May 31, 2006

The woman question: Confronting issues

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Aamir has taken the discussion further with very relevant points. For one, if women think that being a sex object is liberation - they are waaaay off the mark. Secondly, what achievement is there in being beautiful after all? How does it help in any way in making this world a better place?

With reference to my discussion on Indian Muslim women, I just wanted to bring to light that we need to change our perception of this lot. This is by no means my only aim. In fact, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Now, we need to confront the real issues, the most important being educating these women about their own rights. For instance, how many woman know the correct procedure for divorce in Islam? Do they know they can ask for maintenance? Do they know that they need to be consulted if their husband (justifiably or otherwise) takes another wife?

There are many issues like that which could run into pages. The situation is all right for educated women who take their motivation from the feminist movement (who may incidentally, not know their Islamic rights completely either). The concern here is for the Muslim women buried in small pockets of India who are subjected to pagan tortures by ignorant people who call themselves Muslims. We need to get to these women and tell them how they are being invisiblized.

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Talking
about The woman question

Tarana wrote an interesting blog on case and identity of muslim women. She was prompted from Zia's comment on her earlier blog. (use trackback under this blog).

the topic is so interesting, target point for Islam-haters, apprehensive creator for Muslim men and the most viable topic for scandal mongers that i can't stop myself dedicating good enough time to it.

starting with a quote by Na'ima B Robert, a revert to Islam, in her interview to Bryony Gordon, after Ms Robert had written a book "From her sister's lips". "the reason why a muslim women feels proud in doning a hijab is that she wants to be judged and respected for what she says, does and her character constitutes and not for what she looks like"

A good example of the misconceptions we have about Muslim women is believing that they are all helpless, potential victims of an honour killing. Honour killings are a
pre-Islamic thing, a cultural thing that is filtered down through the generations. But for those of us who have learnt pure Islam from the Glorious Quran and the scholars, it's appalling.

There is arrogance in the West, a belief that you're on top of the world and everyone wants to be like you. But how do you know that the Muslim woman walking down the street is not happier than you? Do not tend to attach your happiness to material things and turn out to be fooling yourselves.

The other day I saw a billboard showing a woman in a bra, and the ad was selling a mobile phone. The mind boggles. That woman is not being seen as an intellectual or an emotional being, but a sexual object selling a phone. And obviously the girl will say that's my right, and that's fair enough. Today in ad of almost any conceivable product, women are used wearing bare minimum. Imagine women in ads for shaving creams, men’s’ shirts, men’s’ underwear, and the myriad list goes on.

Women should be valued the same way whether she got a face full of spots or a completely clear complexion.

And remember Glorious Quran clearly equates believing men and women on all four accounts of religious matters (chapter4-verse1, chapter33-verse35 and chapter7-verse189), Ethical obligations and rewards (chapter4-verse124 and chapter16-verse97), education and legal rights (4:7-11, 4:19, 2:229,4:19-21,4:44, 5:41,24:2)

The society based on the Qur'an is, in contrast, a dual-sex society in which both sexes are assigned their special responsibilities. This assures the healthy functioning of the society for the benefit of all its members. This division of labour imposes on men more economic responsibilities (2:233, 240-241; 4:34), while women are expected to play their role in childbearing and rearing (2:233; 7:189). The Qur'an, recognising the importance of this complementary sexual assignment of roles and responsibilities, alleviates the greater economic demands made on male members of the population by allotting them a larger share than women in inheritance. At the same time it grants women the right to maintenance in exchange for her contribution to the physical and emotional well being of the family and to the care she provides in the rearing of children.

