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Saturday, September 19, 2020
Pakistan Press on Patriarchy, Indian Immigrants and Middle East: New Age Islam's Selection, 19 September 2020
By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
19 September 2020
• Time to End the Patriarchy
By Dr. Syed Amir
•Indian Immigrants Are A Success Story
By Dr. Syed Amir
•No More A Pariah
Time To End The Patriarchy
By Dr. Syed Amir
September 19, 2020
The country has exploded with anger over a crime so heinous, so barbaric, that it is difficult to capsule the emotions in words. Regrettably, the crime is not the first. Horrifically, it may not be the last.
With mounting embarrassment over the incident as well as the incompetence and callousness of concerned authorities, it is highly expected that the brutal culprits will quickly be meted out equally brutal justice.
But a bloody climax to an emotional rising action would simply put a lid on the simmering broth of animal instincts, on the brim of an explosion. It may give much-needed relief to avenging spirits. It may give a shut-up call to the critics. But can it undo what is done? Can it prevent repetition?
Can it mend the shattered ego of the sufferer? Can it heal the bruised spirit? Can any level of punishment scare away the nightmares that the innocent witnesses may experience for the rest of their lives? Can words and actions camouflage the ugliness of Pakistan’s reality? Can any verdict save the millions of other women vulnerable to prying eyes and hands?
Can any disciplinary action correct the Pakistani mindset which always blames the survivor or victim? She was dressed provocatively, she was alone in the middle of the night, she was ‘bold’, she is a liar, she asked for it – these are the usual responses when a woman in Pakistan is subjected to any form of violence or harassment.
Let’s reverse the situation. Imagine a man, driving on a deserted road, in the wee hours of the night, experiencing a car breakdown. As he awaits help, he is attacked by goons, bruised and battered and robbed. Will the police ask him why he chose to drive on a deserted road? Will any authority chide him over his ‘carelessness’ of not checking his car’s fuel? For a man in Pakistan, these would be nonsensical questions to be asked. The case, whether solved or shelved, would purely be one of an armed robbery, and never that of wrong decisions.
As we struggle to still get over the death of Zainab, a tragic death by rape of five-year-old Marwa comes to haunt us. As my spirits further dampen at a detailed investigative report about harassment cases in the University of Balochistan and news of garment factory workers hounded by sexual harassment, I see outrage by a female cyclist over her experience of sexual harassment on the streets. It seems that oblivious to a nation reeling with anger, sexual predators remain committed to their ugly practices.
Besides the growing chants of #HangTheRapistsPublically, the more humane and intellectual strata of society reasons that capital punishment may not be the answer. They have always demanded longer-term visions and practices. They have always pointed out that the root cause of the problem is chauvinistic attitude, sadly fanned by men as well as women. Consent from a woman is seen as a non-issue. A woman traveling alone, or dressed ‘provocatively’? Perfect: she is an easy outlet for twisted desires.
In Pakistan, misogyny can be found in every corner. Eons of patriarchal practices need years of feminist rights to be reiterated and enforced. More sons need to be raised who respect women. More daughters need to be empowered. What we do today will make tomorrow safe. But for now, the pain is too fresh. The eyes are still misty. Avenging blood for blood may not be the answer, but subjecting a man with pain which is nowhere closest to what he afflicted a woman with, may shame another of his kind. Speaking the only language he knows; of violence, may put a few at peace. For now, let him face the world, let him suffer the wrath, let him hear the questions, before he answers them in another world.
But it will not end with him. He may be buried today, the legacy of his crime will still live tomorrow. Unless, a woman is looked upon as a human. Until a daughter is not discarded away as a burden or a wife is not considered a punching bag. Rape, sexual harassment, domestic violence, honour killing are the many sides of misogyny. It is the patriarchy which harasses culture. End the patriarchy!
Shabana Mahfooz is a freelance journalist. She has a keen interest in issues regarding women, religion and foreign affairs.
On August 18, 2020, American women celebrated the centennial of winning the right to vote on a par with men. Of course, they have since made giant strides in many fields, serving at the top of many professional bodies, in addition to holding elective offices. The most recent symbol of progress was the nomination by the Democratic Party of the first black and Asian women to the position of vice-president. Joe Biden, the presidential nominee, has selected Senator Kamala Harris, 55-years old, as his running partner.
Daughter of a Jamaican father and a South Indian Brahmin mother, she is only the third woman nominee for the second highest office in the US and will be the first woman to hold that office should Bidenget elected. Significantly, Joe Biden will be 81-years old at the completion of his first term and would be unlikely to seek a second term. Kamala Harris will be in a strong position to seek the nomination of the Democratic Party and to become the first woman president of the US. Before becoming a Senator, she was the Attorney General of California state. and in that position, she earned the reputation of a strict law and order enforcer.
