Seriously people, this whole non mehram business has really got to stop in Pakistan, it has gone off for far too way and this whole attitude business is seriously way past its use by or expiration date. O yeah I mean every word of it, so if any one who does not want to use their common sense and accuse me of being blasphemer please kindly go right ahead. In any case for you lot anything short of the rigid 7th Century Wahabi and Taliban version of Islam, everything is completely unacceptable and down right respectful if people choose to follow a life style that deviates even slightly from those two extremist schools of thought.
For Non Muslims and those in the Western world, who do not have a clue what I am talking about, let me give u all a quick summary. Basically according to the religiously sensitive right wing school of thought especially in Sunni Islam, women are not permitted to have any sort of engagement or interaction with men deemed Non Mehrum. Non Mehrum being men, who are not their father, husband or their blood brothers. In some cases even step brothers are counted in the fold of Non Mehrum men. The religious right uses an array of references from religious scriptures, texts and traditions to back it up. The most common argument they put forward is that this is necessary to prevent fornication and also argue that any form of interaction is haram (forbidden) period.
I even remember a fictionalized tale some some one told the audience at a Friday prayer sermon when I was a university student in Australia. If I remember correctly the story was something like, a guy and a girl both Muslim lived next door to each other. Everything was fine and harmonious till the guy took the initiative to go and get to know his neighbor. At first there was the formal exchange of greetings and introductions, as time went by acquaintance ship turned into friendship which turned into socialising which turned into bonding, which turned into attraction, and one thing leading to another, it resulted in fornication, and the resulting fornication resulted in an unplanned pregnancy, which led to an abortion blah blah blah. In short that fellow was trying to communicate a lot of grave sins would happen if the two genders interacted. When you hear stuff like this you begin to wonder what God was thinking when He labeled us Ashroof ul Makhlooqat (Urdu for the highest of all living mortal beings). Has common sense escaped Human kind?
Not only does this further exasperate gender segregation, but it also creates a mindset of misunderstandings, fear and even paranoia about the this opposite sex. In a society heading towards intolerance and extremism, there are many who are willing to go any measures possible to ensure both genders are kept as far away from one another as possible. Some examples of these measures include the reluctance of many families including those from the urban elite to educate their daughters because higher education usually involves co educational classrooms and male instructors. People also boycott mixed gatherings because they think social exposure of the two genders is Haram. If you even spot a Non Mehrum Man or Woman, you have committed a grave sin for which you will have to pay for in God's court in the after life or so is the argument put forward, mostly by men, but believe it or not even by quite few women. These women are usually followers of ultra conservative extremist right wing schools such as the Al Huda School for women. They are notoriously famous for dis empowering women and radicalizing society among the urban elite of Pakistan. Trust me it has become a very common sight in Pakistan, where close relatives have boycotted weddings and family gatherings because they were not segregated or seen people walk out of them upon discovering the genders were not kept rigidity apart. Do not surprised if you walk in to a room and the burqa lot immediately hide their faces or show expressions as if all hell will break loose and the apocalypse is due any moment now.
Very very recently, a blog featured on the Express Tribune blogs, about how just a guy and a girl, probably somewhere in their mid 20's got harassed by law enforcement for just being in the presence or company off one another. The law enforcement officials harassing them demanded they show their marriage certificate the absence of which would make their presence with one another unacceptable. Even when the girl's brother arrived and presented identification the law enforcement officers refused to accept it simply on the basis of different mailing addresses on both identity documents. Again common sense missing, people do shift houses hence mailing addresses do change.
Firstly we are not the Wahabi Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, were Pakistan, a country with a Pre-Zia era history of moderate Islam, a land of Sufi's and shrines etc, so lets not try and become like the corrupt wana be custodians of the Holy Land. If anything when visiting the kingdom we get mocked for our version of Sufi influenced Islam which manages to even bridge the Shia Sunni divide. Secondly are we even remotely thinking of the social consequences of our actions by such rigid gender segregation. You are creating stereo types and misunderstandings about the opposite sex in the minds of both genders, your terrorizing people through fear inducement and guilt exploitation, your damaging female education and empowerment, hence a waste of talent. You are also giving a potent tool to the chauvinistic men in the country, who will have a religiously backed excuse to persecute and oppress the women in their lives and will influence others to do the same. We are also depriving close family members from interacting with one another. A time will come we will never get to know who our aunt's and uncles some who are no different from our mothers and fathers and our cousins who are like an extension of our siblings? With such rigid gender segregation, not only are we deprived from social interaction with close family it also becomes impossible for us to find spouses to fulfill our God given Sharia compliant right to marry with our choice. I have heard it all too commonly now, among religious families, guy gets to see the girls picture for the first time when the marriage is suggested athe and meets the girl for the very first time on the night of the wedding. I am not sure that sounds like a recipe for a successful marriage. It is high time we open our minds, open our eyes and open our hearts and resist this Wahabi influenced radicalization of our thought and the massacre of our common sense.