Pakistan is very much interlinked with the place of Islam in the socio-political structures of the country. The idea of Pakistan, translated literally as the land of the pure,’ was first conceived and then later realized in the name of RELIGION and is probably the only country in the world founded on the basis of religious ideology.

Islamic principles are an integral part not only of state laws but also of the development of its civil society. It was was the major reason, and the driving force, in the unity of the Muslims of the subcontinent that fought for the liberation of Pakistan. And in the heart-fold of this long struggle against the British Rule were many Muslim political leaders who stood side by side with men in realizing the birth of Pakistan in 1947. The partition of sub-continent is a godawful legacy one that I attempted to cover in my post Recalling Partition 1947| Religion, Rape & The Raped Women, that mirrors the appalling burden carried by sub-continent’s women for liberation.

53eb8ab3affd9Feminism consciousness has always been alive as Pakistani political history sparkles with the services of many notable woman politicians whose contributions are unforgettable. In the shadows of the more prominent figures like Fatima Jinnah, Begum Shahnawaz, Salma Tassaduque Hussain, Begum Liaqat Ali Khan and Fatima Sughra, there were countless women who dedicated their lives to the Pakistan movement.

Theirs was a parallel story of courage and labor, a voice that invigorated the struggle but was unheard when the deafening roar of ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ rang out. Addressing the women’s participation into the making of this country, the father of nation Quaid E Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah in 1947 said that “Half of Pakistan is yours because you have put in no less effort to achieve it then the men.”53eb80e6de303

Moreover, the newly born nation was striving for equality and equitable rights of women that were considered essential for the progress of any society especially a Muslim Society and in doing that, Islamic principles were adhered to.Today’s Pakistan is completely a complex paradox in face of such a rich heritage. As the decades old misuse of Islam  has resulted into a catachrestic influence on the identity of the women. The version of Islam imposed upon the Pakistani society by General Zia further strengthened the concept that women‘s role in the social structure of the country was ineffective literally.

Patriarchy was and continues to play also its role in undermining of women’s status by using the religion card.  An academic and researcher, in context of Asma Barlas believes the problem with the Qur’an is not the text itself, which she accepts as ‘the speech of God’, but how humans interpret it. She notes that interpretations of the Qur’an have changed throughout history, gradually becoming more hostile to women.

On the controversial Hudood laws in Pakistan, Barlas says that these laws are terribly egregious because the weight of all moral crimes has fallen disproportionately on women. There are thousands of women languishing in Pakistan’s jails while the men with whom they are alleged to have committed sexual crimes have magically disappeared. How just is that? And how just is it not to be able to distinguish, from a strictly legal perspective, between rape and consensual sex so that a victim of rape is actually treated as the criminal? And how “Islamic” is it to mandate stoning to death for adultery when the Quran doesn’t mandate such a punishment for any crime?

“You cannot be an advocate for Muslim women when you think the Quran is oppressive,” says Pakistani academic researcher, Asma Barlas. Further she critiques that most controversial aspects of Islam as practiced with regard to women have their roots in hadith (tradition) rather than the Quran itself. For example, the stipulation that women be veiled is not mentioned anywhere in the Qur’an except with specific reference to Muhammad’s wives. And stoning to death is not a punishment in the Quran for any crime, so how come it became part of shari’a law in Pakistan. In the final part of this series, I share her video here where she discusses on how Women’s Rights from within the Quran and therefore need to be interpreted accordingly.

The History of Pakistani Feminism|Fundamentalists Vs. Feminists Part III

As the current United Nation’s Special Rapporteur in the field of Cultural Rights, Pakistani feminist and human rights defender Farida Shaheed is known internationally for her activism, and expertise in the area of culture and identity in relation to development and human rights.By profession, she is a sociologist and is known for her extensive work on gender and class analysis, both in Pakistan and more globally. She heads the Shirkat Gah women’s resource center in Pakistan and is part of pressure lobby groups on various human rights concerns.

In this video, she will walk us through the historical context of the decades old battle for women rights in Pakistan, one that started in 1980s and of which I have spoken of here, here and here. She has boldly discussed our national problem of state control over religion and its citizens, that were a necessity at the time of Afghan War for waging Ronald Reagan’s regional agendas in South Asia, along with the Pakistani accomplice military regime. 

Veteran journalist Robert Dreyfuss was quoted in one of his articles saying that for half a century the United States and many of its allies saw what he called the “Islamic right” as convenient partners in the Cold War but it all came at a heavy price for Pakistani people, in particular women. The Islamization of Pakistan for supporting this nefarious war lead by mujahadeen militants meant serious bad news for the Pakistani women, one covered very aptly in the previous posts of this series and in this video interview where Ms. Fareeda Shaheed highlights the state control over its citizens has extended to the limit that Pakistan started to fail its women, its people of diverse faiths and ethnicties.

Women rights cause have suffered great backlash, because the mosque wants to control what women do and what women should not do and in case they do, also what should happen to them. In this ludicrous game of the fundamentalists battling against the feminists — one excuse comes up again and again.

Secularism, for most Pakistan and Pakistanis is being anti-State, anti-Islamic and anti-patriotic. A country where millions are illiterate, the mosque’s mullah factories have taught these lessons well. And a major part of our society shares a particular opinion considering history, religion, culture and nationalism with a slightly radical element. They cannot endure anyone who would dare to disagree with them.

Secularism is a really dirty word in my home country and in such a hostile scenario, having a normal discussion with a fellow citizen is sometimes not that easy. Even today, common beliefs of people include: “Pakistan was made in name of Islam and for Islam”… or “slam is the greatest religion and Islamic laws should be used for people of all religions and anyone who disagrees is a non-believer and hence inferior to us and could be harmed lawfully.”

In jest, not us forget that one can take a bullet in the chest, like Sabeen Masud.

I have no views on secularism and whether it’s the answer to Pakistan’s problems, but sanity dictates that secularism guarantees you freedom of religion, just like the Islamic law. Yet today in Pakistan, Hindus cannot get married legally, innocent Christians are killed after being wrongly accused of blasphemy, remaining Jews are unconditionally hated and Ahmadis are declared non-Muslims and murdered (a statutory gift of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto). This shows us clearly that the problem does not lie in the secular philosophy you chose to govern the country, but in the society.

Secularism cannot save Pakistan, but it can certainly give us a huge respite in the coming times. Narrow minded, uncompromising views of society are prevalent in most anti-women practices and customs that are prevalent in today’s times.

An emotional hatred exists towards women rights activists and local feminists, who according to zealot men of Allah (mullah brigades) need to be stopped at all costs, against corrupting the people and this society.

Where as Muslim feminist like myself feels that this country cannot progress in this system until and unless the true spirit of religion is brought forward, which I do not see happening anytime soon.

The History of Pakistani Feminism Part II| Saeed Khan Rangeela

 

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“One of the first pioneers of women’s liberation in Pakistan was actually a man from film industry Lollywood” 

As our local feminists Shehla Zia, Saima Sarwar and others burned dupattas on the roads of Lahore and protested publicly elsewhere in the country, there was someone we need to not forget in the history of Pakistani feminism. A man from Lollywood (Pakistani film industry), actor, director, singer and comedian, yes am talking about the most radical of them all, Saeed Khan Rangeela.

Hailing from Parachinar, a man of Pushtun ethnicity, he was the first Pakistani male to fully express the concerns and beliefs of the 1970s ‘women’s liberation movement’ in the country, (do check the link for more info). Rangeela walked his talk of women’s rights by going big to put together a big-budgeted feature film that he directed, produced and acted in. The film was called Aurat Raj (Women’s Rule). It was released in 1979 but bombed at the box-office. It was released on the advent of Pakistani establishments disastrous love affair with Islamization under master-ship.. coughs…  US alliance for  unneccessary Afghan Invasion and Wahabism tanda raj ( religious batton- rule alias dictatorships).

While Mulla brigade rhetoric was apparent and blatant in the 1970s with majority of Pakistani films ridiculing the antics and struggles of this period popular women’s liberation movement, Rangeela decided to turn the tables and satirize those who were ridiculing the movement, especially men. This time he invested all of his earnings into an off-beat film project Aurat Raj (Women’s Rule). The result was so shocking that the film distributors went numb at what they saw: A scathing satire on male-dominated societies. Aurat Raj film also parodied the concept of typical macho heroes and helpless heroines in Pakistani films and was entirely sympathetic to the feminist point of view.

The film plot was never ever seen or heard of in Pakistan. It was a move actually like no other ever made in this country. It depicted a repressed wife (played by popular actress Rani) of a flamboyant male chauvinist (played by South Asia’s Chocolate Hero otherwise actor Waheed Murad) — a man who treats women like objects.

The wife finally puts her foot down and organizes a women’s movement in the area. The movement dramatically spreads and mobs of women begin to get hold of oppressive men and beat them up in the streets. The government intervenes and decides to hold an election to resolve the issue. The election is swept by the Aurat Raj Party, and the women gain political power. Rani becomes the country’s new leader and purchases a special bomb from a foreign country. The bomb is special because after exploding it turns all men into women!

All (original) women are elevated to the domestic, social and political positions that were once dominated by the males, and the men are relegated to wearing women’s clothes and pushed into occupations and duties that are stereo-typically associated with women.

Aurat Raj_pictures2Rangeela’s genius made open fun of Pakistani sexism and societal mindsets as audience of Aurat Raj are shown snippets of many other emblems of the new order where women accosting and assaulting men in the street, roaming and publicly smoking female mafious bands, women abducting men on their wedding day, women saving men from rapists and the men falling in love with their saviors, women convicts dunking it out in prisons and then going scott-free. Check this hilarious photos to see for yourself!

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What follows is a hilarious, biting satire that attacks male chauvinism, social conservatism and female stereotypes constructed by the popular media in our disturbing patriarchal society. Film critics blasted with reviews commenting on the physical aspects like the tacky, over done costumes, makeup as well as minced no words on its concept which was more of a nightmare for the male dominated censorboard to digest.

But if the film wasn’t as it was, we wouldn’t get to see a macho hero and actor like Waheed Murad almost unrecognizable in his feminine avatar!

The film was so visually and conceptually startling that the local audiences were not sure exactly how to respond, while the censorboard decided to go full throttle to edit the film and penalize Rangeela for his mindless wanderings in form of Aurat Raj.

Rangeela never ever recovered from the loss he concurred from this (albeit pioneering) cinematic debacle. He managed to remain afloat as a comedian for the next decade or so, but never again did he allow himself to dream this way and died of liver failure in 2005.

Today, people in the land of Pure hardly discuss his efforts for women rights cause, some go on saying it was way ahead of its time, but the fact remains absolute that Aurat Raj has been a commendable effort on Rangeela’s part. 

The History of Pakistani Feminism Part I|Hilda Saeed

 

Who were Pakistani women Fahmida Allahbuksh, Samia Sarwar, or Saima Waheed and why they were significant women in our nation’s history? What happened in Lahore in 1983?Why are women burning dupattas in that historical photograph of WAF members, and what exactly is WAF? Are there no empowering women in Pakistan other than Asma Jahangir or Mukhtar Mai? These are the questions that Pakistanis, especially young people need to be asking themselves, and people around them. But that’s what the problem is, they don’t, and they are unaware of the feminist legacy of South Asia.

Even before the Partition of British controlled India (shudders) into two separate countries, the local women in United India regardless of their religious beliefs, played an active role in fighting for their rights. We read brief paragraphs in Pakistan Studies textbooks about “the role of Muslim women in creation of Pakistan” but that seems like a distant memory that consists only of Fatima Jinnah, Begum Raana Liaquat, and the mother of the Johar brothers during the Khilafat movement. Just like these textbooks don’t portray actual history accurately, similarly they portray no picture of the women’s movement in Pakistan.
Young Pakistani feminists are embracing The Second Sex, A Room of One’s Own, The Yellow Wallpaper, but ask them about Fahmida Riaz’s beautiful “Chador Aur Chaar Devari” (Four Walls and a Black Veil) or the poem by Kishwar Naheed which is affectionately referred to as a women’s anthem among feminists, and you get blank stares. Time for the latest wave of young Pakistani feminists to kindly wake up and smell the coffee, instead of washing hands off our great role models.
It is imperative that we stop taking for granting the rights we have as women, and acknowledge the struggle and sacrifice that enabled the empowerment of the modern woman. It is also just as important to acknowledge that, as the urban woman progresses, the rural woman remains disenfranchised and powerless, and that much work still needs to be done for women’s rights in Pakistan. For this reason, a Pakistani non-profit organization, Bolo Bhi literally meaning ‘Speak Up” created The Women’s Movement Herstory Project, to interview our very own feminists and activists who have been at the forefront of the struggle for women rights in Pakistan, and witnessed firsthand the fight for women’s rights, and personally went through hardships for the sake of all women.
Watch this inspirational video of Ms. Hilda Saeed who has a nearly four decades legacy in gender issues. She is the chairperson at a national NGO, Shirkat Gah, and a founding member of Women’s Action Forum, a women rights organization that was formed in retaliation of the Dark Dictator Gen. Zia’s controversial Sharia laws implementation in 1980s, including Hudood and Law of Evidence etc.
I have had the honor of meeting Ms. Hilda Saeed, several times on women rights events inside Pakistan, a micro-biologist by degree and activist by choice, her work spans from the rights of religious minorities, maternal health, to development and gender.
 Here’s to Women Power in Pakistan!!!

Memphis|A Muslim Feminist Speaks on Islam & Co-Existence

In 2003, the Muslim community in Memphis with the help of Memphis Mayor office established an organization;  Muslim in Memphis (MIM) that is working on the presentation of Islam to the Memphis community in a positive and informative light. In doing so, the organization hopes to erect exhibits, provide speakers, and interact with the larger community of which they make a part of.

As part of 13th Annual Muslims In Memphis event, they invited a personality whose goals and mission are alike. Many of my readers already know about her, yes its Theresa Corbin, a feminist writer, founder of Islamwich and woman of many talents. A convert of 13 years, Corbin feels it is time to stop differentiating based on culture and sect, and time to start focusing on similarities and cooperation.

At The Human Lens, we like Theresa Corbin believe in the importance of the East-West dialogue and the global diversities. 

Check out this video and listen to her humane and positive invitation to actually understand Islam and learn about her own personal journey into the fastest growing faith of present times.

The Hazards Of Reporting On Rape Issue in Pakistan

On serious matters of Violence against women and girl child, the Pakistani mindset is more or less the same — justifying all manner of crimes against women. And an issue as serious as Rape is treated very strangely in this society, read Muslimah lash out here, and also my meeting with  international icon Mukhtara Mai here. Covering rape has always been problematic is most societies, but in ones like Pakistan the drama starts off with she was out late, why did she wear a pink lawn dress (probably they expect us to know before hand that the rapist likes raping women in pink so we should not be wearing that color) and why did she go there?

Being a women journalist in Pakistan and reporting rape is no easy game, I tell ya. No, please I am NO victim so don’t make ONE out of me either. The difficulties that women writers face on speaking over rape matters are down right outraging and unfair, off course due to male domination and overplay of patriarchy in the mindsets of most male reporters.  There are also attempts at policing women journalists who dare speak on issues of persona non grata like once a long time ago, Mukhtara Mai was. It was the summer of 2008, when I was involved in producing stories for a radio project series focusing women’s rights and I asked my female editor if I could do a feature on Mukhtara Mai’s girl’s school initiative that happened after the GoP provided an compensation for her ordeal. She liked my concept immediately and agreed. I contacted the office of Mukhtara Mai organization and was met with cooperative support for the documentary project and additionally I was able to get an an in person meeting with Mai herself.

So I travel from Islamabad to Southern Punjab, at Meerwala district in this quest. Meerwala is a remote village in S. Punjab and the only way I could reach it was by road, that too broken and in semi functional state. And not to mention no proper sign boards to lead outsider visitors, and poor mobile network coverage.  Anyways I arrived to Bhawalpur without any problems, but little did I know what awaited me after. I hit the road with a known driver towards Meerwala, on the way we had to stop over continuously to ask directions to Mukhtaran’s schools en route to Meerwala at a small village called Jatoi, but local people continued to midguide the driver and gave wrong directions. Some times, they even asked me directly ‘Bibi, kahan jana hai, aisa karo ghar waps chale jao. Tumhare le behtar hai.’ (Translation; Maam where do you have to go, look its better you turn back and go to your home. Its better for you.)

people misguided me and gave me wrong directions.

While I was wearing a local shalwar kameez with my head and hair covered well in chadoor, so it wasn’t that I was offending the local customs, but I was going to someone they probably didn’t want me to see at all. And they noticed the car’s number plate wasn’t local so they even  called the local police station, as we were stopped at a check out randomly and asked on car registration, driver licence and an illuminating speech on why women as young as me should not travel far from home and how unsafe it is to be there at that point.

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As a result it took us nearly five and a half hours to reach our destination. Meerwala instead of the usual one hour or so. Anyway, with the grace of the Superior Being God I finally reached one of the schools and as we stopped there, Mukhtara Mai with her team were waiting for us on the gate. She had anticipated my tardiness was due to the welcoming party we met on the way. I later learned that there was a lot of resentment against the establishment of Mukhtara’s schools and a lone woman looking for Mukhtara was an even more unwelcome intervention!

Sometimes, I recall those moments vividly. At others I also think about other women writers who dare to speak up on the issue of girl-child rape, like the inspirational Parul Thakur who penned The Right to Abortion and realize that we women really need to keep soldiering on in solidarity on matters of control over our bodies and our choices.

IQBAL’s Child Pray|Lab Pe Aati Hai Dua

lab-pay-aati-hai-dua-1 (1)The prayer on my lips is my desire manifest.

O Lord! Make my life glow like the candle-flame.

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Let my breath disperse the dark that holds the world in thrall.
Let my radiance result in brightness everywhere.

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With each breath, let me bring glory to my land,
Like the blossoms that are the glory of the meadow

lab-pay-aati-hai-dua-4

O Lord! Let my life be like the moth who seeks
the eternal love of the flame of wisdom

lab-pay-aati-hai-dua-5

Let my exertions, my deeds assuage all those in need.
Let me, ever devoted, be to the afflicted, to the elderly.

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Allah! Preserve me from all the evil in the world.
Lead me down that path that is the path of righteousness.

Translation and Transliteration © Mustansir Dalvi, 2012, All rights reserved.

The famous child’s pray is a masterpiece of the man I know otherwise as visionary of Pakistan, Allama Sir Muhammad Iqbal a Muslim poet, philosopher and fierce politician. A lawyer, he studied in England and Germany and has written on wide ranging topics like politics, economics, history, philosophy, religion, children, youth role an is considered one of the most important figures in Urdu literature, with literary work in both the Urdu and Persian languages.

The national poet for his vision of a free, liberated and progressive state independent Pakistan. To many, Iqbal is the “Poet of the East“, The Thinker of Pakistan, Sage of the Ummah and many more.

The Child’s Pray is about human beings. Iqbal’s philosophy states that Human being must be human, which is the ultimate aim of human life. The process of being human is a fruit of the realization of individual. The real human being has a real individual, a unique ego in Iqbalian thought. The strife for a unique ego starts from the earliest period of life, not later period. Iqbal considers every child as a unique and important ego and the period of childhood as the formative period of Ego.

