Wednesday, April 27, 2016


The so-called custodians of Islam: focusing exclusively on sex

From across the room the grouchy cat glares reproachfully at me. It is normally she who sits in this chair right under the sign on the window saying, ‘Beware of cat,’ staring at people walking along the street. That is her prerogative, and her chair, or so she thinks. Instead, while Lahore resignedly switches on its air conditioners it is I sit who in that armchair at my son’s house in Denver, Colorado nursing my cup of hot tea, idly watching the occasional snow flake skim the heads of pedestrians as they walk their dogs, hurry to and from work, jog, bike, and otherwise go about their business.
Most people are wearing jackets against the cold, except one young woman stowing cartons in the boot of her car across the street. I watch as she goes into her house and comes out again and again to load her car.  Because she is busy and houses are heated here she is wearing flip flops, shorts and a sleeveless shirt. This however is not why I mention her. I do that because of all the men passing her on the sidewalk as she moves between her house and her car not a single man stares or even looks twice at her. I sigh and leave the window and the cat immediately reclaims the chair. There’s nothing unusual about that, neither about the cat nor the lack of stares. In this country that we love to hate, whose morals we loftily denigrate, it is unusual for men to stare at women. You can leave that to the men who live in the land of the pure, encouraged in their actions by the clerics.
To rational persons who appreciate its common sense take on life, it is frustrating the way the self-styled custodians of Islam mind the morals and sexual life of the world, or like the cat, they think it is their prerogative. What a woman may wear, how she may laugh, where she may go, what she may do, whom she may meet…their brand of Islam revolves around such matters; for them the common sense take on life mentioned above does not exist. This pre-occupation with sex is an obstacle to progress, apart from being embarrassing and obscene, particularly given other, more pressing issues, such as the Panama leaks that have surfaced recently indicating corruption at every level, or Chotoo’s gang of thugs in the Punjab which says something about law and order in the country.
There were floods in Pakistan this year, again. The Guardian newspaper reporting about the floods observes that ‘poorly built homes across the country, particularly in rural areas, are prone to collapse during the annual spring rains, which are often heavy. Severe weather hits Pakistan annually, with hundreds killed and huge tracts of prime farmland destroyed.’ So we need proper houses and flood barriers, both natural and artificial.
The drought in the Thar Desert is in its third consecutive year. A report notes that this already hot and dry desert in Pakistan is set to become hotter and drier. Thar requires improved farming and animal husbandry systems, rainwater storage, greater attention to forest conservation, and access to water. Somehow.
Illiteracy is probably one of Pakistan’s greatest issues, illiteracy rates among women even greater than among men. We need to educate everyone, men, women and children. We need schools, preferably ones with walls and a roof, effective teachers and a curriculum that needs to be overhauled from the ground up.
We badly need to focus on contraception, which, please note, is not the same as focusing on sex. A smaller population would be less likely to outstrip the water supply in Karachi, or cause land erosion and floods. Perhaps we could manage enough schools to meet the needs of fewer people.
Ignoring all these matters requiring attention two male Muslim high school pupils in Switzerland, no doubt influenced by conversations at home, chose to focus on shaking hands with female teachers, saying the practice runs counter to the injunctions of Islam. They were therefore exempt from the practice by the school concerned. Can any argument prevail against such narrow minds? You cannot after all be forced to shake hands which is a valued custom in Switzerland denoting respect. A cultural guide advises diplomats to shake hands with everyone present when in Switzerland, with men, women and children, both when introduced and when leaving business and social meetings.
My sympathies are not against the people who commented angrily on the report in Western newspapers, recommending that migrants, if they could not bring themselves to honour their adoptive country’s customs, and teach their children to do so as well, they should go back home.
Muslim parents would be well advised to turn their children’s attention towards their own cultural shortcomings, to work towards resolving these and the immense problems that exist in the Muslim world, the corruption, the callousness, the devaluation of life and liberty. Young Muslims need to be aware of the wide, wide gulf between the haves and have nots in the Muslim world and to marshal their energy towards ending it. And they must turn away from the influence of clerics who lead others into error with their bizarre interpretations of religion.

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