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In the Realm of Religion, Women Lose Out

Discussion in 'Interfaith Dialogues' started by spnadmin, Jan 12, 2011.

  1. spnadmin

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    The Female Factor
    In Realm of Religion, Women Lose Out

    By NILANJANA S. ROY
    Published: January 11, 2011


    NEW DELHI — In the week before a prominent Pakistani politician was assassinated for questioning the country’s blasphemy laws, a news report from Erbil in northern Iraq underlined how laws of this nature can be used against women.

    Thirteen Iraqi Kurdish women’s rights activists were accused by a prominent Muslim cleric of “blasphemy and demoralizing Kurdish society,” because of their work in promoting gender equality.

    The women have filed a police case and reportedly fear for their lives. An accusation of blasphemy is not to be taken lightly, as Aasia Bibi knows.

    For the past year, the name of this Christian woman, a laborer and mother of five children, has become synonymous with Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. In June 2008, Ms. Bibi had an altercation with other female laborers, all of them Muslim. The exchange began after Ms. Bibi fetched water, and some of the women refused to drink it because she was Christian. This led to heated talk on the subject of Christianity and Islam.

    The exact words that led to Ms. Bibi’s prosecution under sections 295-B and C of the Pakistan Penal Code have not been disclosed. Since this was an accusation of blasphemy, to repeat the words would be to perpetuate blasphemy. But they were apparently enough to make her the first woman to be sentenced to death under this law.

    Ms. Bibi is still in prison. Early last year, newspapers and human rights advocates said that she had been paraded in the streets and gang-raped in Nankana Sahib, a district in Punjab Province.

    Last week, the blasphemy laws claimed a prominent victim. The governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, was assassinated by one of his bodyguards. Mr. Taseer’s assassin was showered with rose petals by crowds who approved of his act. Mr. Taseer had drawn much criticism in Pakistan for his defense of Ms. Bibi and his demand for changes to the blasphemy law.

    At prayers last Friday, witnesses were quoted in newspapers as saying that the imam of the Sultan Masjid mosque in Karachi denounced another outspoken critic of the blasphemy laws, Sherry Rehman, a journalist and former minister of information and broadcasting, who has also called for revisions to the blasphemy law. According to the reports, the imam called Ms. Rehman a “kaafir” — an infidel — and “wajib-ul-qatl” — fit to be killed — in the course of his sermon.

    The Pakistani novelist Kamila Shamsie notes blasphemy is considered unacceptable regardless of the gender of the accused. But the prohibition is part of a larger web of laws and practices that have served to restrict women’s rights.

    “It was only a very few years ago that the Hudood Ordinance — among the most misogynistic laws ever made — were de-fanged, though it was impossible to overturn them because the right threw up such a stink,” she wrote in an e-mail, referring to the 1979 statute in Pakistan intended to reinforce Shariah law that led to many women who brought accusations of rape being prosecuted for extramarital sex. The 2006 Women’s Protection Bill transferred rape to the civil code. “A rise in power of the religious right invariably sees a decline in women’s rights.”

    “What has become very clear these last few days,” she added, “is that if anyone invokes ‘Islam’ as reason for any action there are very few people willing to argue the point — even those who disagree are often silenced through fear. This is more true than ever in the aftermath of the Taseer assassination (or rather, the lionizing of his assassin). So those who invoke Islamic law as reason to keep women oppressed will be further emboldened.”

    For Asian women, the consequences of questioning or speaking out against faith can be particularly sharp. In the early 1990s, the Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen’s novel “Lajja” was banned, and she was forced into exile for her apparently blasphemous call for revisions to the Koran. Women’s rights groups in Bangladesh noted that the attacks on Ms. Nasreen by Islamic fundamentalists happened against a backdrop of rising intolerance and an increase in honor crimes against women, including the caning and stoning of women who were seen to have transgressed Shariah law.

    In Britain, performances of “Behzti,” a play by Gurpreet Bhatti set in a gudwara, or Sikh temple, that explored sexual violence within the British Sikh community were shut down shortly after its opening in 2004. The play was not performed until 2010, six years after Ms. Bhatti had received abduction and death threats from other Sikhs.

