An abusive marriage

Published: June 23, 2010
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The writer is an independent social researcher (rubina.saigol@tribune.com.pk)

The writer is an independent social researcher (rubina.saigol@tribune.com.pk)

The nomination of Maulana Muhammad Khan Sherani as the head of the Council for Islamic Ideology (CII) has raised furore among human rights and women’s rights groups.  The Insani Huqooq Ittehad and Women’s Action Forum have taken exception to the fact that he is not a scholar well-versed in Islamic jurisprudence. As he belongs to a political party, and is a sitting legislator he is not qualified for the job. While such technical objections to his nomination are correct, there are deeper underlying issues with which the nation needs to grapple.

It is important to examine some of the recent positions taken by Maulana Sherani specifically on the issues of women and morality. Sherani claimed that domestic violence was not a major issue in Pakistan until rights groups appeared and “created” it. He asserted that such legislation leads to greater chaos which precludes the creation of a ‘true Islamic society’.

Maulana Sherani fiercely opposed the sexual harassment bill and walked out of the House during its passage. His position was that only women who abided by an ‘Islamic dress code’ when they ventured out of their homes should seek protection. The senators belonging to JUI-F wanted an amendment to include the words “woman observing modesty in accordance with the teachings of the Holy Quran and Shariah”.  Sherani and others argued that the legislation would enable NGOs to spread vulgarity in society.

These two recent examples illustrate the following: the maulana has no knowledge of the level of domestic violence in Pakistan. Recent studies by Aurat Foundation and HRCP reveal a completely different picture. In 2008 alone, the reported and known cases of spousal abuse and domestic violence came to 7,571. Thousands of cases go unreported because of women’s reluctance, or lack of resources, to report domestic abuse.

Secondly, the maulana views domestic violence as a private family matter in which the state should not interfere. In reality, domestic violence is now widely recognised as a crime and Pakistan, as a signatory to CEDAW and other international commitments, is bound to take cognisance and punish the culprits.  The right to privacy cannot supersede the right to safety and security of a person.

Finally, the maulana regards sexual harassment as instigated by women who are not dressed modestly. This blame-the-victim ideology has long been debunked globally and there is widespread recognition that irrespective of women’s age, dress or location, sexual harassment is ubiquitous. It can occur at home, in the streets, at work, school, farm or factory. However, the maulana is not alone in his ignorance of social realities. This malaise generally afflicts religious parties which talk about morality and virtue ad nauseum but seldom denounce rape, sexual harassment or domestic violence.  They only condemn the victim. The question therefore is not whether a person is qualified to head the CII. The question is: should the CII exist? Apart from the fact that the CII was the creation of Pakistan’s first dictator who attempted to use religion to overcome ethnic divisions, such bodies have taken on retrogressive and conservative characteristics since the facile Islamisation drive of another dictator. The CII and Shariat Courts need to be abolished as they can potentially fall in the hands of obscurantist mullahs, and the latter is a parallel and superfluous structure inserted by General Zia.

An effective separation of religion from state and politics would not only enable the state to treat its female and non-Muslim citizens as equal, it would allow religion to extricate itself from the business of politics and ruling, and becoming associated with terrorism. Such a separation would release both religion and politics from each other’s stranglehold, thus enabling politics to achieve its aims of ushering in a prosperous era, and religion to develop its higher side through serious debate and discussion.

Published in The Express Tribune, June, 23rd, 2010.

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Reader Comments (29)

  • zubair torwali
    Jun 23, 2010 - 1:24AM

    It is only this Maulana all the rest also do ‘raaj’ in this country. Look at the other who runs the ministry for tourism. One would fly back looking at the man rather to visit Pakistan!!!Recommend

  • afaq siddiqui
    Jun 23, 2010 - 1:42AM

    Another catastrophe for this blighted country.All the pressure tactics by the jui-f paid dividends n the ruling party capitulated to throw the mullahs a bone,but in the process have done this nation a terrible disservice.This fanatic with his primitive,misogynistic mentality will lead to only terrible things for us.He will lead to still more discriminatory and unfair laws.As it is we had not rectified the wrongs done by an earlier dictator & now this barbarian has been given an influential position.He will not only lead to more barbaric laws n policy but also will provide the bigoted brigade with more justifications and approval for their regressive agenda.Why are all the mullahs scared of confident,independent,intelligent,career oriented women??Recommend

