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Why Pakistani Men Should Be Concerned About The PM’s Views On Rape

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Pakistani men grow more conservative as they age. It is often observed that in their youth they casually commit indiscretions but as they get older, they start dictating stringent morality to the next generation. Instead of allowing the youth to grow and learn from life experiences, they foist their own set of values on them. It is not uncommon to find celebrities like Sylvester Stallone or Dolph Lundgren casually joke that they intimidate the boyfriends of their daughters. The same is true of Pakistani men like the late Junaid Jamshed, who lived their youth as they pleased, but later in life turned around to preach rigid norms of dress (especially for women), style and behaviour to youth. This pattern of obsessing with the sartorial choices of women is found with Maulana Tariq Jamil who infamously associated it with the pandemic. More recently, Prime Minister Imran Khan himself associated rape with obscenity and underscored the philosophy behind the purdah (veil). And men like Rohail Hyatt rushed to his defense by suggesting that one can condemn rape and promote modesty simultaneously.

However, Pakistani men of all people should be deeply concerned about the PM’s statement. They should be concerned because they know very well how Hollywood stereotyped men of their origins as terrorists. Just as Hollywood generalizes them, the PM’s statement creates a vulgar stereotype – where a slightly revealing dress would make Pakistani men go berserk to the point of harassing and committing sexual violence.

There is nothing in the DNA of Pakistani men that predisposes them to sexual violence any more than non-Muslim men who live in freer societies with nude beaches and topless women, but who nonetheless know to sublimate their desires and to approach the opposite gender with respect. If anything, with the emphasis on taharat (purification) and tazkiyya nafs (inner purification), Pakistani men should find themselves in a much stronger position to conduct themselves with the highest of moral values – and not perpetrate sexual violence.

Contrary to the exaggerations of conservative elements, Pakistani women do not go around clamouring for the right to public nudity. An insignificant minority of Pakistani women in the Lollywood film industry push sartorial boundaries but even they are tame compared to the dress choices seen in Bollywood and Hollywood. Therefore, it is not clear what purdah or modesty the PM and Rohail Hyatt are alluding to – and whether they view all Pakistani women as Lollywood actresses.

Are they suggesting that all women should cover their head at all times? If so, then this position is not supported by many male Islamic scholars, who argue that despite the obsession with the headscarf, the textual emphasis is only for women to specifically cover their chests. Additionally, many women of the generation of our mothers and grandmothers never wore a headscarf. Fatima Jinnah, the mother of the nation, is a prime example. Moreover, pontificating or dictating a headscarf also belies the notion that it is a freely elected choice, the way it is promoted on occasions like the world Hijab Day.

The PM’s emphasis on the philosophy behind the purdah has merit but not for the reasons espoused by him. The philosophy behind the purdah was not necessarily to diminish sexual violence but to distinguish between free women and slaves. The relevance of sexual violence here is moot. Additionally, the hijab-clad women of Egypt, where sexual harassment is a huge concern, are a prime example that purdah is no guarantee of protection against sexual violence.

Rohail Hyatt’s point that one can condemn rape and promote modesty simultaneously also has merit but then again, not for reasons espoused by him. Rape has to be condemned unconditionally without ifs and buts, as its ruling falls under hiraba (waging war against society) and not zina (fornication). This is clear proof that in Islam rape is viewed through the lens of violence and not sexual desire.

The Islamic teaching against the adultery of the eyes is an allusion to this very principle of placing the responsibility on the wandering gaze instead of the dress code. Of course, both men and women should dress modestly, but the connection of sartorial choice with sexual violence is flimsy. After all, if a dress choice invited sexual violence then Pakistani bodybuilders should be the first to cover up!

Pakistani men should be really concerned by how they are being projected as crude stereotypes and how both the PM and men like Rohail Hyatt are preaching anything but the hallowed teachings of Islam.

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1 Comment

  1. Humayoun April 18, 2021

    Rape is a different issue than modest dressing required by Islam. Both men and women should dress modestly. There is no need to follow the West. Liberate our brains but going bare is not needed.

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