    “Religion is assumed to be the domain of men, and women do not have much role in it,” the Indian feminist writer and publisher Urvashi Butalia said in an interview.

    “But women generally do not have the right to question religion — this is something men hold on to tightly, and it’s not only in Islam. Look at all those so-called honor killings in India — all of them under the guise of religious sanction and tradition.”

    This is the context against which Aasia Bibi’s case should be understood.

    Pakistan’s blasphemy laws have been used to persecute ethnic and religious minorities and to shut down free speech in general. But, as Ms. Butalia noted, there is a difference even here for women like Ms. Bibi and now Ms. Rehman.

    “While the threat of death or excommunication hangs over all of those who dare to question religion, men or women, as in Taslima’s case, or Aasia’s case, or indeed Rushdie’s case,” she said, referring to the British writer Salman Rushdie, whose novel “The Satanic Verses” drew death threats, “for women there is also the additional threat of sexual violence, and, while they remain alive, sexual stigma and targeting.”

    “If Aasia was let off, she would have to live all her life with the tag of ‘bad’ or ‘blasphemous’ woman,” she said. “The threat of rape — the traditional weapon of humiliation — is very real indeed.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/12/world/asia/12iht-letter12.html
     

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  3. Ambarsaria

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    Isn't there a common base of punishment similar in many religions including Sikhism where ex-communication is allowed (male and female)?

    It appears people in the name of Islam just do not stop there and somehow other animalistic practices or behaviors undertaken in the name of Islam show up as in "Physical Punishment ... including lashing, stoning, dismemberment of specific body parts, raping, death".

    Now the following is very disturbing indeed if true,

    According to the reports, the imam called Ms. Rehman a “kaafir” — an infidel — and “wajib-ul-qatl” — fit to be killed — in the course of his sermon.
    The reason being that every non-muslim is “kaafir” — an infidel in I slamic view as much as I know.

    Just thinking aloud and will stand corrected as appropriate.

    Sat Sri Akal.
     
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  4. findingmyway

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    Just wanted to clarify about this issue as it has been presented wrong. The controversy was not about the fact sexual violence was being depicted but it was the way it was done. The playwright consulted the Sikh community and they asked her to stage the rape outside of the darbar hall so it wasn't happening in front of Guru Granth Sahib ji. She completely ignored this and staged the play in the original format. The community were angry that she asked advice then ridiculed that advice rather than compromising.
     
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  5. spnadmin

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    findingmyway ji


    Thanks for your information. I am left with 2 questions. Is there any truth to her account of abduction threats and death threats? Did she chose the setting for the rape to make a larger point? It seems only yesterday we have read of a granthi watching porn on a cell phone while reading from Guru Granth Sahib, or of sexual misconduct by babas and granthis within a gurdwara complex. Was her message along the lines of : This is more than a rape of a woman, but a rape of Sikhi itself.
     
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  6. Ishna

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    I hate rape/sexual violence against women. I get psychotically angry. Anyone who does it needs to be punished in ways I can't describe here.
     
  7. kds1980

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    The entire article is full of example's from islam yet she choose's to say that it is not only islam because according to Liberal law you cannot blame only islam ,if you do this you considered as aligned with some Right Wing organisation but if you blame all Religions then you are progressive

    She herself is Hindu and may be she has questioned many things against Hinduism,is she living in any threat? Also consequence for speaking or questioning against Faith is also sharp on men too Many Sikh men are disowned by their families for cutting their hair
     
  8. findingmyway

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    Spnadmin ji,
    This case took place a few years ago in another city so I'm trying to remember the news stories! There was violence outside the theatre when the community found out advice was sought then disregarded without explanation. (I do not condone the violence btw). Death threats? I don't know. She got hate mail. Could have received death threats in that as there are a few militant and extremist factions in that area.

    As for the symbolism, the author admitted she was not a practicing Sikh or interested but used the setting as that is what she knows from her childhood. She wanted to display hypocrisy of religion in general and not rape of Sikhi. The issues raised at the time were not the subject matter but the fact she was depicting the events in the darbar hall rather than another room.