Children are not little and insignificant creatures, but they are the most important and the highest existence in our lives. Iqbal locates children at the center of life, not at the periphery. This poem written by Iqbal is where he asks for the highest aims of life, such as true, creative, passionate, and meaningful life as a child. 

Recalling vividly my school days in Pakistan, being part of the traditional daily mornings starting with school assembly and singing Child’s Pray with the flag-raising ceremony. So in part of child rights theme at The Human Lens I felt this is something I can share with the blog’s readers.

Pakistan Zindabad!!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muhammad_Iqbal

South Asia Condemns Mindless Assassination of Sabeen Mehmud

Last week, I wrote a short post on activist Sabeen Mehmud’s assassination in broad day light in Karachi, a chilling reactionary response to her café T2F latest discussion “Unsilencing Balochistan” that featured prominent Baloch rights activists on the situation of disappearances in the conflicted province.

In the moment that I had written “The Killing of Pakistani Peace Activist Sabeen Mehmud” I was consciously doing something that had been the core mission of her life.As I condemned her mindless and unnecessary death, my post started getting clicks and readers’ feedback, one particular South Asian blogger and fellow comrade Parul Thakur author of a creative blog Happinesandfood brought my attention towards a daily national in India, The Hindu, the national daily in India that ran an editorial for her, Crushing voices of dissent and by far several points made by the author struck me immensely.

Foremost, the writer discussed that activist Sabeen Mahmud’s assassination in Pakistan proves that the state sees in part intellectuals a threat to its unitary vision of nationalism. This couldn’t hold truer in our national sphere, because every time normal Pakistanis want to speak about the issues of Balochstan province, they are fobbed off and those like SabeenMehmud, Mama Qadeer, FarzanaMajeed and Muhammad Ali Talpur are forcefully silenced or suppressed.

Why target LUMS or T2F for having a conversation on Balochistan? What is so disturbing about Balochistan? Why kill those who ask for such spaces? Since 2005, a war has been raging in Balochistan for self-determination and its time we learned the complexities of this alarming conflict.

Fellow blogger Parul Thakur says that she came to know about Sabeen Mehmud’s work from The Human Lens but couldn’t imagine the lives she touched while she was alive. In her own words Parul says, “In my mind the “assassination” of a “Human Rights Activist” sounds ironical. It’s like doing right, does wrong for the right people. Activists, bloggers, feminists or writers – who are these people? Whether in Pakistan or in Bangladesh or in any other part of the world, why do assassins think that killing one will silence everything. Instead, it will incite more dialogue and much more communication. Aren’t they those who dare to speak the truth? Sometimes it’s religion; sometimes it is the government and sometime yet another reason.”

Thakur muses on why it makes sense to send a bullet, to any writer.  She raises a great point that a writer is just using her right of speech and no one has the right to take away her life but it happens every single time.

Since the assassination, South Asians are coming out strongly in condemning this human rights atrocity, individually and collectively. A statement from South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR) a regional human rights organization has released an official statement voicing their strong condemnation of this incident. It has urged the government of Pakistan to ensure the protection of human rights defenders in accordance with the spirit and provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and afford them the freedom required, including the right to freedom of expression, speech, assembly and protest, to carry out valuable work to protect and promote the rights of Pakistani citizens.

Such sentiments were also echoed in The Hindu’s Crushing voices of dissent editorial which brings me to the second more striking area of the story. Many readers expressed their concern and anger at this deliberate silencing of Sabeen Mehmud’s voice, but one particular comment was very illuminating quoting “Why Pakistan press is quiet on this? The underlying reason is Pakistan possession of nuclear weapons not as a threat against India but for blackmailing the United States for Billions of Dollars as a pre-text to protect the nuclear weapons. Imagine the disaster occurs if Pakistan does not kill the intellectuals, the uprising of the people will destroy the military-economic complex.”

Failing to understand the connection of Pakistani nukes, the commentator was both right and wrong at the same time. The Pakistani press, is far from silent on Sabeen Mehmud’s  murder, common citizens continue uprising and people from all walks of life are demanding justice. To the fellow commentator from India, I would like to clarify that the general Pakistani populace is not represented by assassins of Sabeen Masud, so please just cross the border and see for yourself.

Overall, this violent act has enticed strong emotions of both dissent and unity within South Asians. Parul Thakur who helped me pen this post is someone I have never ever met in my real life yet her solidarity is a balm while I continue to raise my voice. I am thankful for her support truly. 

South Asia is never silent and that is our strength.

Sabeen Mahmud, the ideology will live on in us, growing stronger and stronger. 

There are no better closing lines then South Asian Feminist and mentor Kamla Bhasin’s who stated “Sabeen Mahmud, a young feminist, secularist, and human rights activist was murdered in Karachi, this is South Asia’s loss and we mourn the untimely, totally unnecessary death, we condemn such mindless violence.”

Educating Rural Pakistani Children Towards a Brighter Future

Education is a universal right for which global community shares a unified responsibility. Pakistan has the third highest out of school population in the world with five million children failing to enroll.

Despite the increase in access to education, nearly half of Pakistani children drop out of school before the age of 16. Currently, some 25 million children or one of three have not completed primary education. Girls drop out at twice the rate of boys, lowering female literacy rates in some areas to a mere 8%. With 60% of Pakistan’s population living on less than $1 a day, a meaningful education is the only viable pathway to socio-economic empowerment. Each additional year of schooling increases an individual’s earning by 10%.

Girls who complete primary education are less likely to get married before 18 or become victims of domestic abuse, and have fewer children. Also the child of an educated mother is 50% more likely to live past the age of 5.

Check out this cool video that shows the wonderful work done by DIL in rural Pakistan by bringing hope and opportunity to underprivileged Pakistani children. This film chronicles a day in life of children studying at DIL schools in rural Islamabad and looks at how their lives are transformed through education.

Those who wish to join hands and support their work can contact their offices in USA, Canada, UK and Pakistan, alternatively browse through their website at http://www.dil.org/get-involved/

In 1947, Founder of the nation, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah said: “Education is a matter of life or death for Pakistan. The world is progressing so rapidly that without the requisite advance in education, not only shall we be left behind others but we may be wiped out altogether.”

Lets follow this advice to heart to help to secure a prosperous future for children of Pakistan.  

Nepal Quake 2015| In Solidarity

Pakistan expresses deep shock at the reports of massive earthquake that has caused devastation in Nepal and Northern India and “heartfelt condolences and sympathies on the tragedy that has caused loss of precious lives and properties.” 

Pakistan’s government and people are standing together with the Nepalese nation in this challenging time and extending humanitarian assistance.

Pray For Nepal! 

Solidarity
Solidarity

Pakistani Orphans in Slum, Waiting For Change

Shazeb is an orphan, living in the slums of Rawalpindi, Pakistan. His home is a dark and broken concrete box with no running water, no heat and no bed. The kitchen is tucked away in a corner containing a fragile hob made of bricks, fueled with a small gas canister and a tiny pot for food, which is often empty. To add to his problems, when it rains heavily the gutters overflow and his home is filled with infected waters, leaving him vulnerable to hidden diseases.

Islamic Relief team went out to meet with Shazeb and they were struck by the condition of his life – a malnourished child, in a pitiful home, living a desperately malnourished life.

Shazeb’s life echoes thousands of orphans that are born inside the Islamic State of Pakistan and left to fend for themselves while government and authorities indulge in monkey business.

Ironically, Pakistan pays lip service to the rights of orphans while the Holy Quran has addressed the issue at many points.…. the Quran (76:8) describes the righteous people as those who give food to the orphans – “And they give food out of love for Him to the poor and the orphan and the captive.”

In Chapter 4 verse 127, Allah calls to justly treat the orphan children.  Therefore, the Islamic community should be raised with a thought of justice and equity towards the orphans. A serious national Wake up Call please!

In addition to the pronouncement for doing good towards the orphans and oppressed children, the Holy Quran also addresses the guardians regarding their responsibilities towards the needy children. Quran (4:2) states: “And give the orphans their property, and do not exchange something bad (of yours) for something good (of theirs), nor devour their property along with your own; (for) it is surely a great crime.”

Thanks to Islamic Relief’s latest appeal ‘Sponsor an Orphan Today‘ around 43,000 orphan children around the world will benefit. From just £25 a month… life of an adorable and vulnerable Shazeb will change. 

Lets support their cause and this deserving mission committed towards changing the lives of children orphans, a fate that carries stigma and discrimination despite our rich tradition of providing care to Orphans and children without parental support for the gigantic rising numbers of orphans due to conflict and natural disasters.

Reference:

1. Islamic Relief, Pakistan campaign, Orphan Sponsorship and Child Welfare

Pakistan|The Lives of Slum Children Part II

“I need to put food on the table, therefore I do not imagine the what ifs of going to a school. That’s not my future. Despite the fact I wished I could do something to change it for the better” says, thirteen year old *Yunus. 

The slum in the suburb of Islamabad presents a complete picture of the harsh plights of dislocated children living in crumbling tiny shelters made of mud with grass roofs. Approximately, some one hundred and twenty families are inhabiting this area, poorest of the poor from the  different areas of the country.

Majority people including minor children do labor work, in an average family size that is around six to seven. A close examination shows a repetition of the national scale situation in other slums of the country, most households are headed by female members or very elderly persons. Obviously, the men aren’t of much use for one is greeted by hordes of intoxicated and injecting drug users on every corner of the filth full lanes.

Interestingly, the bizarre cycle of poverty and drug abuse commonly handicaps men, whereas on other hand strong women and the children are left on their devices to fend for themselves. It is fascinating to observe the resilience and resolve of completely illiterate women from the slums, they can in-fact outshine the self-styled liberated feminists any given time.

Although, Government of Pakistan chants about free education till matriculation (grade tenth)  in state-owned institutes but such opportunities are out of Yunus’s reach. As well as his family’s poor standards of living has averted them from seeking any form of possible education.

“We just came back from the cattle market after feeding animals, we are happy we earn 80 Rupees (less than a dollar) a day,” says little *Sara. Her coworker and brother Yunus also shares her views.  “Nothing to do with school, I do my labor work. I collect grass to feed cattle in the market. Between us there is the accord to foot the daily family dinner for seven people,” says Yunus.  

Their philosophy would be disconcerting to many who do not share the opinion. But, he is adamant that if they don’t work, they cannot afford even one decent meal for all. As it is their mom has a lot on her plate including dealing with their errant father’s arguments for cash that allows him to buy him a few hours of heroine induced “normalcy.”

Yunus feels that their young age is an asset, as they have more energy among themselves to share the economic burden with their mom and hopefully things will get better in coming time.

“Life isn’t simple for all of us, if we were a normal family then I think I would have been going to school. There are times, when going about my routine cattle tending, I notice on traffic signals, the school buses with children like myself in uniforms and always think how clean, neat do they look and then I take a look at myself, filthy, dirty and with torn clothes. It angers me so much”, an equally disgruntled Sara.

I think a lot of Pakistan and its children. I am always  saddened to see it in its current state. I always found people to blame: the politicians who are more interested in making money for themselves than helping their countrymen; the masses who voted them in office each time; the army for thwarting the democratic system in the country; the parents who bore these children without having the resources to support them. I lived in my own self-righteous world, blessed with the knowledge that my family could support my education.

Children such as Yunus and Sara drive me to despair yet beyond the stench of this despair, comes a resolve to continue reminding those in power that the time has come that we honor our promises made to the children of this land. 

Footnote: Names have been changed to maintain confidentiality of the interviewees. 

Pakistan|The Lives of Slum Children Part I

“My day starts with scolding by mother us to help her in work. Each morning, I have to fetch water and collect grass for our goats. It’s a nightmare and I am totally fed up especially during summer times. I wanted to become a teacher when I grow up. But, how is that really possible? I have no books to study and neither do we have money for school fees. I will never become a teacher, plus am wasting time in search of water and tending to our animals.”

— Zunaira*, slum child, Islamabad.

It is shocking to note that  seven-year old Zunaira is so angry with life and her circumstances. But there is little she can do, born in poverty in illiterate family has robbed her of a better future and she is quite aware of the unfortunate fact that  she has limited and meager choices. Her father works as a daily wage laborer and her mother stays at home to take care of the in-laws and the children.

They live in a mud house that has a cemented roof. There is a large room the family uses for sleeping and rest, a courtyard and tiny kitchen. The entire family shares one small toilet and there is broken basin in the far-left of the courtyard.

With the passage of time, the family was able to buy several goats that are tended by  Zunaira and her siblings. Moreover, they don’t need to worry about spending money on the dairy products. Still that is not the only expense the family has to make. With rising inflation and continuous price hikes, the family is finding extremely difficult to eat one proper meal a day and all this has taken a b ad toll on the little children.

The siblings are forced to share the daily burdens with their parents and hence attending school is really out of question. On close inspection, I also found out that there is no public school nearby and neither the government is implementing the Article 25-A of the Constitution, which ensures that education remains a fundamental right of every child between the age of six and sixteen. Further more, the law states that all children whose parents cannot afford to pay for education, or have become victims of terrorism shall be enrolled for free in private schools, where they will form 10 per cent of the total class. Every school will now have to constitute a management committee of government representatives, teachers and school principals to ensure that the policy is implemented. Both the school management and the parents can be fined or imprisoned if the law is not followed, according to the bill. These children would also be exempted from paying any extra fee or expenses that may prevent them from pursuing secondary education.

While all that seems very rosy and cosy, one wonders why this Union Council hasn’t got it own school structure which can cater to the educational needs of children from impoverished families?

A dejected Zunaira sitting beside me says, “Our parents are illiterate as they were poor and it seems we will also remain illiterate as we don’t have enough money to study. My grand-father also thinks it’s a waste of money to educate children, it’s frustrating to be powerless to change the elders’ opinions.” It is heart wrenching to note that in the slums of Islamabad, the harsh conditions experienced by many Zunairas while our politicians are living like Kings on the other side of city.

As we walk across the muddy path, suddenly Zunaira run towards the garbage debris and finds a battered child book that had seen better days. She smiles while turning its pages, on the other hand my heart churns inside out at life’s injustices against her.

Footnote: Names have been changed to maintain confidentiality of the interviewees. 

Muslimah Speaks On Pakistan’s Rape Problem

Let’s talk about rape shall we? Recent events where women are being discriminated in Pakistan and elsewhere in the name of Islam, have forced me to call out this prevailing misogyny. As far as Pakistan’s stance on rape is concerned, there is nothing  is nothing remotely Islamic or Shariah divine about the man-made laws in Pakistan.The Hudood laws that were enacted by the then military dictator General Zia to Islamicize Pakistan’s legal system are in reality a legacy of the British Colonial law.

So one cannot understand how come religious bodies aren’t doing anything about correcting them. The laws, as they stand in place today discriminate against women rather than protecting their rights. Furthermore, the continued refusal to embrace the very fact that we are in the 21 century and therefore can use modern-day forensic evidence is another divergence from the Islamic tradition where similar techniques have been used by the Muslim jurists to resolve disputes in the past.

For those who don’t know what this law is about, here a short recap.  Firstly, the Hudood Law unnecessarily confuses rape, a violent crime, with fornication. Secondly, it has made it impossible for a rape victim to get justice in Pakistan because under the Hudood Ordinance, the Courts require four “adult male” eyewitnesses to rape. When a female victim fails to produce four male eyewitnesses,, she is then charged under Tazeer for fornication. If the woman becomes pregnant as a result of rape, then her rapist/s gets to walk away, while the woman is charged with fornication using pregnancy as a proof.

Pakistan should act without delay to address the shortcomings in Hudood Ordinances, women continue to suffer in the name of Islam while Quran has sanctioned all protection rights for women and men both. In fact, the Islamic jurisprudence deals with rape under Hiraba and Jirah and allows a compensation for the rape victims. The Quranic intent has been to protect the rights of women but we don’t see that happening here, instead we see how the Shariah card is being played to subjugate women.

Muslim women campaigners both inside the country and abroad have time and again advocated the change in rape laws, they are anything but Islamic and have no place in Pakistan’s judicial system. Unfortunately this system is heavily under conservative-religious powers. But frankly, this matter cannot be left to the mullahs to decide as we already know what they believe in.  A young Muslimah blogger from the SERAPHICTRUTH blog, Hajra Khan is a British-Pakistani Muslim and an avid women rights advocate. This is her testimony on rape matters.

“Definitely religion needs to be separated. Unfortunately those in power are manipulating Islamic teachings therefore contradicting Islamic purposes. Pakistan is not under the Sharia law and is hardly an Islamic state, therefore it should separate itself from these so-called Islamic state teachings. Religion is not the problem here it’s the people and they have misused it. Pakistan should handle matters like rape and domestic abused without getting the “mahram” arguments involved. Islam says women should have mahrams present with them for their  own protection as men are physically stronger than women. Islam does not say, if she does not have a mahram present go rape her to teach her a lesson. Islam also teaches men and urges men to have self-control. Studies have also shown that rape is more about power over the victim as well as sexual gratification. I guess the power part definitely applies to certain so-called Muslim men. I believe the decent men out there should do more to speak out against rape.

And just for once instead emphasizing so much on the fact that yes women should dress modest, but also a man needs to have self-control. For gods sake, by constantly saying women need to cover to prevent rape they are taking away the seriousness of the crime! They imply that rape is such easy thing to do, all it takes is one glance and the man just loses all self-control. The men scholars need to emphasis how immoral and disturbing this crime is. There’s a lot of young male speakers out here who appeal to the youth and do a good job. However, when it comes to matters like rape all of a sudden their patriarchal ego comes into play and discussions become about “sisters, dress right”, “sisters don’t go out on your own” or “sisters don’t interact with anyone who is not your mahram” why not “brothers please try to keep into your pants, you’re a human not an animal!”

Say No to Rape, please.

The Disturbing Saga|Leslie Udwin’s India’s Daughters

Since the release of a film by Leslee Udwin called India’s Daughter I am struck with growing sense of unease and frustration at the global publicity campaign and the media attention towards the Indian reactions.I have taken to my blog yet again in my attempt to describe some of the problems I have noticed in this whole saga.