Harris’s appointment has aroused unusual attention, becauseof her uncommon heritage. Her mother, Shyamala Gopalan, a prominent cancer research scientist, came from South India to the US in 1960for higher studies and enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley, where she met her husband, Donald Harris, a fellow graduate student from Jamaica. Both were involved in the civil rights movement, became friends, and ultimately were married. Unfortunately, the marriage did not last, and they were divorced when Kamala was only seven years old and her younger sister, Maya, just four. From then on, the mother took full responsibility for the care and upbringing of her daughters with, it seems, little participation on her ex-husband’s part. Kamala Harris noted in her memoir that her mother “was the one most responsible for shaping us into the women we would become.” Both sisters are enormously proud of their mother and the role she played in their lives. In contrast, their relationship with their father, now a retired professor of economics, is cool. Kamala and Maya are extremely close, and the younger sister is Kamala’s closest and most trusted advisor and directed all her previous political campaigns.
Currently, three members of the US Congress are Muslims, but none of them is of Pakistani origin– Andre Carlson, Rashida Talib and Ilhan Omer. However, Pakistani’s now are catching up
Kamala’s mother correctly perceived that her daughters, with one black parent, would always be perceived and treated as blacks in the US. Therefore, she brought them up to regard themselves as black Americans. Yet, she did not sever family and cultural ties with India. Dr. Gopalan, during summer vacations, frequently took her daughters there to meet their relatives and to expose them to the other half of their heritage. Harris noted, “When I was a young girl visiting my grandparents in India, I’d join my grandfather and his buddies on their morning walk along the beach as they would talk about the importance of fighting for democracy and civil rights.”
Harris’s nomination to vice-presidential candidacy has generated some curiosity about her religious affiliations. She comes from a family of eclectic faiths. Her Indian grandparents were Hindu, but her mother gave her exposure to a wide variety of spiritual experiences, taking her to both Christian and Hindu services in the US. She now identifies herself as a Baptist Christian and took oath of office as a Senator on a Bible. To add further diversity to her life, she is now married to Douglas Emhoff, a Jewish lawyer
When, last year, some reporter asked Harris how she would describe herself in the context of her mixed black and Asian heritage, she responded that she considered herself as a proud American, skirting the direct, awkward question. While Harris does not emphasize her Indian heritage, the reaction in India, especially her mother’s native State of Tamil Nadu, on her nomination has been phenomenal. Her nomination has been celebrated with congratulatory posters and billboard, expressing pride in her achievement. The rejoicing was especially enthusiastic in her ancestral village of Painganadu, In Tamil Nadu.
The elevation of Senator Kamala Harris is the latest addition to the growing list of Americans of Asian-Indian descent who have become prominent and have established themselves as important political figures. There are currently five American of Indian decent, all Democrats, that have been elected to the Congress. Besides the US Congress, many hold other elective offices. Both Nikki Healy, former UN ambassador, and Bobby Jindal, a former Governor of Louisiana, have Indian immigrant parents. In addition, there are numerous others who occupy important leadership positions in academia, government, and private industry.
Their family links to India notwithstanding, it would be a mistake to assume that all Indian-American officials support the policies of current Indian Government. Congresswoman, Pramila Jayapal, for example, has been especially critical of India’s brutal policies and suppression of human rights in Kashmir. Last year, the Indian foreign minister cancelled a meeting with Congressional leaders when they discovered that Jayapal was one of the participants. Vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris has also been an strong exponent of human rights and pluralistic policies.
In addition to the US, some Indian immigrants to Canada, Britain and Europe have been remarkably successful. Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau’s cabinet includes three Sikhs, and one Hindu female minister. The former prime minister of Ireland, Leo Varadkar, is half Indian, while Britain’s chancellor of exchequer and potential prime minister, Rishi Sunak, is a Hindu, born of Punjabi parents. British Home secretary, Priti Patel, is the daughter of Gujrati Hindu parents. She has close links with the current Modi Government and his Bhartiya Junta Party and is known for her hardline immigrations policies. The socialist Prime Minister of Portugal, Antonio Costa, is also of Indian descent, as his parents were born in Goa, a former Portuguese colony.
