India: violent and caste ridden society

Shared by Dr. Syed Ehtisham

EOM: Worth reading article. How much Indian journalists are objective and critical of their environment.

In the land of Kama Sutra —–Our popular culture celebrates violence, but frowns on any expression of love. Marriage is a house-keeping, bonded-labour arrangement. The powerful cultural hegemony of the rich castes and classes has cast its spell on the rest, even the poor and the deprived, who emulate this cultural charade even more seriously. It is an India that has forgotten how to love.

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Lovesick in the time of anti-Romeos

By Padmaja Shaw | The New Indian Express – 24th April 2017

Freud famously said, “In the last resort we must begin to love in order not to fall ill, and we are bound to fall ill if … we are unable to love”. Love is an essential human instinct that keeps us sane. It transcends all artificial categories of caste, class, religion, race or ethnicity.

It is evident from the increasing attacks on young people in love, whether in the name of caste, anti-Romeo squads or love jihad, that we are surrounded by a muscular but sick society that considers love a bad word—a bad emotion. It is incapable of understanding that to love is to realise one’s humanity in its truest sense.9

A loveless sick society destroys the effervescence of a Romeo’s love for his consenting Juliet. Madhukar Manthani of Telangana and V Shankar of Kumaralingam village in TN were brutally killed for being in love with a higher caste girl. Neither were stalkers. Their love was reciprocated.

Our popular culture celebrates violence, but frowns on any expression of love. This was said in the 1960s by the Khosla committee report on film censorship. Nothing much has changed since.

Love was never much of a factor in traditional marriages, primarily because of endogamy and the mandated age difference between men and women. Sex in marriage is to fulfil the duty of procreation, it should not be confused with love.

Many a time, when young brides complain to their families about the coldness of the relationship with their spouse, mothers advice them to get a baby quickly to establish their position in the family.

Of course, mostly nothing changes. The woman just gets busier, with no time to think about the vast emptiness within her soul.

This equation is also the basis of marriages where caste, community and religion are important. The bride must understand her place in family and society. No new indoctrination should be necessary. She should be “homely, well-brought up” to fit into the family from day one, and is not supposed to recognise love if it stares her in the face.

And the ability of the young bride to make food allowed and relished by the community is ensured. The bride is seamlessly integrated into the family. The age difference between men and women insisted upon in arranged marriages is to ensure that women stay fit enough to serve the men in old age.

Marriage is a house-keeping, bonded-labour arrangement. This, in essence, is the root of anxiety about youngsters finding mates of their choice, the anxiety that such independent women may not play their assigned role.

With wives fully occupied with perpetuation of the bloodline, men are free to find their pleasures elsewhere, without attracting any social opprobrium. The devadasis and joginis are an artful exploitation of unattached women with full religious approval under the noses of presiding deities.

In the orthodox mind, this thing called love is a dangerous emotion. It is associated with joy in another being that thrives outside the accepted social relations they are familiar with. So every time it sees a couple happily in love, the orthodox mind rises up in rage as whatever love they themselves experienced in their taboo world is associated with illegitimacy. The well-brought-up girl you are married to is not supposed to know anything about love. In a woman, it reflects an autonomy of spirit that can pose a threat to the male authority.

Killing our own kind for reasons other than threat to one’s very survival goes against species loyalty. But in India, we see incidents of murder and violence perpetrated daily against people of a different faith or caste to “protect the honour of the family”. Humans have exploited colour, language, gods and demeanour to differentiate between groups. In this process of pseudo-speciation, we have created artificial divisions and differentiations that allow us to disrespect basic loyalty to our own species. The caste system is a despicable example of such pseudo-speciation. Humans across races, ethnicities and colour can cohabit and reproduce. Such pseudo-speciation that is socio-culturally manufactured and imposed ensures that people do not break out of the traps of exploitation and discrimination.

