The enemy within
The News, April 06, 2009
There was a news item, not so long ago, about women not being able to work in lingerie shops in Saudi Arabia. According to the logic employed, women were not supposed to work and hence that extended to working in lingerie shops. The ironic consequence of that move was that in a society where men and women are not allowed to even be in physical proximity in public, women ended up having to buy their most intimate undergarments from men only.
On Friday a video aired about the Taliban “administering justice” to a 17-year-old girl accused of having illicit relations with a man. One man held her face down and held her arms, while the other flogged her buttocks with a stick. So, it’s not okay for women to be touched by male doctors, or male companions, but male executioners can hold hands and slap bottoms in front of milling crowds? The Taliban, it seems, have a thing for kink.
Apparently, one of the Taliban spokesmen said the girl had received a “lenient” sentence. Last time I checked, it took two, at least, to have illicit relations. If the girl’s sentence was lenient, one has to wonder what must have happened to the poor boy! Oh, wait – there is no boy in the video. Apparently, only girls must be punished for their libido. Boys, after all, become men when they can “tap that.” Take that for a specimen of modern thinking that gangs from Brooklyn can be proud of. Needless to say, unless one is a glutton for punishment – one should not ask for “leniency” from the Taliban.
There is something sinister at work here. There is an unacceptable cruelty disguised as spirituality that is eating away at the fabric of our country and society. There has been a slow, steady, sustained hijacking of concepts of nobility in our religion to use them as tools of repression, oppression and fear. It is the logic and hypocrisy of the Taliban when they punish only girls and not boys for the same act of “immorality,” under the guise of Islam. It is the logic which says that televisions and videos should be banned, except when their spokesman has to give an interview, or the immoral women have to be given a dose of their version of Islam. It is the logic which prohibits vulgarity and obscenity to protect our morality, but circulates videos of beheadings and shootings to young children to show them the world in its complete and total horror.
The Taliban have fed off the United States’ unpopularity in Pakistan and the globe. They have fed off the hypocrisy in foreign policy that permits and endorses the massacre of Palestinian lives to protect Israeli ones. They have fed off the lies that were told blatantly to the United Nations Security Council as a pretext to invade a country inhabited by Muslims. They have fed off the swagger and arrogance of a president who tortured and drove prisoners to insanity. They have fed off the frustration of a foreign policy that seems weighted in every measure against Muslims, and painted themselves as the vanguard of a Muslim struggle against oppression and as heroes of resistance to an empire.
We need to wake up. The United States of America is not doing this to our girls. The United States of America is not issuing edicts to shut down schools (only for girls!). The United States of America is not expelling organisations that administer polio vaccines to our children. Yet, somehow there is a deep abiding antipathy to the US. For all the United States’ failings — it was our strategic decision under the great, modern, liberal, progressive leadership of our late martyred leader Benazir Bhutto that decided to treat, further and entrench this ideology as a strategic foreign-policy asset, instead of undoing the legacy of her father’s murderer. We may have serious, even legitimate grievances against US foreign policy – but it can never destroy us in a way that this internal dogmatic interpretation of Islam can.
If we do not change things now, soon there will be nothing left to change. It is time to stop using anti-US sentiment as an excuse to do nothing about the Taliban. The Army restrains itself against these militants in no small measure, because it wants the people of Pakistan to own it and like it. We, the lawyers and civil-society activists, the wealthy and the comfortable, the educated and the elite, may not be able to fight on the frontlines. But this fight will not just be won in the valleys of Swat. It has to be won all over Pakistan, in the deserts and the mountains, from the coast of Karachi to the tip of Karakoram, in the hearts and minds of every Pakistani who must disown, despise and hate the unbending Taliban for us to fight successfully against them. There are no more half measures.
It is not a fight for America. It is a fight for the soul of this country. It is a fight for the reclamation of our religion. The Great Satan is not attacking us from outside. The Great Enemy of Islam is within us, among us, ready to explode the next bomb in the name of our God. This is a fight for our God back. Speak up, speak now, speak louder and wider. Silence now is treachery.
The writer is a Lahore-based lawyer. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org