  1. What struck me first hand is the use of the wording “India’s Daughters” used by Leslee Udwin. I wondered if Leslee Udwin would use the same title if she made a documentary about rape in the UK, United States – first world countries.
  2. And would she also be so daringly preachy if she had to address President Obama or Cameron in the tone she exclusively reserved for Narendra Modi?
  3. What made Leslee Udwin to use reduction strategy; turning India’s girls and women into India’s Daughters, this is something that Indian patriarchs, Indian government and certain anti feminist forces in India have always done. Why does a global campaign against gender violence do the same? And as we are on that matter – how, why and who gives the “power” to Leslee Udwin to do so? Certainly not Indian women, themselves, as pointed out to me by a close comrade; Dehli based Indian feminist.
  4. Anohter intruging point to be noted is that a global campaign against gender violence had to be geographically focused on India and called “Daughters of India”? The campaign cites statistics from other countries, but it does seem that the focus of the campaign is India. And does it seek to convey the impression that “India’s daughters” are in need of a rescue mission? Unfortunately yes, please refer to the Guardian article of March 1, 2015 which comes of a highly patronizing and full of white savior impression rather strongly.
  5. Another article narrated the film’s interviews of convicted rapists and their defenders justifying rape were followed by an interesting quote by Hollywood actress Meryl Streep, (she happens to one of those backing the global campaign) saying the documentary “forces a look at the mindset that must be made to know it has no place in the civilised world”. That phrase has a lot of problematic notions attached to it.
  6. Most of the western media articles bordered on phrases like… “India’s Daughter, a powerful, brave and heart-wrenching documentary made by Leslee Udwin, provokes grief and anger but also pity for the ignorance” or Leslee’s own phrases like “Indian Men’s brutal attitudes truly shocked me.” As a woman Leslee Udwin should know better that men’s brutal attitudes should not be race specific and that rape is a global concern as opposed to just India’s rampant problem.
  7. Moving on to another annoying issue, which is the  deliberate vilification of “Indian men” as brutes in need of a good “lesson” from the first world civilized groups. Deeply concerning is the aftermath from this not so well-meaning solidarity with Indian women that is leading towards the over the hill racist profiling of Indian men.
  8. All in all, the events surrounding the film have reasserted a sense of India as a place of ignorance and brutality towards women. It frames Indian women as helpless creatures unable to stand up for their rights. The global community’s amnesia is amusing because the reality is Udwin was inspired to make the film after bearing witness to Indian women rights crusaders and feminists month-long street protests that were followed by demands for law reforms that finally managed to get a committee to make recommendations and amend the law relating to sexual violence. All evidences pointing that Indian woman are not the helpless, voiceless creatures as we are being told to believe by the art work of a sole western media person. And all things that the film conveniently ignores in its narrow script.
  9. As a woman of color feminist, I never find any joy in parachute solidarity exhibited by a certain type of western media that trolls in and out of third world countries in their quest for reporting the gory and savage events happening to local women.
  10. I also find it disturbing that a filmmaker like Leslee Udwin would actually interview a convicted rapist and completely ignore taking one quote or statement from the man who tried to save Nirbhaya. Only she can answer why she needed to glorify the bastard rapist in her documentary with broken media clips to his responses, while cleverly cutting out her questions. There is something known as media ethics for interviews and I don’t think Udwin at this stage in her career doesn’t know of them. It also surfaced that Udwin managed to interview Mukesh Singh after negotiating a bribe that was delivered to his family. Another very common tactic used over and over again by western media in their third world documentaries.
  11. The judicial case is still pending, so why exactly did the campaigners decide to go ahead with airing the documentary? If the convict rapist was white, the BBC wouldn’t air the documentary but this all becomes ok when the accused is brown. Need I go on?
  12. Lastly I also need some answers as to why the world feels that Indian women need the attentive ministrations of a western filmmaker to act as their mouth piece? In today’s India, change has become two-fold since 2012’s event and  finally women are being seen as people. While things have a long way to go in terms of gender equality, the current situation is a result of a long battle of grief and struggle led by Indian women themselves. And this film just demoted their status to being India’s Daughters only. Not done, not done. 

Having said all that, I do think that the ban on documentary telecast is a somewhat extreme reaction to a somewhat extreme primitive motive behind Udwin’s India’s Daughter summed up brilliantly by Indian filmkaker and feminist Paromita Vohra. Intersectionality anyone?

The Written vs.NOT Written Stuff: From Domestic Violence Rampant in Muslim Marriages to Public Violence Against Women Part II

The collaborative series, Part II authored by Papatia Feauxzar

“Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more strength than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore, the righteous women are devoutly obedient and guard in the husband’s absence what Allah would have them to guard. As to those women on whose part you fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (next), refuse to share their beds, (and last) beat-a light tap that leave no mark them (lightly); but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means (of annoyance); for Allah is most High and Great (above you all). If you fear a breach between them twain, appoint (two) arbiters, one from his family and the other from hers. If they wish for peace, Allah will cause their reconciliation; for Allah has full knowledge and is acquainted with all things.” (Quran: An-Nisaa 34-35)

Islam doesn’t support violence against any creature especially women. Read here to know more on the proper way to deal with an unruly wife. Please, using violence doesn’t mean you’re in control. It says rather that you’re a monster and not a good Muslim.

When I was single, I used to pray jumah at a Pakistani mosque in the neighborhood I used to live in. to this date, this mosque holds a special place in my heart because the sermons were always on point, the community was very generous, and the Imam was a nice man. This nice Imam used to complain about the educated men in the community that attended the mosque based on what their women would report to him. You know why? Because these men with good paying jobs and higher education degrees should know better than to beat their wives! I’m not saying that it’s okay to beat your wife if you didn’t go to school. I’m just saying that uneducated men can make a case that they didn’t know better. That said these uneducated men set the trend for the domestic violence problem we have today. These first generation educated men grew up in houses where they saw their parents abuse women on a daily basis.

Like Saadia already pointed out, these boys see this as normal behavior and repeat these actions later in their lives with no remorse when they grow up. This domestic violence is then projected outside and then plague women in public because of twisted ways of reckoning.

With all that said, our beloved Prophet (sallallahu aleihi wassalam) didn’t go to school but he advised his followers not to hurt women. So there is no excuse to be rough with women.

Two wrongs don’t make a right. So what if your wife talks back to you, doesn’t listen, is hard-headed. Instead of following the proper sunnah, you unleash on her and beat her like an animal.

She could also be too polite and innocent. But because you have twitchy hands, you take advantage of your power over her and give her a serious beating because you’re mad at thin air or simply because you can. Just because you have a peepee doesn’t mean you own her or that it’s your God-given right to inflict pain on her whenever you feel like it. Your good behavior you take after our Rasul (sallallahu aleihi wassalam) makes you a great man instead, my friend.

Don’t you feel ashamed afterwards when you try to sleep with her like nothing happened? She’s not your property but a garment to you. You should feel dirty inside when you take by force something that doesn’t belong to you. To this day, it baffles me the way some men love to rape women they couldn’t have slept with under normal conditions. This is the case of men that rape women in war. This is the case of men that rape women at night because they were supposed to be at home. This is also the case of men that rape women because as husbands, their sexual rights must ‘always’ be fulfilled regardless of the wives’ emotions and mental states. Try fasting a few days a month to get your horny side under control.

Such men have extreme ways of thinking when it comes to women. What makes them think that they have to take it upon themselves to violate a woman that doesn’t belong to them to teach her a lesson? What makes them think they can kill a woman to protect their honor? What makes them think they can decide her fate? The last time I checked, zina was a sin. Again, two wrongs don’t make a right. The last time I checked, killing was also a sin. Finally, the last time I checked, a Muslim woman was entitled to her freedom and independence. It’s very hypocritical to say hijab is a choice when behind closed doors, you force her to wear it. Where is the choice in that? It’s a joke! And Allah doesn’t like hypocrites. Let her make her own choices whether good and bad. Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) is the only one that saves people and keeps who He wants on siratal mustaqim-the straight path.

To men that sexually martyr women for their own pleasure or because they think they’re doing us a favor, you should be castrated. I will end with one of my favorite quote in the book Normal Calm, “If you don’t know how to use it properly, then you don’t deserve it.’’

The Written vs.NOT Written Stuff: From Domestic Violence Rampant in Muslim Marriages to Public Violence Against Women

The collaborative series, part I authored by: Saadia Haq

A country like Pakistan is no stranger to violence against women, here conservative ideals and deeply rooted patriarchal structures are responsible for shaping its psyche and social fabric. According to Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, 90% women face domestic violence at some point of their lives from their families and husband. This is quite alarming on its own and one cannot but help condemn the archaic tribal traditions and growing trends in religious extremism for playing their part in women’s sufferings.

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Like many other societies, Pakistani women too suffer in silence, due to the taboo around the topic. However, country wise prevalence of “highly alarming” domestic violence are documented for provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) and Balochistan. Not surprising as both provinces have been subjected to the nonsensical violence sponsoring Taliban that ensure existing domestic violence against women continues with “religion tag” attached to it.Government of Pakistan doesn’t really give hoots about tackling domestic violence on a country scale, yet it boasts of achieving smaller glories in the despicable “war on terror” that has come at a great price to the entire nation. And women victims of violence continue to go unheard in the noise from this corrosive warfare.

Domestic violence prevalence is documented in Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey* (2013) and highlights startling findings almost 59% of rural women in KPK reported being subjected to physical abuse since they turned 15. The urban women in Sindh at 21%  were the least exposed to domestic violence. The sample size from Gilgit-Baltistan was too small for comparison with the rest of Pakistan. One in 10 rural women in KPK and Balochistan each routinely experienced domestic physical violence compared to only 5% rural women in Punjab and 1.5% rural women in Sindh. Divorced, widowed or separated women were two-times more likely to report frequent domestic violence than married women.

The country has a long-standing societal trend of using religious-cultural mandates that violence against women need not be discussed openly. And much to the abject horror of readers, many women think that perpetuation of violence is a “man’s” right and their submission is a “given.” Some years ago, hard liner clerics and a political religious party also demanded to review a bill for outlawing domestic violence, citing it risked undermining “family values”.

Being a feminist is not really easy in my country and dealing with the myriad of anti women issues is quite exhausting, still the broken heart continues to function in whatever way it can… with a career exclusively women rights focused; I know we need to continue this fight whatever the odds.  When I listen to wild religious sermons like “The women have been given so-called freedom and liberty, which causes danger to themselves” or Western culture, not abuse, is why women seek divorces” I understand that Pakistan has a lot to do in terms of overcoming this hijacking troupe of radical Islam and prevalent militancy with KPK and Balochistan the epicenters of militant insurgencies in Pakistan.

But I don’t believe that its lack of education and development that causes domestic violence and contributes to militancy and terrorism. Somewhere along the line, religion and culture are being misused for the widespread acceptance of domestic violence against women. A country where young men have witnessed childhood experiences of women being subjected to violence inside their homes, naturally grow-up believing such violent norms are to be reapplied to their socio-political lives. My co-author Papatia is going to discuss at length Islamic jurisprudence on perpetuating violence in the second part of this series, for readers.

Pakistan’s very own renowned historian, Dr. Mubarak Ali has compiled the history of women oppression in his book ‘Tareekh aur Aurat’ (Woman and History) that highlights to readers the hundreds of years of indoctrination, producing male-dominated morality and violence, several ideologues advocating women suppression including Imam Ghazali, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and Mowlvi Ashraf Ali Thanvi. More ever, he argues that local tribal and feudal societies seldom recognize women rights and men in these societies resort to violence when women try to assert greater control over their lives. Children, especially males, raised in households that tolerate violence against women are often desensitized to violence and may readily embrace violence then others.

Violence against women is a common given, recalling Samia Sarwar, a Pashtun woman murdered in her lawyer’s office with her parents’ blessings. Leaving a drug addict and abusive husband, through taking proper legal action is something frowned up still in this country. Archaic right? Devised was the propaganda of Saima an adulterous woman leaving her husband for another man, therefore deserving of being killed in broad day light. Equally reprehensible was Pakistan’s Senate’s response when some Senators voted against a resolution tabled by others condemning her murder. Politicians from Balochistan and KPK openly supported this murder in name of honor and had the gall to defend the murderers. What’s so honorable and holy in domestic violence against women, be it a married woman like Saima Sarwar or Shazia Aziz a well sought singer who refused marriage proposals from a lewd suitor?

Pakistan could do well to confront its escalating terrorism problem by addressing its root causes, one of which is the continued domestic violence against women. Additionally Pakistan needs to decentralize religion from state because the matter of violence against women are mostly distorted and defended under so called traditional- religious values. If nothing, we must end outdated traditions that exalt men as Gods and women as appendages for their usage – both kind and brutal.

Plus there is the need to speak about the five hundred pound elephant in the living room otherwise called feminism. My society has a very severely negative opinion of feminism and feminists, no surprises as we shake the patriarchal shackles. Pakistani writer and NYT columnist, Bina Shah, says that “the country needs a feminism that elegantly marries both strands of feminism, secular and Islamic”. As that is how Pakistan was formed – on both Islamic and secular principles.” Yes, women’s rights are misunderstood, under-represented and disregarded in Pakistan but they are by no means absent. Our people need to be informed that feminism does not mean being anti-male or anti-Islamic.

Those rallying for women rights need to be clearer and more united in their stand and find a workable balance between what is right and what we know. The message of feminism does not signify that women should in any way be superior, nor does it call for immoral and anti-religious practices. It is simply trying to strive to give well deserved respite to lives of women across this country that continue to endure continuous violence against themselves. 

Note:

The Written vs.NOT Written Stuff is joint online initiative of two Muslimah writers, Saadia Haq and Papatia Feauxzar. Please stay tuned for the second part coming soon for readers. Copyrights @2015

Local Pop Song Salutes Pakistani Women Power

Only last month, two awesome social platforms Mishermayl and Aawaaz joined hands to release the first track out of their six song album initiative ‘Gao Suno Badlo’ (GSB) tributes the efforts of Pakistani women from all walks of life.

The lyrics of this Urdu language song titled ‘Kaun Kehta Hai Bayikhtiyar Hoon Main’ (Who says I am helpless, Who) has been penned by local song writer Aaliya Mirza and sung by local pop icon Zainub Fatima and it resonates with hope and optimism for celebrating the idea of women empowerment in Pakistan.

Please check out this cool video which contains english sub titles, to catch a glimpse of the countless women of substance, women like the female leading founder of Pakistan Fatima Jinnah when she contended elections against military dictator Ayub Khan, deceased Benazir Bhutto becoming the first female prime minister, Pakistan No. 1 squash player Maria Toorpakay Wazir and many more.

It leads into capturing the lives of different women from both urban and rural backgrounds like a doctor, an artist, a lawyer, an engineer, a designer, a beautician as well as an activist. The nuances of the lives struggles and achievements of these women are done with local dance performer group that are seen performing on the song until the end of the track.

The lyrics tell tales of women who have to fight for their rights, break stereotypes and go against conventions established by the society to pursue their dreams. It also honours Malala Yousufzai and pays tribute to some other internationally famed Pakistani women like Samina Baig and Asma Jehangir.

What is most unusual in this 4.20 minute song is the depiction of how Pakistani women are struggling and fighting against the growing radicalism and religious dictatorship elements like Taliban and others, because we realize that its our lives at most “stake” debunking the usual myths that we aren’t able to do anything to help our selves.

 The title of the song echoes at the end of the song as the question is raised: “Kaun kehta hai bayikhtiyar hoon main. Kaun? (Who says I’m helpless? Who?)

Saluting Women Power in Pakistan, may we continue our fight for our rightful place in the world order! 

Afghan War|NATO and White Feminism Connection

As many of know, its only few weeks as United States and NATO ended thier combat mission in war torn Afghanistan. While most Americans and westerners  continue to live with certain lies, that they themselves had told about liberating Afghan women through invasion and occupation, its hard for writers like myself to stay silent. The phenomenon of ‘Saving Muslim Women’ is niether new nor ending anytime sooner.

This sort of feminism that drives bullets and bombs other “sisters” bodies, is something very common in the first world. It is utterly annoying to hear white feminists arguing to shut us, Muslim feminists down with patronizing excuses. Sorry but we do have our brains and we can speak for ourselves. But let it be said that we raise our voices against the blatant idiocracy that has positioned the Americans as the saviors of Afghan women. Don’t you think it allows white feminists a superior perch from which to help their downtrodden Afghan sisters, popularizing the an elsewhere-focused feminism that finds gender-based violences as something found only in faraway lands.

Saving Muslim Women Syndrome
Saving Muslim Women Syndrome

White feminism agenda is furthered by usual western media’s placement of Afghan women and thier miserable conditions. United States, NATO and worse off white feminists continue to pretend that the war in Afghanistan was and is all about saving the Afghan women.

The forceful dictation to accept the lie is not duping us, niether are believing the perpetuation that invading is liberating, the artificial and corrosive war was not a blessing for the Afghan nation, let alone its women. So please refrain from forcing us to accept your destructive lies.

US Funding IS Terror on Pakistani Soil

Yousaf al Salafi getting funding routed through America to run IS organization in Pakistan and recruit young people to fight in Syria.

Last month, Pakistan shared crucial information with top US officials, including Mr. John Kerry on the matter of international funding for ISIS, Pakistan group on what is actually my home soil. The Washington financing of terrorism is nothing new, but these startling revelations come at point in time, when Obama and most of the first world are actually contemplating a fullscale global war against Islam.

Among the details shared with US include the mandate of a Pakistani-Syrian, Yousaf al Salafi, an IS operative and highly dangerous suspect.  Al- Salafi is alleged to have been arrested last year in Lahore, Pakistan, but this information was kept confidential throughout this time. And during the investigations, “Yousaf al Salafi revealed that he was getting funding – routed through America – to run the organization in Pakistan and recruit young people to fight in Syria.” 

Al Salafi also allegedly confessed to recruiting jihadists for the Syrian jihad and has been receiving about $600 per person. It wad further revealed that he had been operating inside Pakistan with the help of a local accomplice, who was reportedly the Imam of a mosque. It also emerged that Al Salafi entered Pakistan through Turkey five months ago. Earlier, it was reported that he crossed into Turkey from Syria and was caught there. However, he managed to escape from Turkey and reached Pakistan to establish IS in the region.

Also citizens from different countries including Afghanistan, India, Libya and Pakistan itself are being recruited by IS to fight in Syria. Interestingly, the IS is also paid from a torrent of fighters, arms, equipment, and cash flowing from NATO territory in Turkey.

The exact nature of the monetary fundings sources still remains to be seen and these matter has been discussed among the top officials of both Pakistan and USA recently with US Secretary of State John Kerry on his recent trip to Islamabad.

With the growing ISIS terror on global front, local media has been discussing the rising influence of Islamic State and the several incidents in cities of Lahore and Multan where Islamic State flags and graffiti were seen publicly. While Pakistani authorities indicate that local militants including Pakistan Taliban TTP would be opposing the Islamic State, it does nothing for the fact that IS operatives like Al Salafi and other are becoming successful due to foreign funding.

The IS terror is a major problem that the Muslim world must urgently address for our own sakes, and on the pother hand the West can help by stopping its historical pandering and support of Middle East’s Wahabi tyrants who spread this extremism that is destroying countless countries, including Pakistan.

Al Salafi’s arrest is a lip service, catching and eliminating an occasional militant leader in raids, drone and special-forces strikes is not really the solution.

The fight against ISIS and Al-Qaeda is deeply ironic since these organizations were created and are sustained, in part, by Western funds that are handed over to the Saudis and Gulf Arab nations for oil purchase. And if we continue down this road, it may well be a never-ending war.

The House of Saud is working against the best interests of the Muslim world, it has helped to unleash its Wahabi agenda and is blatant support for the Salafi movements that are a huge obstacle for a poor and fragile Muslim state like Pakistan, and for Muslim communities worldwide.

As US had to dispel the impression that it is financing the group for its own interests, continues to portray itself as “at war with ISIS,” going as far as bombing Syrian territory while claiming it must now train more militants to topple Assad’s regime, but on other hand, it’s ineffectual in stopping the funding of these organisations, which is being routed through the US  from its own borders into the hands of its implacable enemy. This also reminds of a similar conundrum in Charlie Hedbo’s free France that is participating in military operations aimed at both toppling the Syrian government and allegedly fighting ISIS – yet claims to be unable to stop thousands of its own citizens from leaving its borders to join ISIS’ ranks.

It will be interesting to note if US reacts to the Pakistani leaks on Yousaf Al Salafi and the rise of IS terror, however it seems unlikely. The unfortunate probability is that the farce of War on Terror” will continue, with the US propping up ISIS, using it both as impetus to funnel more cash and weapons that shall intentionally and intentionally – end up in ISIS’ hands. Point to ponder? 

