Opinion: Has Coronavirus Changed the Veil Debate in Europe

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 26 June 2020 | Posted in , , , , , , , , ,

Will Face-mask Modify the Veil Debate in Europe?

By Dr. Irfan Raja

Throughout the world, governments can easily sell and buy two slogans: “Public interest” and “For Your Safety”. And, exactly that is what European democracies are doing now for public safety against the Coronavirus. 

In a similar bid, the French President Macron Emmanuel introduced a Coronavirus safety face mask to French public as “National pride” because it is 100% made in France.   

Hang on a minute! Is not the same France that once banned face veil for only a handful of Muslim women including French reverts? But at that time in the best interest of French society, it was revealed to the public that Muslim women face veil is a “Symbol of oppression”, “Health risk” and a “Threat” and even it could be a “National shame” because it is outdated and misfit for a modern secular society. 

Fair enough! I do remember the day in 2006, I was a MA journalism student at the University of Leeds. Like many other students and academics, I was shocked to know that the British parliamentarian Jack Straw had provoked anger and outrage among the British Muslim community by saying that “Visible statement of separation and difference”, was actually one of the former students union presidents. 
I found that the University of Leeds, students banned him “in protest at what they said were his anti-libertarian policies”. 

Since then, never ending veil debate has started, people have written Ph.D. thesis and thousands of newspaper and journal articles, books, manuscripts, hold public discussions and debates, delivered lectures and made documentaries, films and produced teasing caricatures. 

More worryingly, European newspapers and broadcasters ran disgraceful campaigns to demonized Muslim veil wearing women 24/7 to an extent that countries including France banned it. 

My own research on veil shows how British Conservative and Liberal broadsheets and tabloids published a series of articles, editorials, features and comments pieces on the veil that made it a “national debate” bigger than Britain’s illegal wars and climate change. 

The press perceives the veil as a clash between Muslims and non-Muslims and presents it as a “terror threat”. Besides, several leading European parliamentarians have made it a regular habit to attack the veil that is an easy way of getting media publicity. 

Today, the veil is a talk of the town. Still, the majority of the people are confused and ill-informed on this subject.  Thomas Sealy raised an important question: “Is there a difference between the niqab and a face mask?” 

So what is that so special in a piece of cloth which makes it a “National pride”? Obviously, if it fits into government policy it’s a pride otherwise veil can be regarded as a “Shame” and “Outdated”. 

So if the veil is an outdated practice and a terror threat, then why France is driving the entire nation to adopt it? In the words of George Orwell, the veil is a perfect example of “Double Speak”. 

In France, it is prohibited for a Muslim women to cover the face but she will also be fined for not wearing a face mask -- Is it forcing a Muslim woman not to wear a veil is nothing less than a mental torture and abusive?.    

Pity though, how a piece of cloth fosters divisions in Coronavirus crisis? It is mainly because Muslims are easy targets as Richard Adams summed it: “Hijab ban attempt is ‘racism dressed up as liberalism”.  

When James McAuley, Washington Post, Paris correspondent posted an article, along a comment, “On the ironies of mask requirements in the country that brought you burka ban” via The Washington Post article: “France mandates masks to control the coronavirus. Burqas remain banned”.  

Within minutes, a thread @Washingtonpost started that turned Twitter into a battleground between supporters and opponents of veil wearing women. Everyone seems to be a scholar of Islam, a usual practice during Muslims related discussions and debates. But, how many Twitter warriors have read a chapter of the holy Qur’an An-Nisa to understand what exactly veil is?  

Veiled Women Image in British Press 

Mostly, the western media portrays veil wearing women as “oppressed” and “backward”. The conservative press support ban on veil while the liberal press suggests that women should be free to decide. 

But, is the West really concerned about oppressed women? Because many European countries have treated the veil wearing Muslim women as badly as the oppressed ones elsewhere.

That is banning Muslim women wearing burka and bracketing them as “letterboxes” and “bank-robbers”. These are thoughts of the British PM Boris Johnson, so what can you expect from others? 

Now compare French and Taliban views of Muslim women veil. Are they any different? Both did the same that is forced women to adopt their way of wearing, French banned veil wearing and the Taliban made it mandatory. 

Isn’t the politics of veil?  Because if the west truly value women freedom it should not force them to wear or not to wear but rather give women a choice. 

But it’s all politics, Katharine Viner equated, “Feminism as imperialism” and unknotted false claims of the western leaders, especially George W. Bush who “bombed Afghanistan to liberate women from burkas” then used the same logic to bomb Iraq because he did not bear the pain of Iraqi women in suffering. 

Viner raised a logical point that women sufferings are everywhere, so “To justify another war. Where next? China because of its anti-girl one-child policy? India because of widow-burning outrages? Britain because of its criminally low rape conviction rate?” 

Janine Rich disclosed the popular western discourse on Islam and Muslims as of the “Oppressed Muslim Women”. For decades, Western powers are successfully using it to legalize their attacks on Muslim countries. Too often, sections of the western media push the debates on Muslim women using “oppression” as fascination.

Rich argues that “The complex discourses surrounding women in the Islamic world have a long and deeply political history, and this narrative has been renewed and re-utilized numerous times to garner widespread public support for Western military intervention in the Middle East”. 

What the western media and polity missed to share with their public at home is that Muslim women's rights and duties are far more in order as described in al-Qur’an. Moreover, the Afghan women were allowed to vote long before the European women. 

Truth has always been there but the real issue is people don’t want it because sometimes it contradicts with their self-designed way of life.    

Perhaps, a best-concluded sentence would be that it is the apolitical weapon of Europe that shows nothing but “Double Standards”. One rule for a minority and the other rule for the elites. 

If the European democracy has reached to such lower level then Europe must rethink and revisit its ideas of human rights and personal freedoms. 

What is Still Misunderstood in Europe? 

Underneath the thread of French Macron argued that we Europeans are embracing face masks to save lives. Of course, any sensible person would agree with this argument, but what exactly is that Islam says about the veil? What does it require from a believer? What is the wisdom behind its teachings? What are their impacts and relevance to modern societies?   

