Of rogue men and hijabs

Published: March 20, 2017
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PHOTO: REUTERS

PHOTO: REUTERS

PHOTO: REUTERS The writer is a freelance journalist
based in Islamabad. She blogs at www.
aishasarwari.wordpress.com. She can be
followed on Twitter @AishaFsarwari

Where did Syed Raza Ali Gillani’s toxicity come from? His all-boys education that can only breed contempt and bone-chilling fear of females; his feudal roots or his deep-rooted sense of insecurity about being a pious devout. Wherever it came from, it was rewarded with a valorous title of Punjab higher education minister. Slow clap.

With the confidence of someone who speaks as the admin of one of those psychotic WhatsApp groups, he went on to say a few damning things, that too in front of live media: Things that glorify the policing of women’s clothes. He said that it was incumbent upon him (not clear how) that he makes all women in his province’s educational institutions wear a mandatory head covering or hijab because he claims that the Holy book said so. Perhaps inspired by a local sermon, he also says that we have lost our traditions, culture and religion and he must bring us back to it. Notably, by telling the women of the province what to do first. No such instructions were laid out for men.

He also seemed a bit unsure of how many takers there would be of this mandatory hijab policy so he sweetened the deal with a 5% marks to be added for free and no effort to women who only chose to hide their hair from the wanton eyes of men who had dirty thoughts. As if that ever stopped them.

Amidst applause of people there, the respectable minster decided to add a few lines about how there ought to be an assembly where it will be mandatory to quote religious scripture and such. Standing ovation.

Women’s clothing historically started being policed as a result of patriarchal structures very tied to land and land ownership. Women had to belong to men to be clear where the lineage lay and who the rightful heirs were. To belong to men you had to first be contained and the veil helped then.

Well, take your land and do with it what cattle do to grass. Eat it. Cud it. Regurgitate it. Digest it. Pass it out. Leave us the hell alone.

We cry out foul when France bans the veil, borne out of the same bravado and fear to clothe women as to unclothe them. Yet here we are. The veil or hijab is an identity symbol for women around the world across several cultures but here is the thing with identity. There is an “I” in it. So stop telling women if they need to wear it or not.

Even with the 5% extra marks there are women who don’t want anything to do with it. Even without the 5% marks some women wear it like it were a limb, sacred to who they are and who they want to be defined as. No education minister who’s done a degree in textiles can take it or hand that identity to them, certainly.

Education and particularly higher education has everything to do with nurturing a sense of independence and free-spiritedness — that is where the innovation and ideas come from — and very little to do with how women dress. It doesn’t take much to know this, except perhaps being a good observer.

The scientific process, the logical architecture of the mind and rational intellect all stem from observation. Also from the data and facts that good observations bring.

The problem with men is that they explain things to women without observing what women want. That they explain things about women to women. This minister by telling women how they ought to dress is telling them essentially that he is thinking on their behalf like a true patriarch. Yet the women are being sent to get an education, precisely to squash the so-called culture and tradition that has kept them so backward in the first place. Bottom most numbers are what we boast globally on women’s empowerment across the board.

We send our girls to school precisely so that they can see through the confusion and machismo that wants them away from their plushy politics, positions and perks. They know the women will displace them so bad they won’t know what hit them.

Thankfully, the Punjab government in all its wisdom called his attempt at policy “wrong,” and distanced itself from it. The next step: call men like these for what they are: “rogue.” They are dinosaurs on their way out.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 20th, 2017.

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Reader Comments (6)

  • Pakistan Needs a Batman
    Mar 20, 2017 - 10:05AM

    Yes! Men’s gaze should be lowered too. That’s what haya is all about. Period!
    Now, can we call spade a spade? Enough of this liberal facade.Recommend

  • Sexton
    Mar 20, 2017 - 11:04AM

    Very well written article. The bottom line is that certain people with an identifiable psychosis, , predominantly men, wish to dominate all sectors of the social stream, but females in particular. However, adding to this the men belonging to a specific group have in some strange way and without any identifiable reason that would hold traction in 80% of the world, misused there position to control females in such a strange way that they have created dreadful economic and social disasters in every country in which they hold sway. It will be interesting to see how long these very odd, controlling males continue with their strange ideas. Recommend

  • Gopal
    Mar 20, 2017 - 2:40PM

    It’s not Raza Gillani, the minister.
    It’s Mulla Syed Raza Ali Gillani.Recommend

  • Rex Minor
    Mar 20, 2017 - 2:40PM

    The Jewish women came out of thie mens dilemma by wearing a wig to cover their hairs when men were obliged to wear a cap to cover their shaved heads during prayers. This was the ancoient culture in ancient times, for some one to propose this in the 21st century simply explains the individuals capacity not to recognise the seismic awakening of the women folks since than of this world.The holy scriptures do not require of the believers a specific clothing culture but definitely recommends the effort from both men and woomen alike to utilise their thinking brain for every action which over centuries did develope and expand. The lady has spoken out the truth which all men should heed to.

    Rex Minor . Recommend

  • Feroz
    Mar 20, 2017 - 2:41PM

    It is women who have raised such men with such a mindset, so there is enough blame to go around. If the mother in a family did not differentiate between how she brought up her son and daughter or the level of freedom she gave both while they grew, this attitude of the Minister would never have got cultivated in the first place. Patriarchy simply cannot survive without a cooperative attitude from the women, proven by how it has died out in the West, again due to the efforts of women. You will be shocked to know there will be as high a percentage of women agreeing with this Ministers statement as men. Not many who are liberal in their talk will be found liberal in how they control their family. .Recommend

  • tuk
    Mar 21, 2017 - 4:39AM

    @Feroz:
    Let us not blame women. In rural Pakistan, sons as young as probably 5 can defy their mothers but never fathers because by that age they come to know who the real boss is. The situation in urban areas may be a little better but the boss remains the same. Yes, a high percentage of the women would agree with this misogynist because it has been etched in their brains since they were born that they are inferior to men. Instead of criticizing women, let us help them, just like the men did in the West.Recommend

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