NOVEMBER 2001
  about us             contact us                              data bank              past issues             the craft shop                                     the print gallery



NOVEMBER 2001 Contents

Women's Issues

Muslim Women challenge
Islamic Fundamentalism

- Dr. Sima Samar

- Asma Jahangir & Hina Jilani

- Sultana Kamal


Omar Abdullah


Overlooked & Ignored
- Kashmiri Hindus


Pakistan Squash - The Khan Supremacy

- The Hashim Saga

-Azam, Roshan, Mohibullah

-Lahore 1960 - 80

-Gogi Alauddin

-Qamar Zaman & Hiddy Jahan

-Jahangir Khan

-Jansher Khan


Security & Trust in Internet Banking

-South Asian E-Banking

-Telecoms & Banking

-Security Issues in Banking

-PKI - Digital Credentials

-Internet Banking & E-Govt in south Asia


Perceptions of a  Lahorite

Editor's Note



the craft shop

the print gallery


Silk Road on Wheels

The Road to Freedom

Enduring Spirit

Parsis-Zoroastrians of

The Moonlight Garden

Contemporary Art in Bangladesh



Page  1  of  4


Muslim Women challenging Islamic Fundamentalism

by Roopa Bakshi

"Women are oppressed most in places where the hold of religion is strong. . . Women are almost equal to men in places where the hold of religion is loose. Here religion should be understood in the sense of social laws based on religion. Some might say: why are you discussing religion when you are talking about social problems? The answer is, religion as made the bond of slavery stronger. Men are lording it over women in the name of religion. That is why religion inevitably enters into our discussion.I hope the religious persons will forgive me."

(Nava Nur, pp 11-13, written by Bangladeshi poet Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain born in 1880)


  People-_Dr_Sima_Samar.jpg (6704 bytes) People-_asma_jahangir.jpg (10372 bytes) People-_hina_jalani.jpg (10887 bytes)
From L-R: Dr. Sima Samar, Asma Jahangir, Hina Jalani


Islam is among the younger religions of the world - one that promised equality and greater dignity to women. Yet, the lower-rung clerics and the fundamentalists, especially in societies with high rates of illiteracy, have used it as an instrument of control and misrepresented the religion, inadvertently, as a medieval, primitive school of thought. Some Muslim women call it ‘political opportunism’. The recent incidents of ‘honour killings’ in Pakistan and Bangladesh – where women are killed to save a man’s honour – have left most women asking ‘Why’? The Taliban – a Fundamentalist Group in control of Afghanistan – have ordered Afghani women not to appear unveiled or unescorted in public; women may not work in a male environment, if at all; they can be doctors but can only treat female patients; female education is not a priority – women have been shot to death for appearing in public with a male other than their husband, brother or son; women have acid thrown on their faces for not covering it well enough; they have been stoned to death for loving a man – and so it continues. Women are not expected to protest in Afghanistan, yet the courage of one Afghani woman – Dr. Sima Samar – won her the International Humphrey award this year. She will be honoured with the award next month in Montreal, Canada. Asma Jahangir and sister Hina Jalani in Pakistan have, against all odds, relentlessly fought for the cause of women and minorities. Sultana Kamal in Bangladesh fights for women victimised by the fatwas (decrees) of illiterate clerics. Asma, Hina and Sultana are senior advocates, Sima is a medical doctor – all are professional Muslim women – fighting a mind-set that denies a woman her basic rights. They have all, at one time or the other, received death threats, been verbally abused, and threatened by the fundamentalists – yet they work – even harder. Or are the fundamentalists threatened by them?

A recent discussion on Indian television on the subject of ‘Muslim Identity’, invited well known Muslims, and among them, Imam Bukhari (the Head of all Sunni Muslims in India), and Shabana Azmi, a well-known screen actress and also a social activist and a member of the Rajya Sabha (the Upper House of the Indian Parliament) to participate in the debate. shabana2.jpg (22298 bytes)In the course of the discussion, Shabana Azmi asked the Imam a question to which he retorted "- "Main naachne-gaane wali tawaif ko jawaab nahin deta." (literally translated, he said "I don’t reply to singing and dancing prostitutes"). Arnab Pratim Dutta later asked Shabana how she reacted to the Imam’s comments. Shabana replied, "it does not bother me a wee bit. In fact, I feel sorry for the poor fellow. It shows him up for what he is and the kind of respect he has for women, for artistes and for those who dare to challenge him… This one statement will do him great damage, because he speaks in the name of Islam, and Islam accords the greatest respect to women. Muslims can now see through him…. men like Bukhari are the self-appointed leaders, who speak on behalf of Muslims of their own accord…. who among Muslims listens to Bukhari? I will give you an example to convince you. You see, a couple of years ago, Imam Bukhari had issued a fatwa that all Muslims must vote for a particular candidate in his own Muslim-dominated Jama Masjid area. That candidate even lost his election deposit. So much for the following he has…..- the media reported that Bukhari called for jihad. Did the media report that not a single Muslim has taken up his call? Did anyone from Delhi go on jihad? You see, the self appointed fundamentalist leaders re-enforce only the "communal" aspects of Muslim identity, using rhetoric to whip up communal frenzy…. Muslims have no moderate leadership. The moderate, on the other hand, speaks about education, employment and health. Muslims have now learnt the pitfalls of falling into the fundamentalist trap. Therefore, they do not listen to the call of the fanatics."

Dr. Sima Samar, Asma Jahangir, Hina Jalani and Sultana Kamal are four such women who are doing just that – not paying heed to the call of the fanatics.





Copyright © 2000 - 2001 []. Intellectual Property. All rights reserved.