Going back to Life-saving argument, remember that Islam talks about life after death that is everlasting and perpetual, so why would anyone risk an everlasting loss?  

Dr. Irfan Raja
They should disregard a modest practice only because a fraction of conservative Europeans don’t like it? Think if someone demands to ban drinking, smoking and drug use because it all kills and cost NHS £2.7 billion each year. Does veil cost anything to the NHS?

The irony is that we take what we like and leave what we don’t like. Think about Christianity, Judaism, and other religions that preach modesty- So why Europe is so worried about a Muslim woman only? After all, it is just a piece of cloth, isn’t it? 

[Dr. Irfan Raja is academic, analyst and activist based in the U.K., masters of arts in international journalism at the University of Leeds, holds a Ph.D. at the University of Huddersfield. He can be reached at irfan.journalist@gmail.com] 

(Courtesy: Daily Sabah)

From freedom fighters in British India to Dissenters in Free India: Face Sedition- Section 124A is the simple answer

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 24 June 2020 | Posted in , , , , ,

By Ravi Nitesh

Recently, Amulya Leona got bail from a Magistrate court after session court had denied her bail however, later, Magistrate court accepted the bail on the basis that Police didn’t file chargesheet within due time and during this she spent around four months in jail.

Saroofa Jargar, a youth activist in Delhi has been picked up from her home for her involvement in Ant-CAA protest on the charges that her involvement allegedly caused riots in Delhi. Saroofa is pregnant, a research scholar in Jamia Millia Islamia (which is in Top10 universities as per NIRF of MHRD).

Devangana and Natasha are founding members of a group Pinjra Tod and they were active in Ant—CAA protest in Jaffrabad area of North East Delhi and have been picked up by police on the charges that their involvement allegedly caused riots in North East Delhi. Devangana and Natasha are JNU students (2nd Rank University in NIRF universities ranking)

Delhi Minority Commission Chairman Zafrul Islam Khan is facing inquiry under sedition charges allegedly for his social media post and several visits of Delhi Police have happened at his residence in the name of inquiry.

Anup Singh, an individual from Prayagraj (U.P.) booked because he had posted a comment on a facebook post on migrant workers issue and had made an objectionable remark on CM Yogi Adityanath.

Many more known and unknown names across India can be added in above list with one thing common that they all are those who faced sedition charges in recent time. These known-unknown names include Students of JNU like Umar Khalid, many other Jamia and AMU students, journalists like Vinod Dua, Dhaval Patel, activists like Khalid Saifi to less known Kashmiri students, local journalists, individuals who wrote something against CM, PM, Government. You just name someone, share reports, criticize heavily, organize protests and the next week you may face undesirable guests in the form of police to detain you under charges of sedition filed against you by any less known person or a political worker in any xyz district. Mostly, sedition is not alone, and added with other charges such as UAPA, defamation law or other IPC sections etc.

Most of them have been in detention by police without any clear involvement of them in any riots or any evidence to prove that their actions are against the sovereignty of India. They have been pushed behind the ‘anti-national’ tag merely for their open criticism against the policy of the government with peaceful protests in writing or through practicing their right to have assembly and freedom of speech. Most of them are students, young researchers but they have been made accused with the help of amended laws of UAPA (in many cases) and also under sedition. The same colonial era sedition which already has caused difficulty in earlier years too such as in cases of Binayak Sen and in Kundankulam Protest, but in present, used excessively to suppress even basic criticism or even in the matter which could be ignored.
Section 124 (A) of IPC was made initially in the year 1870 (IPC-1860) by British against the Indians to suppress their voices of dissent and imposed against freedom of speech and expression, probably to ‘protect’ the British crown from any criticism by creating fear among freedom fighters, dissenters who were active through protests and through their newspapers. Bal Gangadhar Tilak faced sedition for his activities during the freedom struggle and later Mahatma Gandhi also faced the charge for writing an article in his newspaper Young India.

Section 124A in its present form states: “Whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards, the Government established by law in India, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, to which a fine may be added; or, with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which a fine may be added; or, with fine.”

After Independence, IPC continued and sedition also remained a part of it and applied by the Indian government also against its own citizens when they tried to speak against the government. With the basis of accusing someone’s action seditious through using words like ‘disaffection’, this extremely serious allegation looks very vague and with all potential to be misused due to lack of clarity of ‘Disaffection’, which is free to be interpreted by anyone.

Probably looking at this and the trail that this law has been misused to tag people, particularly dissenters, activists etc. even a paper of Law commission advocated to repeal or at least review section 124(a). In its report, the Law commission states ‘Section 124A should be invoked only in cases where the intention behind any act is to disrupt public order or to overthrow the government with violence and illegal means.’ It also stated ‘Berating the country or a particular aspect of it cannot and shouldn’t be treated as sedition.’

Also, despite the fact that IPC already has many other provisions and there are many other separate acts in India which are more than sufficient to deal with any actual sedition charges but still applicability of sedition has not been reduced.

Considering the scope and applicability in terms of conviction, even the Supreme Court of India, in its judgements clearly said that statements against government cannot be termed as sedition. In the famous judgement of Kedarnath Singh Vs State of Bihar in 1962, court observed that any criticism and comment against the government cannot be termed as sedition unless it incite people for violence or with intention of creating public disorder. Similarly in Balwant Singh Vs State of Punjab case 1995, Supreme Court observed that casual raising of slogans once or twice (in this case Khalistan Zindabad) can not be said as an attempt to excite hatred.

With the recent data of NCRB, it is clear that conviction rate is extremely low (only 1 case in 2016, 1 in 2017 and 2 in 2018) as these cases couldn’t stand on legal ground inside courtrooms where constitution provides fundamental rights of speech and expression, but still the machinery is picking people frequently, probably because sedition also provides an easy ground to detain because of no clear definition or criteria and till the time a particular case will be judged in court, the dissenter may feel the fear and pain of being lodged in detention.

