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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 13 Oct 2012, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Pak’s Inheritance and Women’s Loss


By Farrukh Dhondy

Oct 13, 2012

The Taliban declared that Malala’s support for schooling of girls was ‘a new chapter of obscenity & we have to finish this chapter’

“Being beyond good and evil

Is not to deny their


From Bachcheylog Khamosh! by Bachchoo

The Taliban have climbed to new heights of heroism. On October 9, they shot 14-year-old Malala Yousufzai in the town of Mingora in Swat Valley in northern Pakistan. Malala was on her way home in a school bus when the would-be assassin shot her in the head and neck and wounded another girl.

The children were flown by helicopter to a hospital in Peshawar and to date are slowly improving.

Malala had offended the Talibs who want the education of girls banned. The control of the territory of Swat was for a time in 2008-09 handed over to the insurgent Taliban because the government of Pakistan in Islamabad pragmatically recognised that its writ didn’t run in that territory and that the insurgency had forced its own laws and will upon Mingora and Swat. It was during this interregnum that the Talibs closed girls’ schools and declared the institutional education of women to be “anti-Islamic”.

Malala’s class had at the time over 34 girl pupils aged 11. The Taliban’s fiat scared most of the families of these pupils and they stopped their girls from going to school leaving Malala with 10 classmates. They abandoned school uniform, fearing reprisals from Talib supporters.

Malala, even at 11, with the encouragement of her family, began writing a blog for a BBC website against the barbarity and impositions of the Talibs.

It took these valiants three years to identify her and now with their characteristic brand of heroism they’ve attempted to silence the child by killing her — and bungled even that. The Taliban are no longer in official charge of Swat. Late in 2009 Islamabad realised that ceding control of Swat to them was the thin end of a very hard wedge which could be driven downwards from Khyber to Karachi. The government sent in the Army (or, as happens in Pakistan, the Army sent itself in and informed the government when it was good and ready) and reasserted the authority of the Pakistani state.

The Talibs, without any hint of shame, claimed responsibility for the attempted murder. Their spokesman, Ahsanullah Ahsan, declared that Malala’s support for schooling of girls was “a new chapter of obscenity, and we have to finish this chapter”.

The Pakistan government and indeed the entire body politic of Pakistan are opposed to this Talibanic interpretation of the laws and traditions of Islam. Benazir Bhutto was arguably the country’s best-loved Prime Minister and the voters were presumably aware that she was educated at Oxford — for what that’s worth.

Pakistan’s present foreign minister is Hina Rabbani Khar and their ambassador to Washington is Sherry Rehman. No doubt the Talibs are opposed to such appointments and probably quote chapter and verse to contend that Ms Khar and Ms Rehman should restrict themselves to cooking, knitting and being subservient in bed.

Apart from these high-flyers, Pakistan, like India has inherited, in historical terms, the recently-established tradition of educating women into all professions and responsibilities. There are women doctors, lawyers, corporate heads, politicians and big players in every game.

India though, has not even in its most primitively-minded Islamic groupuscule, propagated the idea of closing down girls’ schools. It will be immediately apparent, and most Indian women I know will add, that there are other forms of deprivation and discrimination.

True. And one may add that throughout the subcontinent the openness to women’s education is only a few generations deep.

My mother went to school, of course, a good Parsi school with English Raj-era teachers in Pune. When she finished school she and a few of her friends wanted to go to college and do a degree.

My grandfather, Khan Bahadur A.H. Antia, as the modest board on our rickety gate proudly declared him to be, said “no”. Girls didn’t go to college; school was the limit. The English headmistress, a patron of my mother, came in her carriage to the great consternation of our Parsi neighbourhood to plead with my grandfather to change his mind. She prevailed. The blandishments of the white woman worked.

My mother duly enlisted in Poona’s Deccan College for the opening term to do a BA course. At the time there was only one other Parsi girl, Jeroo Dastur, whose progressive parents had allowed her to go to these co-education colleges.

In the holidays before the fresh year began, Dastur eloped with her Muslim lover, a Mr Dehlvi. The Parsi community was scandalised.

If this is what good girls got up to as a result of this so-called college education, my grandfather argued, then he would have none of it for his daughter. My mother’s enrolment in the college, despite desperate pleading and promises of exemplary behaviour, was withdrawn. Hers was to be a future of perfecting her cooking, child-minding, sewing and other house-keeping skills with a view to an arranged marriage when a suitable match could be found.

My late mother recollected to us her despair and restlessness. The family and her ex-teachers brought pressure upon my grandfather to at least concede that she should go to teacher-training college where the boys were separate from the girls. He was persuaded and she went.

The rest of the story, not in the least scandalous, was that my mother joined the Poona Intercollegiate Zoroastrian Society and met my future father who was at Poona Engineering College.

They formed a relationship throughout which (we were told), in the immortal words of my grandmother who spoke no English apart from a few words, my mother remained “inno-sent and igno-rent”.

After graduating my future father went back to his family in Bombay, got a job, established his earning potential, got a commission in the British Indian Army and with the connivance of a female relative introduced the idea of an arranged marriage to a suitable girl in Pune of whom the aunt had heard. And so it came to pass…