The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) is reporting on a particularly disturbing string of events throughout Pakistan that neither the Pakistani government nor the international community seem in a hurry to condemn.Not content with terrorizing women with the threat of honor killings, it seems, a Pakistani cleric in the Baluchistan province has issued a fatwa declaring that any woman using a cell phone can justifiably be attacked with acid, while former Pakistani lawmaker and prominent cleric Maulana Abdul Haleem announced that secular women working with NGO’s can be captured and forcibly “married” to local men if they dare work on women’s education, health, or welfare projects in the district of Kohistan.
Whether the women would be trapped there indefinitely in the conventional meaning of “marriage,“ or if it would be a ”temporary marriage” that sometimes enables affairs, prostitution, or worse, is unclear.
And according to MEMRI, Maulana Abdul Haleem is not just any cleric and former lawmaker.
“A member of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) party, [he] is known to have nurtured a generation of Islamic clerics in Pakistan. In 2002 he was elected a Member of the National Assembly, the lower house of the parliament, from the platform of Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), an alliance of religious-political parties cobbled together at the behest of then-Pakistani military ruler General Pervez Musharraf.”
The cleric’s other accomplishments, according to a Pakistani daily, include declaring poppy cultivation in Kohistan to be “in accordance with Islam.”
But despite the obvious danger they invite by speaking out, two women in particular are fighting– even ridiculing– the new declarations.
Fouzia Saeed wrote in an article: “Who will tell the ‘fatwa guys’ that they are nearly an extinct species? Who will tell these men that they need to wake up to 2012… Perhaps they should be kept in a museum with the caption: ‘we used to have people like this who thought work for women was ’un-Islamic,‘ but marrying them by force was ’Islamic.’ Idiots who thought talking on a cell phone was ‘un-Islamic,‘ but throwing acid in women’s faces was ‘Islamic’!”
Another woman, Tazeen Javed, wrote: “[We] are teeming millions of people who cannot feed themselves, have limited access to energy, and will be dumber and weaker in the future because of the stunted mental and physical growth of our children due to the lack of education. At such a juncture in history, amongst us are individuals who issue fatwas and promote misogyny and obscurantism against hygiene, education, health, and progress.”
She continued: “In short, a former legislator issues fatwas during a Friday sermon inciting hatred against [NGO workers] and declaring the constitutional rights of getting an education for half of the population forbidden and no one, barring a few bloggers and tweeters, raises even an eyebrow.”
Photo: Fouzia Saeed (Wiki Commons)