Hollywood’s Muslim Issue, American Sniper and A Few Dead bodies

Before I start off, let me make it clear that this is a non apologetic piece. It comes at a time when Muslim Ummah across the world are struck with grief and anger over the blatant killing of three Muslim students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA. And guess what, three innocent young lives ended abruptly and hardly any noise in the international media or the usual western hysteria.

This incident happened at a proportionally bad time for global Muslim community that face the consequences of the recent anti-Islam wave after Charlie Hedbo fiasco, German Pegida movement and release of Hollywood’s American Hero that drives home the message that it’s totally ok to kill Muslim women and kids, in fact its American war heroics at its best.

Don’t you wonder at the connection here? On one side there is multi grosser American Sniper, a Hollywood production and lest it be said that Hollywood has always suffered a Muslim problem. It glories a western white idiot – the hero who keeps shrugging whatever and takes pleasure in killing brown people because after all they are just savage Iraqis is the usual Hollywood overtly simplification when it comes to dealing with western war mongering in Muslim countries.

Since release, it became a mega grosser in North America, United Kingdom, Italy, Australia etc, no surprises considering their high Islamophobic trends. However, it serves as an evidence for “biases” depicted in western media’s portrayal of western soldiers as great men that go to kill the “suspicious Muslims” in their lands, for keeping world peace order intact. The under lining messages are always same, the prevailing Orientalism in Hollywood cinema and western media portraying ethnic Muslims and Arabs as a singular “Other” lacking humanity.

It’s quite all right when Muslims die, after all white western lives matter more and all such could be the inspiration behind Craig Stephen Hicks killing spree of innocent Muslims.

Clint Eastwood claims that it’s a hell of a thing to kill a man. Maybe some one needs to remind him that it’s also a hell of a thing being killed!

The silence of the international media, world leaders and western people on this incident is also very telling, no outrage, no condemnations, no irrational demands of apologies from the killer or the socio-religious group he hails from and no apparent or flamboyant sympathies either. However, it was only last month when virtual blogging space was full of #JeSuisCharlie supporters…literally every Tom, Dick and Harry posted stuff supporting free press and zero tolerance towards mocking of others beliefs.

It seemed WEST has ceded to a stand still, with im- or- moral world leaders marching in Paris for upholding the freedom of media.

There is no denying this happened because the offenders were Muslim, because after the Chapel Hill Shooting, CNN, BBC and other western medias’ didn’t find anything report-able about the death of three innocent Muslims. After all, it’s just bloody Muslims and they deserve to die, as I have been told on my face many times.

I also noticed some very telling tweets which I will share here.

This tweet called out the double standards while dealing with such incidents. 

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A non-Muslim twitter user was exasperated with core issue such as.

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Another twitter user of western background analysed the cold-blooded murder of innocent Muslims in these words.

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More ever, the late coverage of the incident was also bizarre and biased, this has been covered in a deserving explicit manner by a fellow blogger post #CHAPELHILLSHOOTING THANK YOU TWITTER.  Usually western media frequently uses headline and breaking news with words like  ‘act of terrorism’ describing a Muslim non white offender, this time again they made do with ‘hate crime’, of unstable mind frame.

The fact that believing or not believing in religion doesn’t allow killing of innocent people is universal. Only it seems this time, parking lot space, neighbor disputes issues are more importantly highlighted where as had the killer been a Muslim who killed three non-Muslim there was an apparent religious motivation and media was going ga ga along the lines of… west at threat due to muslim Invasion, Muslim terrorism and so on. Pun intended. 

Morever, there would be a HIGH terror alert post incident, additionally numerous westerners would engage in social media and public protests in name of freedom of expression to dish out hate speech and toxicity towards Islam and Muslims in general.

It is heart breaking to note that hate has won and humanity has lost, once again today.

With this us versus them mentality, I don’t know how many more people will have to die when the world finally wakes up to the truth that we are humans first and then Muslim, Christian, Atheist or whatever.  Allow me as a human and as a Muslim to honor these three beautiful persons, indeed “Barakat, Yusor Abu Salha and Razan Abu Salha have returned to Allah.”

In their abrupt departure, they have left us a legacy to understand something very simple and over-looked. Human Lives Matter, Human Lives Matter. 

Feb 12|Pakistan Women’s Day – The Fight Continues

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Once again its February 12, that is a historic and eventful day in the history of Pakistani women and its observed as “National Women Day” in my country to mark the catastrophic events that took place on 12 February 1983.

This was when we Pakistani women were dismissed as nonentities within the country and under special assistance of so called democratic foreign powers that colluded towards the devastating long term effects on us, events of and around 12 February will never be forgotten by any Pakistani women in her life time.

It was on 12 Febuary 1983 when some 100 Pakistani women activists took out a rally in defiance and against Gen Ziaul Haq’s religio-military dictatorship in the city of Lahore. The women activists defied the military order against public gatherings, to protest Gen. Zia’s anti women laws that upheld the testimony of a male as equal to that of two females in a court of law.  Lest we forget, the Law of Evidence was among a series of laws that Gen. Zia imposed in the name of Islam.

All this was done with the supreme model of democratic ally USA, because with this partnership General Zia needed to appear devout Muslim in order to prove his credibility to lead the “nefarious jihad” in Afghanistan. For Washington has propped up Gen. Zia in order to counter the Russians in Afghanistan. Their strategy of turning the Afghan’s war of national liberation into an Islamic jihad or holy war against the “God-less Communists” made Pakistan the front liner state in this nefarious and horrifying war that is still going on in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. 

Today is it not funny to hear ignorant westerners having the gall to inform that my country is a primitive piece of joke, as western hands are also partly instrumental in shaping today’s Pakistan as it is, appalling for women.

Another law imposed by the the military dictator was the Hudood Ordinance, including the Zina (adultery) law that made sex outside marriage a criminal offence, and rape a private offence.  So a woman who had been raped had to prove her innocence or be accused of adultery. (Face palming). Now these Wahabi-inspired ideology and legal system that Gen. Zia introduced resulted into sky rocketing number of women inside prisons and these were mainly on girls and women. Some women were whipped, however the higher courts over turned all the sentences of stoning to death that some lower courts prescribed, but Taliban who back then were the “mujahedeen” army of God didn’t prescribe to this and continued to demand their version of Sharia imposition on Afghanistan and Pakistan. That includes stoning and flogging women to death in public, which are in reality Middle Eastern barbaric customs imported forcefully on the South Asian soil.

This battle is far from over today, this is the battle that angers my heart beyond words can describe. I cannot sit and do nothing. And this exactly how the women rights activists felt back then, a group including famous lawyers Asma Jahangir, Shehla Zia and other forwarded a petition to the Lahore High Court Chief Justice as a protest against the discriminatory laws. And then defying military ordinance, 100 of them stepped on the roads, flanked and supported by Habib Jalib, a veterinary Pakistani revolutionary poet, left-wing activist politician who opposed martial law and state oppression. They were attacked by the police with batons and many were beaten including Habib Jalib who perhaps was being given a lesson for his never ending support to women rights cause and Pakistani feminism.

That day women were beaten, and mass arrests took place. But the message since then has remained the same that we the Pakistani women will continue our struggle for rights as equal citizens, and for a society upholds, in theory and practice, its obligations to all citizens.

Today the military dictator who started this has long gone, but the evil forces he unleashed and nurtured have turned into a never ending nightmare for the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Others carried on his work including Gen Musharaf etc who stayed silent as the multiplication of actors including the dangerous Afghan Taliban,  Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda and so on.

Today, it is far more important for human rights concerns to separate religion from the state, completely and effectively. For in the name of Islam, these groups attack unarmed civilians particularly women and children, desecrated graves, beheaded innocents and in past two decades undergone expansion of their theatrical war to attack and threaten girls schools and polio campaign in Pakistan.

This is simply not a version of Islam we can accept at any cost and we refuse to surrender by being bullying in name of religion.

We, the Pakistani women resolve to condemn all atrocities of religious extremism, of traditional discrimination against women and minorities, and of all hegemonic forces of women’s oppression.

As we celebrate Pakistani Women Day, we renew our pledge for winning this fight, not just for the sake of Pakistani girls and women, but for our rightful place in the society and world peace order.

 

Taliban, Should Be Afraid of Pakistan

 

After Taliban Peshawar Carnage, thousands of Pakistanis mobilized in unity to stand against the tyrant terrorist Taliban and their allies.  The terror-struck nation is fed up of terrorist such groups that enjoy extremely strong global Wahabi support. We feel that there’s no place for radical Islam in today’s Pakistan.

Watch this video message by two undeterred and fearless two Pakistani filmmakers depicting solidarity against the Taliban menace in the country. Its part of the social media campaign led by Jibran Nasir and countless others.

Interestingly, we are also debunking the international hatred towards us Pakistanis that allows the world to the usual stereotype of there  no difference between a common Pakistan and a terrorist.

Filmmakers Saim Sadiq and Imran Ahmad Khan while speaking to the BBC said they made the film because it may seem that Pakistanis are ok with these attacks but they are not. “Through international media it may seem that we are a part of it but we are not,” he asserted.

Two twenty-year-old filmmakers Lahore graduates are the creative heads behind this powerful message for the Taliban, a mono-colored film begins with a powerful question, “Why?”

Questioning why the Taliban attacked the school in Peshawar killing innocent lives, another woman follows asking, “What did you think?”

The sequence is followed by more young men and women questioning without naming anyone if ‘they’ thought people will get scared or will run away.

The film questions if the Taliban thought, “We’ll believe in your false version of Islam?” or whether “We’ll believe a murder to be jihad?”

But it doesn’t end there.

In its concluding message the film asserts the Taliban will be afraid and they will fear God’s wrath, a kid’s book, knowledge, Malala and Salam and Pakistan.

Ending on an even stronger note “We will #NeverForget” the film marks a paradigm shift and a turning point in the country to stand up and be vocal against militants. On January 18, the video was posted on Facebook and so far has been shared 16,794 times and viewed 156,494 times.

While film makers expected more people to participate in this video message, they ended up with 10. It shows that still there are many that are afraid of the heinous terrorists but never the less, this video confirms our clear stand. After the video went viral, the film makers have been accused of following western agendas and dollars, by pro-Taliban groups and small-minded clerics. Ugh.

Rest assured there’s nothing western or eastern in trying to save one’s country from radical religious extremism and terrorism in name of any God and Allah. Its called humanity.

So let me make it clear that its time that Taliban should be afraid of us, Pakistan and Pakistanis. 

Pakistan Zindabad! 

Open Letter On Charlie Hedbo Affair

So. Let it be said, that writing this has been very painful indeed, it’s going to be my last post on the said topic of Chalie Hedbo issue. Please rest assured that this letter is not seeking any approvals and applause from the non-Muslim world or the Muslim lands.

The post event hysteria has made me realize that I cannot sit idle as the west finds its simplest explanations into the Charlie Hedbo fiasco. I resist this urge to compartmentalize this event into, another cross points either you are Je Suis Charlie or plain violent Muslims. And honestly, how can we even think along such lines, anyways?

Obviously, I am not Charlie Hedbo. So does that make me less valuable as a journalist and as a human being?

Yes, it does. Because I am a Pakistan writer based in south part of the country. Like countless others within my local journalist community, I too am angry at the barbarians’ act of killing the French cartoonists and as others I too have witnessed in awe and shock both; the global community’s solidarity for the deceased and the publication.

And once again I received your message like daggers into my heart, that who mourned, and for how long mourned was all determined by the geographical and political realities.

For the bandwagon of Je Suis Charlie proved yet again that European lives have always mattered more than others. The explanations like… western civilization and its freedom of media is all about making fun of the outdated Islamic values and traditions and so on again bring us back to the same point. That white privilege continues to live on and those who exercise it usually do it on the backs of people of color. The last week’s fraud “free speech” parade crossed over some more boundaries of hypocrisy. Telling me to shut up, won’t help the cause, because free press demands that I remind you that serious human rights violators that target vulnerable communities and journalist fraternity, throw in some war criminals all walked together to put a fraud show for Charlie Hedbo.

All in all, the whiteplaining aftermath doesn’t do anything for writers like me. And frankly, when you say ‘Je suis Charlie‘, please care to explain what does it mean? Do you agree and endorse Charlie Hebdo‘s depiction of the French justice minister, Christiane Taubira, who is black, drawn as a monkey? Or the crude caricatures of the Nigerian girls kidnapped by Boko Haram on French welfare checks? Those expressing solidarity could really reflect upon their internal racial and supremacist mindsets before telling me that am backward and therefore cannot appreciate satirical art. I can, but what I feel is not much different then of a great cartoonist and journalist whom I greatly admire and aspire to, Joe Sacco, his response to the Charlie Hebo was along the lines “the line between satire and provocation is a delicate one in the cartooning world.” And check his response to why and what it means if Muslims don’t find it funny.

However, when I bring into debate the issue of race, religion and responsibility, I find myself on the receiving end of a lot of indignation, negativity and opposition from the very same circles that are chanting the mantra Jes Suis Charlie. I was informed to not drag race and Muslim victim hood syndrome because the phenomenon of free press and its mocking of society are western and civilized values way above my person.

On the other hand, there are those of you who lauded and supported me for giving the event, my attention and blog space. But people and writers like me can express solidarity while refusing to identify themselves explicitly with the Charlies of any world. My stand of solidarity is a given, because with growing time more forms of oppression are looming over the journalism and media industry, along with media personnel targeted and exterminated.

I respect Charlie Hedbos of this world and I expect the same respect to be afforded to disagree on the definition of freedom of speech and media.

Now most white people have always gotten uncomfortable when lowly untouchables like me dare to call out bigotry and demand equality, because white supremacy means that you can be French, Italian or some random European country and get to trash the highly targeted minority of European based Muslims by selling “gory Islam.” And then by going in a defensive full throttle, pun intended by providing the justification of “the imagined values of the liberal white West.”And one does wonder why all such imaged values are based on debasing other races, religions and cultures?

It was interesting to note that amount of tears shed by the west for Charlie Hedbo, but not a tear for the millions of men, women and children killed by the western world. When writers like me write on the west’s evil-doings of drone warfare, American and NATO led invasions, or perhaps the western global assassination campaign targeting people suspected of perhaps intending to harm the innocent western people some day in the far far future, with their own taxpaying money that funds those terrorist groups, most of the west sits on judgment with.. saying its anti-American propaganda, anti western mindsets and hate material. More ever, you put a visa refusal on my passport. Face palming.

The so-called free speech and freedom of press are not an invention of west/and or Europe for that matter. This pretense of owing these values and defining who gets be a martyr and who is a maniacal Muslim will not be determined by the west.

Indeed this is a war for power with racial tensions.And if we really need to discuss the matter of hypocrisy, Je Suis Charlie fans conveniently forget that Charlie Hebdo fired one of its own cartoonists for the anti-Semitism caricatures as they mocked former French president Mr. Nicolas Sarkozy‘s son’s conversion to Judaism.  So why aren’t the same principles being applied when it comes to Islam? Yes, let’s please talk about these double standards.

France and most of western world wishes that Muslims should accept the denial and erasing of their identities by being forced, cornered and coerced into condemn over and over again actions in which they had no part. Exercising white privilege in name of European values is what deludes most of them to think that it’s quite fine to tell Muslims “you are stupid and your religious beliefs are petty and outdated.”

Please accept the valid and convincing reasons for criticizing the magazine to have contributed towards the stigmatization of Muslims in France. Moreover European media has been time and again diagnosed with getting away with spreading hate and terror by demonizing Muslims and Islam by calling it free press. Free speech and free press aren’t absolute values. Those of us having the privilege to exercise the freedom of media and expression have a far greater responsibility towards the impact and the consequences, good and bad.

Being a Muslim writer that is using her pen to speak out against human rights atrocities and religion based oppression on women’s status in particular, I am aware that the power of my pen comes with great responsibility and accountability.

Charlie Hedbo magazine knew what it was doing, like many other entities it too followed the formula of making money easy global fame (because before this, the magazine wasn’t really making head waves outside of the European Union) by indulging into Islamophobia and terming it free speech.

Yet again, an attack on “anyone” else became a call for world-wide action, while the attack on Muslims was brushed aside as “expected consequence.”

Sorry for not keeping quiet on the hypocrisy displayed during the Charlie Hedbo event.

Sincerely,

A writer from the East

Worldwide Protest By Pakistanis Against Terrorism

16 Jan 2015: millions of Pakistanis inside the country and  Pakistan and around the world are gathering today to commemorate one month marking the barbaric attack on Peshawar Army Public School.

Today’s stand is the result of complicated messes that have forced us to live in terrorism and instability. We stand against all odds and all evil powers within and out of Pakistan. We demand that Government of Pakistan and the world that the citizens of Pakistan have had enough and we will no long stand terrorism, extremism and injustice. We want immediate action taken against all terror networks and their facilitators including *MulzimAbdulAziz* hardliner pro-Taliban clerics who are spreading terrorism sitting in the heart of our Capital City, Islamabad and his accomplices.

We have not forgotten the sacrifices of countless of Pakistanis who blood has spilled, while they stood and fell.

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A comrade no more

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Our local Charlie Hedbo a martyr
Our local Charlie Hedbo who died for “freedom of speech and press” 

The religious fanatics and upholders of Islam; Taliban, Mullah Radio and other terrorists groups have already threatened today’s event organizers, members of civil society and all their supporters in such wordings.

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Terrifying as they are, I have on good authority that they are inhumane monsters, but that will not stop us from saving our country and its traumatized people from these enemies of peace, the enemies of Pakistan. Because we cannot forget the martyrdom of our fellow citizens and we will honor our lost ones and our flag by marching on for peace at all costs.

Join us, support us in this very worthy cause, if not for us, but for the sake of peace.

Pakistan Zindabad! Long Live Pakistan!

Peshawar Carnage|Pakistanis Are ‘Calling Out The Taliban’

Pakistanis Standing Against Terrorism, come join us?
Pakistanis Standing Against Terrorism, come join us?

“I’m a Pakistani. This is a Pakistani narrative. We are not a nation of Taliban apologists and extremists. We don’t need anyone to come and help us. We just need to break our silence.” says Jibran Nasir, lawyer and social activist.

2014 was a terrible horrible year for Pakistan, with countless big terrorist attacks in public spaces, Karachi International Airport Siege, and the massacre of innocent school going children in Peshawar, which has been a turning point for us, today things have changed drastically in this turbulent homeland of mine.

Recently, the ‘Calling Out Taliban’ story published on BBC and Facebook is showing this emerging trend. There is no denial that we are a country where tackling extremism comes at a price, but now ordinary Pakistanis are showing their faces and posting videos calling for the arrest of a controversial hardliner Islamic cleric, who although played no role in the Peshawar attacks but who is known for his sympathy with the Taliban.

He is none other than Maulana Abdul Aziz, the pro-Taliban cleric and head of the Lal Masjid and associated Jamia Hafsa Islamic School in Islamabad.  He earned the nickname of Mullah Burqa during the 2007’s Lal Masjid Siege, Code Named Operation Sunrise that was a confrontation between Islamic fundamentalist militants and the Government of Pakistan, led by then President Pervez Musharaf. During the siege, Maulana Abdul Aziz escaped the Mosque hiding under a burqa but got arrested by the female police officers. He was also paraded through the capital on television live.

