Women: the new target
THE beheading of two women accused of ‘immoral’ activities in Bannu has shocked us beyond belief. Apart from the implications this episode has for the safety and esteem of women in our society it also has a frightening dimension – in respect of the war on terror. With Islamic militancy gathering strength in the tribal areas and beyond, the kidnapping and execution of security officials and ‘informers’ by the Taliban no longer shocks people as such incidents previously did. Be it the outcome of faulty government policies, the shaky morale of the armed forces or even the zeal of the militants, such incidents are taken as the natural corollary of a conflict between government forces and armed men wedded to an extremist ideology. But the case of the two women shows that the religious extremists are actively expanding the arena of war to arrogate to themselves the custodianship of public morality as perceived by them. Beside the horror and savagery of the deed itself, one feels rage and revulsion fuelled by frustration.
Unfortunately, the question – ‘how dare they?’ – can only be answered upon close introspection of ourselves as a society that wears religion on its sleeve, regards women as inferior beings and whose ideas of “right” and “wrong” stem not from the basic fundamentals of humanity but from sanctimonious notions of individual and collective morality. Notwithstanding all the talk about democracy that one hears nowadays, it is a pity that there is no expression of public outrage when such horrendous actions come to light. Clothed in the mantle of faith, our leaders have chosen to discard the universal principles of liberty and justice. Instead they have been swamped by orthodox interpretations of faith, used as an instrument of fear and political repression by the religious lobby. It is no wonder that those reared, nurtured – and brutalised – by the champions of a society based on religious injunctions have taken on the role of judge and jury, perceiving with contempt all those who do not share their views.
What is disturbing is that in this bizarre situation the institutions of state have abrogated their responsibilities vis-Ã -vis the citizens. Even a large section of society which holds women in contempt, has shown no anger. Where are our politicians? Will they shake off their misogynist moorings and chastise those who show utter lack of tolerance or will they act as apologists for the criminals, calling into question the issue of the victims’ ‘morality’? Will any of them condemn the act as a grave violation of the right to life and liberty or will they maintain a stony silence as the public and media debate the trivial question of whether or not the two women were indulging in ‘immoral’ activities? Will the Supreme Court, in keeping with its newfound trend of taking suo motu notice, take note of the crime? Unfortunately, when we talk of creeping Talibanisation in the country, we do not recognise that it is our lack of courage to take a holistic and humanistic view of reality that is leading us into a blind alley, while providing a fertile ground for the seeds of extremism. In other words, we have only ourselves to blame.