They kill to “purify” their religion

There was no need to guess the timing of the attack on the Lal Shahbaz Qalandar shrine in the town of Sehwan Sharif in Pakistan’s Sindh province. Thursdays are the most important in the week for Sufis and the shrine is particularly crowded with devotees. The Thursday evening attack by an Islamic State bomber claimed more than 72 lives, including that of women and children, and injured more than 150, which makes it one of the deadliest on Pakistani soil in recent years.

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Moral policing by pink police

Last year the Police department in Kerala state of India started a “Pink Beat Patrol” for enhancing the safety for women and children in public places. The Pink Beat included  specially trained women police personnel. These police personnel was supposed to patrol on Govt run bus services and private stage carriers and was to be present at bus stops, schools, colleges and other public places. They were supposed to assist women, children and senior citizens travelling on buses. They were supposed to prevent street sexual harassment. These patrol vehicle was led by a women police officer and had two other women police personnel.

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Unfortunately this laudable attempt to prevent infringement of human rights of women is having the opposite effect. Several reports had come out which point towards moral policing by the Pink Police.

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Pakistan Court bans Valentine’s Day

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday prohibited the celebration of Valentine’s Day in public spaces and government offices across the country ‘with immediate effect’.

A day before Valentine’s Day, the Federal Ministry of Information, Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) and the Islamabad High Commission were told by Justice Shaukat Aziz, who was hearing the case, to submit their replies regarding the immediate execution of the court’s orders.

Print and electronic media have also been warned to “stop all Valentine’s Day promotions immediately”, while Pemra has been ordered to monitor all mediums and send out notifications banning any related promotions.

AFP Photo/RIZWAN TABASSUM)

AFP Photo/RIZWAN TABASSUM)

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Celebrating women in Science

Two years ago United Nations General Assembly declared February 11th  as the International Day of Women and Girls in Science.

Science and gender equality are both vital for the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Over the past 15 years, the global community has made a lot of effort in inspiring and engaging women and girls in science. Unfortunately, women and girls continued to be excluded from participating fully in science. According to a study conducted in 14 countries, the probability for female students of graduating with a Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree and Doctor’s degree in science-related field are 18%, 8% and 2% respectively, while the percentages of male students are 37%, 18% and 6%.

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New study throws light on female genital cutting in India

Female genital cutting (FGC) or mutilation is a regressive cultural practice found mostly among Muslims living in Africa and Arab countries and also in Indonesia. Though Indian subcontinent has a huge Muslim population it is believed that  FGC is very rare  among Muslims in South Asia.

Still one sect of Muslims were known to be following this, the Dawoodi Boharas.

The Dawoodi Bohras are a sub-sect of Ismaili Shia Islam, who trace their roots back to the Fatimid dynasty of Yemen in the 11th century. The Dawoodi Bohras believe that the religious or spiritual leader of the community is the Da’i al-Mutlaq, referred to with the title of ‘Syedna’. The post originated in Yemen but moved to Gujarat, India, in the 1500s. Today, the Dawoodi Bohras are predominantly a Gujarati-speaking business community with their own distinct culture and a population estimated to be between one and two million. The majority of Dawoodi Bohras reside in India and Pakistan, but over the last few decades there has been a significant migration of Dawoodi Bohras to the Middle East, East Africa, Europe, North America, Australia, and other parts of Asia. The administrative headquarters of the Dawoodi Bohras as well as the office of the current (53rd) Da’i are in Mumbai, India.

Dawoodi Bohras are the most well-known Muslim community in India to practice FGC, known as ‘khatna’ or ‘khafd’ in the community – a ritual that many Islamic scholars around the world do not endorse. In most instances, the process involves the removal of a pinch of skin from the clitoral hood at the age of seven, or between the ages of six and twelve. While the Quran, Islam’s holy book, does not sanction FGC, the Daim al-Islam, a religious text followed by this community, does endorses the practice. It is likely that the practice came down to the Dawoodi Bohras from Yemen, where Dawoodi Bohras trace their roots and where FGC is widely practiced in several provinces.

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Did Trump do a Modi ?

The executive order on immigration that President Trump came out with immediately after him taking over power was widely criticised in USA.  He was accused of being discriminatory towards Muslims and citizens of certain nations. But another proposed discriminatory law on immigration that came out from another democratic country did not get that much attention.

Image credit: TOI

Image credit: TOI

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Azadi for only few ?

She is the new sensation in Indian film industry. Her debut film was a grand success. She played a major role in Hindi film Dangal as a young wrestler. The film was an adaptation of real life story of two sisters who won laurels for the nation in international competitions and that of their father, the coach.

But instead of praises and bouquets Zaira Wasim is receiving abuse from many in her own state. This is because she comes from Kashmir and the misogynist Islamist mindset prevalent in many there cannot tolerate a girl acting in films and becoming a star. More over for the Islamist freedom fighters colluding with Indian film Industry is like becoming a traitor. Her meeting with the Chief minister made it worse for her.

Credit : Disney films

Credit : Disney films

Zaira Wasim, the girl who portrays the now famous character of younger Geeta Phogat in the wrestling bioipic ‘Dangal’, is now embroiled in the controversy for meeting Jammu and Kashmir (J-K) chief minster (CM) Mehbooba Mufti.

Despite the warm exchange of greetings, the 16-year old Kashmiri’s meeting the CM has attracted the attention of trolls all over social media. This has forced the 16-year-old to apologise on social media, with a clarification that she did not want “anyone to follow in my foot steps or even consider me as a role model”.

In an FB post, Zaira publicly apologized to all those who were offended by her meeting with the CM. She takes an emotional tone saying, “I hope people still remember that I’m a just a 16-year-old girl and I hope you treat me accordingly.”

