Profiling and personal fatwas

Not only do we presume and profile, we churn out fatwas at whim. We are catalysing Pakistan’s abysmal descent.

Mahjabeen Islam July 06, 2011
We, Pakistanis, are an opinionated lot -that much is certain. But, when criticism turns in to censure then soon enough we see personal fatwa machines, depicting yet another poor prognostic sign for Pakistan.

Muslim-Americans fume at being profiled and singled out for scrutiny at airports, but happily join the melee of labeling people based on appearances - a hijabi is purity incarnate and only the morally corrupt wear shorts, don’t you know?

Prejudices are transmitted and bolstered by parents and families, and a good number of unfortunate people go through life not examining the outlandish mindset, let alone the fact that they sound like their grandmothers.

I grew up at a time when PIA chose air-hostesses based on height, weight and good looks. And, since Pakistani actresses were frankly obese, my glamour ideal was a PIA air-hostess.

My family was looking for a match for my uncle and someone suggested a pretty girl.

My grandfather’s words hiss in my ears till today:
“Absolutely not! She is an air-hostess!”

Out went my close dream of flying the skies.

I knew intuitively then and know definitely now that PIA air-hostesses endure sexual harassment because of my grandfather’s kind of mindset and not for other salacious reasons. I examined the bias that was fed to me with chapatis every night - many swallow it whole.

Not only do we presume and profile, we churn out fatwas at whim. Who would have thought that one needed intense schooling in the Holy Quran, the Sunnah, the Hadith and fiqh, to be able to be a mufti?

Our bias knows no bounds; we brand people casually at parties, to their face, behind their back, on national television and even in sessions of Parliament.

A harsh encounter

Once, I had the misfortune of running in to the moral police at parties where I happen to be wearing a sari. Somehow that puts them in the frothing-at-the-mouth mode, made worse by the fact that their husbands are engaged in animated conversations with me - about nothing other than religion!

There's a deferential introduction by husband to wife and as her eyes bore deep into me, she demands to know whether I have read the Quran.

"Surprise! I have read Maudoodi’s translation," I say, thinking that would be an olive branch better than Muhammad Asad or Yusuf Ali. But she’s underwhelmed - she condescendingly asks whether I have heard of “amar bil maroof wa nahin anal munkar” (promoting the good and forbidding evil). I was told quite seriously that we must practice what we learn from Islam.

Furious, I tell them that the tragedy of Muslims is that they insist on converting others to Islam despite many verses in the Holy Quran encouraging tolerance.

As I try to persuade her to be kind I can feel her branding me as wholly ignorant of religion.

And what was she wearing: hijab, jilbab (long coat) and her daughter had a niqab on.

I immediately felt a heathen in a sari. For a religion that means peace and promotes justice, these were angry, vicious people. A veiled fatwa was issued right then and there, and I know behind my back, if words could kill, you wouldn’t be reading this.

Crowds are roused to riot on national television by the likes of Amir Liaquat Husain, and fanatics murder Ahmadis in grisly madness.

Rana Sanaullah accuses Babar Awan of  bribery and goes on to call him wajibul qatl (one that deserves to be killed).

The intelligentsia makes up less than two per cent of the population but holds Pakistan’s destiny in its hands.

Blinded by bias, shuttered by ignorance and endangered by whimsical fatwas we catalyse Pakistan’s abysmal descent.
Mahjabeen Islam A family physician and free-lance columnist who blogs at
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.

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