The young people of India are emerging out of the stranglehold of these divisions and becoming more human, by the fact that they are able to love someone transcending the social boundaries. It is also a healthy sign that the very ability to love also makes them saner and more empathetic. It allows them to see through the social and political games played by those who want to preserve old structures and orthodoxies that are designed for accumulation of wealth and ensuring the right to its enjoyment through a rigid system of succession within bloodlines. An elaborate cultural charade of family honour and purity of descent is built around it to justify this basic objective. Everyone and everything—women, children, gods, faith, rituals—are subordinate to this overarching purpose. The powerful cultural hegemony of the rich castes and classes has cast its spell on the rest, even the poor and the deprived, who emulate this cultural charade even more seriously.

This is the 21st century India that stakes its claim to global leadership. It is an India that has forgotten how to love. The “anti-Romeo squads” and the “anti-love-jihadists” are coercing the young back into their caste and community, essentially to preserve the upper class/caste hegemony. Only in such fragmented soil can divisive politics thrive. Are we tacitly approving self-righteous vigilante violence, allowing them to destroy love around us by keeping silent? Or are we silent because the vigilantes are the foot soldiers who are ensuring the perpetuation of our little empires without us getting our hands dirty? Is a dead son here and a dead daughter there a small price to pay for a superpower that has taken ill?

(The author is a retired journalism professor, Osmania University. Email: padmajashaw@gmail.com)

 

 

The Atheist Muslim: A Journey from Religion to Reason

The Atheist Muslim: A Journey from Religion to Reason
The Dilemma Facing Ex-Muslims in Trump’s America

“Challenging Islam as a doctrine,”
Ali Rizvi told me, “is very different from demonizing Muslim people.”

Rizvi, a self-identified ex-Muslim, is the author of a new book titled:
The Atheist Muslim: A Journey from Religion to Reason“.

One of the book’s stated aims is to uphold this elementary distinction: “Human beings have rights and are entitled to respect. Ideas, books, and beliefs don’t, and aren’t.”

The problem for Rizvi is that the grain of Western political culture is currently against him. Those in the secular West live in an age when ideas are commonly regarded as “deeds” with the potential to wound. So, on the left, self-critique of Islam is often castigated as critique of Muslims. Meanwhile, the newly elected president of the United States and his inner circle have a tendency to conflate the ideas of radical Islam with the beliefs of the entire Muslim population. So, on the right, the very same self-critique of Islam is used to attack Muslims and legitimize draconian policies against them.

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One possible response to this problem is to back down and stay silent. The Atheist Muslim is a sustained argument for why silence is not an option. I met up with Rizvi in his hometown of Toronto recently to discuss his reasoning.

Rizvi told me he wrote his book to give other ex-Muslims and wavering Muslims a reference point.
He particularly had in mind those atheists, agnostics, and humanists who live in Muslim-majority countries where the act of renouncing one’s faith is punishable by death. Rizvi, who was born in 1975 in Pakistan, where blasphemy carries a potential death sentence, and who lived for more than a decade in Saudi Arabia prior to becoming a permanent resident in Canada in 1999, knows all too well how dangerous public declarations of disbelief can be.

In contrast to other prominent ex-Muslim activists, like the Somali-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali, there is no atrocity, trauma, or turbulence in Rizvi’s narrative. He grew up in a loving and supportive family. His parents are Shia Muslims, but they are “secular and relatively liberal” professors, he said. It wasn’t until his late teens that he began to seriously question his faith. According to Rizvi, when he told his parents about his atheism, “they were fine with it. We had arguments, but I wasn’t going to get disowned.” On the day The Atheist Muslim came out, his mother told him, “Your book will do well, inshallah” (“God willing”). To me, he joked, “If she’d told me that before, I would have put it as a blurb on the cover!”

In Faith No More: Why People Reject Religion, the sociologist Phil Zuckerman makes a distinction between “transformative apostasy” and “mild apostasy.” The former refers to “individuals who were deeply, strongly religious who then went on to reject their religion,” whereas the latter refers to those “who rejected religion but weren’t all that religious in the first place.” Rizvi belongs to the latter category. “I was a nominal believer,” he told me.