  • Atika Rehman
    Jun 23, 2010 - 2:31AM

    Someone needs to ask the Maulana why he believes that a crime (like rape/sexual harrassment) is ever justifiable. This is a serious mistake. Poverty doesn’t justify theft; why should rape be justified on the basis that the woman was not dressed “Islamically”? The “Islamic dress code” is not a requirement by law; his opinion on who should be given protection and who shouldn’t is warped.Recommend

  • Jun 23, 2010 - 2:47AM

    Amazing as always!Recommend

  • Jun 23, 2010 - 5:06AM

    Thank you for writing this article. I wanted to address this subject but you beat me to it. And did a great job too!Recommend

  • Yusaf Khan
    Jun 23, 2010 - 6:11AM

    I really don’t blame the maulana because he represents that section of our society that believes that if a women is dressed “modestly” i.e. wearing a hijab she would not be harassed. I do blame the PPP coalition government because they (PPP, MQM and ANP), who are supposedly the secular left, have agreed to the appointment of Maulana Shirani. So involved is the present government in dishing out favours for their personal benefit that they don’t care about the impact such an appointment would have on the lives of women. I agree with Ms. Saigol – we need to do away with the CII and the FSC!Recommend

  • Muhammad Ilyas Khan
    Jun 23, 2010 - 6:18AM

    Excellent analysis as always by this amazing lady. I say banish the mullah from the corridors of power and into his original abode i.e. the worship place if this nation has to go shoulder to shoulder with the rest of the humanity in the twenty first century! Mullahs should have nothing to do with power politics. That is a phenomenon full of irony and non-sense and a sure recipe for disaster for this hapless country and its unfortunate inhabitants. Our mullahs who have been brought up in complete isolation from the world and its complexities, simply have no clue into the affairs of the modern world. They will never be able to see a woman as an equal human being capable of doing most things men can and much better than just an object of sexual gratification. Woman and her sexuality is most often the only thought on mullahs’ mind.Recommend

  • Nowsherwan
    Jun 23, 2010 - 6:46AM

    With due respect ma’am,i don’t hold any prejudice against females, but i do have some reservations about the implementation of the sexual harassment law. Maulana Muhammad Khan Sherani is not completely at wrong when he said those women should be protected which preserve modesty, when they are out of their homes. As far as my observation is concerned, and you will agree, that there are some women which ostensibly invite harassment, by the way they behave in public. Men should be punished if they violate the law, yet at the same time, there must be some punishment for those women which act in a reckless way. A balance should be maintained and a line has to be drawn to separate vulgarity and modesty.Recommend

  • Ayesha Razzaque
    Jun 23, 2010 - 8:02AM

    utterly disgusted!Recommend

  • cmsarwar
    Jun 23, 2010 - 8:56AM

    Rubina,madam,I agree with your views 100%.Recommend

  • Shahryar Ahmed
    Jun 23, 2010 - 9:51AM

    It is people like these Mullahs that have given a BAD name to Islam by following their own narrow vision of life & religion.

    It is because of people like Qazi Hussain, Fazal Ur Rehman & the entire bearded posse that we as a nation are in deep trouble. We as Pakistani’s have become black sheep’s of the world & its all because of these Idiots & ofcourse the biggest hypocrite of them all ZIA.

    Zia was a true dictator, why didn’t the lawyer & judges & the CIVIL SOCIETY & MEDIA say anything against him? Reason, he would have put everyone of these in jails (as he did) unlike our last democratic dictator.

    Unfortunately all the above pillars of democracy wanted Musharraf out, not realizing his vision for a moderate Pakistan, they just wanted him out & because of these people we suffer in the hands of our present day so called corrupt democratic leaders, good for nothing lawyers, biased media, sensation hungry journalists & to top it all up judicial-cum-political actors.

    All Hail Democracy!Recommend

  • Abid Ali Abi
    Jun 23, 2010 - 11:09AM

    I strongly condumn this appointment.Recommend

  • Jun 23, 2010 - 1:02PM

    ok i agree Maulana Sharani is not suitable person for this post bec he belongs to relegious party.

    I would like to ask Rubina Siagol? what is the apporiate person for CII in your Opinion?

