Jaamat-e-Islami—Pakistani Womens' Friend of Foe?

Re: Arab Feminists Speak Out on Women's Rights

To the Editor:

Jamaat-e-Islami, an Islamic political movement founded in Aug. 26, 1941, today is one of Pakistan's largest religious parties. And what are they doing? Not letting the women of Pakistan grow. They're always putting obstacles in the way of Pakistani women's liberty. Sometimes they say "it's important to wear the hijab in schools," and sometimes they just say ridiculous things like, "domestic violence is a private issue and if a women is a good wife, why would anyone want to beat or burn her?"

So, my question to Jamaat-e-Islam, the so-called comrades of Pakistan's females: why is it that 82 percent of women in rural Punjab feared violence resulting from a husband's anger over slight matters?

In the most urbanized areas of Pakistan, 52 percent of women confessed to being beaten by their husbands. Also, some husbands or in-laws tamper with gas stoves so the cooker explodes in the face of a woman as she turns it on to cook. In these cases murders are made to look like suicides and are concealed by husbands. While killings are not usually sanctioned by the laws of the land, judges often deliver light sentences. Mostly, the injuries are credited to a technical fault in the cooker. There are new burning cases everyday. The majority of women don't make it.

So what I'm trying to ask Jamaat-e-Islami is this: are all women defiant and indecorous to men? And suppose if they were; a husband can get a divorce, or get separated and send woman to her home instead of burning her, perhaps murdering her and sending her from this world. Some husbands say that wives are no good, so why can't wives complain that their husbands are not benevolent or attentive? Pakistani wives are compromising and polite. The harmless wives take care of their husbands' home, cook, mop and try to keep him contented, but argumentative husbands keep complaining and will not reward wives with love or care. He just gives her death.

In Nov. 1997, Mussarrat Bibi, a pregnant woman and mother of three, was beaten to death by villagers in the Sheikupura district of Pakistan just because of some false rumours about her "immoral" behavior. Actually the real reason for her death was that she had refused to work for local landlords without payment, so they spread the rumors.

What kind of society is it where the husbands, brothers, even fathers of a family show such inhumanity towards their own daughters, sisters, wives and even mothers in the name of social, religious, or family values? Many women are deserted, their existance meaning nothing to the men of Pakistan, and have nowhere to turn.

It is up to the readers to decide whether Jaamat-e-Islami is a foe or friend to the women of Pakistan. But if you ask me, all Jamaatis (as members are called), whether its Qazi Hussain Ahmad, Liaqat Baloch or Khurshid Ahmad, are definitely the biggest enemies of Pakistani women's liberty and success.

Abeer Khan
West Palm Beach, Fla.