Here’s a radical idea: Stop treating women as your izzat.
Uncle Bashir just spilled evening chai on his super starched white shalwar kameez. Aslam in his miniscule shorts is messaging his babe, “Baby, don’t listen to these pseudo-liberals. Tum meri izzat ho!” Baby, on the other side of the screen, puts on her off-shoulder top and replies, “Fo sho baby! I’m your izzat today, tomorrow and forever. XOXO” And a certain Mona is staring at her screen in disdain as she tightens the dupatta around her enraged face.
Dupatta – an interesting piece of fabric. Apparently, it encapsulates your entire existence. If you wear it, you are izzatdaar. If you don’t, well, then you’re probably asking for it.
People might argue, it isn’t as simple as you’re making it sound. Many factors are at play, like societal norms, culture, and most importantly, religion. Since we live in The Islamic Republic of Pakistan, we must adhere to certain rules. We must also assume that we’re all Muslims.
Minorities are acknowledged, but only when government organisations are looking for sweepers. When they become qualified enough to give you economic advice on how to run your country, you fire them; because no one likes the lingering smell of burnt tyres.
Why do they get their shalwars in a twist, you ask? Because their Islam gets threatened if a man – belonging to a minority group – offers to give them economic advice.
You hurt a man – it’s considered a crime. You hurt a woman – lo jee, khandaan ki izzat lut gayi!
Who agreed on this?
Oftentimes, the word aurat is used in place of izzat. “Aaj se tum meri izzat ho,” a hero would coo to his heroine in a Pakistani drama. No honey, she’s an aurat, not your izzat. You go increase your own self-worth through your own actions. Don’t rely on women to increase or decrease your respect. Be self-sufficient.
We’ve also heard the dialogue, “Meri izzat tumhare pairon mein hai” in old Pakistani movies. They’re talking about a woman’s dupatta here. I wear one, and that too on my head, which apparently makes me much more respectable than my other non-dupatta-wearing sisters. I remove this piece of cloth as soon as I enter my home and prance about in PJs.
Do I become unrespectable in one swift motion? My izzat is stuffed in the cupboard and all that’s left is me, and apparently I’m not worthy of respect anymore.
Clothes do not, and should not, define your worth. Women need to be treated as equals and not like fruit that will tempt onlookers, or go bad if left out in the open.
But what do you do when your own Prime Minister dehumanises you and treats you like an object? He also insulted his brethren, but they can take that issue up with him themselves.
“If a woman is wearing very few clothes it will have an impact, it will have an impact on the men unless they’re robots. I mean it’s common sense,” Imran Khan said when answering a straightforward question from Jonathan Swan: Do you think what women wear has any effect? That this is part of that temptation?
Soon after the snippet of this interview went viral, Twitter turned into a warzone.
A Divided Nation
Alleged sasti feminists typed take after take on how Imran Khan’s statement was validating rapists. It’s like telling someone if you’ll walk around carrying a fancy phone then, of course, someone will get tempted and snatch it. How dare you use a fancy phone?
How can the onus of responsibility be on the victim and their clothes, and not the actual culprit?
We wanted him to simply say, “Rapists are vile creatures and will be dealt with strictly. Only they are responsible for their actions and there is no justification for it”, feminist (men and women both) argued and explained.
Who were they explaining to?
The explaining was being done to Immy K’s defenders. Imran Khan’s statement seems pretty straightforward that if women wear fewer clothes they’ll tempt men into doing something untoward.
But Khan’s followers had a valid concern that this is a knee-jerk reaction and one must understand the context before jumping the gun. So I watched the entire 28 minutes of the interview last night. I watched it with the hope that I’ll stand corrected. He can’t repeatedly victim-blame, knowing he’s hurting a huge chunk of his voters’ sentiments.
Turns out, he doesn’t care about his khwateen anymore.
Dissecting The Interview
The discussion began when Swan asked him, “You were asked about the epidemic of sexual violence and rape in Pakistan and you acknowledged the seriousness of the problem and talked about Pakistan’s strict laws. You’ve also quoted to saying, ‘Practice of women wearing veils causes to stop temptation; not every man has willpower’. You said on increasing vulgarity, ‘It will have consequences’. You’ve been accused of rape victim blaming. How do you respond to that?”