    The reason I bring this up is not because I condone what happened but because the issue is taken out of context. To compare it to the suppression of women by Islam is unfair. From what I understand, if she had moved the place where rape took place, the play would not have attracted controversy. Otherwise the starter article was well written and brought up some good points.
    Jasleen
     
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  9. spnadmin

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    kds1980 ji

    What do you mean by "Liberal law?" I never heard of it and explanation would help.
     
  10. kds1980

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    Leftist liberal all over the world follow some unwritten laws and one of them is not say anything against islam directly as it will make you aligned to Right wing or islamophobic
    .They attack Religions with taking examples from islam but still say all religion are bad because writing anything directly against islam is against their unwritten laws.
     
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  11. spnadmin

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    Thanks for your explanation. Well the author Nilanjana Roy doesn't seem to have that problem. She is taking examples from Islam, and reporting I count 14 or 15 negatives directly, in the first 2/3 's of the article. She also mentions, I count, 4 examples where Muslims are trying to make changes within their own religion, and are greeted by threats themselves. Then, in the remaining part of the article, she moves on to look at a broad picture involving South Asian women in general, where her perception is that woman have less than an equal voice in religion, if they have any voice at all.

    Just out of curiosity...What are your perceptions of advances South Asian women have made in the Hindu faith and Sikhi? Some contrasts and comparisons would make for balanced and good dialog.
     
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  12. kds1980

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    The name of article itself reflect that she is suffering from same problem.Like others She chooses to give the article name that in REALM OF RELIGIoN ,not in REALM OF ISLAM,.She also chooses very shallow example of Gurpreet bhatti's play and threats given to her as voilence against women while the fact is Gurpreet bhatti is just a director and her play offend sikhs where she has shown rape in Gurdwara .Now some other sikh man make a play and show ammunition stored by the side of Guru granth Sahib then He will also receive threats From some sikhs.In the Hindi Film Love aaj kal it was shown that Hero is just looking at a girl in Gurdwara whom he love's and sikh community even objected to that .
    There is no need to make every issue as gender issue.

    Are there now many Amma's ,sadhvi's Guru maa's in Hinduism who directly preach to their followers.Infact in hinduism women are also becoming radical too .Uma Bharti one of the person leading attack on babri masjid,Sadhvi Pragya responsible for some blast in masjid

    In Sikhism I admit that there are not much women on board apart from like's of Jagir kaur ,but on the other hand condition of Sikhism itself is in Total mess so can't say that Whether It is women that are not interested in Joining management or their is lock of interest by women themselves
     
  13. spnadmin

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    kds ji

    That is a very interesting observation overall.

    I do not agree that the author is using "religion" to be politically correct, and therefore avoiding criticism of Islam. Any article can only be so long. What she has mentioned, true, is the tip of the iceberg as far as the humiliation of women. All we have to do is stay on top of the news. She makes her point.

    Women in Christian religions, in Judaism, yes, they have been empowered. But the picture is patchy. There are also many examples of how these women are subjugated in their religions today. So I do not think one can pick the cherries out of the fruit bowl and say - But these fruit are so sweet - and ignore that the apples that are full of worms. Likewise then when we take a look at the ammas of Hinduism. They are not necessarily representative of what is happening across the board. Sometimes these women abuse other women emotionally. Consider the life sketch of Anandamayi Ma.

    Women who are empowered in many religions, East and West, are the exceptions, and the exceptions prove the rule. If the typical case was one of an empowered women, the ones who are outstanding would not stand out at all.
     
