This is in response to Nayeema Ahmad Mahjoor’s recently published article (Respect your woman, GK, 13 September 2020). The author has argued nicely in defense of woman from her role in running household to the leader of any nation or country. She aptly calls woman a born leader and an economist who does not need books or degrees to prove her worth. I completely concur with her on this but there is something more which she should not have sweepingly argued without any logical basis or reference. She argues that ‘there has been an attempt to discourage and disparage the woman outside and inside home. In this endeavor, ‘contractors of religion’ have always been such advocates who exploit faith according to their own suitability.’
First of all one should accept the established fact that all women are not being discouraged since there is a large section among the womenfolk who do things out of their respective choices. No one is entitled to restrict or impose the choices on women. The feminists too don’t have this luxury to make it a case of imposition by either exploiting the true meaning of dissent or the freedom of speech. Secondly, by derogatorily accusing the religious scholars as ‘contractors of religion’ is a sheer provocation on the part of author. One should check the facts well that these scholars are spreading the teachings of religion and millions of people are influenced by them. Thus one should maintain the decorum and courtesy of the debate while deliberating on some sensitive issue.
The author in the following argument draws an incongruous line by mentioning that how can a woman, who is the best at running her household, fail to run her country, nation or office? The author’s comparison between running the household and the country falls flat since both are different domains and demand a different qualification. In the next argument the author suggests that the countries headed by female leaders handled pandemic far better than the countries headed by men. Well, there is no denying the fact that some women leaders played a great role in handling the pandemic whether it is Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel or New Zealand’s PM Jacinda Ardern, but drawing conclusions about women leaders from a few exceptional individuals acting in exceptional circumstances is exceptionally unfair. No doubt the leaders are playing vital role in the unpleasant situations around the world but that doesn’t mean they alone are behind their decisions and policies. One should not disregard and discredit the contribution of government advisors, doctors, police, civil society et al. Their work and contribution too deserve to be endorsed by the author.
In the concluding section, the author adds more confusion and seemingly evokes an unwanted controversy. She goes on to say that people from all faiths (including Islam) were made to believe that Adam was punished to leave heaven due to Eve. Well, this is a Biblical narrative which contradicts sharply with the Quranic teachings. The God in the holy Quran categorically holds both Adam and Eve equally responsible for the sin of eating the fruit of the forbidden tree. I humbly suggest the author to at least go through the second chapter of Holy Quran (Al-Bakara) and get the facts cross-checked. The author finally recapitulates her interview of 1995 with Benazir Bhutto in which late Benazir responded about the male chauvinistic behavior of Pakistan’s opposition leaders and thus ironically generalizes the whole social setup of the country as deeply patriarchal in nature. Well, I believe that the whole society can’t be judged on merely reading a handful of politicians and that too who belong to the opposition line.
Postscript: One should not forget that before the dawn of Islam, female infanticide was order of the day among the people, women were subjected to every inhumane practice and were not considered equal to men. Her individuality was remotely existent; economically she was dispossessed. She lacked all privileges of equal say in the affairs of family and state. Concubines were traded more or less like alcohol. Under a patriarchal tribal order without any divinely guided leadership women in pre-Islamic world were the worst victims of abuse and discrimination. In modern terminology they were the victims of crimes against humanity. With the dawn of Islam social change with respect to gender relations was implemented. Islam bought about radical change and enhancement to the lives of women who were now seen as individuals with hope and aspirations. Thus, it was actually Islam (and not any feminist movement) which elevated the status and rights of women to a much extant.
Shah Munnes Muneer has Masters in Sociology from Aligarh Muslim University.