The Calling Out The Taliban and #ReclaimYourMosques #ArrestAbdulAziz social media campaigns are a national reaction to the apology that Maulana Burqa had the nerve to share, after the deaths of some 150 innocent children in Peshawar attacks.

Shame Shame Shame
Shame Shame Shame

Responding to the Peshawar attacks, Maulana Abdul Aziz in his holy sermon said “O rulers, O people in power, if you will commit such acts, there will be a reaction. Peshawar attack is justifiable reaction to the Army’s “un-Islamic” operation against militants in North Waziristan.”

Since when is saving one’s country from terrorists,  religious issue or Un-Islamic? While the shocked nation was coming in terms with the whole event, this insane sermon made people more enraged. In another sermon of December 19, he openly sympathized with Taliban groups, referring to the Taliban as “our brothers” and said that the attack on school was a ‘justified’ act of retaliation by the Taliban. 

Maulana Abdul Aziz is now on the receiving ends of enraged Pakistanis who have come out in unity to stand against terrorists and their sympathizers. The civil society groups staged demonstrations calling the government to take serious action against Maulana Abdul Aziz and his alleged terrorist activities and demand his immediate arrest. There are others like young social activist Jibran Nasir and his group staged an outraged procession in the capital city outside the Lal Masjid mosque.

The procession and speeches by Jibran Nasir was a chilling reminder of the evil legacy of Maulana through the Jamia Hafsa, the largest school in the Islamic world educating female students on all subjects but is known for its Wahabism ideology. In 2007, male students from this school movement took four Pakistan police as hostages, demanding the release of ten associates who had been arrested by Pakistani intelligence officers and the controversy ended into the Siege. But later on Maulana Abdul Aziz remerged again, while thanks to the external pressure, Jamia Hafsa could not be closed down. Maulana Abdul Aziz and his allies are known to be pro-Taliban; they further advocate to make Pakistan a Sharia enforcing non democratic State.  Last year he made the news after renaming the school’s female library in honor of Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden whom he calls a martyr.

But, this religious cleric underestimated the Pakistani nation that’s now on the forefront with their campaign seeking to support the civil society and it’s against #MulzimAbdulAziz and to show the world that this is not only Jiban Nasir’s fight against terrorism and Taliban sympathizers, but it’s our fight. This is our fight and we must win it to #ReclaimPakistan.

Those readers who wish to join us in our fight against terrorism are most welcome to join us, please log on to www.facebook.com/zalimaanwillriseagain. We urge you in earnest to send in your pictures, no matter which nationality, race, and religion you belong to. Truly, we’ve had enough; we can no longer see this country burning.

In addition, please also join us at “Worldwide Protests by Pakistanis against terrorism” on 16th January 2015, and check out the event details. So far international events are confirmed for Boston, New York, Toronto, U.K and others will follow

Indeed, we Pakistan are “Calling Out The Taliban” and you? What is your stand? 

Pakistan Zindabad!

 

Charlie Hebdo Attack|Je Suis Désolé, Une Voix Musulmane De La Raison

After the Charlie Hedbo event,the CNN ireport recently published the Je Suis Désolé report by American muslim convert and feminist, Theresa Corbin, and The Human Lens is showcasing it for its valuable readership to know more on the diverse and the voices of the”others.”

“I do not find images of the Prophet Muhammad in and of themselves offensive, no. But I do find cartoons, movies, etc. that depict him in horrible ways offensive, as I find slander of Jesus, Abraham, etc. equally offensive. But what is phenomenally more offensive is the lose of life, the destruction of families, and the instilling of fear into mass populaces. To those who perpetrate violence in the name of Islam anywhere be it in Paris, Sanaa, or Peshawar; YOU are the ones who insult the Prophet Muhammad,” says Theresa Corbin.

CNNi Report; Je Suis Désolé

I, like most of the world, am well past the point of intense anger and utter disgust with the extremists who claim Islam and act contradictory to its teachings.
Most of my adult life has been spent twisted in despair because mean and meager minded men who plot and launch destruction in the name of my faith, a faith they mutilate to no end. I am sorry for the families dismembered by ugly rhetoric and blood lust. I am heartbroken for the fear this puts in the hearts of children. My head fills with the futility of my small voice getting lost in a sea of hate begetting hate.
The tragedy seems endless. Acts of insanity have most recently cost the world the lives of nearly 150 Pakistani school children and teachers, and 35 more lives in Sanaa, Yemen and 12 lives in Paris, France just yesterday.
In Pakistan and Yemen, those “men” sought to destroy government establishments that so rightly threaten to take away their power. But in Paris the motives were beyond most people. Lives were lost over a cartoon, or rather cartoons.
I tried to rack my brain to figure out why would people take it upon themselves to murder simply because someone drew a picture of the Prophet Muhammad, as was the case at Charlie Hebdo yesterday and has been the case in other instances. The cartoon was not inked in their blood. The image was not printed on their skin. So why take lives over it?
As a Muslim, it is a religious belief that I hold that depicting anyone, especially God or God’s prophets, is not allowed (see the second commandment for further queries). But for me to take offense when someone else chooses to do so is tantamount to insanity.
However, those who depict the Prophet Muhammad most often do so in order to slander him. And that is another matter all together. It is important to understand why Muslims feel so disrespected when the Prophet Muhammad is slandered in print (or in any medium).
Muslims try to honor the prophets-particularly the Prophet Muhammad-and follow their example. The prophets were patient, honest, and steadfast. Overall they were the best of mankind. They suffered, were harassed, and tortured for the message God chose them to deliver.
So when people slander a prophet, Muslims should and do take it personally.
But there is nothing new or shocking about insulting the Prophet Muhammad. Muhammad was insulted, degraded, an smeared incessantly during his life. He bore these insults and slander with patience and returned them with kindness.
Muslims are taught to defend the Prophet Muhammad and all prophets by emulating their example. We are taught to live the words of the Quran when it says, “Be tolerant, command what’s right, pay no attention to foolish people” [7:199].
So knowing this about the Prophet Muhammad and the Quran, as most Muslims do, I still cannot wrap my brain around this draconian reaction to the cartoon published in Charlie Hebdo. And knowing that there was no similar reaction when Jesus was slandered in the same publication it makes me really question the motives of these homicidal degenerates.
And all I can think is that murdering people over something so foolish (quite literally) has nothing to do with Islam, but everything to do with insecure men who cannot find more constructive ways to express themselves, not unlike toddlers.
This morning as I walked out of my home to grab a cup of coffee, I felt more stares than normal, more worry in the eyes of those who identified me as a Muslim. I felt the unease of the barista and noticed that my smile and upbeat tone did not put her at ease today.
For Muslims living in the West, our lives will be lived under that much more shadow of suspicion now. For everyone living in the West, our lives will be lived under that much more fear of attack now. For everyone in the world, our lives will be lived with that much more tension now.
As we move forward it is not enough for Muslims to condemn such actions. We must peacefully protest the actions of these criminals and all like them. We must take back our religion from them.
Muslims must learn to look at criticism as just an unanswered question. No religion is off limits from questioning. And we certainly cannot expect those who do not share our beliefs to feel so scared to question. How absurd! Had I been seen as someone who was insulting Islam with my questions 13 years ago, I would never have become a Muslim.
Questioning is the only way to attain knowledge. We are going to have to use these criticisms as opportunities to clear the air about our faith; to teach people where the misconceptions lie; to foster an atmosphere of openness, mutual respect, and understanding. And above all we are going to have allow people to have their point of view. We cannot silence people just because we disagree. We can only use it as a chance to foster communication.
Note: The original report was posted in iCNN on January 8, 2015  by Theresa Corbin. The Human Lens site has received consent for its republish and her quotationsn.

The Written vs.NOT Written Stuff: Customary Arranged Marriages In Muslim Communities

First Collaborative Feature’s Part II authored by: Papatia Feauxzar

“If there comes to you one with whose character and religious commitment you are pleased, then give (your daughter or female relative under your care) to him in marriage…”

I believe this hadith of the prophet Muhammad (sallallahu aleihi wassalam) is greatly misinterpreted by a great majority of Muslims. Based solely on that hadith many Muslim families deeply rooted on cultural norms rather than other written scriptures- appropriate context wise- such as, “When a man gives his daughter in marriage and she dislikes it, the marriage shall be repudiated” (Bukhari, 67:43) give their daughters and female relatives by force to men the victims have no interest in. Or maybe they choose to play semantics, turn a blind eye, and use the scriptures that best fit their agenda. In that case, this quote strikes me, “I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do, because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.” – Susan B. Anthony

To continue, the first hadith I laid out at the beginning is for the parents that refuse a suitor that they consider poor according to their standards. Dismissing the fact that she might like him for who he is and for the religion he practices well.

In addition, the story of Barirah fits the purpose of this post because she was an Ethiopian slave who was forced by her owner to marry Mughith; another slave. According to Bukhari, Aisha (aleihi salam) took pity on her, bought and released her. Upon her freedom, she asked for a divorce and she was entitled to it. Mughith tailed after her, crying for her to take him back and she wouldn’t even though they had a child together. She hated him with all her guts while he loved her with all of his.

So what have we learned from forced arranged marriages? We have learned that nothing good come out of them. Au contraire, they leave distraught partners such as Mughith who thought they got away with forcing someone to love them. You can’t force someone to love you. It comes naturally. Sooner or later, you will pay for your sin and you will be miserable for the rest of your life. To these stubborn individuals that blatantly disregard the right of the bride-to-be, they need to know that the story of Barirah teach us all something on forced marriages that is sooner or later-justice prevails. Whether it be in this life or the after.

Like Barirah, “Fatou La Malienne” was forced into marrying a man she didn’t want. He forced himself on her and recorded it. Sick right? Anyways, even though, the movie is fictitious, it depicts the reality of some disturbing practices in the ummah of my home continent, Africa.

On another hand, it’s not only first time brides that experienced this scourges, many widows and divorced women also see this practice imposed on them. As soon as their husbands are no longer of this world, the brothers of the late husband align up to take the wife. It’s like they couldn’t wait for their male relative to die. Please let his body cool off first before you make a move on the wife. That is if she is even interested. What is written on this matter is “O you who have believed, it is not lawful for you to inherit women by compulsion…” (4:19). The Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu aleihi wassalam) also went on and said, “The widow and the divorced woman shall not be married until her order is obtained, and the virgin girl shall not be married until her permission is obtained.” (Bukhari, 67:42)

What is not written is forcing women into marriages because you think it’s better for them, marrying them behind their back and practicing honor killings because they chose their own mate. Dear ummah, please stop incorporating your own cultural baggage, bias point of views, overbearing complexes, etc. with the beautiful Islam that was descended upon us and call ‘it’s WRITTEN in the Quran sherif and the Sunnah. No, it’s not. You inked your twisted ways in the sunnah and misinterpreted the Quran sherif. What instead is written are the scriptures listed throughout the post used in the correct and appropriate contexts.

Above all, this has to stop within the ummah otherwise, no matter how free muslimahs and feminists try to debunk the subject of wrongdoings in the name of the religion we love dear, Muslim people will never be seen as people who value the voice of their people. We will always be seen as dictators because even though a few minority of the ummah is living according to the rules and principles of Islam, there is an even larger majority living with cultural baggage they call Islamic taking us five steps behind and helping the enemies of Islam write our story in another lens. Pun intended. Is the majority of the ummah that is messing things up for us in the name of the religion truly Muslim? Yes, they are. Are they good Muslims? Probably not. Islam is perfect but not all the people that practice it-Muslims-adhere by the code and try to come close to perfection. On that note, Allahu Alim!

Sources:

http://againstforcedmarriages.org/fm-religion/forced-marriage-islam

 http://idealmuslimah.com/images/stories/Books/TheIdealMuslimah.pdf

 

 

The Written vs.NOT Written Stuff: Customary Arranged Marriages In Muslim Communities

First Collaborative Feature’s Part I authored by: Saadia Haq

Very recently, I watched an English trailer of the movie “Fatou La Malienne” that transported me literally back to my world, a Muslim world that still continues to uphold the custom of arranged marriages. Before you begin spitting angry words at me, let me make it clear that I don’t have any issues with the institution of marriage itself and neither do I have anything against the blessing of a union where two people pledge to stay together in sickness, in health, in joy and in pain for eternity.

My entire problem is the bizarre mannerism in which Muslim communities decides that marriages arranged by the family elders as the best way to guarantee a solid future for their child. More aggravating is that all this also comes under the guise of distorting Islam to suit patriarchal interests. In “Fatou La Malienne” the Parisian heroine of African descent dreams to finish her graduation in order to join the fashion industry, but her aspirations are met with resistance with the traditional mindsets of her family. More over the movie portrays the realities faced by millions of Muslim young women regardless of their lives in home countries or as migrants.

In a predominantly Muslim Pakistan, till date arranged marriages customs continue to prevail. Now consider a wedding scenario in a typical backward village of Punjab province. The relatives are rejoicing and making merry on the wedding of their daughter who has finished her Bachelors degree despite coming from a financially vulnerable family. No one seems to be caring that her degree is as good as a dead sheep for she won’t be using it ever.  The groom in this case belongs to land owing family; proprietors of milk supplying business. The bride’s father is the village retired postman. The bride Sameena* is 23 and the groom is 36, plus she is not bringing any “dowry” either. I think you are getting my drift here. No?

This marriage has not only raised her status in their community, but additionally it will now help in a rather Austenesque fashion, to introduce her younger sisters to other eligible suitors in the community.  After all – a wedding is all about getting conducting ground networking for future proposals. Sameena* and her family know that this is the only golden chance they could ever get. The funniest aspect is that she wasn’t asked her agreement verbally by her family before or during the Islamic marriage ceremony that was ordained by the village cleric, mullah- the self professed expert on Islam. So much for ISLAMIC claims!

However, even if anybody bothered to ask her opinion, it wasn’t changing the outcome.

This scenario is very common in my country, where cultural and religious customs reinforce traditional gender roles, especially those regarding women’s responsibilities in the home and family.  Thousands of Sameenas get married on a daily level because culture demands them to accede to tradition and marry according to the wishes of their parents and to the expectations of a community – where the honor of an entire family hinges on a woman’s behavior and reputation. Like scores others, Sameena* too has to face the consequences of such marriage decisions – decisions that were decided by their elders and if the marriage fails, the blame is usually put on the Sameenas or their “destiny.”

Now this sort of inanity that we know as arranged marriages are done irrespective of class differences, untimely rich or poor, women have to sacrifice their own happiness and well-being for the greater good of the family.

More ever, in South Asian Muslim communities, and I have been told on good authority in others too, marriage is considered a family matter and therefore any sort of outsiders’ opposition or opinion is not welcomed by elders. What bothers me way too much is that outdated customs are justified using religious ideology, and lets not kid ourselves because most Muslim communities are very dictatorial and oppressive. There are ongoing horrific crimes against women including forced marriages, honor murders etc that get hushed up with a sole sentence – Islam says so.

The cold blooded murder of the 17-year old Shafilea Iftikhar Ahmed, a British Pakistani was justified both culturally and religiously by her parents who did the deed. All because her refusal to marry was shaming her family and therefore it had to be handled.

Islam seriously does not say so, so lets not use that excuse. 

While Shafilea is no more with us, it is left to Muslimahs to debunk these inane theories that Islam justifies the killing of women and girls for refusing to enter a forced marriage. Then there is also the issue of countless of Sameenas* that have to bow down to pressures.

This also reflects on men themselves who resort to arranged marriages by turning to their matriarchs, mothers to find a prospective bride and decide the marriage. Within Muslim communities, including Pakistan, men get married as an obligation to please their parents. I have heard some brazen male colleagues boasting that I continue to play around, but got married for the family’s heir. As if his unfortunate wife is a robotic entity with a functioning uterus. Most men I have known find this dehumanized custom totally rocking their lives; they don’t need to make efforts but relax away while becoming recipients of a good wife chosen by their parents. The parents also ensure that their marriages custom criteria are met. These include the girls’ abilities to cook, clean, be in possession of healthy uterus to bear those family heirs “sons” and look like decorative doormats.

People with my type of mindset that imagines like “Marriage is about compatibility, communication and understanding between the wife and husband” are probably barking on the wrong tree I guess. Blessed I am, for my parents are watering that tree.

For I cannot fathom this bizarre scenario to find myself in bride finery being asked for my agreement to marry a man that I probably never ever met in my life. Or someone who I saw once fleetingly when he came with his family to “check out the merchandise” (the prospective bride: in this hypothetical scenario gulps – probably me) and spent all that time watching his shoes or watch, while I was got the grilling never ending interview from the prospective in-laws from hell!

Seriously, I do not know how women go through this every day, considering that I have had several female cousins getting hitched through this idiocy, which robbed them off their basic rights for having “a say and opinion” in a decision that would affect their whole lives.

Note:

This is a joint initiative of two Muslimah writers, Saadia Haq and Papatia Feauxzar. The second part of this topic series will be published soon for readers. Copyrights @2015

Peshawar Carnage|Dedication to APS School Students

‘Fearful are the men with guns of an unarmed girl.’  – Habib Jalib, Pakistani Poet 

This opening quote to my post that was coined for Malala Yousafzai, by a fearless and candid Pakistani poet seems poignant. The nailing of some 150 innocent people, mostly children and teachers inside their coffins on December 16, in Peshawar is enough evidence. If more is needed, still there are countless survivors on hospital beds.

For many this is normal business, but such things can only happen in Pakistan. The saddest thing is that when I tell people that we are a country already weary of unending terrorist attacks, nobody believes me and I am given skeptic criticism. I tell you, seriously I do that there are millions of us that are seriously concerned and trying in our little ways to struggle for peace and stability while living a real life traumatic life as a Pakistani in today’s times. The 2014’s Peshawar Carnage was one catastrophe of today’s Pakistan and the terrorism lurking within.

This insane ideology that targets unarmed children whose only crime is seeking education should tell us the depths of cowardice of the militants. How scared they are were, they are and they will be to have done to us what they did on December 16.

This is my failing attempt at writing a dedication to the departed souls and surviving children of that fateful day that we as a nation I still cannot fathom have endured on our bodies and souls.

Recollecting Memories of the Departed Ones

The five year old girl whose first day of school on 16 December 2014, turned into her last day of life. She was among the ones that were sprayed with bullets. 

While the school went through maximum demolition, its reconstruction has started last week.  But once school reopens, there won’t be any class 9. You see, the entire ninth grade of the school has been wiped out by the real upholders of ISLAM and Sharia.

A total of 100 children were killed in the auditorium, where a first aid lesson was happening and students were practicing skills with the team of Pakistani army medics who were also killed in the bullet spraying, grenades and firing sprees.

Reliving Horrors by Survivors

The young students recount how their day started ordinarily – English class and career counseling in the auditorium – and ended in a bloodbath; the main hall littered with bullets, blood and bodies.

“My teacher asked me to go and hide behind the table and not look. They are bad people,” she said. if she wanted to continue her education, she declared she is “a brave girl” and was prepared to study in her school again where she can “play with her friends”. These are the recollections by 3 year old lEman, who hide herself behind her desk on the instructions of her teacher Maam Hafsa. Little Eman saw the blood bath during the killing of Maam Hafsa and others, leaving a huge mark on her small person.

Today Eman is inspired to become a doctor for saving lives. 

