Islamic Parties Oppose Liberalization in Pakistan

Howard Friedman reports that a movement to change the Hudood Ordinances in Pakistan - a set of harshly oppressive laws that result in the imprisonment and death of thousands of women for charges like adultery - is being opposed by a coalition of Islamic parties in that country. Last month, the Pakistani government amended the law to lessen the punishment for women charged with having sex outside marriage (naturally, there was no punishment for men having sex outside of marriage) and released 6500 women who had been jailed on such charges. Just make sure that you don't say that Islam is oppressive toward women, at least not in Australia, or they'll make you apologize for telling the truth.

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This is interesting. I spent several months as a participant -- the only non-'desi' participant -- on a Pakistani forum. (I am a great fan of Pakistani pop music, one of the most interesting and enjoyable types of music currently out there, much like the early 'British Invasion,' and I joined the forum to discuss this, and maybe Pakistani food, another favorite of mine. In fact, I wound up getting into discussions on all things Pakistani, and on other matters of interest to a group mostly Pakistani by descent but largely resident in the West.)

The Hudood ordinances came up, and at this time -- the end of last year -- it was the MMA that was moving to have them repealed and the Musharraf government that was resisting -- I don't understand why, but Pakistani politics are somewhat Byzantine.

In fact, the ordinances are a good deal worse than you describe because of their handling of rape. They follow the Qur'anic injunction that rape can only be proven by the testimony of four eyewitnesses, not an easy task to accomplish. But if a woman brings an accusation of rape and can't prove it, then she can be prosecuted for having sex outside of marriage.

This is one of the reasons why rape statistics from there are somewhat skewed, and why one female forum member, in a discussion of the advantages of living in Pakistan or living in the West, listed the lack of a fear of being raped as one of the advantages of the West.

(It should be mentioned that, to a large part, Pakistan is religiously a 'satellite' of Saudi Arabia, that many of the religious teachers in Pakistan either were trained in KSA or follow the strict Wahabbist teachings there. Since -- because Islam's 'fundamental belief' is in the Divine authorship of the Qur'an (as Christianity's is in the Trinity and Divine nature of Jesus) -- there are fewer people in the 'conservative' (eq: Methodist) and 'liberal' (eq: Episcopalian) slots between fundamentalism and secularism or a merely nominal Islam (the equivalent of 'Christmas and Easter' Christians), the tension betweet the civil and the religious is much stronger in Islamic countries, and the ultra-conservative nature of Pakistani Islam makes that tension stronger.

Yeah, I've had several friends from Pakistan over the years, people who have emigrated to the US and had no desire at all to go back. Two of them were brothers from an extremely wealthy family who came to the US for college and never left. They both worked for a restaurant franchise, one as an area supervisor and one as a store manager. We had many conversations about life in Pakistan and how their family didn't understand why they would want to live and work full time in the US when they could be living in luxury in Pakistan with their family (or for that matter, could be living in luxury in the US on their family's money). They said that they would rather be dirt poor in the US than rich in Pakistan. They were both secular minded, and while they respected some of the cultural traditions of Islam, they could not stand the oppressive nature of the religion and the culture it fostered there. And the other thing they hated? The heat. I remember talking to one of them after they had returned from a two week visit home and he said he just could not stand the heat anymore, he had gotten used to the milder climate here after so many years.