Khan turned down the allegation:
“It is such nonsense! I never said veils, this was never said. I said the concept of pardah is to avoid temptation in the society. We don’t have discos here. We don’t have nightclubs. So it is a completely different society, way of life here. So if you raise temptation in the society to the point, and all these young guys have nowhere to go, it has consequences in the society.”
At this point the host felt intervention was necessary, “Do you think what women wear has any effect on this temptation?”
“If a woman is wearing very few clothes. It will have an impact on the men. Unless they’re robots. I mean it’s common sense,” Khan produced a pretty straightforward version of his original victim-blaming statement – the one he had just labelled “It is such nonsense”.
The interviewer, failing to understand, asked again, “Yes, but is it really going to provoke acts of sexual violence?”
“It depends which society you live in. If in a society where people haven’t seen that sort of a thing, it will have an impact on them. If you grow up in a society, like you, maybe it won’t on you. This cultural imperialism, whatever is in our culture, must be acceptable to everyone else, it’s not.”
His answer started with accepting that our society needs an overhaul, but ended up blaming the interviewer for suggesting that his society is better. Why did Imran Khan call out the interviewer for cultural imperialism? Because the interviewer said “women in fewer clothes” don’t affect him.
Now, which society would you prefer? A place where women have to be conscious of what they wear or else get raped, or a place where no one is bothered about what you’re wearing?
This is a cue for people to start screaming, “Humari society westernise ho rahi hai. Qaum ki betian sleeveless pehn rahi hain. Bas zalzala ab aaya ke tub aaya!”
No, your society doesn’t need to adapt the western values in order to evolve and become safe for all genders. All it needs is some tolerance. If being tolerant means “being western” in your head, then by all means, let’s all westernise ourselves. I’d rather feel safe than live like a protected eastern dosheeza who recites Ayatul Kursi from her gate to her car and then from her car to her office building.
I’m tired of feeling scared.
And now my Prime Minister has given full authority to men to give in to their temptations.
He also strengthened the stereotype that there is radicalisation in Islam. when only a few minutes earlier he was berating the western world for Islamophobia.
“There is a huge gap between the Islamic world and the western societies…when the word Islamic terrorism came into currency. The moment you say Islamic Terrorism the man in the street in the west thinks there is something in Islam which leads to terrorism or Islam causes radicalism.”
I absolutely agree that we need to break that image. So don’t contradict yourself the very next moment, Khan.
Pardah is a religious obligation. Every Muslim must observe it. But when you fail to explain the concept of pardah and end up perpetuating a notion that it’s just clothes worn by women, and when these women fail to adhere to your version of pardah they’re up for grabs, you’re playing right into their hands.
They were looking for an excuse and you gave them a solid one for labelling Muslims as radicalised individuals.
He also mentioned that only 1% of cases are reported because people are embarrassed to come out. I again expected him to follow this statement with, “It’s nothing to be embarrassed about. The abuser should be ashamed, not you.” But, that too, never came.
I also appreciate that he spoke about creating awareness and reforming the society. I held onto each and every word of his to understand how he’s going to create awareness and reform mindsets.
The solution proposed by Imran Khan is to curb temptation, failing to understand that sexual assault is an act of violence not temptation.
Wrap that woman. She might tempt men.
Seal the internet. Children might watch haram movies or even porn.
Stop the Bollywood and Hollywood influence. Ask Pakistani makers to create dramas that show our culture.
Question is: What is our culture?
You wish to believe that the Islamic Republic of Pakistan – since the majority of its population is Muslim – has one culture. Women love it when men “protect” them. They hate it when they get divorced because an increase in the divorce rate is much more worrying than an increase in domestic violence. We prefer watching Aulaad over Game of Thrones because the latter has nudity and seeing nudity can lead to ANYTHING. We believe films like Zindagi Tamasha and dramas like Udaari or Dil Na Umeed Tou Nahi are too explicit because showing the true face of our society means we’re tarnishing Pakistan’s “soft image”.