In recent times, these people, mostly university going boys and girls, research scholars who have been pursuing their thirst of understanding society, putting their opinions on front and without fear are in grip. In fact, a healthy democracy should welcome such people as any critical analysis, critical comments, protests, resistance and dissents are actually a true reflection that democracy is living in paper and spirit. A government in power at center or state, must not see itself as flawless or free from any public advice or public demand for change or criticism. A democratic government should be in fact more welcoming towards the change, as democratic values are like a river that flows continuously and stopping it would result in death.

Government must start striking off the sedition law first and any such actions, even if found to be punished, should be dealt with through other available provisions and this draconian provision, which is a sign of British colonial mindset to crush dissent, should be repealed to respect people’s freedom in Independent India.

Even if this can be done now, after 73 years of Independence, this would be a step in a larger contribution of making a democratic values stronger.

[Ravi Nitesh writes on issues of Peace, Human Rights and Development. He Tweets @ravinitesh] 

A fight that cannot cease

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 22 February 2013 | Posted in , , , ,

By Tariq A. Al-Maeena

The war against corruption must never cease. Corruption eats away the moral fiber of a society and eventually ends up destroying the government, institution or the individual’s sense of ethics and integrity.

This moral decay has fueled enough anger in recent times regionally that long established governments and power blocks have changed. Several leaders have been forced out of office by a public unwilling to put up with corrupt officials. But corruption is not confined to the region alone.

In the annual study released by Transparency International (TI), the Corruption Perceptions Index 2012 indicates that corruption continues to devastate societies around the world. The study offers a score of individual countries and how corrupt their public sectors are seen to be.
Two thirds of the 176 countries ranked in the 2012 index score below the median, indicating a major affliction with corruption. With such daunting numbers showing that public institutions need to be more transparent, and powerful officials more accountable, there is much to be done to arrest the tide against the proliferation of this disease.

Corruption is a globally recognized problem, and as stated by Cobus de Swardt, managing director of Transparency International, “Corruption is the world’s most talked about problem. The world’s leading economies should lead by example, making sure that their institutions are fully transparent and their leaders are held accountable. This is crucial since their institutions play a significant role in preventing corruption from flourishing globally.

“Governments need to integrate anti-corruption actions into all public decision making. Priorities include better rules on lobbying and political financing, making public spending and contracting more transparent and making public bodies more accountable to people,” added Huguette Labelle, the Chair of Transparency International. “After a year of focus on corruption, we expect governments to take a tougher stance against the abuse of power. The Corruption Perceptions Index 2012 results demonstrate that societies continue to pay the high cost of corruption. Many of the countries where citizens challenged their leaders to stop corruption –from the Middle East to Asia to Europe – have seen their positions in the index stagnate or worsen,” Labelle concluded.

The 2012 Corruptions Index shows that Denmark, Finland and New Zealand tie for first place as the cleanest with scores of 90. This is undoubtedly a result of mechanisms in place that allow the public unrestricted access to information systems and rules governing the behavior of those in public positions.

At the bottom of the pile lie Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia. As TI says, “In these countries the lack of accountable leadership and effective public institutions underscore the need to take a much stronger stance against corruption.”

Among the GCC countries, only Qatar and the UAE have managed to float above the median line, while the rest fell beneath. This is not very encouraging. But what is encouraging is that governments in some of the countries have begun to sit up and take notice, and even propose legislation designed to fight this growing evil.

In Saudi Arabia, the state-appointed anti-corruption commission has been given full autonomy to investigate corrupt practices across all government agencies. It has its hands full, as it weaves through a myriad of corrupt bureaucrats in several agencies, with suspicious dealings, failed projects or unaccounted for public funds.

Some may complain that it is not enough. The commission must be allowed more teeth and more bite. But it is a start for now, and while it is still in its infancy, the public has already responded positively to some of the commission’s unrestrained findings. It will be up the judicial authorities next to administer the appropriate punishment to the corrupt public officials.

As TI rightly states, “Corruption translates into human suffering, with poor families being extorted for bribes to see doctors or to get access to clean drinking water. It leads to failure in the delivery of basic services like education or healthcare. It derails the building of essential infrastructure, as corrupt leaders skim funds.”

The 2012 report concludes that “it’s clear that corruption is a major threat facing humanity. Corruption destroys lives and communities, and undermines countries and institutions. It generates popular anger that threatens to further destabilize societies and exacerbate violent conflicts.”

Governments must integrate anti-corruption mechanisms into all aspects of decision making. Public servants must be held accountable for their deeds.

Governments should also make public spending and contracting more transparent, a move that would allow less room for acts of fraud and embezzlement of public funds. And finally, the judicial boards must dispense justice in line with the aspirations of the public. The criminals guilty of fraud and corruption should not be allowed to get off scot-free.

[The author can be reached at talmaeena@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @talmaeena.]

(Courtesy: Saudi Gazette)

ANALYSIS: Society, Media, Sex and Rape

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 26 January 2013 | Posted in , , , , , , , , , ,

By Dr. Amjad M. Husaini

‘Sex’ is a multifaceted phenomenon and I have been contemplating on its origin and objectives since the day the news of a heinous rape of a young woman in a Delhi bus, named in media as “Nirbhaya” was put in limelight by the national media.

In my opinion it is important to discuss various aspects of sex and try to place rape in the right context. These aspects are:

1. Spiritual aspect of sex- Sex is a medium of ‘expression of love’, and a mode of closest possible ‘union on the physical plane’ between two individuals whose hearts long for each other. It is a union between a lover (Aashiq) and his/her beloved (Mashooq), which brings a sense of joy, satisfaction, contentment, and respect for each other.

2. Biological aspect of sex - Sex is the only natural mode of procreation (reproduction) in higher animals, amongst which human beings are at the top of the evolutionary ladder. Being at the top and living in a social setup the facilitation, formalization and legalization of such a courtship and sexual union has culminated in the ‘institution of marriage’. Marriage has added cultural, social and economic aspects to this otherwise a purely biological phenomenon, due to the evolved state of human beings as social animals.