A 14-year-old, Mehran Khan, said about 400 students were in another hall when the gunmen broke through the doors and started shooting. They shot one of the teachers in the head and then set her on fire and shouted “God is great!” as she screamed, added Khan, who survived by playing dead. 

I do wonder where exactly is the greatness and glorification of any God in what happened. 

When the shooting started, another student Jamal said nobody knew what was going on in the first few seconds. “Then I saw children falling down who were crying and screaming. I also fell down. I learned later that I have got a bullet,” he said, speaking from his hospital bed. He had been shot in the leg.

Jamal and scores of others have survived their ordeals by playing dead in front of the monstrous militants. It is at moments like this, when words truly fail me. 

We are in mourning for a time way too long and that too had to come to its end. It seems unlikely that our government, military and other strategic partners will do something to bring a change and to honor the lost ones in this game of death and despair.

The resuming of death penalties is not serving much in the longer run. Today I am left with my misery on not knowing how much will we mourn? Tell me? Are we born to die and mourn? Pakistan, we have waited a long time for those in power to tackle evil that walks on this homeland. Evil that has time and again been justified for its existence, for its continuation and for its so called Islamic tag.

It’s time to stop being apologetic for the actions of madmen, mad groups and insane monsters that are killing us, on a daily scale. It is a shame that we have factions that are apologists’ justifying the wrath of TTP and all such Godforsaken militant groups. It is truly time to come back to our senses and stop spinning theories about the good versus bad of religious fundamentalists.

Pakistan, honestly, if our mourning is to have any meaning, we must change these conditions and not allow such brazen enemies of humanity and Pakistan walk freely in our homeland.  I urge my country citizens and its leaders to really really get serious and tackle this evil, despite all the odds that we are facing.

Myself, I cannot forget the manner in which they butchered the bodies of innocent kids, the way they tore apart their faces with bullets and weapons. Neither will I forget how they torched and tortured their teachers to death. So tell me, can you?

Peshawar Carnage|Obituary Saluting Teacher Afshan Ahmad

Pakistan’s social fabric is infected with many social evils and variants, but on the whole our culture pays a huge importance to those persons that are responsible for sharing the minds of our future generations. There is no denying that teachers are esteemed highly in our society. And if I have to bring in Islam into this debate, I have to tell you a lot. Islam has paid considerable attention to teachers for their being the first brick in the structure of social development and perfection and the cause of guiding and developing behaviors and mentalities of individuals and communities.

The Prophet cared for teachers and showed their elevated standings. Once, he passed by two circles of people; the first was supplicating to God while the other listening to a teacher. He commented, “The first is begging Allah who may or may not give them. The second was learning. I have been sent as a teacher.” Hence, he joined the second.

The person center to this whole debate: the teachers themselves. Recently, Pakistan has been the “news” itself internationally and locally with the Peshawar Tragedy and the loss of 150 people including students and teachers. That fateful day not only showed the monstrous display of barbarity and inhumanity by terrorists, but also stood testament of resilience, courage, and supreme sacrifice of all those teachers who died while trying to help their students.

This is The Human Len’s attempt at paying homage to one such martyred teacher from the Peshawar Carnage. You might have read the poem in the earlier post of “Teacher Afshan Ahmad & The Terrorists” and today I bring you the story of this brave young woman.

On the day of 16-12-2014, one of the youngest teachers at the APS, Peshawar school, 24-year old Afshan Ahmad was inside one of the classrooms going about her lesson with the students. The militants had entered the school and commenced their heinous crimes, soon they reached her class too.

The eyewitnesses’ accounts by 15 year old surviving students report that the terrorists entered their classroom as they were engaged in discussion with their teacher. One student was shot in the chest, he is currently recovering at a hospital, went on saying that Maam Afshan seemed to understand what was going on before they did because she immediately stood up and prevented the terrorists from targeting the students. Another surviving student present inside that class room, Irfanullah, said his teacher did not allow the gunmen to shoot her students and shouted at her students to run away while she tackled the armed terrorist  single-handedly.

This angered the militants, who sprinkled petrol over her and set her on fire, alive. While Afshan Ahmad body was on fire, she didn’t yield not implore the terrorists to spare her, rather she stood in their way and told them she will not let them kill the children for as long as she was still alive because she cannot see her children-students getting killed before her very eyes. This bizarre turn of events confused the militants who watched her burning away, while the students ran out of the classroom.

The last glance of Irfanullah showed him the scene of his teacher on full fire and hearing her shouts of run away, run way children. In a span of few minutes, the life of Irfanullah and other surviving class fellows changed completely.

In his words, “It’s an instance of true love and a greatest sacrifice. She was not only our teacher but our guard-mother as well. I feel I am a self-centered guy because instead of being with her to save her life I ran away, but I was also wounded.”

These terrorist monsters didn’t know that Pakistan Army is not the only obstacle that stood between them and their targets – little innocent children. On their part, they miscalculated the power of women and the strength of maternal instincts that are the very fabric of every woman, on the whole.

As this Pakistani young women teacher stood and fell in the way of their nefarious schemes and today children like Irfanullah and Ahmad are alive.

Rest In Peace, among the Angels in Paradise, Afshan Ahmad. Ameen. 

Your sacrifice and bravery humbles us beyond words can express. Indeed Pakistan is proud of your sacrifice and its been a huge privilege of having the best of humans as the teachers at Army Public School. Afshan Ahmad, you have fought for the highest of causes and all my words may not really be enough a tribute to your humanity that was not only enlightening young minds, but also paid the ultimate price to save those who are the future of our nation.

Truly, in giving your life for a better tomorrow, you showed us that martyrdom is a legacy that carries on for eternity.

Pakistan Zindabad, Pakistani women Zindabad! 

 

 

 

 

Peshawar Carnage| Teacher Afshan Ahmad & The Terrorists

Should I call it brutality?
Should I call it cruelty?
It’s not enough,
Then what I should call it?
I don’t know!
What happened in a school at Peshawar?
Dear God do you know it?
If you know it,
Please tell me what should I call it?
My dear poet friends please help me,
Give me a word to describe it.

Afshan Ahmad,
A teacher of Army Public School,
Peshawar,
Where children of civilians also read,
She came between the terrorists,
And the children,

Boldly and bravely she said,
I can’t see blood of my children,
Terrorists spread petrol on her,
And turned her alive in coal and ashes,

While burning she was advising her children,
A sincere teacher was teaching even in fire,
See her duty,
See her beauty,

As a teacher and as a mother as well,
She added a romantic page,
To the tale of Eve,

The terrorists had not come to kill Afshan,
But she was there to do the best she could do,
Yes as a teacher,
Yes as a mother,

She was asking the children to
Run away, run away,

You heartless terrorists,
This is the way,
That leads to Paradise,
And the way you are moving on,
leads to hell.

Afshan! if you could talk to me,
From the paradise,
You said run away,
They may run away,
We may run away,
But how and where!

Death warrants of those,
Who have been sentenced to death,
Are pending for an advice,
From chief of executive,
To the head of state.

Dear God if you know a place,
Dear poet friends if you know it,
Please let me know too!
How and where we may run away.

 

Poet Akhtar Jawad

 

Please keep an eye for the second part, as The Human Lens is showcasing the obituary of the martyred teacher Ms. Afshan Ahmed! 

PAKISTAN ZINDABAD!

Peshawar Carnage| One Week Later

There was a point in my life when stress almost killed me, but here I am almost one week after the Peshawar Carnage, still alive but with a dimmed soul that is still grappling to come to terms with all that has passed over us, as a nation.

To say 2014 was a trying year for Pakistan is an understatement, because every year is more or less the same for us. Annually thousands of Pakistanis lose their lives and livelihoods in this game of intra-international state politics and the militant factions. Both are trying to use their triumph cards to gain the control of this totally out of control country, or is it that out of control really?

Despite crying tears of blood, grieving and burying some 150 innocent lives, most Pakistanis have gone about functioning their daily daily routines and done what they do or have to do.

This resilience is what makes, Pakistan a very unique country with a very conscious nation whose souls maybe broken, but they carry on. 

The whole country is buzzing with so much activity and I want to share with readers, some exceprts of these, through cartoons.

These cartoons are sketched by national award winning cartoonists whose work is a daily section of our newspapers, for my readers’ ease I have chosen English language based work.

I: Cartoonist Zahoor’s work, Dawn Newspaper

Unfortunate Pakistani Mothers Look Upon Sky Bleeding
Unfortunate Pakistani Mothers Look Upon Sky Bleeding

 II: Cartoonist Maxim’s work, The Nation Newspaper

Summation of Reality
Summation of Reality

III: Cartoonist Maxim has captured the essence of reality behind Peshawar carnage, The Nation Newsdaily

Prime Minister Seeking Divine Assistance?!
Prime Minister Seeking Divine Assistance?!

IV: Cartoonist Khalid Hussain’s work depicts the Pakistani mothers’s plight by linking to Humanity and Future of Pakistan, The DailyTimes Newspaper

Power Struggle: Leaves Humanity Dying
Power Struggle: Leaves Humanity Dying

V: Cartoonist Khalid Hussain depicts nation’s fury & the military’s will for flushing terrorism from Pakistan, for those who kill innocent citizens are basically enemies of humanity and our homeland, Pakistan. The DailyTimes, Newspaper

Military Offensive on Enemies of Pakistan
Military Offensive on Enemies of Pakistan..?! 

 

I also wanted to take this opportunity to thank all the readers and editors for the wishes, support, reblogs and messages full of love, compassion and solidarity with The Human Lens, myself and my country.  These are helped me immensely beyond words can express, truly.

Yes, my soul maybe battered and bruised, but am not yet beaten yet. 

Pakistan Zindabad. 

Listen Those Of You Who Spill Blood Of Innocent Children in Pakistan

Listen, those of you
who call yourself the “taliban”
and spill the blood
of innocent children in Pakistan

I vow to never lose my way or despair,
become hateful or violent like you
I vow to never speak, to think like you
I vow to never do what you do

the whole world is my home
every creature is my family
I will not be divided
from the rest of humanity
I will not despise, distrust
those who look, who speak
who live, who believe
different from me

I am a lover of God
so I am neither Christian nor Jew
I am neither Buddhist nor Sikh
neither Muslim nor Hindu

I am neither left nor right
neither Shia nor Sunni
I am neither better nor superior
in creed or color, to anybody

in answer to your madness
I practice compassion and sanity
in answer to your violence
I remain tethered to my humanity

you seem to have forgotten
but I remember I carry the Divine Spark
so i’ll burn my own light brighter
in answer to your dark
and only grow love, courage
and hope in my heart

yes! i’ll only grow love, courage

and hope in my heart…

Thank you to Ms. Shabano Aliani, the author of Set My Heart On Fire for penning down this poem after the massacre of 142 students in Taliban School Attack in Peshawar.

 

Pakistan Ulema Council Fatwa On Peshawar Carnage

Murder of Innocent not sanctioned by Islam

The killing of innocent humans like those 146 children being related to Islam and Jihad is nothing but ignorance. The murder of children and teachers in Peshawar is clearly an act of brutality which Islam does not sanction.

These strong views are part of the Fatwa issued by Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC) earlier yesterday. The PUC’s Central Chairman said that all Islamic schools of thought, all religions and sects were agreed that the Peshawar incident was an act of unmerciful cruelty, adding that the act was being condemned by everyone, no matter which religion they belonged to.

He further added that Muslim Ulema never endorsed massacre of innocent humanity and the people relating the condemnable Peshawar incident with Islam or Muslims were not serving the religion.

The PUC chairman has announced they will observe Friday (December 19) as Pakistan Solidarity Day in which unity would be expressed with the martyrs of Peshawar school and terrorism would be condemned.

According to the Fatwa, Islam declares murder of any innocent person as the assassination of whole humanity. It even does not allow the murder of the elderly people, women and children in battle.

“It is against the teachings of Holy Prophet (pbuh) to kill the teachers and students who are getting and giving education,” it says.

The Fatwa also highlighted that Islam’s Holy Prophet (PBUH) freed the teachers and ordered to respect them.

The Pakistan Ulema Council’s speeches condemning the Peshawar tragedy shall be delivered in 73,000 mosques under Wafaqul Masajid section of the PUC.

Now I am sincerely hoping that this fattwa has cleared all those misguided and confused lot that are spinning theories about justifying the cold-blooded murder of Pakistani children and their teachers.

I also hope those segments within and abroad of Pakistan that are unsure, hesitant on the issue of jihad, martyrdom and status of talib should stop telling us to surrender to the militant agendas, for those who murder innocent people, especially children have basically assassinated humanity.

Silencing our voices by putting a bullet into our hearts won’t waver our greatest commitment and greater resolve.

You have underestimated our strength & commitment to this land called PAKISTAN.

We are not a nation which will surrender to terrorism and tyranny. Ever. 

Widow Shaming & Stigmatization in South Asia

“I always felt different because everywhere I go people either give me sympathetic looks or are scared that I will bring bad luck. But the first time this betrayal struck me was when one of my sisters was getting married. I was treated like an outcast by my own family, all of whom made sure to admonish me that if I touched the bridal clothes or anything related to the nuptial ceremony something catastrophic will happen. More-ever my other sisters and mother too told me to refrain from touching the bride’s dowry because that could cast the bad effects from my status as a widow. We still believe in these old ways,” says a dejected widow*Sehar.

The 32-year old Pakistani-Sehar’s words are an echo of the horrifying treatment meted out to south asian women who become widowed at some stage of their married lives. This stigmatization of widowhood is a prevalent violence against women throughout countries in the South Asia.

For centuries, widows have been a marginalized and deprived group within Afghanistan, Nepal and India. Here widowhood is yet another excuse to not treat widowed women on equal footings like other citizens of the society. Centuries old customs and traditions and the prevalent patriarchy at work because the core issue remains the same.

An Indian activist and friend once said to me that “The issue is very simple, somewhere deep within the Indian psyche, the woman’s identity is with the man and the minute he’s not there, it’s something that cannot be accepted.”

In present times, we still observe that scores of widows are ostracized from society whereas, quite a handful of them are deprived of their rights to remarry and inherit property. Although all religions ask their followers to treat widows with respect and dignity, however, it is evident that the traditions and superstition supersede religious diktats.

The phenomena of widowhood represent a “social death” for women. It is not merely that they have lost their husbands, the main breadwinner and supporter of their children, but widowhood robs them of their status and consigns them to the very margins of society where they suffer the most extreme forms of discrimination and stigma. Within south asia, the shaming of widows is very common, they are socially isolated as well as moral policing in extends to their ways of life, dress code and expected social conduct.

The emphasis is strong on denying and obliterating their feminine side. And making sure they understand that they are being shamed for being a widow. 

For instance, here’s a real life example of someone I have personally known.

It’s an August humid morning, she finds space and parks her car inside vehicle parking ground and walks towards the NADRA Swift Center office, Pakistan to apply for the renewal of her national identity card. Wearing a light green shalwar kameez, braided hair and no make-up, her only concession being a wrist watch and tear drop ear studs, she joins the waiting queue.

After an hour, finally her turn arrives and now she’s face to face with the young data entry officer, who starting working on her application.  The moment her virtual personal information form appears on his computer screen, there is a shift in his stance. He is visibly aggressive and asks her badly, when did you husband die? It was as if that had something to do with the renewal process.

Followed by, who accompanied you here? Are you alone? After having explained all that, the application procedure was completed and as she thanked him to leave, this disgruntled excuse of a man told her, “come back with some man from your family to collect it.”

If I didn’t mention it before, this exchange was witnessed by a little girl of six who accompanied that widow. No surprises there right?

This is a tiny, insignificant example of how widows get treated in Pakistan, or for that matter South Asia.

Now, let’s just discus this inanity. While the Pakistani religious brigades continue to chant Sharia, Sharia for Pakistan, they have never taught the local societies towards better treatment of widows, they never narrate that Āminah bint Wahb, the mother of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was a widow too.

Those pre-Islamic times, when women were treated less than chattel, these miracles of Allah Al-Mighty are signs for those wishing to seek light.

The shaming of widowhood and the opposition to remarriage is also another sickness, south asia is inflicted with. There are millions of widows who are  very young when their husbands die but may be prevented by custom from remarrying, even if they wish to do so. Or even if there are prospective grooms interested in marrying a widow, it’s still very frowned upon. Mostly both the widow’s own family and her deceased husband’s family creates hurdles and issues if at all, a widow (who might be a mother or not) seeks to remarry.

All my life, I wondered why this sort of nonsense is not doled out to men whose wives die, more than often many widowers marry within less than a year of the death of their wife. But they the widowers aren’t considered unlucky, wretched and all those negative labels we love attaching to widows?

But its ironic that despite being unable to control the death of her husband, a widow is punished for her lifetime. Her life becomes a prolonged sentence where she caters to the needs of her families, be their maid and servant, but otherwise stay in the shadows every time there is a happy occasion.

Does a widow have any choice? No. So how come south asian society continues to expel widows from our society?

The cumulative lot of widows in South Asia has worsened due to the continued natural disasters, conflict and war. Recent times have seen some focus on widow issues, but progress is very slow. SANWED a regional initiative is working towards changing the status quo.

Its high-time South Asian society while afflicted in regressive traditions and mindsets, encourages s a real shift in attitudes towards widows for their betterment and better inclusion in the society.

Footnote: Request to readers to acknowledge the sensitivity of this topic and treat it as such. *Names are changed for privacy reasons. Thank you again. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

South Asian Beauty Standards;the Startling Perplexing Syndrome Part II

Written by Saadia Haq, In Collaboration with the Author of Seraphictruth

Inside Pakistan, the entire worth of women is most often put into her beauty and more importantly her skin color. Baffling as it sounds; it holds true for all Pakistani girls. Am one of those not-so-lucky ones with a dusky complexion and more than often this society of mine tends to engage into aggravating conversations of my worthlessness based on my darker skin.

You see, those of us born with dark skin are abused through this the systematic violence of having absurd issues related to potential marriage proposals and for most part our dark skin means we are “unwanted” and “wretched.”

The strong evidence of these summing can be found in our local media and literature where the idea of a perfect Pakistani woman is fair and light-skinned. Our media adverts have fair colored women selling us lame items from male shaving razors to fairness creams. Fair is the paragon-ic heroine of most theater and dramas. Where as, usually there is a side-kick having darker skin usually playing the character of mistress or troublemaker, domestic worker, road cleaner etc.  On top of that there are even popular songs like “gore rang ka zamana, kabhe hoga na purana” which can be roughly translated into “the idea of white beauty is forever and absolute.”

It’s not only Pakistan, but overall south asia has an unhealthy obsession with a fair complexion and the roots can be found in our colonial past. Yes, the horrifying era where the British came and plundered, tampered with our laws and went back with the loot, leaving us with some severely post traumatic syndromes likes these. The shadow of the British Empire hangs over us in the form of internalized colonialism and you see this because clearly privilege and an elevated status were indicated by the whiteness of your skin.

Today, we might be a free country but the “gora craze” continues. A country boasting some twenty ethnicities, major and minorities included and more then ten major language speakers, let alone countless dialectics, it’s obnoxious to see that standards for women are absolutely set on “white alabaster” and “straight hair.”

A famous media personality Ms. Zubaida Apa coming from a highly extinguished and intellectually literate family, herself also a writer is now selling the dream for all Pakistan to become white by using this magical “soap”, check this out:

Now Pakistan becomes white?! Seriously?
Now  Pakistan will be fair skinned.  Seriously?