    Did you suggest a suitable Scholar to PPP-led governmnet?Recommend

  • Snorden
    Jun 23, 2010 - 1:44PM

    I am aganist any violence and any injustice whther towards males or females. Till that point I agree BUT where are you coming from when you say state and religion should be seperated. I am shocked and horrified to read this ill found advice from some one who has the previlige of forming public opinion (being a columnist). Do I hear you well that you are asking for state to be seperated from religion in the “Islamic”Republic of Pakistan??? Have you had a doze of Sarkozyism fed to you by mistake. Wake up and do not mislead the readers towards an ill found cause that is detremetal to the very basic concept of this great country. That too because you are heavily influenced by western ideology. I wish only if we could learn more about about our raison d’etre as muslims and pakistanis and spend some time reading people like Iqbal (even though it might not be trendy anymore to read Iqbal in the complex ridden Pakistan of today). God Bless our so called “intelegentia” who are trying to lend their jaundiced/complex ridden view of the country/society to the layman.Recommend

  • talha
    Jun 23, 2010 - 1:58PM

    I just want to say one simple thing to maulana or any other person,that before reading and explaining any point of view,please make sure that you have studied and understand QURAN with its meaning for several times.

    Men and women have certain guideline in Islam and it is obligatory for us to follow. Make sure to perform as much as u can. Allah will help us to moves towards the right path.

    Do not force your point view even if you are totally correct, just guide and tune people with the soft image so that they start listing even your unspoken words.Recommend

  • Jun 23, 2010 - 4:09PM

    oh yeah,,, over 8000 cases of women harrassment in pakistan,,,was just reading a report today.. “A total of 8,548 incidents of violence against women were reported in the four provinces and Islamabad, According to the report, 5,722 cases were reported in Punjab, 1,762 in Sindh, 655 in NWFP, 237 in Balochistan and 172 in Islamabad during the year. It said 1,384 women were murdered, 928 raped, 683 committed suicide and 604 murdered in the name of honour.” is this what protection is? I am afraid I have to agree with ms Rubina..Recommend

  • Nazneen
    Jun 23, 2010 - 4:36PM

    I agree with the objections on the nomination of Maulana Muhammad Khan Sherani as the head of the Council for Islamic Ideology (CII)raised by author as the this person does not have required academic background and lacks in vision required for the promotion of true image of Islam. This is very prestigious position that demands us to be filled by a prudent person like Mr. Ghamdi who is a learned religious scholar.Recommend

  • Pakistani Aloo
    Jun 23, 2010 - 4:36PM

    @ Nosherwan: You are no one to decide what appropriate behavior is. Nor is inappropriate behavior any reason to rape a woman. Whatever the reason was, harassment of women and abuse cannot be condoned. If you are so against what they are wearing, complain about it in court. But harass them? I’m sure you wouldn’t say the same thing were it your mother or sister.

    @ Dr Rubina: thank you for bringing this to the public’s notice. We will make sure that more people know about this.Recommend

  • Rubina Saigol
    Jun 23, 2010 - 4:42PM

    Snorden has the right to believe that the state and religion should not be separated but the nation-state is an 18th century post-enlightenment construct that is based on this division. This mixture debases both religion and politics. As for being influenced by western ideology, why not give up the atom bomb, F-16s, mobiles, computers and cars for all of these are result of western developments and western thinking! If you want to know my take on Iqbal read my paper in the quarterly ‘Tareekh’ in which I have analysed Iqbal’s work in great detail. My conclusions may be quite different from yours on Iqbal.Recommend

  • paix mundi
    Jun 23, 2010 - 7:19PM

    if Pakistan is a “failed” state it is precisely because of this myopic, intolerant, misogynist, half-witted and half-literate mullah mafia that has always failed on the ballot box but raised their monstrous head at the gun point. Pakistan must reclaim its true identity and get rid of the murderous ideology propagated by the mullah mafia in the name of Islam. they are an insult to Islam and its universal moral teachings.Recommend

  • Saboor Syed
    Jun 24, 2010 - 12:10AM

    Notwithstanding this abhorrent caricature of a maulana, the Council for Islamic Ideology itself is an anachronism, it should be abolished. How can an institution override people’s representative assembly? It’s truly undemocratic; people elect their representative to make laws for the country.

    CII is nothing more than an elite group created to second guess people’s will. They have nothing to do with Islam; to them it’s merely a toy to advance a politically motivated agenda. They are peddlers of political agenda, disguised in Islamic garb.

    It is time to pull shrouds off all these Zia era dependency structures…Recommend

  • Meekal Ahmed
    Jun 24, 2010 - 12:24AM

    Very good, Madam.

    Just a quick question:

    In cases of reported abuse, what happens? Who is it reported to? Or do we just compile statistics?

