Friday, 19 March 2010

Segregate Or Die

Some countries are famous for the goods they manufacture and some for the minds they produce. Having great minds around is life’s bonus but to have clerics who are out of their minds is the scourge of Satan.

A prominent cleric, in a not-so-prominent land has issued a ‘fatwa’ (an Islamic religious ruling, a scholarly opinion on a matter of Islamic jurisprudence) calling for opponents of the country’s strict segregation of men and women to be put to death if they refuse to abandon their ideas.

Please let me know clearly within the next twenty-four hours who wishes to emigrate to such a country where citizens lose heads right after the Juma prayers. What is next, I wonder? We might hear that if people did not stop thinking, they would face lethal needles or forced to make themselves uncomfortable on electric chairs.

The cleric said, “The mixing of genders at the workplace or in education, as advocated by modernizers, is prohibited because it allows sight of what is forbidden, and talk between men and women which is again forbidden”.

I think what he meant was that men could not be allowed to ask women answers to difficult questions in an examination hall.

Entertaining thoughts associated with illicit relationships is a separate issue; what God abhors in humans is their secret meetings to go forth to multiply illicitly in motel rooms. I know, more from observation and less through personal experience, that removing such a virus from one’s mental hard drive is an uphill battle, a true ‘jihad’.

Please remember that the strict segregation of men and women is a rule that some of the most unenlightened and backward societies (even by Islamic standards) practise and which is an affront to moderation itself. Of course, I will have to respect that not-so-prominent country’s segregation laws if I were to visit it, but then again, I would probably visit it just to perform obligatory religious ceremonies and then return to the Motherland by the first available flight in order to be within the mixed gathering of my loved ones.

Loved ones need to be visible; they need not cover themselves from head to toe in black overalls in order to show they are pious. Where I live, nobody that I know has ever dared to tease my loved ones because the family’s women are all moderate, neither very fashionable nor the repressed burqa-clad types.

Governments do not have the right to put people to death if they disagree; the people must do away with governments if they lead them to economical ruin. Moderation is not an aberration and to oppose extremely liberal or extremist views is everybody’s right. God has not allowed us to put others to death only because they differ or disagree. One may stop speaking or associating with undesirable persons but must we murder others in the name of misplaced religious views? Religious bigots need admissions to lunatic asylums.

Do all such extremely strict laws produce the desired results? The answer is no. Watch how most Muslim women travellers throw off the repressive ‘burqas’ and ‘chadors’ as soon as their airplanes land at foreign destinations where they wish to mingle with the crowd.

I am happy to live in a country where women have equal rights as road sweepers, brick-baking kiln workers, and as petrol station attendants who fill us all up. Take a drive into any Asian village and you will see women working alongside men; that is how God designed them. Had God wanted all women to hide their faces from men, He might have created Eve as formless and unattractive as an Arctic seal. Imagine the poor animal kingdom’s fate had it also been given, less if not more, sense of privacy and shame, and imagine a world with dogs and cats going about their business with private parts covered with banana leaves. That, of course, would necessitate the existence of animal rights NGOs and Animal United Nations, and dogs would go about murdering men all because men ogled at uncovered bitches.

God has not prescribed for women to be obsessed with hiding their faces and bodies from head to toe—at least not the way the clerics interpret it. Women do tend to fall into the trap laid by high fashion (displaying their charms to excess), and it is this natural shortcoming that they need to tame if the entire globe is not to become a free-sex ‘global village’ inhabited by drooling village idiots.

Who gave the clerics the right to further twist misinterpretations, camouflage their cultural prejudices and force the people to lose their heads over matters that are the peoples’ business and not the state’s? If the clerics feel their women must not be ogled at, they need to ensure the women stay indoors to watch television (if that again is not punishable by death) while the men go about preaching to the converted. We, the modest but modern people, wish to live unfazed by an extremist’s view of what God prescribes.

If one were to implementing the clerical recommendation of putting to death people for minor offences—something not prescribed in the Qur’an—not many would walk with their heads held high on the shoulders. Will it not be best for harsh governments to act less hypocritically by leaving religion out of this equation and declare that all they intend to achieve is reduction in the head-count?

A ‘fatwa’, even if issued by a recognized religious authority, suffers from one snag: Islam does not prescribe a hierarchical priesthood and a ‘fatwa’ is not necessarily binding on the faithful. What one must consider before jumping into following a ‘fatwa’ is that the people who pronounce such rulings need to be wise persons who must base their rulings on knowledge as well as on wisdom, and quote the evidence for their opinions from Islamic sources. Since that seldom happens in real life, we often see scholars doing what they do in our corridors of political power: come to each other’s throats and declare one another’s followers apostate and worth killing. The emphasis must tilt in favour of living, not dying.

Miss Huda, a Muslim writer and teacher from the Middle East states: ‘As Muslims, we need to look at the opinion, the reputation of the person giving it, the evidence given to support it, and then decide whether to follow it or not. When there are conflicting opinions issued by different scholars, we compare the evidence and then choose the opinion to which our God-given conscience guides us’.

In conclusion, a ‘fatwa’ is still an opinion that cannot override God’s prescribed laws. The primary job of any government is to succeed in providing its citizens with a just and secure environment in which opportunities for earning a legal livelihood is within everyone’s reach, everything else is secondary.

Now if you would excuse me, I am expecting some guests. My mother has invited all my female cousins for dinner and, by God, I will sit with them decently, converse with them modestly and let them have the best of my brotherly love.


pandora's box said...

very well said! Every now and then i see people perturbed because of the religious interpretations provided by our holy men whereas God himself states that His wish is not to put us through misery or difficulty,only to help us. I wonder where the brains are when such clerics are imposing things upon the masses and nobody, absolutely NOBODY has the courage to stand up and talk sense.

TGH said...

Thanks, Pandora's Suitcase; I know it has hit a well-done nerve!

Jhilmil Breckenridge said...

I LOVE this posting!! Very well written and makes complete sense. However when I come to Lahore, my clothes always are censored and my loving female cousins do give me chaadars and more demure clothes to wear. I do it out of love and care for them but I wonder, why on earth should it matter what I wear?

TGH said...

Thanks JB! You may wish to head for a village ('pind') where the dress code is quite informal--that does mean you'll have to wear a 'kurta' and a 'dhoti'! It cannot get more airy than that!
When in Lahore, so as the Lahorites do--and they do everything with proverbial humour, thank you!

nauma said...

interesting article. but miss jhilmil, since when did it become compulsory to wear chador in lahore?

TGH said...

Nauma, I'm glad you found the 'chador' issue more interesting than the real issue.

nauma said...

ohhh there "was" a real issue??!!

well, actually, i never like these religious debates/controversies whatever... so i was more concerned with her "chador" issue

aukhabutt said...

oy nauma ji tussi ethe.. .??? ??