Women’s legs and a psychopath

If tradition does not do the trick, religion is used both to wield authenticity and power

Women’s legs and a psychopath

How do you define impossible? Any attempt to reason with a person who utters nonsense at breakneck speed as though he is on a racing track thrusting the gas paddle, who speaks at the top of his lungs to the person sitting next to him and the one who talks ceaselessly without having an interruption even to take a breath in. He believes the moments lost while inhaling could be his missed opportunity to put his further opponent down.

The net result of such an exercise is that the domineering individual consumes ninety percent of the time while the meek only clutches few gaps to punctuate a word here and there since those utterances too are swooped up and converted into another incoherent diatribe. Something like that happened a couple of weeks ago to Gul Bukhari, a bold columnist when she was trying to have a logical discussion on television with Orya Maqbool Jan, a right-wing television evangelist known for his extreme views.

They were trying to confer about the role of women in the society, the freedom with which she can choose to lead her life, and the values that men impose upon her. Mr Maqbool stood for more traditional and conservative approach while MsBukhari, as expected, professed a modern and liberal view.

To elaborate, for MrMaqbool, it was the responsibility of women not to provoke men through their bold and appealing attire. Instead, they should conform to the rules of the society, cover themselves up and dress modestly. To prove his point, he brought up Jack the Ripper, the unidentified British psychopath known for killing dozens of prostitutes in late 19th century. Gul Bukhari, being on the opposite end of the spectrum, thought the responsibility rested upon men to keep their emotions in check, actions curbed, and intentions subdued. Victims cannotbe blamed for the crimes of the felons. She also expressed, like many others, that quoting the example of a serial killer broke all rules of logical reasoning. “You are justifying his killings of women,” she had to say at one point.

Once Jack the Ripper was introduced,I gathered that both of them would never be able to convince each other. If the former called the latter as an agent of the West, the latter in response would assign similar mean and derogatory name to the former — a never-ending process with zero output.

Generally speaking, more rights to women mean more stability in the society, less violence and more tolerance as you see in the Western societies regardless of the claims made by MrMqbool in earlier shows about the incidence of rape in the United States. According to him, the number of sexual assault exceeds one in every three or five seconds, an opinion based on ‘alternative facts’ not reality.

Anyways, what do we mean by more rights to women? It means that she gets the right to choose what she wants to wear, how much legs she wants to show off (if shewants to show any), who does she want to get married to, when does she want to copulate and produce children. It also means that she is provided with complete financial independence, the freedom to follow her career dreams, the opportunity to look after her families as is presented to her male counterparts. In short, more women rights would mean everything that our current honour driven society does not concur with.

As of yet, Pakistani men are not prepared to give up or share their position with their female subjects. Although within their hearts they understand that the world has changed, and they will have to relinquish their authority, but they want to hang on to power for as long as they can. How do they resist modernity? Mostly by using religion and tradition as tools to defend the status quo.

Tradition determines your way of life:It is your identification, a part of your soul that defines you as a person, as a human being. If you do not follow your customs, you cannot claim to be the same person anymore; you will lose your identity as the aphorism goes: “he that apes will never be himself.” In fact, you will become more of the person whose way of life you have adopted. So as a woman, if you wear amoderndress, you will become a Westerner. Similarly, if you are bold, forthcoming and outgoing, you are diverting from your Eastern roots. Can you stay honourable if you talked to men freely and openly, hung out with them, be friends?

If tradition does not do the trick, religion is used both to wield authenticity and power. Out of context, Quranic verses are cited; some of the local and limited rules of the Holy Book are deliberately made general and universal. Then, the Ahadees, the sayings of Prophet (PBUH), are dug from the books that no one has read, with meanings twisted, interpretation contorted, and backgrounds ignored altogether. Moreover, the opinions of medieval experts, as respectable as they have been in their own times, are presented as indisputable divine laws. What happens next is well known to us: the challenger of these values is labelled as a heretic, an apostate or a blasphemer, a person who sold his soul. It is an art that right wing commentators are very good at.


The writer is a US-based freelance columnist. He tweets at @KaamranHashmi and can be reached at skamranhashmi@gmail.com