3. Carnal aspect of sex - On a psychological level it is the stretching of animal-like desire for passion and excitement which is able to express itself easily in the absence of a strong moral character in a human being. Generally, ‘rape and/or sexual assault’ is the manifestation of a complex phenomenon involving lack of moral ethics, poor self control and will power, improper upbringing, emotional instability and deprivation, or hostility towards victim which get a chance to express when the victim (almost always a woman) happens to come in contact with such an individual in a lonely place or situation where she is not able to defend herself, and most often has decorated herself beautifully and looks too attractive. This is generally accompanied by use of force and by overpowering the victim owing to superior muscular strength of man.

To a biologist, however, it is a complex interplay of some chemical substances (hormones) which get induced upon exposure to sensual, sensuous and indecent exposure/display of primary or secondary sexual characters by either of the two genders. If a woman happens to be the perpetrator of such an act, she generally does not use force and uses the tactics of placating a man by inviting verbal comments, physically beautifying herself beyond descent public limits, display of private parts, etc.

4. Economic and social aspect of sex- The lavish lifestyle adopted by the young generation due to advent of multinational culture, and measurement of success in terms of economic fortune, wealth and position has lead to the use of ‘sex’ as a means of acquiring these with minimum possible input and without much hard work. Why to toil so hard, when the same can be attained by being a little smart, is the slogan of this generation. After all this is my body and I have every right to use it as I may wish, is the new thought! Hence ‘looking attractive’, giving sexual favours, or even resorting to sex is the new ‘mantra’ and the easiest possible way of rising up the ladder for the over-ambitious. This applies equally to both the genders, be they men/women subordinates corrupting their men/ women bosses or vice versa.

If it happens to be a man who gets morally corrupt by such practice, one day comes when he tries to impose his will / sexual desire even on a person who is not willing to compromise on her dignity resulting either into a rape or loss of her job. Incidentally if it happens to be a woman boss, then it may result in loss of job for such a male subordinate.

The big multinational houses who invest in fashion, clothing, and cosmetics promote their economic interests in the name of ‘modern’ culture. They make use of print and electronic media to exploit the underlying desire of every individual (especially the youth) to look beautiful and attractive. Looking beautiful is not bad, but this competition between the peers in looking ‘more attractive’ than others has a reduced a human being only to a ‘physical body’, and has promoted sensual indulgence in society (as discussed in 3). Does that mean that in the modern times ALL women and men are bad? No, not at all! However, even a handful of bad people can turn the whole society filthy- a single dirty fish pollutes the whole pond. But we ALL are responsible for this state of the society, to varying degrees. We watch such TV channels that pollute the young immature minds of our children; we aspire to be rich, powerful and famous by corrupt means and set a bad example for our young kids to follow; we teach lessons of morality in our text books but ask them to be ‘practical’ in life by hook or crook.

In earlier times, prostitutes used to be restricted to some areas (brothels and red-light areas) and were looked down upon, although they were the victims of social deprivation and ‘needed’ to resort to prostitution for feeding themselves and their children. However in present times the same class of women are being glorified and commoditised to meet the demands of an open market economy. Women are objectified as a commodity and are served ‘hot’ on television channels and internet sites. They have even entered our kitchen, living and dining rooms through soap operas, reality shows etc., and have further polluted our minds. These have torn away the veil of respect and dignity between the brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, uncles, aunts, etc., promoting the carnal desires (as discussed in 3), and the week in mind easily fall prey to such desires! How many amongst our young generation see a role model in Lord Rama or Guru Nanak or for that matter follow the example of Holy Prophet? In this land of Mahatma Ghandi, almost all our young try to imitate actors (their heroes), actresses (their heroines), models, business tycoons, etc. and want to be like them. They say that this is to be ‘modern’, because by dubbing ‘immodesty’ as ‘modernism’ they can easily rubbish the traditional ideals of human behaviour and label the right thinking older generation as ‘old fashioned’ and obsolete.

5. Subjugative and authoritative aspect of sex - It is generally performed by the winner of a war / battle, heads of a clan against those who rebel (like in case of Late Phoolan Devi) or self-proclaimed village authorities (like upper castes) against weaker classes and tribes. The aim is to subjugate and oppress the opponent by giving tremendous mental agony to them, by way of asserting their authority on their most honoured and precious thing i.e., chastity of their women. In extreme cases men are beheaded or killed while women are used as sex objects, on the one hand to fulfil their carnal desires (as discussed in 3) and on the other to inflict deep wounds on the psyche of the oppressed women (representing the defeated class). This is also to show authority, as well as serve a befitting punishment and warning against raising their voice again in future.

Do these pictures fall within the ambit of decency of a common man’s level of perception?? Would you like to see your wife or mother or sister to be dressed like this?? Then why do you like to see others dressed like this?? Why not to turn your face away and save yourself from unhealthy influences....

Islamic Views On Clothing

An important aspect of Islam that must be observed is the code of dress for both men and women. The appearance is a sign of what one has in the heart. Allah mentions in the Holy Quran: O Children of Adam! We have sent down upon you a dress which may conceal your shameful parts and sent down feathers (or splendid garments) and the dress of piety (Taqwa) that is the best of all.” (Surah A'araf, Verse 26). 

In another verse Allah says: Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty: that will make for greater purity for them: And Allah is well acquainted with all that they do. And say that the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband's fathers, their sons, their husbands' sons, their brothers or their brothers' sons, or their sisters' sons, or their women, or the slaves whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex; and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. And O ye Believers! Turn ye all together towards Allah, that ye may attain Bliss. ” (Surah An-Nur), Verse 30-31).

This code of behaviour and dressing sets moral standards in this world where morality is lacking greatly nowadays. Islam has got no fixed standards of dress as dress is regulated by necessities according to geographical conditions of countries. In cold conditions, warm clothes are necessary for the protection of the body. Similarly, in hot countries, thin clothes are mostly the norm. The Holy Prophet others, as it covers the major portion of the body.

