ISLAM AT THE CR0SS-ROADS
is a basic religion; some would even call it simplistic. It is a religion of
complete surrender and it does not permit asking questions about the dictates of
the holy books.
In the past, the Moslems
formed a body of people, to whom, spreading the message of Islam by conquest was
the accepted way of life. As long as there were fresh lands to conquer,
non-Moslem rulers to rebel against, kafirs to plunder, everything went on as
usual. Battles were fought, non-Moslem populations subdued and the codes of
Islam clamped down.
However, once the conquest
was arrested for whatever reason, the Islamic countries found themselves in
trouble. Quarrels started between opposing factions. Each side claimed the
support of Allah. After the decline of the Arabs, the Turks took over and the
caliphate went to the Turks. Some owed allegiance to the Turkish caliph but some
did not. Thus, when Aurangzib ascended the throne in India, a powerful country
at the time, he called himself the new caliph without paying any attention to
the then existing caliphate in Turkey.
The current fight between
the Shiites and the Sunnis in the Middle East is a case in point. There are no
more Hindus or Sikhs or Christians worth mentioning in Pakistan any more. You
cannot attack these non-Moslems for the simple reason that they are not there.
It is similar to not being able to have a headache, if the head is missing. But
the previously existing unity among the Moslems of different factions seems to
have disappeared. Now is the time to fight among themselves. The new object of
persecution are the Ahmediyyas, who are being dubbed as non-Moslems. The Shia-Sunni
fight in Karachi in recent weeks has taken an ominous turn to the worse.
The real difficulty is
caused by the inherent change that our world is subject to. Islam is a rigid
religion and no change or improvement is permitted in its practice. The other
countries where Islam is not followed, are progressing forward, leaving the
Moslems behind. In non-Moslem countries, pursuits in science, arts, education,
medicine, physical well-being and intellectual development are being encouraged
among men and women alike. But in a Moslem country, it is forbidden for a Moslem
woman to be a judge or a lawyer or a ruler and administrator. The world outside
seems to get on well with a leader like Britian's Mrs. Thatcher. The United
States seems to be quite comfortable with women in the nation's topmost judicial
or administrative positions. Several metropolises in America have women mayors;
the number of women doctors, nurses, educationists, writers, thinkers and other
important professions runs into millions. The progress of women in all non-lslamic
countries has been extraordinary in recent years. Scientists like Madame Curie,
women astronauts and climbers of the Everest, gymnasts, poets and even
executives in big corporations are accepted by non-Moslem societies as a matter
of course today. But the Koran is dead against Moslem women undertaking similar
responsibilities in Islamic countries.
Although Ghazzali harped
on the so-called weaknesses of women, he failed to see the strength that is
inherent in the female of the human species. Women who are the mothers of the
human race have a tendency to be a great deal more compassionate, tolerant and
understanding than average men. The special values of women seem to have been
ignored by the proponents of Islam. If the women in Islamic countries are still
imprisoned in the 'harem' or its modern equivalent 'the four walls' then the
future progress of the Moslem countries is surely going to be negated.
Improvement of the race
can only come from freedom and more educated mothers. The mother is the best
teacher a child can have. An uneducated or even an educated mother, who lives in
an atmosphere of uncertainty of divorce, feels very insecure. This insecurity
during his formative years, seeps into the child. He grows up to be a very sad
child and eventually takes out his hostilities on others at the slightest
pretext, when he grows up and faces the world outside. The extraordinary
intolerance, cruelty and selfishness that one comes across in Moslems, may stem
from this unhappy childhood environment which created abnormal personality and
behavioral traits passed on by the unhappy mother.
Time has come for the
Moslems, in all walks of life, to rectify the situation, regardless of what the
mullah says and that includes guys like Khomeini of Iran and Bukhari of India.
The alternative is surely going to be as dismal as before. This is an item of
social reform that cannot be postponed ad infinitum. The price may be too high,
if Moslem women are still left behind in order to propagate the Moslem way of
At the same time, the
Moslems today must treat the non-Moslems as equals in their own countries. They
should have the same rights of propagating their religious systems, cultural
values in Islamic countries as the Moslem minorities demand in non-Moslem
countries and enjoy. Chasing them away has weakened many Islamic countries.
Today the Islamic countries in the Middle East are practically devoid of all
other religious minorities due to the intolerance preached by Islam and its
followers. The rule of the mullah is supreme and even if a Moslem leader appears
who is more liberal than a fanatical fundamentalist, the mullah seems to succeed
in getting him out or assassinated. The people do not seem to have any recourse
in the matter. The run of the mill Moslem is really very passive in such
matters. The Islamic countries are thus denied the special contributions that
people of different backgrounds can make. The United States is a good example.
Here a Moslem can practice his religion as long as he does not impose it on
others by force. But a Christian cannot go to Church in a Moslem country like
Kuwait or Saudi Arabia. They cannot decorate their homes on the happy occasion
of Christmas. All decorations have to be carefully hidden from public view.