May 30, 2006

The woman question

Posted By:
An interesting comment by Aamir Zia in my previous entry has triggered something in my mind. I avoid writing about my religion because I feel it is more about actions than mere words. Undoubtedly, the most misrepresented community in India today is that of Indian Muslim Women. Think about it, is there one woman out there who truly represents the community to Indians who think Muslim women are forced to wear burqahs and get married to a stranger as soon as possible? I can't think of one contender, because none of our celebrities in this category want to take up the issue. I agree, there is a case for believing that we are suppressed and treated like a doormat, but has anyone ever asked a common Muslim woman in India about how she feels about her position? She will tell you that she feels secure wearing a burqa by choice and is proud of her position in her family. I come from a conservative family in which most women wear a burqa and I can assure you that none of them are oppressed. On the contrary, they are treated with respect by their children and husband, and have an equal (often dominant) say in family decisions.

Of course, I will not deny that there is no dark side. But if you point out domestic violence or other marital issues but they are not specific to any religion. What is specific to Islam as opposed to any other religion in the world is that its holy scriptures contain clear rights that women have. If we follow our Holy Book to the word, we can have what comes close to a perfect society. But like any other religion, Islam suffers from misinterpretation by its own followers. Returning to the women question, I just wish people would try to understand the real Muslim woman instead of picking out isolated and misleading examples to represent them.

May 16, 2006

I want my life back!

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Do you sometimes feel like your life is not your own? That you are living it more for others than yourself? I am not talking about the philanthropic sort of living. In our everyday life, we make so many compromises just to maintain the complex web of social relations we are caught in. Maintaining harmony and balance among our relations with colleagues, friends and family takes up more of our 'mind space' than we really want to give. You have to remember one's birthday, console the other at some misfortune, and help out yet another person. You have to be careful not to hurt the sensibilities of people, and adapt to their behaviour all the time.

It just makes me think – what is my identity? I am being defined by my relationships with other people, but who am I? Obviously, I have a right to live life on my own terms, but very often these ‘terms’ end up being society’s diktats. Every decision you make compulsively involves a lot of people. For example, if I pick up my bag right now and say I am going away for a break, I can’t do it. I have responsibilities at work, I have loads of things to be done at home, and I can’t miss my friend’s wedding tonight. So basically, the independent spirit is just a myth because social strings bind us so strongly, that sometimes even taking time out for your self is a problem. Of course, I am not speaking for everybody. I am a 24-year old Indian professional writer living with my parents in India. I have the freedom to choose, but with the unwritten rules (fine print, you can say) that whatever I choose to do must conform to what is expected of me by social norms.

I know there is no undoing these strings for the rest of my life. I know I must continue to live more for others than myself, and if I am trying to find happiness – I know I must look for it within me.

May 5, 2006

Critical times

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It seems to me that we are increasingly becoming a judgemental race. Especially with so many outlets to express ourselves, we are taking the opportunity to criticise as many people as possible (famous or infamous) as we can – whether we have the credibility to do so or not. The irony of criticism is that by criticising critical behaviour itself, I am being judgemental too!

There is nothing wrong with criticism of course; it is what brings about positive change. But something makes me think that our attitude is changing to a large extent – we want to say something controversial, we want to point out faults that no one has noticed. In short, we want to add to the fire of raging negativity. For God’s sake, we are turning into chronic pessimists! No longer do we look up to people for their exceptional qualities. We hardly find our public figures ‘inspiring’ (I agree, there are not many contenders). Would Martin Luther King have had the same following he did years ago? Maybe he would, but I am sure there would have been a ‘Martin Luther King is a sham’ blog up somewhere, if he were protesting in the current times.

I think this change in perception has come with the change in media. People are largely becoming part of the media, through numerous channels of interaction. This cultivates the attitude that “there is no difference between me and the person on television” (I am not referring to movie stars here – they are hardly real-life heroes). I am not saying that world leaders are above us. But we must realise that there is a struggle behind every success story, and it’s not easy to reach such a position. Nor are these people saints, they come with their fair share of limitations. As do we. But when was the last time you analysed yourself? When did you think about how you could become a better individual? When was the last time you took a step to change the world around you? Think about it. It’s a hell lot better than wasting your energy in criticising someone. And it will make you feel good too.