For women Allah mention’s in the Qur'an: O Prophet (daughters and the women of the believers to draw over them their cloaks (veils). That in the least so that they be recognised and not be molested.” (Surah Ahzaab, Verse 59)

And remain within your homes and do not make an exhibition (of yourselves) like the displays (of the immoral women) of former times of ignorance.” (Surah Ahzaab).

Ibn Abbas (May Allah be pleased with him) quotes that the Holy Prophet of you shoould meet a woman in privacy unless she is accompanied by a Mahram (i.e., a relative witin the prohibited degrees)” [Bukhari, Muslim]

The Holy Prophet said don't make your body visible or wear light clothing which emphasizes or highlights the figure of the body.

Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) quotes that the Messenger of Allah said: “Women who are nude in spite of having garments on them; who allure others and are allured by others shall be consigned to Hell. Their heads are awry like the humps of the used a single long robe and recommended it for)!

Tell thy wives and thy said “No one gave warning against wearing transparent clothing which makes the said Bactrian camels because of their coquettish posture. These women shall not enter Paradise, nor shall enjoy the sweet fragrance of Paradise, although the sweet fragrance of Paradise can be savoured from a long distance off” [Muslim] (Chapter 292, Riyad al Salihin).

Islamic Views On Rape

Islam views human life as a sacred gift from Allah and repeatedly stresses the sanctity of life. The life of every single individual regardless of gender, age, nationality or religion is worthy of respect. According to Islam, a woman has to be respected and protected under all circumstances, whether she belongs to your own nation or to the nation of an enemy, whether she follows your religion or belongs to some other religion or has no religion at all. A Muslim cannot outrage her under any circumstances. Even some Islamic legal scholars classify rape under the category of ‘hiraba’, rather than the subcategory of ‘zina’ (consensual adultery). In the Hanafi school of law, the term zina is taken to refer to illegal sexual intercourse where rape is distinguished as zina bil jabr to indicate its forced and non-consensual nature whereas fornication and adultery fit zina bil ridha which indicates consent. Though the terminology uses the term zina, nonetheless, they are two categorically different crimes as rape is treated as a tazir crime by the judge and prosecuted based on circumstantial evidence (medical evidence, any number of witnesses, and other forensic evidence), very similar to how it is treated in contemporary Western law. Fornication and adultery by mutual consent (zina bil ridha) meets the classical hadd punishments from the Qur'an and sunnah provided there are four witnesses (if absent then they too default to tazir).

{Hadd: A punishment fixed in the Quran and hadith for crimes considered to be against the rights of God. The six crimes for which punishments are fixed are theft (amputation of the hand), illicit sexual relations (death by stoning or one hundred lashes), making unproven accusations of illicit sex (eighty lashes), drinking intoxicants (eighty lashes), apostasy (death or banishment), and highway robbery (death). Strict requirements for evidence (including eyewitnesses) have severely limited the application of hudud penalties. Punishment for all other crimes is left to the discretion of the court; these punishments are called tazir. With the exception of Saudi Arabia, hudud punishments are rarely applied, although recently fundamentalist ideologies have demanded the reintroduction of hudud, especially in Sudan, Iran, and Afghanistan.

Tazir: Punishment for crime not measuring up to the strict requirements of hadd punishments, although they are of the same nature, or those for which specific punishments have not been fixed by the Quran. Punishments range from the death penalty for espionage and heresy to flagellation, imprisonment, local banishment, and a variety of fines. Determination of punishment is left to the judge or chief executive, who can vary the punishment according to a number of criteria including who has inflicted the crime and upon whom.} (Source: http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com)

Gang-rape or public rape is considered hiraba as that is more in line with its classical definition as a war crime or crime against civilization and society. In the author’s opinion this applies to the rape victim ‘Nirbhaya’ who was raped in a running bus and thrown away to die, and unfortunately later succumbed to her wounds in a Singapore hospital. This can be supported by the opinion of the famous jurist, Ibn Hazm, who gave the widest definition of hiraba, defining a hiraba offender as: ‘One who puts people in fear on the road, whether or not with a weapon, at night or day, in urban areas or in open spaces, in the palace of a caliph or a mosque, with or without accomplices, in the desert or in the village, in a large or small city, with one or more people… making people fear that they’ll be killed, or have money taken, or be raped (hatk al ‘arad)… whether the attackers are one or many."

Therefore the classification of rape in ‘Hiraba’ is logical, as the "taking" is of the victim’s property (the rape victim’s sexual autonomy) by force. Maliki judge Ibn ‘Arabi, relates a story in which a group was attacked and a woman in their party was raped. Responding to the argument that the crime did not constitute hiraba because no money was taken and no weapons used, Ibn ‘Arabi replied indignantly that "hiraba with the private parts" is much worse than hiraba involving the taking of money. The Maaliki Jurist, Ibn Abdul-Barr has stated regarding rape “The scholars are unanimously agreed that the rapist is to be subjected to the hadd (i.e. the punishment of death) if there is clear evidence against him that he deserves the hadd punishment, or if he admits to that. Otherwise, he is to be punished [with tazir].

The focus in a hiraba prosecution is the accused rapist and his intent and physical actions, and not second-guessing the consent of the rape victim. Hiraba does not require four witnesses to prove the offense; it requires circumstantial evidence, medical data and expert testimony to prosecute such crimes. During the time of the Holy Prophet was inflicted on a rapist on the solitary evidence of the woman who was raped by him. Wa'il ibn Hujr reports of an incident when a woman intending to go for Prayer [in the mosque] was raped. Later, when some people came by, she identified and accused the man of raping her. They seized him and brought him to Allah's messenger, where the rapist admitted his crime. Allah’s messenger said to the woman, "Go away, for Allah has forgiven you," but of the man who had raped her, he said, "Stone him to death." (Tirmidhi and Abu Dawud).

In Holy Quran Allah says: O ye who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for Allah can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest ye swerve, and if ye distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do.” [Surah al-Nisa: Verse 135]

So what is our duty as members of this society, and Allah’s vicegerent on earth? To stand by justice in whatever possible capacity we can…..be that as a witness, as a police man, as a medical expert, as a judge or simply as a common man!!