One criticism that has been leveled at ex-Muslims is that they are prone to fundamentalism, trading one form of zealotry for another. In Murder in Amsterdam, for example, the Dutch writer and academic Ian Buruma controversially ascribed to Hirsi Ali “hints of zealousness, echoes perhaps of her earlier enthusiasm for the Muslim Brotherhood, before she was converted to the ideals of the European Enlightenment.” This type of psychological observation seems way off in the case of Rizvi, who has a successful career outside of his public role as a former Muslim: He is a medical communications professional and a gifted musician who plays and sings in a rock band. For Rizvi, Islam was never an all-defining identity, and neither is his current ex-Muslim status.

“You can’t sanitize scripture. Fundamentalists have a more honest approach—they’re more consistent.”
In his book, Rizvi describes himself as an “agnostic atheist,” someone who doesn’t believe in God, but who is open to the possibility that he or she may be wrong. He also admits that when he fully abandoned his faith he was initially reluctant to embrace the “atheist” label. “The stereotype of atheists was of strident, aggressive, arrogant know-it-alls. … This is not how I wanted to identify. I was humbled by everything I did not know, and everything I could not know,” he writes. “It was later that I realized atheism is a position of humility, in contrast to theism, which claims to know the truth, and moreover, deems it divine and absolute.”

In Letters to a Young Contrarian, the anti-theist Christopher Hitchens confided that he found “something suspect even in the humblest believer” on account of their “arrogant” assumption that they are “an object of real interest to a Supreme Being” and their claim “to have at least an inkling of what that Supreme Being desires.” Rizvi, who counts “the Hitch” as an intellectual hero, is clearly opposed to this line of critique. He writes about Muslims with great humanity and feeling. He also remains culturally wedded to Islam, celebrating Eid and enjoying the feasts of Ramadan.

Yet he is trenchantly critical of canonical religious texts. “Most Muslims are moderate, but whoever wrote the Quran, that’s not a moderate person,” he said. Rizvi devotes an entire chapter of his book to exposing what he sees as the flagrantly illiberal elements in Quranic scripture. Referring to the chapter on women, Surah An-Nisa, he writes: “It establishes a hierarchy of authority, where men are deemed to be ‘in charge’ of women. It also asks wives to be obedient to their husbands, and allows their husbands—in the most controversial part of the verse—to beat them if they fear disobedience.”

Rizvi condemns this, but he reserves an almost equal contempt for reformist Muslims who, as he sees it, try to rationalize away such verses. He puts the scholar of religion Reza Aslan in this category, taking him to task for his suggestion that interpretations of scripture have “nothing to do with the text…and everything to do with the cultural, nationalistic, ethnic, political prejudices and preconceived notions that the individual brings to the text.” Rizvi is incredulous at the categorical “nothing” in this claim, and echoes the Islamic studies scholar Michael Cook’s observation that religious texts provide “modern adherents with a set of options that do not determine their choices but do constrain them.” He is skeptical, too, of reformist efforts to reinterpret scripture so as to bring Islam into line with liberal values. “You can’t sanitize scripture,” he insisted. “I think fundamentalists have a more honest approach. … They’re more consistent.”

The left’s suggestion that criticism of Islam equals criticism of Muslims is a form of blackmail.
Rizvi is also opposed to any efforts to sanitize Islam as “a religion of peace.” He is particularly critical of any attempt to separate jihadist violence from Islamic scripture, which he believes is one of its main drivers, though not the only driver. This puts him at odds not only with Donald Trump’s currently embattled deputy assistant Sebastian Gorka, who identifies the “martial” passages in Islamic scripture as the overriding cause of jihadist violence, but also with Gorka’s liberal critics who deny or minimize any such causal link.

The main bête noire of The Atheist Muslim is not the Islamic fundamentalists who would like to see Rizvi’s head on a spike, but the “regressive left,” who, in Rizvi’s view, are the former’s preeminent apologists, and who seek to silence voices like his own. For Rizvi, their suggestion that criticism of Islam equals criticism of Muslims is a form of blackmail, disseminated to shut down any forthright critical engagement with the religion.

