There are a lot of things us Pakistanis preach; a lot. The walls of the semi-urban settlements around towns of Pakistan will be witness to this. The bold letters spell out many things: “India is the enemy!”, “Islam is the religion of peace!” and also “Israel is to be destroyed!” But there was one that caught my eye in particular: “Aurtoun ki izzat ki hifazat karna har Musalman ka farz hay!” (It is the duty of every Muslim to protect the dignity of women.) And parallel to this painted wall walked a woman in perfectly acceptable/according to Islamic tradition clothing, being stared down by a group of men, in beards. The irony was painful.
This is not something new. I’m sure we all have come across this menace. But it’s something that deeply disturbs me, and here’s why. They were men in beards. It’s symbolic of how we’ve come to treat religion or morality in general. Religion is now a showpiece that is to be placed at the mantle of self-righteousness. If anyone throws a rock at this mantelpiece, through logic or common sense for instance, all hell is to break loose and all infidels must be taught a lesson. And that lesson is to be nothing less than a brutal beat down. It’s one thing to notice an attractive woman walking down the street and completely another to set your filthy gaze on her and not blink until it is virtually impossible to see her and she walks out of vision. It’s also disturbing to see men literally peering inside a vehicle trying to catch a glimpse of a woman before the signal disrupts their line of vision and the car with the lady drives off. But thank God because the vehicle is heading off in the same direction and those men will continue to follow the car. Thank God.I call it the national hobby of Pakistan. I can partly understained such a habit ingrained within people who have lost all sense of morality. But these are men who preach something and do something else. Now, who or what is to blame? Let’s analyze the common rhetoric.
“Women are not supposed to dress immodestly! They invite the gaze of men!” is the oft-heard argument in defense of men. My response is quite simple: “You are to be held accountable for your actions not the actions of the others. Stick to your guns and your beard might actually warrant it’s place on your face.”But nobody ever listens. It’s the fault of the women who dress as such. Women, who more than half the time, have dressed perfectly “normal” and have done nothing to attract the gaze of men. Or do these men expect these women to be dressed as Dementors? And because everybody loves to polish their mantle at every opportunity they get, it is the argument of the morality and religion of women that is brought forth every time. These hypocrites are blind to the fact that WE are supposed to pay for OUR sins, not the sins of OTHERS. WE have to care about what WE do and not what OTHERS do. It is not the prerogative of US, but the prerogative of THAT person as to how he or she dresses/looks and if WE are bothered by it so much then why is it that every time this urge to “correct” everything manifests itself in men staring down a women down the street. And why is it that these are the very men who spend all night in Masjids and Majlis’s crying and praying to their God, only to come out and disobey the basic commands on morality of their Prophet(s). WHY?
The extent to which this country is sexually deprived and frustrated is nuts. It is absolutely shocking. It’s one of the reasons why the future of this country is bleak. Not because men stare women down, but because it speaks to a much larger problem. It’s that we can’t be held to our own morals and principles and forgo them the minute it comes to our individual benefit. When people see that there is no longer a permanent harm to their reputation or property, it almost becomes their duty to get away with things. So when men spend their day blissfully staring down women, and come home and give a lecture to their mothers and sisters on not wearing a dupatta, you know things are messed up.
Bulley Shah: “Bura banda labban turya / Bura na labya koi / Apney andar chati mari/ Meitoun bura na koi.”(I searched for a wicked man/ Couldn’t find any/Then I judged myself/No one could be more wicked than I)