A Dialogue With A Friend

All the above analysis on the reasons and genesis of ‘rape’, the most deplorable and heinous crime against women reminds me of a discussion with a female friend few years back on a similar theme. I would like to share the dialogue that happened between me and my dear friend Aayisha with readers:

Amjad: Aashu have you ever seen your parents making love or for that matter kissing or hugging in your presence?

Aayisha: No, not at all. Ours is a very dignified family.

Amjad: Have you ever kissed or hugged your boyfriend in presence of your or his parents?

Aayisha: How is it possible yaar?,,,,, to indulge in such acts in presence of our elderly and respectable ones. No, not at all.

Amjad: Oh ! I suppose you don’t feel to get intimate with him??

Aayisha: Of course I do have such feelings yaar. After all I too am human.

Amjad: Where do you meet then?

Aayisha: We generally meet in a park under open sky, or in a coffee shop, or in a cinema hall if he has money for tickets. The cheapest is to sit under a tree in a public park!

Amjad: Don’t people see you there??

Aayisha: So what!! They don’t know us. Who cares! We are open minded and free to enjoy anywhere.

Amjad: But,,,,I once went into such a park along with my parents when I was a kid myself. I saw a couple in an intimate position, who were kissing, rubbing and hugging under a shady tree. It surprised me and I asked my parents that what are they doing?? They blushed and asked me to shut up and not pay attention to them. However the scene and the thoughts reverberated in my mind for several days!!! Don’t you feel that kids and teenagers get unduly influenced and readily carried away by your this act, and their immature minds get polluted?

Aayisha: May be! But what do I do? I am young and independent. I too have a right to enjoy my life! I cannot take responsibility of the whole society!!

Amjad: Yes you are young, so why don’t you get married?

Aayisha: Are you nuts? I am too young, just eighteen and my boy friend is nineteen. He has a long way to go for a proper professional settlement and I too am not yet prepared for the responsibilities of marriage.

Amjad: Why so?

Aayisha: I am as ambitious as you are. I have been brought up by my parents as an equal to my brother, and want to be financially independent before getting married.

Amjad: Why do you wear such clothes in which you look half naked?

Aayisha: Mind you!! I am an independent citizen of an independent country and want to look beautiful and attractive. I am comfortable in such clothes. What is your problem?

Amjad: Aashu, I don’t have any problem. However, I feel these attract the attention of undesirable and criminal elements towards you because they see you as an object. A genuine man shall get attracted to you and will appreciate your beauty as a person, not as a body. So whom do you want to attract?

Aayisha: But I don’t mind as long as they behave properly.

Amjad: God forbid, if they start misbehaving then what will you do? You know your whole honour as well as peaceful life of your family shall be at stake!

Aayisha: What nonsense? I will be the victim and despite that you are trying to frighten me??? You male chauvinist!

Amjad: No dear, I am only worried, and am cautioning you because I am your well wisher. Trust me!

Aayisha: But my feminist friends and women activists say that, being a patriarchal society women are oppressed and objectified as machines for producing children. Further sons are given undue importance, which bolsters them to look down upon women. This promotes them to carryout crimes against women, like rape!

Amjad: But to my knowledge, women are enjoying equal rights vis a vis men under our constitutional setup. Even some special provisions are also there, which are meant for women welfare only. Further I have never seen a family which would encourage their children to molest or rape a woman, in fact the head of the family often sets an example by discharging his responsibility of ‘protecting’ the members of his family, be that his wife or his daughters or sons. However, in families were fathers have a drinking habit and either of the parents is morally bad; children may get adversely affected and develop either 11 oversensitivity or insensitivity towards such crimes against women. But, alas! Government gets excise duty and other taxes from liquor sale and it is therefore in their interest to protect this industry. This is a paradox!

Aayisha: Mind your own business and just leave me alone Amjad. I am yet to meet a fool who is ready to take a risk of going to jail for a life-term or at least 7 years, just for fulfilling his lust of 30 minutes! Besides, laws of our country and the police are there for my safety!

Amjad: Oh sorry! I hope the poor policeman reaches to your rescue, if he is not busy protecting the so called VIPs. You and I are LIPs (Less Important People), and therefore for us I think “Prevention is always better than cure!” Bye. Take care!

Aayisha: You too. Bye

I am missing my cute innocent friend Aayesha these days more than earlier, as she is no more now. She killed herself after facing defeat at the hands of this cruel society which bolstered her into being bold and (so called) modern, but did not support her after she met with more than an accident....Rape by her boy-friend’s friend !


[Dr. Amjad Masood Hussaini is an Environmental and Plant Biotechnologist of International repute currently working as Assistant Professor (Senior Scale) in Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences & Technology of Kashmir, J&K (India). Dr. A. M. Hussaini is also associated with IndianMuslimObserver.com as Environment Editor. He can be contacted at amjadhusaini@yahoo.com]

Azadi versus Fundamentalism

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in , , , , , , , , ,

The Jamaat-e-Islami has demanded that co-education be abolished in India to prevent rapes

By Fahad Hashmi

‘For most of history, Anonymous was a woman.’ – Virginia Woolf

There seems to be a structural resemblance among fundamentalists of all hues, evident from their comments in the wake of the 16 December gangrape in New Delhi of a 23-year-old woman who subsequently died from her injuries. Just like RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat had opined that rapes happen in India and not in Bharat, the Jamaat-e-Islami has also submitted an 11 point recommendation to the Justice JS Verma Committee, which the government has constituted to suggest changes required in existing laws to provide better security to women in India. Two points out of the 11 that the Jamaat-e-Islami, a politico-religious organisation whose ultimate goal is to bring khilafa (creating God’s kingdom) on Earth, has proposed are worth our attention. (For details look up: http://jamaateislamihind.org/eng/ban-co-education-live-in-relationships-to-prevent-rapes-jamaat-e-islami-hind/).

First, (3) Co-education should be abolished and proper education facilities meant for women only should be available at all levels of education.

