Two-Fold Opposition For Practicing Muslim Women

Two-Fold Opposition For Practicing Muslim Women

Let me smile for I do not have any more tears to let go.
Let me walk for the bed I sleep on, it has refused to carry my weight any longer.
Let me breathe freely the remaining puffs of my life.
Let me feel the colours at light showering on my land.
Let me smell the fragrance of joy in the bloody air, let me smile, let me live.

These are the stifling cries of a sixteen years old girl walking under the rains of blood with burning questions in her mind: would there be light that would enlighten her dark future, would there be light that would make her fate glow, that would make her go on and on to the pinnacle of success? With a headscarf on her head, with trembling legs and a school bag full of optimism, she walks towards her school to pursue her dreams of education. She stands on a slippery slope with a hope tied to a rope that her journey will not be impinged. She is held guilty for holding such expensive hopes while faced with a dual opposition: the extremists do not want her to progress through education, the liberals do not welcome her decision of being a practicing Muslim.

We live in a male-dominated society where women do not have equal liberties to pursue their goals and ambitions. The role of women has been confined to limited areas, their lifestyle is dictated to them in terms of what to wear and how to carry themselves, both in daily life and in course of employment. If men grow beards, it is considered fashionable. However, if women dare to follow their religious beliefs and dress up decently, liberals judgmentally label them illiterate and radical. For personal desires, vulgarity is encouraged and confused with the so-called enlighten moderation. It is forgotten that the progressive approach and open-mindedness of someone must not be judged by her clothes. A girl in mini skirt could be more narrow-minded than a woman in headscarf.

If one female member of the Muslim community commits a wrong, all the Muslim women have to face harshness and humiliation from the society in form of stereotypical blames. Even the religion is criticized on account of crimes committed by people who are not even the real ambassadors of Islam. There is a growing trend of speaking up against the women who wear headscarves and cover their faces. The media often describes them as extremists. They are degraded and insulted in reckless disregard of the principle that a woman has a right to life, right to privacy and right to practice her religion. On the other hand, the same women are harshly treated as subjects by extremists who cage them into houses and consider it derogatory to let them compete with men in different professional sectors.

Recently, a tragic and condemnable incident took place in our ally country USA where a couple was involved in shooting of innocent civilians. According to sources, one of the attackers attended a prestigious Islamic institute for women namely, “Al Huda International Welfare Foundation”. Since then, a media trial is being conducted against the entire institute upon the allegation that it promotes radicalization and extremism. This institution was founded in 1994 at Islamabad to offer free and moderate education to women about teachings of Islam and how to live a prosperous life. It is run by an internationally renowned female scholar, Dr. Farhat Hashmi. She has hundreds and thousands of lectures recorded in both audio and video format. The institute is also actively involved in charity and welfare work for women such as funding marriages, offering food, shelter and providing clothing to poor and suppressed people. The members of elite and middle class offer their voluntary services to the institute.

It is without cavil that terrorism must be condemned at all levels. However, it is unfortunate to see that the actions of one alleged former student are being associated with the entire institution. An institution cannot be held liable for the actions of its former students unless the institution’s vision and teachings are objectionable. Who would blame Harvard Law School if its graduate ends up robbing a bank? Harvard Law School cannot be blamed unless it taught him how to rob a bank. Similarly, Al Huda cannot be blamed because, at all material times, it has never promoted violence and extremism. Only because women out of their free-will decide to wear religious clothes and practice Islam cannot create an excuse to call them extremists. The present media trial of the institution and hate speech and defamatory publications against the same is an unfortunate attack on feminism as it is capable of suppressing the women.

We have to strive for an environment where practicing female Muslims feel as secure as women from other religions. A Muslim woman is constantly ridiculed by both extremists and liberals. She has a right to live with human dignity; let her live, let her prosper.

Asfandyar Khan Tareen

Author: Asfandyar Khan Tareen

The writer is a Barrister from Lincoln’s Inn and heads Tareen Chambers in Lahore. He can be contacted at [email protected]