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The women of Israel

January 21st, 2015. In Dawn newspaper on page 08; under the Opinion section, I read some of the best information by Rafia Zakaria. 

Reading her article, The women of Israel, I came to know about some facts about Israeli women who were unknown to me and am sure , unknown to many of us. And the revelation comes in connection to the recent Paris Attack and Charlie Hebdo issue. 

What happened was, One of the Jewish Newspapers, HaMevaser (a newspaper catering to Haredi community) published a slightly different picture of the Solidarity March than the rest of the world and the difference was, HaMevaser had edited out all the women in the photograph. The reason for this was explained by The Guardian as, “The Haredi in Israel do not believe that women should be in the public sphere.”

My goodness …

Information like this is what makes my day. I was not only enlightened to read this piece but also amused and shocked. So naturally, I immediately googled Haredi.

“Haredi Judaism  is a stream of Orthodox Judaism characterized by rejection of modern secular culture. Its members are often referred to as strictly Orthodox or ultra-Orthodox in English. However the term “ultra-Orthodox” is considered a derogatory slur by the community. Haredi regard themselves as the most religiously authentic group of Jews, and although this claim is contested by other streams, it is a perception which is often held in the wider Jewish and non-Jewish society.”

The Haredi men not only find it objectionable to have their women appear in public but they also refuse to ride the same bus as they are in. Any shop where women are present, they would simply not enter. Neither will they look at them nor will they allow others looking at them, except of course, the husbands. This situation described above and in Rafia’s article, has made me ponder about two things that are measured by the World powers in totally different scales: Israel’s religious extremism and that of existing in Pakistan.

This world has some serious double standards that exist at the global political level, deeming Muslims as the only backward people in terms of religion and turning a blind eye to the Israel’s Haredi. If it is happening in Israel, it’s neither made an issue by the US nor publicized. Rather It is only within the Jewish community that this issue is discussed as unorthodox Jews become more concerned for Haredi’s laws and practices. I also found this quite similar to some practices and laws we have here, in our country and in Islam. But here’s what I have to add to this piece by Rafia Zakaria. When I say, in my country and in Islam, I mean totally two different levels. 

What real Islam preaches is moderate behaviour and laws to keep not only women but also men on the right track. I’m all for such laws, for they make sense. Like, Islam does speak about segregation of sexes to avoid certain harmful situations, what is happening now days when some convert “The real Islam” into “Their own Islam”?, or “Real Religious spirit” into “their own Religious spirit” ?  Chaos.

Nowhere does God say don’t send women to schools, don’t let them ride the bus and if you find them in the same shop as you are in, Run away from there! Nowhere does God say , Don’t let them see the sunlight and so confine them within walls. Don’t let them go to Universities or they’ll become more knowledgeable than their husbands. Don’t let them speak in Public or the men would hear her and that’s a sin. If any Muslim community is doing this within the borders of Pakistan, or anywhere in the world, then please understand; it’s their own interpretation of the religion to mark themselves superior and make things look hard and horrid. 

On the other hand, people who do the opposite in the extreme way are not sane either because nowhere does the God say let the women run half naked , let them go to Hookah bars, or let the men get drunk in the name of awesomeness because they are men! and lose decency. In my opinion, they are as much delusional as the ones they call extremists. One is extremely stern in religion to the point of insanity, the other is excruciatingly vile in his worldly behavior. Both brains are dangerous. Where does the beauty of the heart and mind and soul fit in all of this?

And then have a look at the political power holders in our state. Neither the religious leaders are true nor the non religious leaders are any good. Majority, if not all, are working for their own vested interests.

An exemplary human is different than this. I strongly believe that not all non religious people are bad people and not all religious people are good people. There are many shades of grey that exist between black and white. Some religious people I have known in my life are quite cool. In fact way cooler than the others. They don’t work hard on looking God fearing. They just are. And let me tell you for a fact; God fearing people are kind to people. Whether they agree with you or disagree, they retain their class. They don’t blow up schools. And morally educated people are reasonable. They do not publish derogatory things to mock someone’s religion. That’s what makes them stand out in the crowd. But how many do we really have with us that fit this description?

One cool person that I  met was an elder at my Hiking trip to Nanga Parbat BC. I still remember how people in the bus had made fun of him, sitting all alone in the corner. He not only had beard and a white hat on head , but he was also punctual in prayers during the trip, and had an aura of a person with strong faith. We could not understand him at all until he reached Fairy meadows way earlier than all of us. To our surprise, he climbed to Base camp with the bullet speed, too. When asked, how come he was able to accomplish this despite his age and, outlook that made him look boring. He shocked us all with his reply. As it turned out, it was his hobby. It wasn’t the first time he was travelling to some far land for adventure. 

Out of all the young people there, I consider him the most coolest person. He kept both his religion and his passions, at a safe position. His behavior was the best and manners the most decent. Had he made it an issue to travel with us on the bus and demanded that a new bus be arranged for men, things would have been different. But he was flexible. And that’s the true spirit in both faith and worldly life. As long as no harm is being done to anybody or to the religion, a God fearing man would be flexible in his decisions. 

We need more people like this.

  • I love that the older guy was more flexible and more agile than you thought. I love having my pre-conceptions challeneged. Opens the mind!

    • Khanum

      You are truly right, Humaira. We judge too much and understand too little. We don’t realise there’s good in everyone. Lil or big, doesn’t matter. we are no one to judge