The question is often asked how well the Pakistani immigrants have done compared with the Indians. Undoubtedly, Pakistanis in America have not been as visible or ubiquitous as Indians. Currently, three members of the US Congress are Muslims, but none of them is of Pakistani origin– Andre Carlson, Rashida Talib and Ilhan Omer. However, Pakistani’s now are catching up, breaking out of their favourite professions, such as medicine or computer technology that promised security and financial stability. There may be other reasons for why Pakistanis lag behind. Pakistanis usually bring strong attachment to their cultural, ideological, and religious traditions and most of their attention and money has been focused on building mosques, Islamic schools and cultural centres in their adopted homeland. However, there are indications that they are now paying attention to participating in other temporal pursuits as well.
Dr. Syed Amir is a former assistant professor, Harvard Medical School and retired health scientist administrator, US National Institutes of Health
WHILE the Middle East is still abuzz with the opening up of relations between Israel and the UAE and with Bahrain, people have largely ignored a similar move in the Balkans. Kosovo and Serbia, both countries that had thus far refused to recognise Israel, have now agreed to do so.
Obviously, the Trump administration has been doing some heavy lifting in both regions. Exactly what was promised to Kosovo and Serbia remains unclear. And incidentally, the latter has thus far refused to recognise its neighbour.
Clearly, the dictates of the US elections in November outweigh all other considerations with Donald Trump. Thus far, we were led to believe that greater trade, fear of Iran, and Israeli high-tech weaponry were the drivers behind the UAE’s decision to transform its covert ties with Israel into a full-blown relationship. But recent reports suggest that the UAE had been upset by being refused access to the American F-35 jet fighters due to Israeli objections.
According to American policy — now enacted as law— Israel must maintain a “qualitative military edge” over its neighbours. The deal that bought Netanyahu’s consent to the sale of the F-35 is recognition by the UAE. Blocking the annexation of large parts of Palestinian land is just a sop for the larger Muslim world as the Israeli prime minister has only promised to “halt” this provocative move for now.
Iran has driven many Arab states into the US-Israel camp.
So what makes the F-35 so special, and worth $80 million each? Largely, the radar-evading materials used in its construction, as well as the intelligence-gathering technology it carries. Israel fears that its secrets could fall into the hands of its foes. But should Trump lose the election — something to be fervently wished for — Biden may well halt the sale. And as we have seen from the botched attacks by the UAE air force on Yemen, the country’s pilots are not exactly skilled in their use of sophisticated aircraft.
Whatever the real reason, the fear of Iran is certainly one as the US withdraws from the region following its reduced dependence on Arab oil. Thus, Iran has succeeded in driving many Sunni Arab countries into the US-Israel camp. Even Saudi Arabia, once the champion of Palestinian rights, has permitted commercial flights over the kingdom to shorten the flying time between Israel and the UAE.
Jordan and Egypt have had embassies in Tel Aviv for decades, as has Turkey. So when the Turkish president protested loudly against the UAE and Bahrain’s recognition of Israel, we must take his words with a pinch of salt. But whether we like it or not, there is a growing movement towards normalisation of ties with the Zionist state. The younger generation of Arabs want job opportunities and peace, not a perpetual state of war with a powerful neighbour.
In a sense, the Palestinians have proved to be their own worst enemies. In Jimmy Carter, they had the friendliest American president they are likely to get. Bill Clinton did his best to push an agreement through. But the PLO’s rigidity and Israel’s hunger for land blocked any chance for genuine rapprochement. Now, with Trump’s openly pro-Israel policies, the US has dropped all pretence of being an honest broker between the two parties.
Having written dozens of columns critical of Israel’s land grab and oppressive policies, I have also argued that recognition is not a reward for good behaviour. Had this been so, half the world would not recognise the other half. With normalisation comes the right to summon an envoy to register a protest against illegal policies in his or her country.
With our head-in-the-sand attitude towards Israel, we can only observe from the sidelines. This is not exactly helpful to the Palestinians, even though they have described the UAE initiative as a “stab in the back”. Also, oil-rich Middle East states have become tired of having to dish out cash regularly to the corrupt administrations controlling the West Bank and Gaza. As oil revenues fall steadily with no recovery in sight, this subsidy is becoming increasingly unpopular.
So where does this realignment leave us? We are fixated on a policy laid down decades ago that dictated that Pakistan would only recognise Israel when all Palestinian land seized in the 1967 war was returned. But with over half a million Israelis living in dozens of settlements built in occupied West Bank, this was unlikely to happen. With a hawkish, right-wing alliance in power, it is even less likely. Even if Netanyahu is defeated, the consensus in Israel is that they need large chunks of the West Bank for security.
And while we rightly want justice for Palestinians, what are we doing about the ongoing persecution of Chinese Muslim Uighurs, or the attempted genocide of Muslim Rohingya in Myanmar? The shameful silence of the Islamic world on the plight of these two wretched communities says a lot for our moral bankruptcy.