  14. kds1980

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    She is not avoiding criticism of Islam but Out of fear of being islamophobic She is painting all Religions with same brush which in my opinion is totally baseless.Just want to give you another example,Parsi's in India are very much dominating in Indian industry and their women too hold very high posts in companies.It is because of their ancestors who did not embrace islam they are enjoying total freedom O/W their condition would have been like Iranian or Pakistani women had their ancestors embraced islam so some credit should be given to Parsi Religion

    This question should also be put in the court of women that how much they are interested in Participation of activities of Religion? By participation I don't mean only in the events i mean in decision making.Majority of feminist always see Religion as some force of evil and another tool of men to oppress women.The poll about Religion as force of good you have posted shows that sweden which is one of the most feminised country is at the bottom.If the women on large scale had shown same interest in Religion as they have shown in education,career,politics then may be there share in Religions decision making could have been different in different Religions
     
  15. spnadmin

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    Why does it always sound as if women are a bunch of losers?
    Not only that - but on the one hand you are saying that women have power. The next time around you are saying that they have shown no interest in power politics and therefore they have backed out of the game. What is your point?
     
  16. findingmyway

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    This is an excellent question.

    In Sikhism women are supposed to have equality but the shackles of culture still exist in many ways. However, the situation is not even close to as bad as in Islam where the males fall back on religious law.

    Many women have tried and been pushed out on some pretext or anotther. Few have succeeded. Saying feminists don't believe in religion is rather a sweeping statement! The fact remains that a lot of religious institutions remain male dominated and endeavour to keep it that way. Women from cultural backgrounds do not have the same social support that men in these cultures have making it harder for them to come forward. Particularly in Indian culture, a woman's reputation is more delicate so the woman has to be more careful about where and how she presents herself. Women also tend to have more responsibility in the family setting leaving less time for other things. Interest is there, opportunities are not.

    In Sikhism I believe it's completely a religion vs culture debate.
     
  17. kds1980

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    SPnadmin ji

    Nowhere I said women are bunch of losers,it is upto people how they interpret my post.

    My point in this thread from very post was that the author is unneccessary targeting all religions while picking example's only from islam and that too from pakistan
     
  18. spnadmin

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    There is something called " creating an analogy," where one uses examples to explain a point - a core idea or a central thesis - and then evaluates different examples to show how the core idea or central thesis is found in other situations, is more generalized, more widespread.
     
  19. kds1980

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    Many of the feminist idea's are in direct conflict with Religions like most feminist are pro choice ,but majority of Religion believe that abortion is wrong ,similarly the concept of pati parmeshwar of hinduism is very difficult for feminist to digest .so in order to hold a position in Religious institution a feminist need to change her views or The religion change need to change its stance which is nearly impossible as some REligions believe that their commands are direct from god.

    40-50 years back many things were male dominated yet women entered most of them now the big question is why only Religious instituitions were left behind?
     
  20. findingmyway

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    Pati parmeshwar is NOT a Sikh concept so why should it be followed? When women and men are equal are then patni is just as much parmeshwar. This is exactly the kind of attitude the article is pointing out that is holding women back. Many men are also pro choice. Many religious feminists are against abortion. You cannot generalise. The world is very diverse so it is not beneficial to anyone to keep trying to put people in limited boxes. Many women who are not feminists and those that are just want equality as far as biologically possible. The line between feminist and non-feminist is fading.

    Outside religion women have had the legal system to support them. If a workplace discriminates against them they can sue. That support system is not available in religion. Things are changing but slowly-many Christian churches now have female priests for example. In India culture the husband will often not support the wife due to ego and therefore women do not have the same support to progress within religious organisations.
     
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  21. Gyani Jarnail Singh

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    RAPE is usually NOT SELF INFLICTED.....as Cutting off ones own KESH IS. I Fail to see the similarity here. Those SIKH MEN who visit the Barber and then get disowned by their families...DID IT ALL BY THEMSELVES..for sure the "Barber" didnt waylay them, drag them to his shop and cut their kesh off !! in Fact they PAID the Barber handsomely and most probabaly admired their new "BOOTHEE" in the Barber's mirror before exiting his shop and strutting away like peacocks.....and NEVER lodged any POLICE REPORT ???
    Frankly this is like comparing ???? a ROBBERY at GUNPOINT with what happens at the Income tax office !!! LOL....:interestedsingh::interestedsingh::interestedsingh::interestedsingh::interestedsingh:
     
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