Fatwas against women: From the one who wears bangles

Published: May 14, 2012

Who will tell the “fatwa guys” that they are nearly an extinct species.

Fatwas against women are becoming common again. In Noshki, Balochistan, a fatwa was announced in a mosque on May 11, stating that any woman using a cell phone will have acid thrown in her face. Another fatwa was issued in Kohistan about two weeks ago, warning ‘NGO women’ that they would be forcefully married to their local men if they dared to enter the area. There was a time when such fatwas were more common resulting in serious punishments inflicted on women who dared to venture beyond the four walls of their homes. However, over the last four years there has been a steady improvement in creating space for women to be more visible in public.

After decades of repression, women have turned the cycle in a different direction by building a high level of solidarity among women from many backgrounds. The awareness that one woman’s advancement is linked to breaking the shackles of others has gained ground. Not just women, many men are fully in support of this process of change.

Who will tell the “fatwa guys” that they are nearly an extinct species. Who will tell these men that they need to wake up to 2012. Who will tell them that our interest in them is limited to a single news item. Perhaps they should be kept in a museum with the caption “we used to have people like this who thought work for women was ‘un-Islamic’ but marrying them by force was ‘Islamic’. Idiots who thought talking on a cell phone was ‘un-Islamic’ but throwing acid in women’s faces was ‘Islamic’!!”

I think it is time for our society to forcefully stop such people who not only violate the dignity and safety of women citizens, but also give a bad name to Islam, a religion which places a priority on the dignity of women.

I am not so worried about these fatwas because I am confident that our society will not let itself regress. I am more worried about those who put on a progressive facade and continue to reinforce myths that imply women are inferior. Our society takes these ‘put downs’ for granted and use them in a patronising manner.

Putting down a man by calling him a woman, and thus a ‘coward’, has gone on for generations. These ‘humiliations’, while being common among the ignorant, do concern me more when they are commonly used by our leaders.

About two weeks ago, a senior minister raised his hands and announced that he was not wearing bangles, implying that he was not a coward but was ‘brave’ like a ‘man’ and would handle the violence in Karachi with a ‘man’s courage’. Ironically, men with their ‘bravery’ and ‘courage’ have already given that city enough trouble.

Some of the members of a political party referred to a leader of a rival party as ‘baji’. In the past, women leaders from several parties also used such symbolism, when they threw bangles at opposing leaders or a dopatta at him to say he was a ‘coward’. Times have changed and women are not going to put up with using their names as a put down any more. Article 25 in our constitution is not good enough. Women demand equal respect, especially when they are the ones who are the nurturers of life while excelling at the universities and bringing medals and Oscars back home.

I am a woman who wears bangles yet feels quite brave.  I am also a daughter of a brave woman, a woman who wears bangles and has felt very brave all her life. I salute my Mother today on Mothers’ Day and all the mothers who wear bangles while standing bravely and nurturing life.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 14th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (34)

  • saleem
    May 14, 2012 - 9:34AM

    Equal rights thats the spirit , right on. We are with you

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  • Falcon
    May 14, 2012 - 9:58AM

    Fozia – Good article. However, I think the perception in general that men are associated with bravery and risk taking is global. Even in the West, a man without courage is considered a spineless wimp. Observe conversations of just American high school boys or men hanging out in sports bars and you will agree. At the same time, it goes without saying that a brave woman is respected in every part of the world. That is why you might have noticed a surge in super woman themed Hollywood movies.

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  • Ashraf Gul
    May 14, 2012 - 10:14AM

    Good article. Of course women are as brave as men, if not braver. bravery cannot be equated with physical strength. I have met many women who are a lot braver than me.

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  • Muhammad Saleem Usmani
    May 14, 2012 - 10:26AM

    Excellent article…So many “brave” men forget, that it’s usually their mothers that made them brave……

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  • sidjeen
    May 14, 2012 - 10:45AM

    Salute to Pakistani Women only they could have survived in this country.

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  • Ellie
    May 14, 2012 - 10:47AM

    An Interesting article. In all fairness, it would have been more interesting to see the original fatawa with it’s exact wordings and the context that they were issued added to this piece. This is so that there is complete clarity and no ambiguity in the issue which the articles author wishes to advocate. Without this, I fear the articles foundational basis may fall short and may lack credibility towards what it is trying to convey. Nevertheless, a good effort.

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  • sars
    May 14, 2012 - 11:07AM

    Women are not weak ,even the men who issue such fatwas are actually afraid that once they know thier own power, they will not be so easy to control.