 

Posted by nSalik

Religions: Female virginity & fidelity

Shared by Dr. Syed Ehtisham

Posted by nSalik

(Not sure of the claimed paternity, on the Day of Judgment, Allah will call every one with their mother’s name).
Mernissi compares and analyzes the philosophy of two early Muslim scholars Imam Ghazali and Qasim Amin and two non-Muslim scholars Freud and Murdoch, “In societies in which seclusion of women prevails, the implicit concept of female sexuality is active, in societies when this is not so, the concept of female sexuality is passive”. 51.
Uncontrolled female sexuality is thought to create fitna (public evil) in Muslim society and imbalance in the family is called nushuz (private rebellion). Mernissi opines that the entire Muslim social structure can be seen as an attack on and a defense against the disruptive power of female sexuality. 52.
The socio-religious context in both non-Muslim West and Muslim Afro-Asia led to control and curb of females in a similar manner. As a result women became a commodity.
There is a direct connection between the charges against immoral and defiant women and the list of religious commands and social devices to control women’s bodies and sexuality. This environment existed in non-Muslim countries till less than a hundred years ago. St Paul emphasized veiling and proper dress for women. In St Augustine’s (413 AD) account woman is a) temptress and instrument of devil b) wife an instrument of her husband c) mother an instrument of God’s creativity. 53.
In the 3rd century AD, Christianity encouraged a more flexible approach and discussed the possibility of marriage between slaves and their mistresses. The trend actually decreased the gulf between masters and slaves.
Driven by changes of mode of production from feudal-agrarian to mercantile-capital industrial, shape and nature of societal superstructures also changed extensively. Slaves, serfs and women were de-propertied and definitions of honor-shame changed in equal degree. Women started working in factories and offices. Employment of both sexes in labor cracked and weakened the wall of public and private exclusivity in economic activity. That paved the way to eliminate physical segregation, veiling and dress codes and resulted in social intermixing. Enlightenment which brought liberalism, capitalism, individualism and democracy, resulted in the birth of feminist movement. Consequently women gained rights.
Because both husband and wife were working, husbands became less obsessive about transfer of property to legitimate children. Father and brothers could no longer decide who the women would marry. To love and marry whoever he/she wanted, was recognized as an individual right. The loss of Church authority over the state affairs and personal life, and recognition of women’s rights brought changes in the institution of marriage and family. Female sexuality was de-virginized.
Societal acceptance of co-habitation brought major changes in status of out of wedlock children. Wife’s adultery is considered a breach of contract and a legal remedy offered to impassioned husbands. De-stigmatization of female divorcee led to much lower incidence of honor-shame killing in the West.
In Islam (7th century AD), there were almost no restrictions on marriage between slaves and masters, only women could not marry non-Muslim men. Islam never condemned or rejected love as a basis of marriage, but in the West romantic love is recognized as the only basis for marriage, whereas Muslim elders are strongly hostile to the idea.
In the past, Christian attitudes strictly required a girl to be virgin at marriage as it is still with most Muslim communities. The concept of stoning women to death for adultery was very much present in early Judaic and Christian writings as prescribed by Islam (Rajam) in 7th century AD. 54. Christian misogynistic attitude persisted till almost mid-19th century.
Changing global economic and political realities have caused Muslim elite and power brokers to react more conservatively and have enacted more misogynist legislation in the last three decades. A girl or a woman is always blamed and punished for a shameful act by her family. They are also expected to punish the relevant male of another family. No males are to be killed by their own family
The two centuries of British colonization had an extremely adverse impact on gender relations among the Muslims. Women were harmed equally by colonial legislation and by male Muslim elite in public sphere and family members in private lives.
Muslim masculinity had been defeated in political arena. It could only assert itself in private arena of the family. The public sphere was considered dangerous for Muslim women due to presence of foreign men. A veiled and voiceless woman was considered a good Muslim woman.
It is strikingly similar to the attitude prevalent in Abbasid times, where due to thriving business of female slaves, Harems were built to protect upper-middle class women and streets were considered unsafe for them.
Another reason for control of female sexuality was the rise of agricultural economy and growth of landed property. Muslim women’s right to inheritance could reduce landed assets. One response was to get the widow to marry a brother of the deceased. Another response was the development of Kafa’a (socio-economic compatibility); consequently women lost the right to marry according to their choice, a right Islam had guaranteed. 55.
Kafa’a traveled to India, so that men could force women to divorce husbands they marry in civil courts. Fictional, religious and educational literature of 19th and the first half of 20th century is full of attempts by male writers and religious scholars to construct a subservient, docile and socially invisible femininity.
In the 20th century, Islam was used as a tool for construction of a Muslim identity and deconstruction of secular-Hindu identity.
The situation did not change much for women in independent Pakistan. It became more difficult in the nineteen eighties, when the state took over protection of inner family sanctum under Zia version of Islam.
Social conditioning and not state initiative, was the more pronounced factor shaping attitudes towards women. Public platform remained the preserve of women of eminent personalities. 56.
Despite cultural, linguistic and ethnic diversity, patterns of agriculture based tribal-feudal-clan and kinship networks are strikingly similar. The rate of honor crimes is shockingly higher in all the provinces in such areas, where as they are almost non-existent in urban centers.
Daughters of rural elite, educated or otherwise or of peasants can all face dire consequences if they try to assert their marital rights. Similarly wives of elites and their peasants in all four provinces are likely to be coerced or killed at the slightest suspicion of immorality, while they have no right to question their husband’s loose morals.
When they move to urban centers, the elite to palatial houses in posh areas, and peasants to shanty towns, their public lives change but power relations in the family remain the same.
Education of girls has become an economic necessity. Electronic media and multi-national corporations have loosened the hold of traditions. Girls think in terms of Hollywood and (Bollywood) film stars, get frustrated and elope. Divorce and suicide rate have also gone up due to the wide chasm between dreams and reality.