Christians have to pray to God in total secrecy and isolation, devoid of
community access to sharing their beliefs as brethren. There should be a limit
to intolerance! How would the Moslem minorities feel if all nonMoslem countries
imposed similar rules against their religion? There are important aspects of
judging a nation of people, its religion, and ultimately its sense of morality
and relevance to today's world. A great responsibility lies with the Moslems
themselves, and if nothing is done soon, then Islam will continue to be
synonymous with terrorism, death and barbarity.
The news report on
Pakistan today taken from Indiats renowned Illustrated Weekly of India dated
February 27, 1983 is illustrative of Islam's treatment of its own followers
especially the women:
Inside Pakistan Today--1
Women Are Not For Whipping
Strange indeed, are the
doings of Pakistan's mullahs, moulvis, and military rulers. The country's new
laws have reduced women to helpless targets.
For the first time in
Pakistan a few weeks ago a woman was publicly whipped at Swat, Peshawar. Her
husband had charged her with infidelity. The woman was arrested and a case
against her filed under the Islamic Hudood Ordinance by the sessions Judge at
Swat. She was sentenced to five years' imprisonment and fined Rs 10,000. Her
appeal to the Federal Shariat Court was set aside. That was not all. She was
publicly given 20 lashes. Pakistani women organised a Women's Action Forum
against this "cruel game" and voiced their protest to General Zia but
to no effect.
Last year in September an
18-year-old girl, Fahmida, was administered 100 whips and her lover, Allah Bux,
a bus driver, was sentenced to be stoned to death publicly. This sentence is,
however, yet to be carried out.
Fahmida, a Std X student
of the Prince Karim Aga Khan School, had produced papers of her marriage to the
driver, which were rejected on the ground that at the time of marriage she was
Eight prominent women's
organizations in Karachi formed a Women's Action Forum, collected signatures
against the Shariat order and sent them to general Zia. Fahmida's sentence was
suspended till the disposal of her appeal in the Shariat Court, but it is feared
that, after Swat, it may fare no better.
Not content with corporal
punishment, the mullahs continue to heap atrocities on hapless women. In
October, a new-born child was stoned to death near a mosque in Karachi. A,
mullah on seeing a crying child on the stairs of the mosque, gave the 'fatwa'
(without making any inquiry) that the child divas illegitimate, and should be
stoned to death. The first Stone was thrown by the mullah himself. Thereafter a
mad crowd showered the child with stones. When a few passers by tried to save
it, they too were injured. The daily 'Dawn' further stated that witnesses were
threatened with dire consequences if the news was leaked to the press.
Fortunately, however, the press 'aid' get the information.
Strange are the doings of
such mullahs, moulvis and military rulers. Dr. Asrar Ahmed, one of the leading
religious scholars, has petitioned the 'Majlis-e-Shoora' (Federal Council) that
since women are responsible for the growing rise in sex crimes they should not
be appointed to Government posts or selected for the 'Majlis-e-Shoora' and other
institutions, but confined to their homes.
It is also proposed to
reduce the marriageable age for girls in Pakistan under the Islamic law from 18
to 15. Besides, a demand has been tabled in the Federal Council to rescind the
Family Law Ordinance which says that a man cannot marry a second time without
the first wife's permission.
The Woman's Value
General Zia has further
issued a law which fixes a woman's value as half that of aman's. According to
this law, if a man is murdered, the victim's next of kin can demand either the
death of the murderer or accept in lieu of it 4.36 kg of gold as compensation.
If the victim is a woman, only half this quantity of gold is to be paid.
There is also a strong
movement all over Pakistan for keeping women in 'purdah'. Yet another indignity
is an order instructing female TV announcers to keep their heads covered. In
fact, a popular TV announcer was sacked for failing to comply with it. The
mullahs propound a ridiculous justification. If women remain bare-headed, they
emit rays that harm men.
An inevitable consequence
of these harsh rules (of confining women within the four walls of their homes)
is the phenomenon of kidnapping. Even worse is the actual sale of girls by their
parents, another common occurrence.
Not only is crime against
women in Pakistan on the rise, with an ever-increasing number of rape incidents
and wife-burning, but it is only the women who are the helpless targets of new
Only recently a lawyer,
Ansari Barri, had filed a petition in Pakistan's Federal Shariat Court that
women's appointment to the posts of judges, etc. should be declared illegal.
Fortunately, the full bench of the Federal Shariat Court gave a decision that it
is not against Islam to appoint women as kazis, judges and magistrates.
Though the women have won
this battle, there is no end to the prejudices against them. Two separate
medical colleges have been opened for women. But according to a prominent
teacher, Anita Gulam All, the girls grduating from these colleges will get fewer
opportunities than men to further their career.
At present only 11 per
cent of the total population of women in Pakistan is literate. Of the 6S lakh
school-going children, only 20 lakh are girls.
Women doctors, lawyers,
professors, judges etc. are being continually discouraged from providing serious
competition to their male counterparts. In the same strain, women athletes have
been forbidden to participate in international sports competitions, the Asiad
being the most recent example.