Conflict, Culture and Creation

An Artistic Interpretation of Religious Challenges in South Asia

Women, Islam and the State of Pakistan

Filed under: Uncategorized — alana at 2:31 am on Wednesday, December 9, 2015

female’s fate in pakistan brochure

Having covered much of the histories of conflict and struggle in the South Asian region, there is still one battle being fought of particular interest to me: rights for Muslim women in Pakistan. Admittedly, as a Christian, Caucasian American there were fewer things I could relate to in this course than many others who had a deeper background in the subject than I. But what I could understand was the struggle outlined in Farhat Haq’s piece, Women, Islam and the State of Pakistan, of the trials and tribulations of the women’s movement in the Indian subcontinent, as a woman in general and also as female entering a career in the military where until very recently access for us was very limited and it is still an environment riddled with prejudice and judgment. In Haq’s paper he outlines phases of the efforts of Muslim women from strides toward better education and social reform, to a positive response from the modernist government of Ayub Khan in the 1960s, back to the loss of ground from the attempted “Islamization” in the 1980s by Zia Ul Haq’s government, and finally to speaking up and banding together of urban professional women. (Haq 158) Haq explains how to many western ladies, Muslim females in conservative garb confined more or less to the home represent the: “unchallenged patriarchal systems supported by religious fanaticism.” (Haq 159) And to some Muslim modernists these women are the epitome of fanatics “backwardness”, yet to other fundamentalists the women are symbols of the battle being won against the corrupt West. The variety does not end in opinion, but also in action. With such seemingly positive steps as the Charter of Women’s Rights, the creation of the Women’s Action Forum, and even a female Prime Minister, it is difficult to understand how incidences arising from the ‘Hudud Ordinance’ such as the Safia Bibi case continue to occur.

In all of these accounts, I was wishing I myself could just talk with some of these women, one like Bibi, one from the WAF, maybe one of the urban elite, or even a content, traditional wife…What is it really like to be Muslim woman Pakistan and what are the challenges one faces, and what are the hopes one has for the future? So from my own craving of first hand accounts, I decided to come up with an ideal fictional panel presentation of leading Pakistani women, who would best provide insight on “The Female’s Fate in Pakistan” to Harvard students wanting to know more. I chose three leading women to represent this theme including Malala Yousafzai who I imaged could speak on her efforts to improve education for young girls in the region, followed by Fatima Bhutto, niece of Benazir Bhutto and popular author, who could speak on the intersection of art and activism, and finally the Quranic scholar Riffat Hasan who might explain how a modern interpretation of Islam should afford women more freedoms.

For the artistic aspect of this idea, I designed a brochure highlighting the topic and importance of the event, and the reasons for each woman’s presence on the panel. I include a quote by Malala Yousafzai: “When the hole world is silent, even one voice becomes more powerful…” with the following phrase: “this evening three voices come together to be echoed from Harvard’s halls to all corners of the world.” I truly believe too many people, just as I was before this course, are completely deaf to the true situation of these Muslim women, and that a powerful gathering of voices such as this would help enlighten students and citizens everywhere.

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