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Public perception and media coverage of honor crimes:
Folk literature is replete with stories of romances of famous couples like Heer-Ranjha, Laila-Majnoon and Sohni-Mahival. 57. In these stories girls were bold and defiant and leave a mark on young people. But they all end up in tragedy.
A Young man who sees himself as a Ranjha and expects his beloved to be rebellious like Heer cannot, however, tolerate his own sister playing the role. These dichotomous social attitudes have given rise to social conflicts and the result has been coercion of female sexuality.
In Pakistan in 1985, a commission of inquiry into Women’s problem was established under Begum Zari Sarfraz, a well-known social worker from NWFP. The report was shelved. 58. After Zia died, it was published during the first tenure of Benazir as prime minister. The findings were shocking, but after some discussion it was shelved again because Benazir was sacked by the President.
Under the second Benazir government, another commission was formed which reported in 1995. The report did not use the term Honor, nor did it address the issue of Honor related crimes. It stated that the average rural woman of Pakistan is born in near slavery, leads a life of drudgery and dies in oblivion.
Karo-kari is believed to have arrived in Baluchistan and NWFP with Muslim invaders from central Asia. A 1997 commission of inquiry noted that the practice was more virulent in upper Sindh though it was prevalent in the Punjab and Baluchistan and KP as well. 59.
In January 2000 BBC reported that in 1999, 364 women were killed in Sindh and 800 in the Punjab. 60.
Human Rights Commission of Pakistan estimated that in 2000, Karo-kari killings in Sindh were 1410 and had been rising, 432 in 1993 to 886 in 1999. 61.
April 12, 2011. ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: A total number of 11,789 cases of violence against women have been registered in the country since January 2009. According to the available data from Ministry of Interior: 8433 cases in Punjab, 680 cases in Sindh, 1656 cases in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 333 cases in Baluchistan, 272 cases in Islamabad Capital Territory, 362 cases in Azad Jammu & Kashmir and 62 cases in Gilgit and Baltistan have been recorded since 2009. 62.
In February 1998, Karachi was paralyzed by a strike called by the Pakhton Jirga, which demanded that a young man from a different ethnic group who had married a girl be arrested for kidnapping. 63. During a court hearing the girl stated that she had married the man willingly. Both were attacked, the boy was paralyzed and the couple had to take shelter in a Scandinavian country.
Tribal affiliation is stronger than religious affiliation. All tribes, clans, ethnic groups and social classes are very hostile to the idea of romantic love.
Honor related violence also occurs among Muslim expatriates in Europe and North America as well .64.
HR advocates harassed:
Mansoor Baloch a journalist from Sukkur, Sindh was attacked and his office burnt for reporting that a girl was going to be killed by her father and brothers. 65.
Prominent lawyers and activists like Asma Jahangir and Hina Jilani are threatened frequently (Asma was beaten up by the police in an HR rally). 65a. Samia Sarwar seeking divorce from her husband was murdered in Asma Jahangir’s office on April 6/1999 in the presence of the lawyer and her own mother. 66.
Religious extremists threaten HR activists. Maulana Chitrali wanted all women’s shelters including the one run by Asma closed down calling them centers of prostitution. 67.