Second, (4) Educational institutions should prescribe sober and dignified dress for girls.

How should one look at this take from the Jamaat? It has its roots in history. The Jamaat is afraid of gharabzadgi, an Iranian concept prevalent in the 1960s – 70s, which is often translated as ‘Westoxication’, “Westitis”, “Westmania”, etc. These terms denote an illness, a virus, a plague from the West, which has a devastating effect on any culture or community. It is a very common perception among these patriarchs and self-proclaimed guardians of a community that women are most vulnerable to this gharabzadgi. Therefore, through women, the warp and weft of the social fabric would be easily contaminated and then this gharabzadgi will wreak havoc on the Muslim culture. They also want to make us understand about the ‘evils’, which Europe and the US owe to the desegregation of the sexes, and the shamelessness and immodesty of contemporary Western culture. To score points over the West they place Islamic rights and stereotyped roles for women in opposition to the eroticised other — in this case the Western civilisation. As per their understanding, the female body provokes men and arouses them sexually and hence endangers moral behaviour so women must not take part in the public sphere. Therefore, the best way to arrest crimes against women is to house arrest them, either by imposition or by coercion. Such mentality and mindset makes legitimate, in many areas of the Islamic world, women’s surveillance by the family, community, and the state.

If one looks at the Jamaat in its entirety, one finds that the sine qua non of its existence is to make a pious society, take a cue from Shariah. In the traditional set-up men are supposed to be the breadwinners and hence the public sphere is their exclusive domain. Certainly, this implies that the private sphere belongs to the female sex, and their domestication and inferior designation euphemistically makes them the ‘Queen of the House’! In other words, Jamaat approves and endorses patriarchy, and to this end it quotes scriptures where the mard (male) becomes the qawwam (guardian) of the ‘second sex’. This implies the super-ordination of men and subordination of women.

But we do not live in the Victorian society where women were forced to wear chastity belts. We have a democracy, even if a weak one. Times have changed and the new educated generation wants to come out of this ‘church, children and chars’ trap. We cannot domesticate them anymore using the tools of shastras, shariah, sanskriti and sabhyata, as individual liberty is the supreme right of our time and cannot be compromised anymore. Moreover, this generation is not going to let their bodies be a site of contestation between tradition and modernity.

The important point that these fundamentalist organisations need to note is that there is no escaping modernity. Coming to terms with it would require a kind approach and a level of ingenuity they need to develop. Islam is not resistant to change as some make it out to be. That Islam is not change-proof can be known from a comparison of the laws and customs prevalent in the time of Hazrat Umar, who was one of the most powerful and influential Muslim rulers of the 6th century. I am neither professing the mindless borrowings of the Western category of thought nor advocating that we become a cultural clone of the West to be modern. However, we need to know that there is a wide difference between the Shariah (Islamic jurisprudence) and the Holy Scripture. The latter is divine and the former is a social construct. Shariah came into being long ago to solve the problems of people of a particular time and space at a specific point of history. Over time the human civilisation has taken a long stride, and the scale and scope of human understanding have increased manifold with subtle and nuanced dimensions. Consequently, society faces a good number of new problems. Those old solutions are not relevant today. Therefore we cannot equate Islam with conventionality and self-righteousness. Neither can its teachings be considered puritanical and patriarchal. On the contrary, we have to admit that gender bias is the Achilles’ heel of the Indian Muslims. The Muslim society, rather any society, cannot progress leaving behind half of a nation’s population. To empower the community, we have to empower our women.

Every structure which feeds upon and sustains gender inequality is bound to be challenged and face unprecedented eruption of mass protests filled with angst, anger and aggression. Women from within the community have been putting a good deal of effort in fighting their structural marginalisation as well as freedom from oppression. But their jihad still has a long way to go. In fact, reviving a radical jihad, for the restoration of their right, honour, dignity, and freedom from fear of all sorts should be in its essence. Amen, I would say!

[Fahad Hashmi is pursuing MPhil in Sociology from DSE, University of Delhi.]

(Courtesy: Tehelka)

Women are a soft target

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 21 January 2013 | Posted in , , , , , , ,

By Tariq A. Al-Maeena

It has always been the woman’s fault. At least that’s what history tells us. From the times of the Pharaohs when Semiramis was maligned for her fondness for using make-up to adorn her looks and called a “painted harlot” by religious clerics, extremists have invariably targeted women for one reason or the other.

This was also the case in Salem, Massachusetts in New England in the 17th century when the Puritan society exhorted by Samuel Parris, Salem’s first ordained cleric preacher, accused women of practicing witchcraft and condemned them to the gallows. Many women were hanged, charged by the fervor of religious extremists, while others were buried under heavy stones where they succumbed to the weight of the stones and eventually died. Some died in prison waiting for their fate, all the targets of the Puritan dominated society of the times.

And today, one of India’s leading Hindu religious clerics has focused his aim on the Delhi girl who recently died as a result of injuries sustained when she was brutally attacked and raped in a public bus in the capital city by half a dozen men, an incident that drew international attention. The spiritual cleric, Guru Asaram Bapu charged that the dead girl was as guilty as those who inflicted the barbaric assault on her.

The spiritual leader is followed by millions of devotees all over India and his statements carry a lot of weight to his followers in the 360 ashrams (churches) in the country. And so when he declared that “Only five or six people are not the culprits. The victim daughter is as guilty as her rapists... She should have called the culprits brothers and begged before them to stop... This could have saved her dignity and life. Can one hand clap? I don’t think so,” he was in effect condemning her memory to being an accessory to the crime she was a victim to. He also added that he was against harsh punishment for the accused, claiming that they would be denied their right of law. “We have often seen such laws are made to be misutilized.”

Such religious fanatics hijack the true meaning of their religion and distort it to suit their own myopic views. I have not studied the Bhagavad Gita, the holy book for Hindus, but I doubt very much that it would demean women or reduce them to non-entities in its scriptures.