What if I tell you Pakistan’s culture is made of multiple sub-cultures
You have your Hunza Music Festivals (popularly known as raves) happening on one side and you have your milaads happening on the other. In the middle, you have people like me. I attend neither. Well, that’s because I’m lazy.
On a serious note, I’ve attended my friend’s dars before her wedding and felt extremely at peace. I’ve sat in a mehndi – with a dupatta on my head and another one over my shoulders – where people wore clothes that you consider “less”, and I felt at peace there too.
Haw, you might gasp! As a good Muslim it’s my responsibility to tell these lost souls that they’re on the wrong path. To answer you simply: I am not God. This is not my job.
I was not always this tolerant, or shameless as some would call it. As I moved from school to college and then later to a newsroom which lead to the advertising world, I met women who wore clothes that are frowned upon by majority. Some even smoked (haw haye, I know) and partied. I felt apprehensive. Then I saw their other side. Children on the street would know them by their names because these very “women in less clothes” took them out for breakfasts on weekends.
I, who is considered a good a Muslim on the outside, had never done any such act.
They were extremely considerate with their words – from the chowkeedar to the clerk, who sat on the front desk, and any woman who came looking for work, these women would treat them with kindness.
I, on the other hand, would stay aloof.
This made me ask myself: Would God prefer me over them? This thought made me climb off my high horse.
And I’d suggest the followers of Imran Khan do away with their holier-than-thou attitudes too. Your way of life is not the best way of life. So accept different people and their views – even religious views. What Imran Khan’s recent statement does is, that it almost gives a free pass to all these other men, who are not necessarily deviant, to gawk, hoot, and even sexually assault women who they think are wearing “very few clothes”.
Which leads us to the question; what sort of clothes are considered less according to Imran Khan?
A girl in a niqaab will consider a woman in dupatta shameless. A woman in dupatta will “tch tch” at a lady sporting sleeveless. The girl in sleeveless will frown upon someone in shorts. The girl in skirt will do “taubah tauba” at the blondie in bikini.
You always think you’re better than the other person. This is exactly how Imran Khan behaves. He’s had the spiritual awakening. Good for him.
I also don’t agree with people who bring forth his past. It has definitely shaped his personality and turned him into a mysoginist. But if he says he has evolved then let him be.
He needs to give that same leeway to the people of his nation. And if some refuse to adhere to the culture he wishes to impose, then that’s fine too. In short, being a person in power he needs to preach about tolerance.
Tolerance in every sense of the word.
I also don’t agree with people who call for public hanging no matter how angry I’m feeling. Public hangings might scare a few, but will it end the epidemic that is sexually violent humans?
I understand every behaviour stems from our environmental and psychological conditioning. Each crime can probably be traced back to the criminal being wronged or triggered in some way. If your qoum is sexually frustrated then give them sex education. You wish to keep it Islamic? Inform them about the rights husbands and wives have over each other according to the Quran. If you won’t educate them, then they’ll educate themselves, and that too without any supervision.
Disappointed In Imran Khan
In the end, I’m disappointed the most because I never thought Imran Khan would be a rape apologist. He’s the first political figure I looked up to. I remember during our A-levels, while we were high on Rang De Basanti, us friends would make plans about joining Khan’s party and changing the world.
Later, his was the first jalsa that I attended with my sisters and my mother – our uncle joined us because “akeli aurtein kaise jayengi”; but it was us women who wanted to be there in that muddy ground to show our support. As I stood there chanting, “Jab roti sasti hogi, aur mehngi hogi jaan”, I dreamt of days when I won’t need any uncle to protect us. When Khan comes to power, I’ll feel so safe I’ll walk to the beach every morning, I fooled myself with a wide grin.
Today, I feel anything but safe.
I also remember the 2013 elections. We stood there from day break till sun set to cast our vote. The opposition had allegedly stolen the ballot papers. Then, in came Arif Alvi with boxes full of papers and assured us, “Mein le aaya hoon!”
Karachi ke burgers won’t be able to withstand the summer heat, they said. We proved them wrong that day. And guess what? Half the population that was standing there steadfastly, under the scorching sun, to make Imran Khan win, was allegedly wearing “very less clothes”.
Please Note: The views & opinions in this article belong solely to the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FUCHSIA Magazine