Those like me hailing from ethnic minority (darker complexion) Muhajir speaking Urdu language and having our ethnic roots outside present day Pakistan continue to not fit the prerequisite of what a Pakistani woman and her beauty should look like. There is whole north versus south mentality also affecting the skin color syndrome. For many central and northern fair-complexioned Punjabis and Pathans, the Urdu language speaking dark complexion woman is no way less that a slut and “loose character woman.”

Why do I say this? And what’s their reasoning behind treating us like disposable tissues is emancipation; those who know the history of Muhajirs know for a fact that education and career building are integral part of most Muhajir communities that might not be rich and land owners like other powerful northern ethnicities in Pakistan, but the educational level and the cosmopolitan mindset sets them aside from the others. Hailing from the south shores, of Karachi is no way less than treated as a crime.

Experts from a conversation with a male Pakistani Embassy staffer outside of Pakistan, please keep on reading;

Diplomatic staffer: Ok, so what are you doing here alone?

Me: I came to ask some information related to the visa application.

Diplomatic staffer: No I mean why you are alone, where is your father, are you married?

Me: What has that got to do with a voting application?

Diplomatic staffer: I ask the questions here, ok. Why you want to vote, who told you that overseas voting is in progress?

Me: I read it in online news and I do know what’s going on in my country.

Diplomatic staffer: Are you… some Ngo type lady, it says here you were born in Karachi?

Me: yes that’s right.

Diplomatic staffer: Yes, Muhajir city types are very loose, all over the place and women have too much freedom. Look I can’t answer your questions, come another time or better go home.

Now, this type of nonsense with the dusky Urdu speaking girls are “fast” and “loose” I have been hearing since I was a little child. This shameful stigma of being born with dark color; in primary school, my class fellow a blue-eyed fair-skinned fellow taunted me with words “kali naukrani” (black servant) had his note-book torn and residing inside the trash can. This train continued throughout university as my family lived in up-country; Islamabad, the capital where Muhajir community is much smaller and therefore more visibly scrutinized within the society.

When most Pakistani girls reach university age, another threat looms its self over us, with or without our consent and knowledge. For now, we are at the “peak right time” to actually inflict a self wound by shooting an AK57 bullet into our legs – get hitched, get married! 

For the hitching part, comes forward perhaps the more fearful person in south asia – the matchmaker aunties, whose primary criteria for finding the potential bride is the ultimate white skinny educated saintly damsel for her own son or some one else’s son. I thwarted many aunties to finish my university and start working. But they remain undeterred. My home living room was a favorite place for many unwanted aunties that drove my graceful and polite mother nuts, a truly hospitable lady that kept the free of charge home-made tea services flowing during these proceedings to hear the so and so auntie bemoaning my curly hair, dark skin and sorrowful aging at the age of 23 years old. Sometimes there were random people accompanying these aunties, mothers or sisters of prospective grooms from hell.

As an under cover feminist, very enlightening to note that these women who many times were way darker (don’t want to sound vain, but its true) then me would blatantly tell my mother “I want to find a nice light-skinned girl for my brother, but we see that your daughter is so dark.”

Most are still at it.
Most are still at it. Sighs…! 

I always asked myself then and even today, why this self-loathing among women? Some neurotic-subtle ones would go on saying, “well she earns a lot so that makes it up for the dusky complexion.” As if my paycheck made up for my dark color. Face-palming.

Later, when I joined journalism this baloney continued. I had many male colleagues inform me that Urdu speaking women are fast and loose, as if God made them the keeper of our morals.

Some of my female cousins are similar or darker in complexion than me, that too is traumatic because I get to hear a mother in law speaking of my cousin with conversation sighs regarding the nae naweli bahu (new daughter-in-law) with words like “shakal mai pyari hain laikin thori si sanvli hain” (her face is nice but she is a little dark). Honestly, it angers and shames me that our society continues to bemoan the creation of Allah –while for most part Pakistani Muslims act like they are the only real great Islam’s followers. Even Allah and Allah’s message has no differentiation for black, brown or white. And on top of that, simply we as a society have really no recognition of the spit we cast upon a majority of our nation who has darker skin.

Historic Unification|Ray of Hope for West Papuans

This week in a historic gathering of West Papuan leaders in Vanuatu, different factions of the independence movement have united to form a new body called the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP).

This new focal organization unites the three main organizations that have long struggled for independence in their own way. By coming together to present a united front, this allows for the re-submission of a fresh application for membership of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) as well as countering Indonesian claims that the West Papuan groups are divided. The negotiations and kastom ceremonies attended by leaders of all the major groups and observed by the chiefs, churches and the government of Vanuatu demonstrates that now we West Papuans are united in one group and one struggle.

The key groups who have united include the Federal Republic of West Papua (NRFPB); National Coalition for Liberation (WPNCL) and National Parliament of West Papua (NPWP). An external secretariat consisting of five elected members from the various groups will now co-ordinate the ULMWP activities. West Papuan journalist, leader and former Editor of Indonesian Daily newspaper Kompas Octovianus Mote has been elected as General Secretary of the ULMWP while Benny Wenda is the spokesperson and the other three elected members are Rex Rumakiek, Leone Tangahma and Jacob Rumbiak.

General Secretary Mote said at the close of the unification meeting “I am honored to be elected and very happy we are now all united. The ULMWP is now the only recognized co-coordinating body to lead the campaign for MSG membership and continue the campaign for independence from Indonesia.”

Octo has been involved in this international work for some time and he was also part of the Papuan Peace Negotiating Team set up after a Peace Conference held in Jayapura, West Papua, in July 2011. Octo is based in the United States and is a Senior Human Rights Fellow at Yale Law School. He was formerly head of the Papua Bureau of Kompas, the largest Indonesian daily newspaper. Following a meeting between 100 Papuan leaders (Tim 100) and Indonesian President B.J. Habibie in 1999, Octo was forced to leave Papua due to death threats from the Indonesian security services.

For those in Australia, today he is addressing the Human Rights Day public meeting and available for media queries.

The world has a huge responsibility to stand together with the people of West Papua for 50 years under the Indonesian colonization has shown that there is no future except but to accept the identity and human rights of West Papuans self-determination and aspirations of a freedom.

Long life West Papuans!

Papua Merdeka!

Sources:

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1412/S00110/west-papuan-leader-octovianus-mote-visits-auckland.htm

WEST PAPUAN Filep Karma| Jailed For Raising A Flag

Papuan Political Activist cum Prisoner Filep Karma is a living proof that 15 years of sentence behind jail bars hasn’t affected his ideology for fighting for the Papuan Independence 

Free Felip Karma Petition
Free Felip Karma Petition

Filep Karma, today is undoubtedly the best-known political prisoner from West Papua. His detention – one of the more than some 100 Papuan and Moluccan political prisoners in Indonesian jails – highlights the deep problems of Indonesian rule in Papua. For most part Papuan campaigners are considered separatists who commit treason against the Indonesian State. The manner in which peaceful political activities were criminalized has led to the capture and imprisonment of many leaders including Karma. This strategy is not new to our world – the effective manner through which Papuan nationalist sentiments have been oppressed is a tried and tested tactic.

Karma went to jail for daring to raise the Morning Star Flag in July 1998, later on he again arrested for raising the Morning Star flag (Papuan flag) at a peaceful commemoration – 1 December 1961, which is regarded by Papuans as their independence day. In May the following year he was sentenced to fifteen years’ imprisonment on charges of treason, a sentence he is still serving.

In November 2014, on the 10th anniversary of his incarceration, Filep Karma has published his new book ‘As If We’re Half Animals,’ a powerful and damning account of repression, racism and resistance. Through the book we learn about Karma’s childhood, his upbringing, and the development of his political consciousness in an environment where violence and brutality was part of the backdrop.

Despite spending the last decade in prison for treason, the loss of his liberty has done nothing to dent Karma’s values. The publication of this book ten years later is a clear message to the Indonesian authorities: not only does Karma hold no regret for his act of peaceful resistance in raising the Morning Star flag on that day; he would happily do it again tomorrow. After all, there are some ideals worth more than life itself, despite the sufferings endured to uphold them.

West Papuan woman Protester
West Papuan woman Protester

For human rights defenders stuck inside Papua and throughout this world, “Karma’s life is a testament that common people stand up against injustice with just the truth as their key weapon.”

While he is undoubtedly Papua’s best-known political prisoner, he is by no means alone. According to Papuans Behind Bars, there are currently 69 political prisoners in jails across Papua. Far from being distant history, the violence and discrimination described by Karma are echoed in the stories of many of these prisoners. The racist taunts of ‘monkey,’ the public torture and humiliation and daily acts of discrimination are entrenched in almost every aspect of daily life.

Numerous organizations have cited Mr. Karma’s wrongful detention, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, which has designated Mr. Karma a prisoner of conscience.

A humble plea to Indonesian government for addressing these issues. For only Indonesia itself can solve this complex internal conflict by ordering independent and impartial investigations into the various human rights violations in Papua as well as taking measures for peaceful and non-violent ways of integrating the Melanesia ethnicity within the uniquely diverse of Indonesian identity.

Rape of Indigenous Women in West Papua

The silence on the genocide is our backyard is shameful and startling, for as we speak another exercise is being carried out by the Indonesian security forces that are intentionally raping and killing women and children civilians at some massacre point inside resource-rich province of Papua. During  1950s, West Papua was under Dutch Colonial rule, but by 1961 were moving towards independence with their own flag, the ‘Morning Star’, and Papuan government officials. In the early sixties, however, “Conflict erupted over West Papua” between The Netherlands and Indonesia, and a United Nations agreement gave control of the colony to Indonesia for six years. This was to be followed by a referendum. These six years of Indonesian control saw well-documented cases of violence and abuse by the military. Then in 1969, Indonesia conducted a referendum called the Act of Free Choice. Only 1025 Papuans, representing a population of one-million were hand-picked to vote and under duress, opted to remain a part of Indonesia.

Despite a critical report by a UN official who was present at the voting results, citing serious violations, the UN shamefully sanctioned the vote and West Papua officially became a part of Indonesia. Most Papuans’ call this referendum the ‘Act of No Choice.’”

The sheer complicity of United Nations, Indonesia and European Union’s democracy Netherlands helped the beginning of the end for the WEST Papuans who are ethnically and culturally totally diverse to the so-called Indonesian identities.

Today the world looks away as Indonesian enjoys complete impunity to conduct the racial genocide of indigenous Papuans. Since 1962, some 1962,100, 000 people have been killed or disappeared thanks to the wonderful military operation going on inside Papua. The Free West Papua has recorded with evidence the issue of mass-killings, sexual violence including rape and torture of girls and women.

What strikes me most in the context of west papuan struggle to self-determination is the multifaceted stakeholders that hold the reins that hinder the people of Papua. Nobel laureate American diplomat Henry Kissinger of the Vietnam war fame and chairing director of the infamous company Freeport-Mcmahon that has enjoyed a great stake into the gold mining missions should not be forgotten, off-course American, followed by Australia with tall  claims of peace and democracy are carrying out the plundering of the world’s biggest coal and gold mine owing people out of their resources.

The issue of sexual violence to silence the whole struggle of the papuans continues to be shrouded into mysteries and unheard because foreign media and journalists presence, as well as aid agencies are banned from entering the province. Never-the-less, local media activism is ensuring to share the plight of the people stuck within this nightmare.

A report “Enough Already” has been documented with help from West Papuan women representation and highlights the horrifying tales of  violence against women that took place during 1963-2009. It was presented to the Papuan Indigenous People’s Council, an official body established by the Special Autonomy law for Papua to protect Indigenous People’s rights, and to the National Women’s Commission.

Real Life Testimonies of West Papuan Women 

-In 1967, military operations were conducted in the town of Biak and began to move to the villages. In 1969 [we] went home to Swaipak, Biak staying there during the Sadar [military] operations. The Yospan [Papua’s traditional dance] became a threat to parents, because they had to let their young daughters [participate]; in fact, some parents pressured their daughters to go to the Yospan rather than be targeted with physical violence or threatened… In the middle of the night the people were woken up… the young girls were made to dance Yospan then have sexual relations. The Indonesian troops said to the parents and husbands, ‘You must understand.’ 

– During a dance party organized by the troops in Jayapura district, around 1989, a fight broke out between some community members. Some soldiers intervened: The soldiers brought my sister-in-law and told her to swallow a battery, until she was coughing. They wouldn’t allow us to bring her to the hospital . The next day, they brought me and [a young man who was involved in the fight] to their post . They opened our clothes, and told us to stand in water for hours . Then they made us sleep on the beach for about one hour. We were given no food; we were very hungry. Then they forced [the young man] to rape me. After that they made us walk to the post naked; at the post a picture was taken of us.

But we also heard stories of violence in the home:

Fighting in families in my neighborhood usually happens after our husbands consume alcohol CT (a local brand). When we wives are beaten to almost half dead by our drunken husbands, the crazed husbands don’t get arrested or taken away. Maybe this is also because other than some people who sell CT, there are also policemen who sell and consume (alcohol). So how will the police take care of security?

Leonie Tangahma, one the West Papuans negotiators based in Netherlands recently said that “women now don’t have a choice but to be involved. In the past it was because the men were fighting, we had to make sure that we were there for them and we could provide for the food and all that. But after a while we have been taken more positions actively as demonstrators, so we do have a role within the struggle itself.”

The world slumbers on a soundless sleep. But, the west papuan women marred by four decades of oppression and subjugation have risen and as they rise, let us all rise with them in their struggle for self-determination and liberation from atrocities.

We shall see the rise of ‘Morning Star’ soon. Long Live West Papuans! 

S. Asian Women’s Role as Peace-Building Leaders

Throughout our history, marred by regional, religious-ethnic conflicts, internal and external proxy wars, women of south asia have understood the importance of becoming part of the integral processes with great hopes from the most far-flung little villages to the cosmopolitan hub larger cities boasting millions of inhabitants.

The strong presence of women scholars, politicians and activists from across South Asia have been raising their voices over the escalation of violence, fundamentalism and increased militarization of response to people’s movements and urged inclusion of women in peace building.

Today let’s meet some inspiring women from this region, this post is showcasing N-Peace Awards winners from 2014.

Hasina Jalal from Afghanistan

Activist and founding member of the National Association of Afghanistan Civil Society and board member of Freedom Message Newspaper is one of the five young women in Asia who recently won the 2014 N-Peace Award. She was awarded recognition in the category of Public Vote for Untold Stories-Women Transforming their Communities.

Her work focuses in helping raise the voices of young women through leadership in education and training of youth, promoting partnerships and collaboration among women’s groups, advocacy, and capacity building of non-profit organizations. In turbulent Afghanistan, change agents such as Hasina Jalal are a sign that local women are thoroughly exasperated to be put at the back-burner due to global vested interests of waging a futile war inside their country. The proxy warfare stimulated by international players seeking to liberate “Afghan women from their own culture and religion” has failed despite strong backing in the west. Frankly, external stakeholders won’t liberate and emancipate status of Afghan women or likewise other Muslim women in this region. They are and can assist the Afghan nation towards their struggles into a peaceful tomorrow.

The work done by Hasina Jalal is extremely crucial because its focused on a  collective power of the dis-empowered is key to equality, democracy and a peaceful and more progressive life for the Afghan nation.

Scores of south asian women believe that a stable Afghanistan is the key for a more stable South Asia of tomorrow.

Bimala Kadayat from Nepal 

She is a peace activist that is working on the young people’s empowerment. Born in a small village in the far-western region of Nepal, Bimala Kadayat had a very difficult upbringing after the death of her father leaving behind all five siblings into a vulnerable situation. But her determination made her walk her path, teenage Bimala became curious when her brothers became members of a local youth organization in their village and wanted to join. Although the youth club wasn’t welcoming of female members, she persisted to eventually join the youth club as a member.

Her growing interest to work for people affected by conflict especially youth, led her to travel to remote districts of Bajura, Accham, Jumla and Rolpa to give experiential trainings for harmony between the politically divided youth. Through her work, Bimala has greatly contributed to the social reintegration and reconciliation of children and youth who had been involved in armed conflicts.

Mona Parkash from Pakistan 

After completing her bachelor’s degree at Zubaida College in Hyderabad, Mona Parkash recognized the inequalities in educational opportunities available for Pakistani children and was compelled to take action. Inspired by the lack existence of a school in the remote village of Taluka Jhando Mari in the Tando Allahyar, Sindh province, she attempted to open a school. Initially there was opposition, largely because in this agrarian community parents were dependent on their children’s labor, but ultimately, she was successful. Today her school has 75 pupils enrolled. This school offers its students an egalitarian education, rather than the typical gender segregated schools offered throughout much of Pakistan. Under Mona’s instruction the curriculum has been geared to promote the values of peace, harmony and diversity.

In recognition of her work both the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Habib University awarded her the Meritorious Award for Outstanding Achievement, for her leadership and success in building and running a school before she was 22. Given her achievements thus far we imagine these achievements are only the beginning of a fantastic career in public service encouraging peace, tolerance and education in Pakistan.

The message is clear – we want a peaceful South Asia!

Sisterhood of The World Bloggers Award!

Nominated for Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award!
Nominated for Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award!

Much to my surprise I have been nominated by an extremely young and talented young woman blogger Hajra for the Sisterhood of The World Bloggers Award, an award which gives credit and acknowledges deserving women on a global scale!

While The Human Lens is just 3 years old, I am much older and so is my career struggle and to get complimented in this cool way by Hajra and also those who are supporting this blog’s mission means a lot. Also I feel that my struggles within the human rights issues have managed to connect many dots, many people despite our many diversities.

I acknowledge greatly the generosity with which Hajra has nominated me. Thank you so much and readers, I would strongly recommend that you check out her blog, for it’s such an eye-opening space and a mix of her youthfulness mixed with uncanny maturity. I know and wish the very best for her bright future.

http://seraphictruth.com/2014

The Rules which need to be followed: 

  1.  Provide the link to the person who nominated you.
  2. Add the reward logo.
  3. Answer the questions your nominator has asked.
  4. Nominate 7 other bloggers and let them know via comments. (in fact I have 8 nomimees)
  5. Ask your nominees 10 questions.

And last but not the least; I am answering Hajra’s kindly proposed questions:

  • What inspired you to start your blog?

Well, in my day job, I observe and see so much that doesn’t somehow make it to the headlines of newspapers and important stories, events etc that get unreported, some times carelessness, uncaring attitudes and this burden always has been there within my heart pinching. Also in changing times, I felt that there is a greater need to tackle stereotypes that are making east and west continue to have conflicts and mistrust.

  • Biggest pet-peeve?

Losing my luggage while crossing the Atlantic, which by the way has happened several times and this year in May I returned home before my luggage, probably it likes sitting in random airports or traveling without me for some weird reason! Sighs.

  • What do you love to do to unwind?

It depends on my mood, sometimes I read or listen to music or meditate or I do morning aerobics or play with my cat.

  • What’s you biggest phobia?

It would be failure and in some cases losing control over my circumstances.

  • What’s it like where you grew up?

Well, I grew up between two continents; so it was kind of really adventurous but also exhausting at some level, for my homeland Pakistan and Nigeria where my parents worked were really diverse.

  • If you could be any historical icon who would it be and why?

Oh dear, I dunno maybe Saint Lal Shabaz Qalandar because he was responsible for spreading through his spiritual teachings, the message of love and unity among brethren.

