March Issue 2016

By | News & Politics | Published 5 years ago

The passage of the Protection of Women Against Domestic Violence Bill 2015 by the Punjab Assembly has kicked up a thunderstorm among the self-appointed custodians of our morals — the mullahs.

Never mind that 7,000 cases of domestic violence against women were registered in the Punjab province alone in 2014. This, in addition to the hundreds of cases of ‘honour’ killing, acid attack, domestic abuse, rape and murder of women across the country. But the mullahs pretend that these statistics are a figment of the West’s imagination, cooked up to malign Muslims, and they are determined to subvert the bill any which way. Why, Maulana Fazlur Rehman has even threatened to start a movement for the protection of husband’s rights bill. He calls the women’s bill unconstitutional, unIslamic and humiliating to men. The key phrase here is, “humiliating to men.” Any attempt to provide the slightest legal relief to women is viewed as a threat to the mullah’s manhood, and shot down in the name of Islam.

An even more strident critic of the bill is Mufti Naeem, who not only accused the Punjab Assembly of following the diktat of the West, but proceeded to lambast Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for screening the Oscar award-winning documentary A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness made by a “fahash aurat at the behest of the West.” Should a supposed Islamic scholar, who hurls obscenities against a woman for making a film on ‘honour’ killing, even be heading the Jamia Binoria which runs thousands of madrassahs across the country?

Unfortunately, Mufti Naeem represents the mindset of the majority of the clergy in Pakistan, who are using religion to poison impressionable minds.

Naeem demands that the bill be referred to the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII). Manned by the most retrogressive of mullahs, one can predict the fate of that bill in their chambers.

Only recently, the Anti-Child Marriage Bill, tabled by a PML-N legislator, had to be withdrawn after the CII deemed it anti-Shariah. The younger the bride, the better, in the mullahs ‘informed’ opinion. And if further proof of their ‘informed’ views were needed, they shot down a recommendation to use DNA testing as evidence in incidents of rape. The mullahs are insistent that a raped woman present the evidence of four witnesses. By their reckoning, all rapists commit this vile act in full public view.

The CII’s magnificent obsession with women continues.

Earlier, it had raised objections to a clause in the Pakistan Muslim Family Laws Ordinance 1961, which made it incumbent upon all men contracting a second marriage to take permission from the first wife. And more recently, it has ruled that the granting of khula to a woman by a court, without the permission of the husband, is against the Shariah.

What comes as a bigger shock is that the mullahs have even managed to intrude in the Hindu Marriage Bill 2016 passed by the National Assembly. One of the clauses — reportedly added by the CII (without any mandate to do so) to the original bill prepared by the National Commission on the Status of Women — states that if a married Hindu woman converts to another religion, her marriage stands annulled. This appears to be a backdoor way of legitimising all those marriages where married Hindu women are abducted, converted and coerced into marrying Muslims by the mullahs.

Brave women like Marvi Sirmed, Farzana Bari and Tahira Abdullah, who have stood up to these obscurantists and taken them on in debates on the electronic media and at other forums, have been abused, threatened and branded as “stooges of the West.”

As have Nobel Prize-winner Malala Yousafzai and two-time Oscar Award-winner Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy.

For the religious bigots, a murderer like Mumtaz Qadri is their true hero. Finally, and fortunately, that sordid Qadri chapter in Pakistan’s history has been closed. Hopefully, Salmaan Taseer rests in peace now.

Rehana Hakim is one of the core team of journalists that helped start Newsline. She has been the editor-in-chief since 1996.