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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Male Chauvinism in Pakistan and the Saudi Connection

Earlier in the day today an acquaintance of mine shared an article on social media about yet another step that the authorities in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have taken to add to the already high levels of male chauvinism already found there. This article which featured in the Lebanon based online publication called The Daily Star mentions an approach towards electronic tracking of women in the kingdom and how their husbands would be informed electronically via text message if they leave the country. This is regardless of whether the women are exiting the country with their male companions or with  their permission in their absence. Is it just me or something about it just does not feel right altogether. In a country where the religious high command issues verdicts to legalize treatment of women like personal belongings, is this taking it a bit too far? My first reaction on seeing this article was, oh wait I know which country is next in line, our very own Pakistan.

All jokes aside, even though historically we have been a male dominated society, a lot of modern male oppression over women and their treatment as personal belongings in urban centers has a lot to do with no surprises Saudi Arabia and their radical Wahabi version of Islam. They call  themselves a puritanical bunch, but I strongly doubt that they are in reality, since during the early years of Islam women were prominent in Arabian society. The first wife of the Prophet was a well established trader in Arabia and you do not hear stories about restrictions about the movement of women in the early days of Islam. Anyways coming back to the notion of male chauvinism in Pakistan. A lot of it seems to be the product of influence that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, it's scholars and its funded organizations have had on the religious right in Pakistan. In Pakistan especially since the late 90's we have witnessed a dramatic rise not just in religious extremism but also a significant rise in the Arabized or Wahabi-ised version of Islam as practiced and observed by the urban middle classes. The penetration of such schools of thoughts and such practices have been even made their way into the elite of Pakistan's society, a great role here been facilitated by the Tableeghi Jammat, famous for its grand gatherings annually in Malir near Karachi, and Raivand near Lahore. Too much emphasis is moving towards not just literal implementation of orthodox conservative Islam but also towards denial of rights to women, minorities as well as the non religious lot.

Nadeem Paracha, a well known columnist and cultural critic for the English daily Dawn on more than one occasion has mentioned in his articles about the Arabian influence on every day life in urban Pakistan, with particular reference to that influence hailing from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In his articles he has mentioned that among reasons behind this include the fact that the kingdom is the custodian to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina and where millions of devoted souls make the journey for pilgrimage. In his articles NFP has also pointed out a great deal of the influence has come from those repatriating back from years of hard work as laborers and skilled professionals in the Kingdom. They often bring back with them not just a lot of hard earned money, but Saudi style customs, rituals and values with the label that this is how true Islam is as followed in the holy land. Among the non tangible things they bring back with them include a huge focus on symbolic rituals, the idea behind domestication and dis empowerment of women, xenophobia towards non religious people and both religious and sectarian minorities. Before you know it, their very proactively communicating their way of thought and their chosen life style to others in the mother land.

At this point I do not know if any country is more chauvinistic and oppressive towards women as Saudi Arabia is, but Pakistan is certainly heading in that direction courtesy of non stop Saudi influence on this country. Women are forbidden from driving in that country, their employment options are severely limited, polygamy is permitted, they can not exit the country without permission from their husbands as if their personal slaves, and their laws in the land that exploit women. Even our mind sets are heading in that direction, those influenced by the Saudi thought are treating their women like personal belongings in Pakistan. Their right for an education is considered wrong, their right for having a career is considered an even bigger taboo, their freedom of movement is severely restricted. I am not making a general statement, but this is me pointing out to those families who have become newly religious or have been in some way inspired or influenced by the radical wahabi style version of Islam.

Some of the arguments I have heard personally that such families are giving for suppressing their women is just plain ludicrous, makes you wana slap yourself just to be sure you heard the right thing. It is very likely and possible that a religious drive that has chauvinistic men convinced they are creating a path to paradise for them, at the same time just some food for thought, religious rigidity is being used as a tool to bring back or reinforce primitive chauvinistic practices and prevent female empowerment. Just food for thought. 

1 comment:

  1. Patriarchy is a blessing from God, a portion of humanity. The Quran says, we have given women their rights, men theirs, but made man in status higher then women. The prophet said, no nation will prosper who are ruled by a woman. What's wrong with orthodox Islam? A Muslim male chuvanist respects women rights more and is more kind to them. Did Hazarat omer not have issues with women's empowerment? He did! Imam Ali was also patriarchal. What did he say to Ayesha after winning the war? This article is not Islam, it is secular!