Pakistan on Edge
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|Anna Mahjar-Barducci||June 13th 2012|
Fatwas against women's rights are being issued on an almost daily basis in Pakistan now. One of the most outspoken misogynist clerics, Maulana Abdul Haleem, a former Islamist legislator, recently issued a fatwa against formal education for women and another fatwa calling for the abduction of non-married female NGO workers. In May, Maulana Abdul Haleem also justified to the media killing women in the name of "honor" as a "local custom and a religious practice." In a similar tone, a Pakistani cleric issued a fatwa justifying acid attacks on women who use cell phones. A list of recent fatwas issued in Pakistan includes:
Fatwa: Women Using a Cell Phone Will Have Acid Thrown in Her Face
In an article published in the Pakistani media outlet The Express Tribune, Pakistani feminist writer Faouzia Saeed reported that in Noshki, a town in the region of Balochistan, a fatwa was announced in a mosque on May 11, stating that any woman using a cell phone will have acid thrown in her face.
Fatwa: Formal Education for Women Is Un-Islamic
The Express Tribune also reports that Maulana Abdul Haleem, former legislator and member of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazlur Rehman, a religious conservative party in Pakistan, came up with several misogynist fatwas.
In the beginning of May, the nonagenarian Islamist leader launched a fatwa stating that formal education for women is un-Islamic and reprimanding parents who send their daughters to school. In the fatwa, Maulana Abdul Haleem asks parents to terminate their daughters' education, threatening that those who keep sending their daughters to school will be burned in hell.
When approached for comments, The Express Tribune reports, Maulana Abdul Haleem stressed that according to Islamic tradition, it is forbidden for girls to receive degrees and certificates in a "secular education system," as formal education paves the way for girls to enter into the job market. "When they permit their women to work," he said, "they give them a free hand to mix with na-mehrum [men they are not related to by blood]–by doing so, the girl's father, brother or husband become dayoos [someone who accepts female family members' wrongdoings, and hence liable to be condemned to hell] in the eye of shariah law." Maulana Abdul Haleem also stated that women should stay at home and look after their children and family members.
The Express Tribune reports that the cleric claimed that 97% of girls schools in the Kohistan district, in North-West Pakistan, were closed, and the few girls that were enrolled only visited their schools to collect cooking oil, which the Education Department was distributing with the support of foreign donors.
The idea that women should not receive a formal education is widespread among Pakistani Islamists. In April, Islamist militants bombed a government girls' middle school in the north of the country.
Fatwa: Abduction of Female NGO Workers
Maulana Abdul Haleem recently issued another fatwa, targeting female NGO workers in the Kohistan district, in North-West Pakistan, again according to The Express Tribune. It reports that the fatwa declares all NGOs working in the region as "hubs of immodesty." "Some women from these NGOs visit our houses frequently, mobilizing naive Kohistani women to follow their agenda in the name of health and hygiene education," he said, adding that this is "unacceptable to Kohistani culture." He then stated that married female NGO workers should go back to their husbands, whereas the unmarried ones will be forcibly wedded to Kohistani men to make them stay at home. "If women working in NGOs enter Kohistan, we won't spare them and solemnize their nikkah (marriage) with local men,", he said.
Reactions to Fatwas
Pakistani civil society reacted in the media against these fatwas. In particular, several petitions were launched on blogs and on social networks, but on the political level, no initiative has been taken.
Pakistani columnist Tazeen Javed complained about both the government's inaction and that issuing fatwas has became a normal Pakistani habit. "[Maulana Abdul Haleem] a former legislator issues fatwas during a Friday sermon inciting hatred against a group of people [NGO workers] and declaring the constitutional rights of getting an education for half of the population forbidden, and no one, barring a few bloggers and tweeters, raises even an eyebrow. […] Fatwas are so commonplace that even a power utility company resorted to seeking one a few years back to get people to pay for their electricity. Since that utility is still burdened with thousands of unpaid bills, we know how useless that fatwa turned out to be," Tazeen Javed wrote, adding that Pakistan can ill-afford adventurism of any kind but that most dangerous is the practice of resorting to fatwas to get a point across. "Not only does this breed a narrow and rigid view of issues, it also leaves no room for dialogue, debate and consultation, making us an increasingly 'stunted' and intolerant society."
Anna Mahjar-Barducci writes for the Gatestone Institute, from where this article is adapted.