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  • Truthbetold
    May 14, 2012 - 11:10AM

    Welcome to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

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  • Citizen
    May 14, 2012 - 11:15AM

    Spot on .

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  • Riaz A. Somrai
    May 14, 2012 - 11:22AM

    An excellent piece, Dr. Fouzia. Thumps up. You have hit it on the nail.

    You have marvelous discerning power to see power relations in our day to day affairs which largely escape the commoner. That the ‘extinct species’ are becoming more and more so, is a welcome development not only for women emancipation but for everyone and everything. The threat posed by the progressives by reinforcing myths, as you have put it, constitutes the major roadblock. It is time for our educated and ‘progressives’ to realize and refrain from perpetuating the male prejudice against women.

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  • Zalim singh
    May 14, 2012 - 11:26AM

    of course, you cannot blame the religion.

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  • Sunny
    May 14, 2012 - 11:46AM

    Awsome Article … Women should have equal rights as men, women are contributing more to Pakistan’s development than men. Happy Mothers Day to all.

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  • Irtiza
    May 14, 2012 - 12:48PM

    To address these unfair and extreme fatwas, i suggest that true ulemas must play their role and in turn issue fatwas against these ignorant mullas.

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  • Farrukh Zain
    May 14, 2012 - 1:17PM

    @Ellie: Are you for real??

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  • Hadi Ansari
    May 14, 2012 - 1:20PM

    Those issuing Fatwas at local levels like the ones mentioned in the article are not competent to issue Fatwas but are allowed to interprete an existing fatwa forbthe benefit of ordinary people.If they are not educated now ,be prepared for the fatwa banning Cars,Currency notes,air travel etc terming them as unislamic.

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  • Sanaa Rasheed
    May 14, 2012 - 1:42PM

    Speak up against this arbitrary passing of decrees (fatwas)!
    Say yes to a single Islamic Counsel of Pakistan.

    http://www.change.org/petitions/take-notice-of-kohistan-fatwa-threat-of-abduction-forced-marriage-denial-of-education

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  • Mubasher Pasha
    May 14, 2012 - 1:58PM

    Quote from your article: “I am a woman who wears bangles yet feels quite brave.”
    Another one from your article: “About two weeks ago, a senior minister raised his hands…”
    I don’t want to sound mean but is it a good idea to claim your own prowess when you fall short of specifying the senior minister’s name? Brave… but not brave enough are we??

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  • R.A
    May 14, 2012 - 2:33PM

    @Hadi Ansari
    Have you ever seen those
    who are competent and not 'local' standing up
    and saying these fatwas are UNISLAMIC and
    giving a counter Fatwa to correct it.
    Their silence tells the story.
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  • Ellie
    May 14, 2012 - 2:34PM

    @ Farrukh Zain, Sorry, but what part of my comment did you feal was unrealistic? Is it the part of asking for the original fatawa mentioned, so as to substantiate the articles foundational claim ? Or do you suggest we derive such important opinions based on mere conjecture?

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  • Anjalie
    May 14, 2012 - 2:45PM

    @Mubasher Pasha-the kind of work Fouzia Saeed has done in Pakistan in the last few decades speaks for itself and is the best response to those who doubt her bravery. You should pick up a copy of her book “Working with Sharks” as an illustation of this.

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  • Sadaf
    May 14, 2012 - 4:06PM

    @Ellie: papers here have been covering these fatwas, especially the Kohistan one. Petitions (see Sana Rasheed’s comment above) are circulating in reaction. There is no ‘mere conjecture’ involved here. The article is only highlighting news that is already in the public domain in order to make a point.

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  • An abandoned Pakistani
    May 14, 2012 - 5:07PM

    Dear Fouzia Saeed!
    What makes you believe this “However, over the LAST FOUR YEARS there has been a steady improvement in creating space for women to be more visible in public.”??? To correct your record, please note that we, the people of Pakistan believe that:

    State of Women in Pakistan is getting worst by each passing day
    This sham democracy has failed to protect the rights Women
    It is not just Women, the entire nation is abandoned OVER THE PAST FOUR YEARS
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  • Salwa Abbasi
    May 14, 2012 - 6:40PM

    Who will tell these fatwa men that they are living in 2012? We will. If we don’t tell them of our spiritual state (provided these fatwa men are genuine and authentic) they will continue to live in the past. If we hide our symptoms from the doctor he will have to intervene some way or the other to make a diagnosis. No religious scholar is worth being called a scholar if he does not welcome people to share their spiritual state with him and once they do share their spiritual state he has to recognize that the fitna (the disease) is bad and not the people inflicted by this disease. They need cure in the form of knowledge.and Truth.

