When the world is waiting for a more civilized administration, but Afghanistan is still dragging feet on residual cruel tribal ways the urgency has thrown a challenge. By any yardstick, it is cruel to treat women as second-class citizens or chattel.
Now that “Ministries of Prayer and Guidance and the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice” has been formed on Friday 17 September 2021, let all welcome it on the proviso that it would solve some misunderstanding and heal the past wounds of in- justice and primitive practice of meeting out justice.
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One such instance is of Fabia L
She had not done anything wrong except that her husband had sold two of her children despite her stiff protest. She was afraid of the sex racket. She was as good and chaste as any Afghan worth his/her name. She was overwhelmed by the hubby’s abomination that she picked up her last two and left the country. She could not sit on a protest outside anywhere. She performed hijrah or migration following the example of the prophet of Islam.
Even more horrifying is the case of Khattera who was shot in the head and had her eyes gouged out with knives even when she pleaded to her assailants not to torture her and let her collect the salary of her first pay in police service. She would not work any further!
In the current uproar, the matter of veiling in Pakistan has another dimension. Anchor of Samaa Kiran Naz and renowned nuclear physicist Pervez Hoodbhoy found themselves in opposition. Hoodbhoy’s observation that the activities of Muslim ladies would affect their scope of work. His meaning could be that some who wear burqa may stray away from pure academic activities to some non-academic ones or some extracurricular ones. This differs from place to place. As a man with an IAS degree and a job of that level sat in a vegetable shop and sold vegetable until the real seller came back.
In India a Malegaon girl, Dr. Zubaida Ansari wore burkha in school and college. But years later she did wear a burqa but in the laboratory. she would lay it under the desk while doing practical.
One day the President of India Abul Kalam went to her department of physics and complimented her work. She casually asked him why was he not fasting in the Ramzan as she and most of the Muslim world over were observing. He demurred from replying.
When I visited the university campus it was Ramzan. At the onset of the holy month of fasting, she brought the early morning meal for me to initiate fasting. While at work hijab was not there an issue. It was how she wrote out a paper while attending a conference in Italy.
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Another time I met her at the bus station with her late husband Dr. Shafik (of Jamia Millia University Delhi) and anxiously asked him and her how about having children. Both defended saying that their work was consuming all their time and they had not planned to have a family. Good work good behavior.
When I finished my work of doctorate in 1973 the editor of American Literature and a scholar and authority on Mark Twin, Louis J Budd of Durham University wrote a congratulatory letter. And what is more the President of India Dr. Zakir Hussain also greeted me in a letter written in Urdu script!
What matters most in academic institutions is our subject and work
But that does not mean that women who wear burqa begging outside a mosque are any less in place in society. A huge number of beggars in their destitution have no clothes to properly cover themselves let alone have burqa. At least this is so in India. It is also true what John Milton in his poem On his blindness remarks that he who stands by the road and prays to God is doing the work of God.
Of course, newsreader/anchor Kiran Naz of Samaa did a remarkable demonstration for all Muslims the world over. It is the good work that you do matters. She showed how easy it is to don a veil.
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Prof Hoodbhoy’s observation that their activities decrease: “To the extent that you don’t know whether they are present in the classroom or not,” it is Hobsons’ choice. Does he keep on observing every girl in class or leave the choice and courage of public speaking and articulation to the individual girls? He should be able to prod them, encourage them and welcome them to comment. A little stooping before them would conquer the world for them, open up their mind and fire their imagination and lead them to public speaking. In a word encourage them.
Mustafa Khan holds a Ph.D. on Mark Twain. He lives in Malegaon Maharashtra, India. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.