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Choking the Faith
Saadia Malik

I have often felt dejected at the way the foreign media projects the status of women under the banner of Islam. Whereas Islam enjoins perfect equality between men and women, it is heralded to the world as a faith that suppresses women, confines them within the four walls of their homes and alternately, looks down upon those who set foot outside the custody of the house. I have however, stumbled upon the fact that neither the foreign media nor the non-Muslims are to be blamed. It is really a matter for men who profess to be Muslims to look beneath their skin, into their blood with which they asphyxiate the breath of Islam and choke the life out of it – in effect, portraying it as a cruel faith.

Men of one faith will understand the other faith vis-à-vis the way it is practically witnessed by them because not all will delve into original sources with utmost devotion in order to realize the true spirit of the other. Consider the following illustration.

Being alien to the religion of Islam, I walk into the village of Juffure (somewhere in West Africa) with a friend. I am told that the natives there follow the religion of Islam. I shall easily be led into interpreting Islam as defined by the ancient customs of tribes inhabiting the region.

Consider another illustration.

Being somewhat alien to the religion of Islam, I walk into the city of Lahore – not to mention, a relatively developed and education-oriented region (somewhere in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan). I am told that a vast majority of the area’s residents are Muslims. I, thus, understand Islam in the spirit of activity of the locals. I have been briefed. According to which, Islam is a tolerant faith. It grants equal status to men and women and it enjoins peace. But…

Alas! My observance runs averse to all pre-conceived notions. Islam does not enjoin the treatment of women in perfect likeness to men. Quite on the contrary, in fact. My discovery owes itself to a chance affiliation with a local family. The man sets out to work. The lady of the house stays at home. She is not supposed to be involved in any intellectual exhibition since that is not an option on her side of the ‘equation’. Rather, she is supposed to stay at home, cook and keep the house clean. It takes an hour or two. Then what? Can she move out for – if nothing else – air? Not at all. Her religion requires her to stay inside her house and wait for the hard-working, deserving individual to return. Eleven hours in the office and he has earned the day’s worth. It would only be fair if he were allowed a couple of hours to chill around with friends. Ten would be a good time to get back home. Dinner would be ready by then. Surely, its on the table. In the follow-up – and being human – it is only understandable that he gets a bit drowsy. The wife must not ask for any simple talk time, for Islam enjoins on the woman to allow her husband to relax since he is obviously providing her with food, clothes and shelter. She need not and should not demand more. He does his share of the work and goes to bed. She does her share of the work and must go to bed to rise again early morning and prepare breakfast for hubby dear. For surely, he has a tough day ahead of him. The weekend finally approaches and she welcomes it with open arms. A tough week, full of chores at home and zero interaction leaves her exhausted. But then, he deserves rest too. It would be a better option for her not to get used to the bed linen and get a wonderful breakfast-in-bed prepared for her man who obviously, deserves getting used to the linen. She feels tired and short of sleep but she must wear the best smile to please him. He has obviously been labouring throughout the week for her sake. He approaches her to acquire the one pleasure he must obtain. She can not decline because her religion forbids her to. She must understand her. He doesn’t need to…. end of story.

And then we raise our voices arguing about how dare they defame Islam?

The mentality of superiority that prevails among men of our societies is a shameful incidence. Professing to be Muslims and wanting our women to be protected from the predatory eyes of other men is good, and we must not be apologetic about it. But suppressing her under the man’s nauseating demands, depriving her of any enjoyment, stealing her right to feel and to express and giving her the sole symbol of being the answer to man’s lascivious desires is not good – least of all, something to be proud of.



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