Pakistan which means ‘Land of the pure’, recently had to face a fatwa (decree) by the clerics in the tribal region declaring no women can go to market alone, unless accompanied by a male relative. The reason laid out for the argument is that in the holy month of Ramadan which falls in July this year the male person should not get distracted by the vulgarity of woman moving alone out in market places. The ban is proposed by a religious party called Jamiat-ulema-e-Islam, which is led by Fazl-ur-rehman, local administration official.
This religious party showed a very poor performance in the recent Pakistan election and are out of power, yet the ruling party and the moderates fear to criticize this undemocratic decree in apprehension of counter attack by supporters of Jamiat-ulema-e-Islam. Therefore, it won’t be exaggeration to say the ban is rammed due to the political dumbness of ruling leaders, where the sufferer is common women. The ban is imposed by the Islamic clerics and their tribal elders of Pakistan’s north-west Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. A cleric- Maulana Mirzaqeen declared “we have decided that women will not visit the bazar without a male relative.
In Pakistan, there are places, where mountainous change came about in the lifestyle of population with more liberal and progressive mindset. There are equally such places too, where people stick or are forced to stick to the orthodox rules and regulation. North West of the country is one such place where women still cover their head and body in public by a full body enveloping dress called Burqa under compulsion rather than choice.
Burqa plays an important role in Islamic tradition, though in whole the use of burqa has declined in Pakistan. The declination occurred after a series of suicide bombings were related to female insurgents, who were mostly covered in burqa. Interior minister of Pakistan, Mr.Mallick is trying to put complete ban on the use of burqa in public places due to security concern. This step will be a hard nut to crack because there are still some societies like Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where conservative Islam is the lifeline of the inhabitants. There is a discernment that al-Qaeda and Tehereek-e-Taliban, who have declared to use female suicide bomber in future can take advantage of these remote orthodox areas where manual security checking of women is a tough job.
The most pertinent question now is when a female cover themselves from top to bottom in burqa, how can they spoil the fast of the male and distract their mind? What kind of vulgarity is being expected from women totally covered up? Where a burqa can hide the suicide bomb jacket and breach the security, how can it show off the vulgarity of woman and distract the males mind to spoil their fast. Here it seems that women are being used as a political tool to appease the religious followers.
The condemnable fact is that even police are supporting the ban. What is the reason behind that? Is it just because they support the religious fatwa, or they fear the religious party, or is it just that the police are unable to do its duty.
Rather than supporting the ban, democracy expects steps by police to save women; however, no one is taking the matter into concern. The fear is there may be some cases where female are forced and tortured by the male even if they are on fast and fully covered. Can police and the clerics disagree that there may be some corner in this geographical area where without showing any vulgarity women are tortured by the brutality of men. What kind of fatwa has been imposed on men in that case? Why the kind of restriction, like ban are imposed only on women? Why only women are given the list of do’s and don’ts? Why only women are proved to be the instigator of sin?
When the fasting of Ramadan by male is holy act then why do clerics ignore that Islam is also alive in the hearts of women. Why always women are imposed with law and order decided by someone else without their consent. Why not they are allowed to enjoy freedom to act and behave independently.
‘The land of the pure’ can justify its name only when the conservatives change their mindset on the restrictive interpretation of Islam for political mileage let Islam flourish as it did centuries ago due to its assimilative capacity and love for mankind. Imposing any ban will only promote alienation and resentment. These bans are such a restriction that overshadows the love for one’s religion and casts the cloud of fears and tears, which ought to be taken into concern. Only when such orthodoxy promoting gender discrimination is taken into concern, we can expect the name of Islam to rise more and the love for the religion will spread from hearts of million followers. Amen!!