    In this country, as we all know, you call 911 and report domestic abuse, you are hand-cuffed, thrown in the back of a police car, arraigned before a magistrate and pushed into a jail cell (usually along with 20 others). Next day, you go before a judge and can post bail. But before you go you must commit to undergo “Anger-Management Classes” (and send the court a certificate of completion) and they can throw in 200 hours of community service for good measure (certificate required for that too).

    As the police tell us, don’t call us. If you do, someone goes to jail.

    I am proud to say that my first-cousin in Islamabad runs an institution for abused women and children. That is wonderful but do the perpetrators get off scot-free just like everybody else no matter what their crime?

    I suppose my cousin will say that is not her problem. I guess she is right. But these abused women and children probably go back under family pressure (izzat and all that) and get battered again.

    And become just another statistic. Recommend

  • Rubina Saigol
    Jun 24, 2010 - 12:44PM

    A large number of women never report abuse because of the stigma of ‘shame’ attached to it and the abusers are also often the breadwinners; if they go to jail the family would starve; this is the dilemma when abuse is not reported; the family members gather to impress upon the woman to tolerate it as her destiny because after all the abuser is a husband or a close blood relative; those who do report are faced by police and judicial systems that are not supportive of women and regard the crime as a personal family matter, as a dispute and not as a form of oppression or crime. It is very, very difficult to get an FIR lodged because of the prejudices among police and penal officers; mostly, women’s NGOs have shelters where women who fear being killed or those who are regularly abused take shelter.Recommend

  • Nowsherwan
    Jun 24, 2010 - 4:09PM

    @Pakistani Aloo ‘agreed”Recommend

  • Meekal Ahmed
    Jun 24, 2010 - 5:41PM

    So we are only collecting statistics.

    The issue of shame and a reluctance to report violence and abuse is common in all countries — even here in the US. I suppose it is worse in Pakistan for the reasons you mention.

    Pity the abuser’s get off. Recommend

  • Huda
    Jun 24, 2010 - 10:08PM

    Ms. Rubina, what action can we take about getting the Maulana sacked?Recommend

  • Rubina Saigol
    Jun 25, 2010 - 1:00PM

    Huda, as I said in my article I don’t think it is a question of who head the CII; the CII, a dictator’s creation to shore up his rule, should cease to exist! This should be a part of the 19th Constitutional amendment. The CII has become a tool in the hands of politicians of all hues as a bargaining chip.Recommend

  • Snorden
    Jun 30, 2010 - 5:19PM

    @Ms Saigol – I read your response to the comment and am still perplexed on you persisting with the seperation of state & religion. Do you foresee a gay marriage being made leagal is Pakistan? If I go by your logic that should be a possibility. For me the basic idea of separating religion from state is absurd in a country created in the name of Islam. Islam, my dear mam, is not just a religion, its a deen that coves all aspects of life not simply whichj day to go to church or mosque. It has guidance for each and every aspect of life including governance, economy, justice syatem, politics etc. So what state are you trying to seperate from which religion?
    About western influence and use of mobiles and F-16s I wam startled to read this reaponse as it sounds more like what I got in kindergarden when my classmate did not have the right answer to an argument. Do get influenced by west when it comes to advancing medicine for the benefit of humanity, when it comes to setting up independent judicial systems (structurally) etc etc but does this mean that if one thing coming out of the west is good then we should lay doan all the light and guidance conferred on us by our religion just because all coming from the west would be perfect. Now I am totally dismayed with your response and the article itself.
    About Iqbal I dont profess to understand him too much with my limited urdu language capabilities (which I am working on improving) therefore would take your point that you might know and understand his work better.

    How sad it is that we both smuslims tand against brutality against human beings (irrespective of colour, creed, religion and gender) but for such diverse reasons. Maulana or no maulana neither religion nor ideology should be left to the mercy of a political appointee. If that was your point I agree with it but and deepley shocked and sadened with the reasons and motivation on your end.Recommend

  • Jul 6, 2010 - 2:21AM

    This article has two problems.

    “irrespective of women’s age, dress or location, sexual harassment is ubiquitous.”

    WHAT A JOKE.

    If you are muslim woman and you do not dress according to QURAN. You are a sinner and deserve NO protection from any court of law.

    I condone the atrocities committed on women in rural areas of Pakistan and I wish to do something about it.

    The second problem is:
    Religion and politics should be separated.Recommend

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