On April 9, 1999 Daily news reported that hundreds of Taliban led by leaders of JUI (an Islamist party) chanted slogans in a rally that Asma was an infidel serving Zionist interests, should be arrested and hanged. 68.
A Sindhi journalist, Shahid Soomro was killed on 22 October 2002 for exposing honor related crimes in Kandhkot, Sindh. 69.
Humaira Khokhar had survived three attempts of murder by her father and brothers for marrying against their will. In 1999 she appeared in court in an armed police vehicle. 70.
Shelters in the West have victims of spousal abuse. In Pakistan more than 70% are daughters and sisters.
Economic survival and financial problems are forcing a change in gender perceptions in Pakistan, but not when women challenge socio-religious patriarchal power. There is discrepancy in the public sphere and the private one leading to increased tension.
Honor related murders are rare in rural upper class where women are strictly controlled. When there is no knowledge of another way of life, there is no comparison and there is no dissatisfaction or resistance.
In Pakistan, many young women remain unmarried as they cannot find a suitable male in their own socio-economic group. Mernissi argues that economic pressures are causing sexual segregation, one of the main pillars of Islam’s social control over sexuality to break down. 71.
Politico-religious groups consider public expression of love as Western influence. Though commercial interests have cashed in Valentine’s Day celebration, all orthodox religious groups have reacted strongly. Jamaat e Islami and other religious groups have got into the act and for fear of breakdown of law and order public co-educational institutions barred the students from celebrating it. 72.
In India, RSS and Shiv Sena went on a rampage in 2001 and looted gift shops. In Vanarsi, they cut off the hair of celebrants and in Kanpur they burnt the effigy of St Valentine. 73.
Killers chase transgressing couples across borders to Europe and the USA. In April 2002, an uncle of a girl was convicted in N.Y of killing his niece for $60,000.00 from her father. 74.
Caste plays a bloody role too. On 8/9/2001, the newspaper Indian Express, reported that two lovers were hanged by their own families. 75. The execution was approved by the village community and the government had to deploy paramilitary troops at the time of arrest of murderers.
In Pakistan a village woman, Mukhtaran Mai was gang raped in a hut surrounded by the villagers on the orders of the village council. Her younger brother had spurned the advances of the village chief. 76.
Police often coerce girls to say that they were not abducted. Many murders are reported as suicide.
Urbanization, education and change of locality do not affect any change in attitudes. If couples have civil marriage, they risk trial under Hudood ordinance. 77. At times marriage without Wali’s (father/guardian) consent has been found illegal by courts, even though law allows such marriage between a boy over 18 and a girl over 16. In a recent article, a British Muslim girl reported that the Sharia council in Britain had decided that consent of a Wali was not essential and a woman could serve as witness in the marriage ceremony. The Imam of the most important mosque in London, the one in the Regent Street, refused to honor it. 78

Among the Believers

EOM TFUSA    Worth watching! Please watch it. You might learn something important.

Shared by M. Shahid Yousuf

Dear All,

Some idea of the muck created by MUC can be obtained by watching “Among the Believers”
http://www.amongthebelieversfilm.com/
The above is just a website but if you have Netflix you would be able to get some context if you are not living in Pakistan or have not lived in Pakistan since the
Afghan-Soviet war.

M. Shahid Yousuf