Wednesday, May 06, 2009
Barbarians at barbarians' doorstep
'No wonder that others consider Muslims barbarians'
By Humayun Gauhar
The Nation (Pakistan)
May 3, 2009
While divorce is the absolute and undisputed Islamic right of a woman, last month in Ghotki, Sindh, which is not under Taliban control, a jirga ordered that the ears, lips and nose of a woman and her parents to be cut off for demanding divorce on grounds of torture by her husband. Such punishment is completely, totally and utterly un-Islamic and no less horrendous than what the Taliban mete out. Where is the State? Where is the famous independent judiciary? Where are the human rights activists? Where are the lawyers? Where is the media? Where is the civil society? Where are the religious scholars?
Last month in a place called Kala Dhaka, NWFP, also not under Taliban control, a couple was shot dead on the orders of a jirga for the 'sin' of eloping. Is this punishment any less horrendous than what the Taliban mete out? To get married by choice is also the absolute Islamic right of any adult man or woman and no one can stop it, including parents. An English language newspaper reported on its front page: "The jirga was held on the intervention of the political administration to review its order of killing Alia Bibi and Azeemul Haq, but it upheld its decision and they were shot dead." Political Tehsildar Jamshed Khan told: 'I regret the killing, but what can I do. There is no other law except the jirga system in this area'." No other law? After 62 years? Where's sovereignty? Where is the State? Where is the newly independent judiciary and the rest of the shebang? Why have they not been able to end such barbaric practices? Because jirgas and panchayats have been made part of the system. Parliament should have struck this down for being un-Islamic but it seems that un-Islamic customs take precedence over Islam in this Islamic Republic of ours. It's legalised barbarity is no less than some of the barbaric practices of the Taliban that have been legalised in Swat and Malakand. We don't realise that while the jirgas and panchayats maintain the iniquitous status quo through barbarity, these Taliban too have a limited or no understanding of Islam and use religion as a tool for achieving power. Are we ashamed of tolerating such barbaric practices in the name of custom and for spoiling the name of Islam? No wonder that others consider Muslims barbarians.
Legalised barbarity in our rural and tribal areas has been ignored by us, the privileged, because it never touched us. But now that we imagine that Taliban barbarity might soon arrive at our doorsteps we are going hysterical. You think that such people can change society? All we can do is moan in drawing rooms and groan in seminars, columns, television and blogs wondering why our country is going to hell in a hand basket. We raise all sorts of issues but never our class's barbarity. It's because we are still mentally colonised.