This attack by extremist figures who craftily use the cloak of religion to disguise their twisted ideology and promote their warped thinking is prevalent in many parts of the world. In some countries it is practiced under wraps as state laws grant women full rights. In other countries where the laws regarding women are not fully identified or known, such deviants use religion to vent their abominable hatred toward women by using scripture or a phrase from holy books. Attacks against women who cannot defend themselves or are not given the opportunity to do so, then become their crusade.

In this country we have not been immune from such dangers. Extremism has led to acts of terrorism in the Kingdom and outside during the past two decades as our youth were led onto the path of destruction by warped and twisted ideologies, wrongly using religion as the call to take up arms and enlist for an imaginary jihad.

Similar bands of extremists have invaded book fairs or literary events unannounced and uninvited over the years and shooed everyone away, claiming that such events were un-Islamic. Some even insisted that participation in sports was an evil pastime and the work of the devil.
Extremists have also not relented in their attacks on women. They have accused Saudi nurses serving in an honorable profession of being “soiled women”, and have stood firmly against the idea of women being employed in the professional field. Notwithstanding the fact that the country needs the cadre of its educated women to foster progress, such extremists have been an impediment to the progress of women, invariably using the veiled threat of religion against such women.

Others have issued edicts declaring that permitting women to educate themselves, or to work, or even to drive to work is akin to inviting Satan into one’s home. There have also been some derisive comments on the different types of cloaks (abayas) women use to cover themselves. One person even threatened a minister with a “death prayer” for daring to open up new professions for the working woman.

Yet, rarely do these fanatics bother to focus on the heavy issues facing our society today, such as the proliferation of administrative corruption, the disregard of traffic laws, the delayed or non-payment of wages to workers, or a host of other ills. Instead, their target is women, women and women.

The government has demonstrated a remarkable degree of vigilance in its stand against fanatics and extremism. The dangers are obvious, and religion must not be allowed to be distorted to promote their warped ideology. Women are not the enemy and should not be used as targets.

[The author can be reached at talmaeena@aol.com Follow him on Twitter: @talmaeena]

(Courtesy: Saudi Gazette)

A crime beyond barriers

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 10 January 2013 | Posted in , , , , , ,

There should be no compromises when it comes to dealing with the crime of rape

By Tariq A.Al Maeena

The brutal rape of a 23-year-old medical student on a public bus last month in New Delhi, followed by her tragic death, has not gone unnoticed in Saudi Arabia. News reports daily covered details of the crime and the subsequent moral outrage that engulfed India.

How did people in Saudi Arabia react to the events? What was their view on this sad episode and did it differ much than people elsewhere? Maha, a Saudi teacher in Sociology at a local girl’s college was horrified and saddened by the incident in which the girl found herself defenceless, save for her brave companion.

After muttering a short prayer in the deceased girl’s memory, she added: “I kept waking up at night from nightmares. What did those people do to that poor girl? Even animals show more mercy than that. It shakes my faith in humanity, but good will eventually prevail … I pray for it.”

An Indian physician working in the capital city added: “Over the years, we have become accustomed to such occurrences [in India] to the point that we [Indians] are left almost without feeling. Sad isn’t it? Women are being raped, harassed, molested or eve-teased every few minutes and many times these are not reported for fear from the perpetrators or society. Our society [in India] does not serve justice to the victims.”

Ramnaran, an accountant, felt that the new trend in Bollywood had something to do with it. “Look at the current fashion trend in our film industry. Half-naked actresses moving and shaking about seductively, as if encouraging or inciting the viewers to unrestrained excitement. Modesty has flown out of the window, replaced with sleaze and skimpiness. We were a modest culture. What is happening in our films, which, by the way, reach all small towns and villages, is an affront to our morals.”

Zamil, a trader said: “Is this what Indian culture has finally revealed to the rest of the world? We keep hearing about the economic progress in that country and their government through the media is always claiming that they have joined the first level of developed countries, but in view of the death of the poor girl, I think these are all empty words. And she is not the only victim. There are many more, except that they have not drawn as much media attention because they do not live in New Delhi, the capital.”

Gulzar, an Afghani technician claims: “There are daily reports of rapes and killings all over India; in small towns and villages too. But why there is so much publicity and media coverage in this [the Delhi rape] case? It is no different than many that go unreported. During the 2002 Gujarat riots, women were raped en masse and even the shameful actions were recorded on video. But was there a public outcry? Or is it because the victims were minorities? Yet, here the case has reached the international level. It is all politically motivated by politicians seeking an advantage.”

Sharma, a teacher adds: “Rape is often used as a political tool by opposing parties against the poor constituents. How many times has a national rape case drawn attention only for it to be quickly buried and forgotten because the rapist was an influential politician or the son of one? The guilty go scot-free while the poor victims have to shoulder that burden for their entire lives. Is this justice?”

Salma, an accountant said: “I feel for the parents and family of that poor girl. May Allah grant them the strength and patience to withstand their grief. May the victim’s soul rest in peace.”
Sumayya, a Saudi housewife, observed: “What disturbs me is how this crime could take place without any interference from the public. Were they all asleep? Or is it that they did not want to be involved? If that is so, then that is a greater crime. Someone would have surely noticed or heard the girl’s anguish. And yet, no one interfered save for her companion. It is a shameful badge of dishonour that the Delhi society must pin on their chests.”

India has had its share of such dishonour. National crime records indicate that 228,650 of the total of 256,329 violent crimes registered last year in India were directed at women and there has been an increase of more than 800 per cent in violent rapes since the 1970s. Many attribute the rising trend to apathy on the part of the politicians or the police in pursuing justice for the victims.

It would be unfair, however, to infer that India sits alone on top of the heap when it comes to such crimes. Rapists know no borders and no country is immune from such heinous activity. Even in developed countries in Europe or in the US, rape remains a scourge.

A fitting solution will be the castration of the offender once proven guilty beyond a shadow of doubt. Forget human rights! There should be no compromises when it comes to dealing with rape.

[Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi socio-political commentator. He lives in Jeddah,Saudi Arabia.]

(Courtesy: Gulf News)

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