By Nadeem F. Paracha
January 8, 2012
So much is said and written about Islamophobia. It’s a tendency found in some non-Muslims, especially in the West, who question and discriminate against ‘Muslim attire’ and beliefs. But those who speak the loudest against Islamophobia have very little to say about a social illness that is haunting their own societies: religiomania.
I would like to describe it as an unhealthy obsession with religion that is carelessly used to not only inflict bodily harm on those considered to be infidels or ‘bad’ Muslims, but to also use it as an excuse to rob, lie, cheat and attempt to maintain manipulated dominance over those considered religiously flawed and inferior. It is also used to describe one’s own professional, social and political shortcomings as something that is due to the intrigues of those who are against Muslims.
Religiomania also constitutes a myopic fixation to preach; it engulfs many from the generic Maulvis to those belonging to large outfits like the Tableeghi Jamaat and Dawat-i-Islami, the ever-growing number of Islamic televangelists, and all the way to those who just can’t help but roll out numerous emails and text messages on the subject on a daily bases. Growing up in an era in which the whole myth about Islam being in danger has reached a new, unprecedented peak, many Pakistanis’ fixation with religion has at times seen this obsession turn into a rather disruptive allergy.
Even the most educated men and women suddenly become allergic to recognising some obvious truths about what we as a nation and polity have ended up doing in the name of faith and morality. We will wail, moan and whine about Islamophobia in the West, but keep mum over the discrimination and hatred that take place by Muslims against other religions as well as between and within Muslim sects in this country.
This mania has generated a childlike stubbornness in which all avenues of reason and rationality are purposefully blocked. By doing this we are convinced we are dutifully defending our faith, even if this means actually becoming apologists and defenders of the most destructive and inhuman expressions of religious extremism. An extremism of our own making.
Religiomania also includes literally wearing one’s religion loudly and for all to see as if otherwise God won’t be able to judge our religiosity. Take the example of the way many Pakistanis reacted to the niqab ban in France. Some women who use Burqa or Hijab say they feel liberated. In our media we hear their voices loud and clear, but never of the other side who suggests that a woman who observes Hijab/ Burqa/ Niqab may as well be submitting to the historical Arab tribal male-driven tradition of claiming control over women.
Various Muslim women authors and thinkers believe that the observance of veil remains a dictate of Muslim men. They say that the practice is an outcome of laws and social mores constructed over the last many centuries by judges, ulema and lawmakers who were all men. Muslim women who do not use the veil are right to demand that if some of their sisters in France are so agitated by the veil ban, then they should be equally agitated by the act of enforcing women to wear a veil, a Burqa or a chador in countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and some parts of Pakistan. It’s only fair, if this really is a matter of the freedom of expression.
While we busy ourselves in discussing the veil issue in France, bemoaning the discrimination faced by Muslim women there who observe the veil, we conveniently forget that in many Muslim countries, women who believe that modesty is a state of mind and can be demonstrated without veiling are coming under increasing pressure. Much of this pressure, of course, is coming from men.
Yet, unveiled women also face a telling pressure from the ever-increasing numbers of veiled women or from even those who wear hijab. This begs the question: Is it really liberation that a woman feels behind a veil, or is this liberation only about liberating oneself from that awkward thought of ever daring to challenge male-dominated interpretations of a woman’s modesty?
In a male-dominated society driven by religiomania such a question can land a woman in trouble, so many may as well submit to the male idea about morality and explain it away as an expression of faith and identity instead of a cop-out. It’s just a question.
Source: The Dawn, Karachi