What would you label yourself as if you had to?

In recent times, I do label myself as inter-sectional feminist and peace activist.

My wonderful nominees are: 

http://ishlahii.wordpress.com

http://nicciattfield.wordpress.com/

http://mershaa.wordpress.com/

http://swedenmiddleeastviews.com/

http://middleeastrevised.com/

http://inkriched.com/

http://papatia.wordpress.com/

http://theangryegyptiangirl.wordpress.com/

My 10 questions are:

  • Lets start with,  do you drink coffee or tea and why? 
  • What’s your favorite color and why?
  • What ambitions you seek in this world?
  • What inspires you to blog?
  • How do you select topics to blog upon?
  • Do you think blogging as social media is constructive for engaging with people?
  • Have you received solidarity and support for writing what you write?
  • When faced with opposition, what’s your reaction?
  • Any humanitarian campaigns which you support/or would love to support?
  • What’s your future calling?

 

Trafficking of South Asian Women Migrants Workers

 

Every year millions of women from poor communities across South Asia migrate to find employment so they can send money home to support their families. But many end-up being deceived and trafficked into jobs with extremely low wages or don’t get paid at all. Their movements get restricted, their living and working conditions are very poor and they often suffer threats and all sorts of abuse.

Last year,UK Department for International Development (DFID), the International Labor Organization (ILO) & the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) launched the new “Work in Freedom” programme to fight trafficking of women and girls from South-Asia. This programme is tackling the issue through its multifaceted approaches that work on addressing the pertinent reasons behind the continued exploitative trafficking of South Asian women.

It is my humble opinion that south asian women’s status in global-sphere is somewhat very limited, dehumanized and degrading.

This feeds into the heinous system that allows for the continued lowly status and manipulation of women from this region. This project is like a breath of fresh air because it is aiming to make migration safe for girls and women, travelling to work in the domestic labor and garment sectors in the Middle East and within South Asia.

It has also introduced a unique measure of using “mobile phones” and capacity building of language skills to assist migrant women in getting the much-needed help they would be requiring to get out of a nightmare.

The project is concentrating on three key departure countries – Bangladesh, India and Nepal — and major destination countries – India, Jordan, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates. Please watch this heart wrenching video to hear a glimpse of what some migrant women workers went through.

Say no to Trafficking & Illegal Labor Manipulations!

Source: Work in Freedom Report

South Asian Women’s Football 2014

The SAFF Women’s Championship, also called the South Asian Football Federation Women’s Cup, is the main association football competition of the women’s national football teams governed by the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF). The teams from 8 member countries include: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

So far, Indian women have retained all three cups, each time beating Nepal in the Cup finals. While women in Asia are often treated as second class citizens and denied the opportunities given to men, here’s one place where they have come out on their own — the football pitch.

Pakistan hosted this year’s championship and here are some glimpses of glory and glitches on the pitch.

Pakistan being demolished by Sri Lankan  team
Sri Lankan team demolishes their opponent Pakistan on home turf
792624-SAFFWEB-1416242183-744-640x480
Bangladesh Thrash out Maldives 3-1
Pakistan Women Spectators Turned into Big and Small Groups Alike
Pakistani Women Spectators Turn Out in Big & Small Groups Alike
India retain SAFF Women's Championship 2014
Congrats, Indian Team retains SAFF Women’s Cup 2014
Pakistan's Hajra Khan goes for the goal
Pakistan; (L) Team Captain and striker Hajra Khan goes for the goal
Bhutan Struggling Under Nepali Onslaught
Bhutan Struggling Under Nepali Onslaught
Nepal and India - Finalist Clash On
Nepal and India – Finalists Clash On

Gender Disparity| South Asian Women Fight On

Indian Women Paving Paths
Indian Women Paving Paths

In recent years, the South Asia region has made some progress towards gender equality. The ratio of female-to-male life expectancy in South Asia, while behind East Asia, is now ahead of sub-Saharan Africa.

There is still a long way to go in about bringing the much-needed positive change towards the existing patterns of patriarchy that afford men privileges over women’s minds, souls and bodies. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that millions are still stuck in the dinosaur age, suffering acute Neanderthal syndromes.

A development organization, IFAD through its Gender and Development Division has decades spanning contribution in making head-ways to counter patriarchy and gender gaps.

Through their work, IFAD reports following noteworthy progresses and areas of concern: 

1.South Asia has also seen women’s increased political involvement, with their parliamentary participation rates higher than those in East Asia.

2.The 2012 Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI) shows that South Asia raised its position from the lowest ranked region in 2009 to the fourth ranked region in 2012 in overall discrimination against women.

3. However, the report also notes that the changes in ranking between 2009 and 2012 should be interpreted with caution and that better quality data − rather than an improvement in discriminatory social institutions − could also contribute to an improved score.

4. This culturally diverse region has typically lagged behind on gender equality issues. Boys still outnumber girls in primary school enrollment in Afghanistan, India, Nepal and Pakistan. Furthermore, across the region, girls are more likely than boys to drop out of school and almost half of all adult women are illiterate. In 2005, 48 per cent of young women were married before the age of 18.

5. Out of the nine countries in South Asia, only Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka have laws that prohibit domestic violence.

Pakistan's Benazir Bhutto record on women rights, debatable
Pakistan’s Daring Benazir Bhutto

6. The region is confronted by skewed gender ratios owing to the continued preference for boys in society, at least in part because of the dowry system. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, patriarchal norms isolate women in their homes by placing restrictions on their mobility and prohibiting contact with the opposite sex, especially in rural areas. This has significant implications for their employment, voice and representation in public life.

Despite challenging circumstances, IFAD and its many partners working in South Asia have made significant strides in improving the lives of women and girls in the region, as evidenced in the stories that follow.

Economic empowerment: South Asia has one of the lowest rates in the world of women’s participation in the labour force. Women earn less than men and have limited economic opportunities, often toiling as self-employed laborers across all sectors.

 Voice and participation: Inequities cannot be addressed until there are more women in decision-making roles in the public and private domains. It is true that some countries such as Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have had women heads of government. Others have used affirmative action, such as quotas, to boost women’s participation in decision-making bodies and change the focus of development agendas. However, there is often a large gap between representation and voice.

In Pakistan, for example, women are virtually absent from water user associations even though they own some agricultural land. And if they do attend meetings, they have little influence over decisions.

Women’s decision-making power in the household is also low compared with other Asian regions, but it does increase with wealth and economic empowerment.

Workloads and benefits: In South Asia, the widespread disparities can be observed from the most insignificant to most significant important issues, women work longer hours on domestic chores in comparison to men. Their work overall is benefited by men, most agricultural laborers and workers are women but they earn less and have no decision-making power over their limited incomes and its uses.

Srilankan women in workforce
Srilankan women in workforce

South Asian patriarchy continues to feed into the cycle of keeping women poor and in vulnerable conditions, so that they can be controlled within the heinous societal roles set out for them.

IFAD’s on-ground work has also resulted into many outcomes that can help to continue addressing women’s inclusion and empowerment within the region.

LESSONS LEARNED AND GOOD PRACTICES

IFAD’s Asia and Pacific Division has implemented projects that address gender equality and women’s empowerment in different ways. Some of the lessons learned and good practices implemented in South Asia include:

– Self-help groups. Self-help groups are an effective way to strengthen the decision-making and economic power of women in South Asia’s patriarchal societies.

– Women-specific value chains. Supporting women-specific value chains by providing micro-credit coupled with technical and social training has improved household-level gender relations. It has helped increase women’s mobility and their participation in family decision-making, and brought them greater control over their profits.

-National gender coordinators. Country-level gender coordinators, such as in India, have improved gender outcomes by providing direct support to project design and supervision.

The region is known world-wide for its non-friendly attitudes and traditions that continue to threaten women’s lives. At the center of the rotting core — South Asian women themselves and  have taken it to task to work on improving their lives and continue to display their positive interest and enthusiasm  progressing towards their rightful places in the societies. 

Agents of Change |My Dream For Every Little Girl

 

The Girls’education progress has remained marginalized in the political and general discourse of Pakistan. There is no denying the very fact that there are parts of the country that have the lowest literacy rates in the world, this fact constantly pinches me with passing times.

As a nation, we are falling and failing behind due to two main issues POVERTY and EDUCATION.  

The time has come to stop denying the very fact that education lifts whole communities out of poverty forever. Inside turbulent Pakistan, Oxfam is doing whatever it takes to get more children into class by lobbying with governments, training teachers and also building schools in rural areas, which will provide little children and girls opportunity to attend school. Watch this sensitive video on girl’s education, this is my dream for every little girl and let’s work towards making it a reality.

After-all, educated women are agents of change and Pakistan is in dire need of a social change that empowers its women.

Pakistan, do we want to be the CHANGE?

Free Papua CAMPAIGN| In conversation with a Papuan Activist

WEST PAPUA - Province of Indonesia
WEST PAPUA – Province of Indonesia

More than often, Indonesia is referred as a peaceful paradise on earth. The Republic of Indonesia is a sovereign democracy, but let’s divulge deeper to see what ‘democracy’ looks like in modern-day Indonesia? Behind closed doors, in reality Indonesia is – committing genocide in West Papua. Since more than 4 decades, over 500,000 innocent people have already been killed.

West Papua continues to stay under the horrific Indonesian colonial rule of a land that has been the paradise and playground for the West. This genocide continues with international backing from the Australian government that trains Indonesian military, in order to carry out a more efficient genocide in West Papua.

The international media and human rights groups are barred from entering West Papua and those who raise voices and fight for freedom are at a huge risk.

But this does not stop the daring filmmaker Wensi Fatubun, from West Papua from informing the world about these atrocities.

In his own words, Wensi says, “I am often called a separatist, an enemy, but that does not stop me from raising my voice against the injustices.” Before he even became an activist, Wensi lost several friends who were tortured and interrogated by Indonesia army personnel on suspicions of their involvement into the separatist movement.

Wensi also trains young people to make documentaries and use audio-visual techniques to advocate for the rights of the Papuan people.

Saadia Haq: Please tell us about your video project the Papuan Voices and your own role in making documentaries through it?

Wensi Fatubun: As you are aware, that West Papua is fighting for its independence – but what else goes on there? How often do we hear directly from the Papuans themselves about life in Indonesia’s most secretive province?

Papuan Voices project is a combination of empowerment and production. I teach Papuan activists new video production and distribution skills so that they have the means to tell their own stories to the world. The most unusual aspect is that the stories we tell are not just framed around West Papua’s political struggle for independence. Now, you would be wondering why this is important. It’s because of the simple fact, that when a Papuan man punches an Indonesian soldier who has assaulted his sister, more often than not that man will be branded a “separatist” by the press and Indonesian authorities. The assaulter-soldier will walk free while the Papuan will be charged with serious offenses against the State. These kinds of injustices occur daily in Papua and a lack of understanding about the issues affecting Indonesia’s poorest citizens works to entrench the problem.

The Papuan Voices overcomes political, geographical and financial barriers – as well as lack of technology – to bring important Papuan stories to the world. In doing so, it shines light on the injustices that regularly occur behind the closed doors of this resource-rich and restive province.

Saadia Haq: What’s the importance of Free Papua Campaign and what it could mean for the people of West Papua? 

Wensi Fatubun: Free West Papua Campaign is an initiative of young intellectuals Papuan for support a liberation movement of oppression Indonesia. For Papuans, this campaign is a movement to share the experience of living in oppression and occupation by Indonesia. This conflict remains largely concealed from the global attention, despite decades of hostility and violence, the West Papuans’ demands for justice received very little global attention.

Papuan Voices: Video shoot with activists
Papuan Voices: Video shoot with activists

Papuan Voices aims to bring the everyday stories of West Papuans to a wider audience. These are not isolated to just conflict issue, rather they bring to the surface the human stories, the faces, the voices, the unheard screams of the people who are caught within this ongoing conflict. As I said, the stories show how the affected people are struggling for their rights for education, environment, equality and most importantly – dignity.

Saadia, you also have to take into account that our stories are not framed around the political struggle of West Papua, they show the importance and need for an end to this conflict so the coming generations can have what we didn’t have till now. Additionally, we also cover a wide-scale of local injustices occurring in Papua and trying to inform the audiences’ the complexities affecting Indonesia’s poorest citizens.

I cannot stress more on the very fact that “Papuan Voices is a cultural struggle.”

We want people to see Papua through the eyes of the Papuans themselves.

And I want people know about Papua through the eyes of Papuans.

Saadia Haq: What are some of the problems in Papua you would like to highlight?

Wensi Fatubun: I would like to highlight “right to self-determination and right to freedom of expression and opinion issues.”

The international media and humanitarian organizations are barred from entering West Papua and in the absence of humanitarian support on ground; Papuan Voices is trying to remedy the gap by giving a platform to the people’s voices and their demands for self-determination and right of freedom.

This project is a multifaceted project covering a range of political and geographical barriers – as well as lack of technology – to bring important Papuan stories to the world. In doing so, it shines light on the injustices that regularly occur behind the closed doors of this resource-rich and restive province.

Saadia Haq: Why do you keep continuing this (fight) despite the dangers?

Wensi Fatubun: Because this is a humanitarian struggle, I work with the indigenous Papuans to speak the truth of their lives, to bring their issues and problems that are unknown to the outside world.

The struggles of indigenous Papauans keeps me going on, I see this on a daily basis and I know that I have to continue doing what I am.

Saadia Haq: How can we support you, what advice you would give to our readers?

Wensi Fatubun: I want you to come join this fight with the Papuans. I will appreciate you and others to join our efforts and struggles, make a choice to stand with the most vulnerable people of today’s times and find together we can pave a path for freedom.

Wensi Fatubun, thank you so much for joining us at “The Human Lens” Blog. We wish you the very best and ensure you of our solidarity.

For the readers interested in knowing about the Papuans Voices project, please visit: papuanvoices.net and http://www.engagemedia.org/Projects/papuanvoices

Human Rights Activist Anjuman Ara| The Perils Of Media Reporting in North East India

Today’s story is about the decades long conflict in India’s North East, the first time I learned about the full-scale insurgency in Assam was in 2006 with a chance meeting with an activist hailing from Assam. Since then there is no going back to my concern on India’s North East situation and that meeting turned into a great solidarity with this activist, Doctor Anjuman Ara Begum a freelance journalist, blogger and human rights activist from North East India.

She was born in Meghalaya and obtained her higher education from the Department of Law, Gauhati University.A researcher, who has published many valuable documents on  the human rights and gender issues in armed conflict situations in north-east India since 2004. She is a part of “Right to information movement” as well as member of Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group and Women in Governance Network, India (WinG) amongst others. She has also served as Programme Officer representing India at the Asian Human Rights Commission.

In 2011, she researched and published an eye opener book titled as Sexual Crimes and Impunity in conflict zones of Assam and readers can check the link given here. Or you may check her blogsite at http://womennes.blogspot.it/

There is no doubt that Dr. Anjuman is Assam’s very own Iron Lady and I say this with great awe and inspiration.

Recently I got the honor of speaking with her where we discussed the issues faced by media in particular female journalists in the conflict zone of Assam.

She told me that the local working conditions in Assam are grim and appalling for women journalists and that Assam’s media demography is male-dominated with women contributing barely 15 percent of the total and that only in urban areas like Guwahati. Further more, she added that women journalists in this part of India often face sexual harassment by male colleagues, discrimination in promotion or wages, and job insecurity, in addition to social disapproval for choosing such a profession.

In light of what she said, I recalled the January 2015 incident which created quite a stir in India and made regional news. While on work, a female journalist and her colleague associated with a local news channel were badly assaulted by police officers and had their camera broken. The local media fraternity was quick to react into a public protest for demanding the immediate arrest and suspension of the involved police officers.

The region has many problems with its police, a research done by Transparency International reports high levels of corruption in public institutions in South Asia. Of the seven major public institutions, the police emerge as the most corrupt in all countries surveyed. Police as a state institution is routinely known to use all forms of violence and illegal methods for displaying their power to citizens.

And Anjuman questions that if the two officers felt they could behave in this outrageous fashion, it is because the criminal justice system in the country has institutionalized the culture of impunity, making it impossible to take legal action against state forces. Filing a FIR is a big hurdle for ordinary people and a woman journalist is no exception. That’s why, despite the protests and the fact that the incident was telecast, the police were reluctant to register the FIR. It took nearly eight hours to do so and the medical test of the injured journalists took place only after five hours.

Several media institutions condemned the assault and called for the suspension of the officers involved. The Electronic Media Forum of Assam came out with an open letter to the Union Minister of Law and Justice demanding a special protection law for journalists on duty. And to bring the situation under control, the newly appointed Guwahati Police Commissioner, Jyotirmoy Chakravarty,said the two officers have been removed from duty and an inquiry instituted. However, media continued to protest and the police detained several protesting journalists that were released afterwards.

The Meghalaya High Court restrained the media from publishing bandh calls.

Despite cases like these, Assam has witnessed a booming electronic media and new jobs, yet the space for female participation has been low owing to a patriarchal culture which divides labor based on gender, so that women are considered ‘weak’ and ‘unsuitable’ for reporting in conflict zones and are usually relegated to desk jobs.

And on the other hand, sexual harassment is considered by many women in the media to be an ‘occupational hazard’, compounded by the silence that surrounds it. The few women who survive such a hostile work environment go on to experience another layer of discrimination terms of being ignored for promotions or salary raises.

“VIOLENCE AND HARASSMENT AGAINST WOMEN IN THE NEWS MEDIA: A GLOBAL PICTURE” a report by IWMF is an eye-opening document that highlights the plight of women in media on a global scale. It states that ,nearly 70% women in media experience  some form of intimidation, threats or abuse in relation to their work, ranging in severity from name-calling to death threats.

And alarmingly nearly 50% of respondents (women in media) experienced sexual harassment at their jobs. The female journalist’s incident in Assam is one of the many cases that continue as we speak. And for human rights defenders like Dr. Anjuman Ara Begum the question remains the same: Inside India, like all other workers, surely women journalists are also entitled to the right of a safe working environment?

Resources: 

1. http://thehoot.org/web/Newprofessionoldbigotry/8074-1-1-25-true.html

2. http://www.academia.edu/3106832/Sexual_Violence_and_Impunity_in_Assam

3. http://www.iwmf.org/our-research/journalist-safety/

Obliterating The Taboo-Muslim Women & Sexuality Part 1

A writer from the East:

The Part I of the series OBLITERATING THE TABOO-MUSLIM WOMEN & SEXUALITY where author discusses the Muslim women sexuality matters while living in the West.

Originally posted on seraphictruth:

Recently after much anticipation I published a post on Muslim women and sexuality in aim to answer a few questions regarding Muslim women and their physical appearances proposed by Western secularists. However, the issue itself is highly controversial and profound therefore I decided to team up with the wonderful writer Saadia Haq from The Human Lens blog in an attempt to dissect and have a deeper look into Muslim women, sexuality and where the issues lie.

Firstly, I’ll begin by discussing Muslim women and their physical appearances based on the study “The Muslim “Veil” Post-9/11: Rethinking Women’s Rights and leadership” by American professor Sahar F. Aziz. In her complex study professor Aziz analyses how the veil or headscarf for Muslim women was seen from a whole different angle after the 9/11 attacks and how Muslim women are higher victims of discrimination than their male counterparts. Aziz noted how “In a…

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