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  • PakArmySoldier
    May 14, 2012 - 7:18PM

    They know the people who issue fatwas – then why not throw them in jail and lock them up?

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  • abs
    May 14, 2012 - 7:56PM

    Sick Mullas who survive on money coming from Saudi royals who have same intrepretation of Islam as they used to have 100 years back when they were actually desert pirates.

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  • ashar
    May 14, 2012 - 8:27PM

    Having no understanding of the subject always end up in articles like this.
    Fatwa is a guidance given in the light of Shariah to a person as an individual or a small group for thier particular matter where they seek guidance in thier peculiar situations.
    If any one declare something generally its application is not binding upon ummah unless it is ratified by the entire ulema or the vast majority of ulema to make it Ijmah which is the fourth source of Law in Islam.

    So there is no need to get frustrated upon these fatawas since they carry no legal value upon the muslim comunity.

    I would like to advise the author to interect with people at Jamia Daarul Uloom Karachi and see how they handle the matters and released thier fatawas.

    And last but not the least, you dont have to regret being a woman my dear.

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  • ASQ
    May 14, 2012 - 8:33PM

    99% mullahs are illiterate so what else can you expect from them?i m a believer of Jinnah’s Quote “No nation can rise to the height of glory unless your women are side by side with you”

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  • Ashar
    May 14, 2012 - 8:36PM

    I like your article but it would have been great if you would have taken both sides on a balance parameter , by providing the reason that the “fatwa party” gave to support what they claimed .

    I instinctively know that the reason will not be a good one , but when you make things transparent , its easier for the audience to judge whats right and whats wrong

    hope i made my point clear .

    Regards
    Ashar

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  • M Salik
    May 15, 2012 - 12:00AM

    The article is full of half-truths, fake fatwas that were never issued, tailored by one to tarnish the image of Mullahs, it’s high time you awakened to reality, and stop brain-washing people with this half-baked cheap propaganda.Recommend

  • elmo
    May 15, 2012 - 1:10AM

    More to do with stupid tribal culture than religion.

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  • Parvati
    May 15, 2012 - 2:16AM

    I am a Pakistani Hindu (and a woman at that), considered a “dying breed” in a country where Mullahs fan the fire of hatred, intolerance and barbarism towards women (not to mention minority women). Much as I am anguished by the loose interpretation of “fatwas” to suit the personal or religious agenda of a few vested interests, I am encouraged that there are brave women such as the author of this piece who has voiced her rejection of the “fatwa” practice. A Pakistani (Muslim) woman, who is a good friend and who loves everything about our “ancient culture”, by which she meant the Indus Valley civiilization, encouraged me to write this comment about my anger, sorrow and utter consternation over the treatment of under-aged girls from the minority Hindu community. Why must Muslim men kidnap minor girls, keep them chained as slaves in their custody, then release them to announce before the world and her parents that the girl had of her “own free will” decided to adopt Islam and marry the man who kidnapped her? Something is very, very wrong here. Why don’t we women, hopefully, supported by decent, educated men, stand up against such an atrocious stone-age behaviour and practices. The worst thing one human being can do to another is to take away a child from her parents, a sister from her brother, a wife from her husband and a mother from her children. I ask Pakistani Muslim men: what would you do if your minor female child was kidnapped by, say, a Hindu or a Christian, (though I have not seen such a case so far) converted to the husband’s religion and forced to marry her abductor who already has one or even two wives? Cases of kidnapping and forcible conversion of minor female children in Pakistan have raised furore amongst human rights’ activists around the world and bringing shame to this country which is also the homeland of minorities, their religion notwithstanding.

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  • Truthbetold
    May 15, 2012 - 9:35AM

    @Parvati:

    Parvati, great post, but unfortunately you are wasting your energy. Non-Muslims can never live with equal rights with dignity in an Islamic country. History shows this has been the case for the past 1400 years. Your and other Pakistani Hindus’ only hope is to migrate to India. I am very sad to say this, but you know very well that what I am saying is the truth.

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  • Truthbetold
    May 15, 2012 - 10:33AM

    @author,

    “I think it is time for our society to forcefully stop such people who not only violate the dignity and safety of women citizens, but also give a bad name to Islam, a religion which places a priority on the dignity of women.”

    I am afraid you haven’t really read the scriptures in any great detail with and unbiased mind.

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  • May 31, 2012 - 4:44PM

    Thank you so much for educating us on the fact that this problem is ongoing and still existing. I’ve shared your article with my readers on Career Girl Network in hopes to educate more women on this issue. http://careergirlnetwork.com/fatwas/

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