We have to protect our women and children

O ye who believe! Ye are forbidden to inherit women against their will. Nor should ye treat them with harshness…on the contrary live with them on a footing of kindness and equity.
Qur’an 4:19

The peaceful religion of Islam came to be known at a time of much oppression against women. Its teachings sought to directly stop the brutal treatment against women that was so common in society. Holy Qur’an, as revealed to the Prophet (peace be upon him), emphasizes again and again the value of women and the respect and love with which all people should treat one another.

The message of the Prophet (pbuh) was to all of humanity. The term “mankind” acknowledges no difference between man or woman.

O mankind: Reverence your Guardian Lord Who created you.
Qur’an 4:1

Islam firmly rejected the common practice of infanticide, and further still encouraged parents to love and nurture their daughters.

When the female (infant) buried alive is questioned for what crime she was killed.
Qur’an 81-89

When news is brought to one of them of (the birth of) a female (child) his face darkens and he is filled with inward grief! With shame does he hide himself from his people because of the bad news he has had! Shall he retain her on (sufferance and) contempt or bury her in the dust? Ah! What an evil (choice) they decide on!
Qur’an 16:58-59

Economically, Islam revolutionized property rights and inheritance by granting women what was owed to them and more. Not only did Islam grant women greater financial opportunity than had ever been known before, but it gave them pretty biased financial security! Along with keeping her inheritance, a married woman did not have to spend a penny on her household – she was to be entitled to all her husband’s earnings in the upkeep of her home. Muslim women were to be guaranteed safety throughout their lives – as daughters, sisters, wives, mothers and yes, even as divorcees.

Marriage, repeatedly described as a beautiful bond between two people, can only take place with the full consent of the bride and the groom. Divorce is allowed as an absolute last resort, but it is permissible in Islam.

And the believers, men and women, are protecting friends one of another; they enjoin the right and forbid the wrong, and they establish worship and they pay the poor-due, and they obey Allah and His messenger.
Qur’an 9:71

So why then have Islamic countries become so morally bankrupt? The same cruel attitudes towards women that Islam worked to eradicate are still in place – in the NAME of Islam. What an ugly twisting of Islam’s message.

Take for example the concept of “Jirga Justice.” In Pakistan, groups of men convene to discuss local issues and problems in an effort to resolve them. Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? The only problem is that these jirgas are perfect examples of the violence and evils done to women in society.

In a recent jirga in Shikarpur, a tribesman accused two men of having improper relations with two of his wives. This tribesman had killed both those wives a month ago, but now wanted punishment for the two men as well. The jirga decided two girls, aged 12, and 9, would be married off into the complainant’s family. Thus, the matter was resolved.

In this scenario, we can see the disgusting disregard for the basic rights of women. It should be noted the jirga expressed no concern for the two women the complainant killed a month ago. There was no declaration of their rights. They had none. As for the two girls, 9-year old Shami would be married to a teenage boy and 12-year old Sadia would marry a man 30 years older than she was.

There is no Islam in a society that uses women as currency. There is no faith in a culture that allows jirgas to order murders and rapes as proper punishment. This reveals a gross disconnect with the Prophet’s message, one he not only preached but also lived. His first wife, (and the first woman to convert to Islam), was the esteemed Khadija. She was an intelligent businesswoman and respected in society. The Prophet’s daughter, Fatima, was beloved to him, and he cared for her just as the Qur’an asks all parents treat their children.

Thus, the practice of using women as currency is not just inhumane it is patently unIslamic. In today’s Islamic Republic of Pakistan, we can see much rioting and anger for the treatment of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui (a woman accused and then tried in a court of law), and complete silence for the millions of women who suffer within its borders.

Are they not “Quam ki Betiya,” or the nation’s daughters?

Perhaps the saddest thing about all of this is that there actually are laws against jirgas. Pakistan’s judicial system has found they usurp the power of the state and are therefore unconstitutional. Such was the ruling of the Sindh Court in 2004.

The struggle against oppression has begun. The courts have done their job and found that rulings that violate human rights are unconstitutional. Now it is up to the people to take legal action and raise awareness of such issues. The conclusion we can draw from this is that only through democracy can we protects the rights of all people. In Pakistan’s short history, the decades of martial law and military dictatorship have allowed governments to tread on the rights of anyone they dislike. In a successful democracy, that cannot be allowed to happen. It is a system of government that gives voice to the voiceless, and like Islam, does not differentiate between male citizens and female citizens. We have come very far in having these laws on the books but the work (evidently) does not end there.

Allowing such treatment to continue is no different than siding with the Taliban, for these are their practices, their perversions of our faith. Eliminating the chaos and killings the Taliban wreak on Pakistanis starts with the simple step of condemning their ideas. In a recent press release, the US State Dept strongly condemned the stoning of a woman in Orakzai, by members of the Pakistani Taliban. She was murdered as a crowd of onlookers watched, as though this was a form of entertainment for the public. In order to put a stop to this, the condemnations must come from within. Pakistanis must realize that the nation, its people’s safety and future depend on taking action now. At such a critical juncture, we must decide what our principles are and how to guard them against barbaric men.

We have to protect our women and children.

In the name of humanity, and in the name of Islam.

As Pakistanis, we should not see a difference between the two.

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