The abuse began a few months ago, soon after images began to appear on Facebook of 16-year-old Kashmiri actor Zaira Wasim with her hair trimmed, as she prepared for a role as a young wrestler in the Aamir Khan starrer Dangal. Internet trolls in the conservative Kashmir valley, where Islamic militants in the early 1990s forced cinema halls to shut, questioned the teenager’s moral character for acting in a hit film.

The trolling grew stronger on late Saturday evening, after pictures were released of the teenaged actress meeting with Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, who described her as a “Kashmiri role model”.

“Cursed girl”, declared one Instagram user from the Valley. Added another, “Payi se trath” – may you get hit by lightning.

Hoping to calm down the abusers, Wasim on Monday posted a public “confession/apology”, as she described it, on Facebook, copying a screenshot to Instagram. “…I want everyone, especially the young, to know that there are real role models out there whether they be in this time or history.” she wrote. “To even consider me as a role model would be disgracing them and their disgrace would be our disgrace.”

However, this only fuelled the controversy, as her message was picked up by news websites and television channels.

Within hours, Wasim deleted her post and issued another message asking the media not to “blow this out of proportion”. She wrote: “Regarding my last post, I have no idea why this has become such a big issue. I just wanted to make sure that I did not hurt anyone’s feelings and all of a sudden it has been turned into national news.” Shortly after, this message was deleted, too.

To many young Kashmiris, the abuse heaped upon Wasim is a reminder of the campaign in 2013 against a girl band named Pragash. The three Class 10 students – vocalist-guitarist Noma Nazir, drummer Farah Deeba and guitarist Aneeka Khalid – had to disband their group after a string of online abuse and eventually a fatwa issued against them by the state’s grand mufti. While the girls apologised, no action was taken against their abusers.

Credit : NDTV

Credit : NDTV

Arshia Malik , the Kashmir based writer  remember her younger days in Kashmir and illustrates how infusion of Islamist ideology strengthened patriachal beliefs.

I was privileged enough to belong to what would be termed a fairly liberal family in the sense that they believed in the education of daughters and promoted studiousness and personal libraries. But yes, there were lines drawn on certain habits and lifestyles even though 1990 was far away yet. I must have disturbed my cousins a lot. My tomboyish manners and fearless attitude, what I call my ” Dilliwajaen’ (belonging to Delhi) view must have been a pain in their neck and in hindsight I amusingly see their Kashmiri ”kaekgi” (sarcasm) as pathetic attempts to break me knowing I lived life on my own terms.
So wearing skirts as a sports uniform for my school basketball team, prancing around in jeans/trousers, hobknobbing with boy cousins flying kites, and playing cricket and later discussing everything political and religious was at best tolerated with seething lips, gnashing teeth and clenched fists by the elders. But come 1990 and the burqa diktat by militant organizations enforced through acid attacks, my extended family got a license to further subdue my spirit they had not been able to break.

Hence the narratives that my generation grew up with – that Pakistan was the land of the pure, that Arabia was the epitome of ethics and human rights, that Muslims did not live dignified lives in India, that the Ummah has always been a peaceful, tolerant one and had spread through the benevolent Kings, the Sufi mystics and the power of reasoning, so on and so forth, are shattering on a daily basis now. Hence the ” Oppression Olympics” of Muslims that closet Islamists in the guise of scholars, academicians, media spokespersons of upright citizens of the community like to peddle do not hold water, and incidents like the Pragash controversy, the Zubin Mehta concert fiasco, the Literary Festival cancellation, and the recent Zaira Wasim trolling lay bare the actual extent of the damage that Kashmir’s psyche has undergone in 27 years.
It may seem like harmless trolling to many apologists but they can never imagine how real trolling on the streets of Srinagar and other districts can seem like and what exactly women undergo if they wear pants/trousers, ride a scooty, walk alone with uncovered hair, without escorts or even dream of joining the fashion and entertainment industry. Though because of awareness and an improvement in police-public relations and the stigma attached to a harassed woman, physical violence is minimal – a far cry from the acid attacks and knee-cappings of the 1990s, yet the verbal abuse, the harassment in workplaces and families once a woman becomes prominent should give a visual of why Zaira felt the need to put up those deleted posts in the first place.

Misogyny has no borders in South Asia. It would be dishonest to say that Afghanistan is the most dangerous place for women, or that Pakistan is now cracking down on Taliban forces who shoot school going girls in the head, or that New Delhi / Bangalore is becoming safer for women. But the first step is acknowledging the deep rot which has set in our society since extremist forces took over and long before when it was taboo to question regressiveness in a particular community or culture. Women in the movies or as singers and dancers especially from Muslim backgrounds were always looked down upon and frowned on as ” nautch-girls”. It hasn’t been that long ago when one of India’s talented actor Shabana Azmi was termed as a ” naachne-gaanewali” by the so-called well-wishes of the Indian Muslims – the mullahs.
If the UN proclaimed adage that countries will progress only if their women are empowered is to be taken seriously then we need to take a stand against this mindset that women should not be seen or heard. Do not let the token Liberalism of apologists or two-faced, dishonest community leaders who work for interfaith harmony with the unwritten rule of ”you-do-not-point-at-regressive-practices-in-my-religion-and-I-will-leave-yours-alone” rule fool you. Women need to be upheld according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and not against some divine text, or centuries old, unconfirmed and heard sayings.
This is not just about women but men too. Patriarchy hurts men too and if future mothers are to bring up well-balanced, stable and respectful sons, then the mullah-politician-military nexus needs to be called out as well as the hypocrisy of the Right wing morality brigade and Left-wing postmodern moral relativism.

It seems those who are demanding Azadi (freedom) in Kashmir is not ready to allow azadi to women in their own society.