In Defence of Muslim Women

I am getting really sick of hearing about the “devastating consequences” for women of the growing influence of Shariah (Islamic law) here in Pakistan.

I am an Australian woman, a converted muslim, a mother of two girls and a son, and an extraordinarily independent person. I have lived in Pakistan on and off for more than 10 years, and now permanently for more than a year. As a combination of all these roles, I am disgusted at the current fanaticism going on, not of the Taliban, but of the rest of the world at what is happening here. I abhor terrorism as much as anyone, but am gobsmacked at the fact that people seem to be more upset about the impact on women of the Shariah law than they are about the growing terrorism in our country.

We are a muslim country. Every single woman in this country understands that part of our responsibility is to remain modestly dressed, cover our heads at least when we are outside and behave in a way that is not provocative. Likewise men are required to dress and behave modestly. Our peaceful religion even requires that women do not travel alone at night, but are accompanied by their husband, father or male relative – not for their suppression, but for their own protection and respect.

In Swat, the centre of all this Taliban hullabaloo, girls have returned to school as is required in our religion. Women may be wearing veils and travelling at night with male relatives, but SO WHAT??? Most of them were doing this even before the Shariah Law came into being there. I am not a fanatic muslim by any stretch, but how hard is it to wear a covering veil outside in public? In every other muslim country I have been in or seen, women do this as a matter of course. Pakistan relaxed significantly during Musharraf’s rule, but I have never ever heard any woman complaining of wearing a veil. Our family is very moderately religious, but my mother-in-law has NEVER been outside the home alone. I ALWAYS wear a dupatta on my head outside. This is what women do here.

And what about this “flogging” incident? Apart from the fact that it is widely held to be a fake, this girl is supposed to have entered into illicit relations with a boy. This is a flagrant violation of Islam and anyone in any muslim country caught in this kind of act would be punished. At least with this kind of flogging (which you will observe did not even break the skin), the girl was able to stand up and walk away with her punishment complete. This is part of the religious and cultural law that holds this society together and reduces the incidence of extra-marital affairs and illegitimate children. Is the US approach of legalising everything any better? It is now full of children without fathers, mothers who cannot support their children because their husbands have left them for another woman, women who are having affairs and breaking up other marriages, children bearing children etc.

I must say that the real perpetuators of the hue and cry going on about Shariah Law and this flogging are suspiciously those who have the most to hide here. They are the rich establishment who have built their earnings on bribery and corruption, the young people who are drinking alcohol and having relationships, the women who are obsessed with showing off their hairstyles and fashionable clothes and so on.
Let’s get this straight – we are a muslim country. Those who do not wish to live in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan should go to live in England or the US etc, and many have. Those who stay should appreciate that the fundamental basis of our religion is the cohesiveness of our community and this is built on perfect justice for all (not just men!). As soon as the Taliban strays outside the true religious Shariah, all of Pakistan will have the justification to protest vehemently. But until then, please just shut up and stop projecting the screwed up values of the west onto our society.

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