Those opposing the Aurat March have used several platforms to highlight their objections
The Aurat March is under fire once again. And this time, the backlash is far greater over a march that is yet to come (on March 8). Fierce criticism of some of the slogans and placards used during last year’s march continues to fuel passionate debate.
As the 2020 march draws closer, those opposing it are using several platforms to highlight their objections. A unanimous resolution condemning the Aurat March was recently passed by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial assembly. Ironically, a woman parliamentarian, Rehana Ismail, moved the resolution. She described the march calling ostensibly for women empowerment ‘un-Islamic and shameful’. Banners carrying slogans against Aurat March are being put up in Lahore by the Tanzeem-ul-Islam party.
Maulana Fazlur Rehman, head of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam Fazal (JUI-F) recently asked workers to stop the Aurat March. Posters advertising the Aurat March in Islamabad have since been torn down in large numbers.
Maulana Amjad Khan, the JUI-F deputy secretary, says the Aurat March goes against the norms and values of Islam. “There can be no doubt we favour women’s rights as defined in Islam. However, the organisers and those behind this march are promoting an agenda favouring vulgarity and anti-religious values. Our religious and cultural morals do not allow for such grubby programmes.”
Khan says that the groups involved in “this international agenda” do not represent women who follow Islam. “The rights that Islam has bestowed upon women are sufficient. That leaves no room for such campaigns. The leaders and organisers of the Aurat March must read the Holy Quran instead.”
Amjad Khan tells The News on Sunday that no specific directive has yet been received from the party’s central office to stop the Aurat March. “We will follow any we receive in this regard,” he reiterates.
Some of the placards displayed at last year’s Aurat March received a huge backlash. Two placards, in particular, stirred controversy: Khud khaana garm kar lo! (heat your own food), and Mera jism, meri marzi (my body, my choice).
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Mirza Ayub Baig, the Tanzeem-ul-Islam Party’s communication head, says that the Aurat March is a platform being used to promote anti-Islamic values in the country. “We are unable to understand what more rights the participants of the march want; Islam has bestowed upon them rights that other religions do not,” he says. But he is quick to add: “We condemn any and all acts of brutality and unkindness against women or girls.”
A petition filed in the Sindh High Court by a woman said that ‘immoral slogans’ should not be allowed at the march. Another petition filed in the Lahore High Court by Azhar Siddique, chairman of the Judicial Activism Council, describes the march “against the very norms of Islam”.
“It is being argued that women are forced to demand their rights. But the question is what kind of deprivations are the participants of the Aurat March facing? Can they identify the rights that have been compromised in our society?”
Siddique goes on to argue that there are 85 women-specific laws in the country. “There are sixty nine women members in the national assembly including eight elected on general seats, 60 on reserved seat and one on a non-Muslim seat. In addition, there are 128 reserved seats for women in all four provincial assemblies.” He argues that representation in legislative councils is reflective of the status and ability of women to “enjoy their rights”.
On the other hand, the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) has announced a 20-day campaign, from March 1 to March 20, for protection of women’s rights in the country. The JI will also mark the Women’s Day on March 8 by organising a national moot, Khawateen Takreem Conference, and a walk.
Explaining the objective of the three-week campaign, Qaiser Sharif, JI’s deputy information secretary, says they aim to create awareness about the “constructive role of women in their families and the society and to ensure security of women and their right to inheritance”.
“However, in line with the teachings of Islam, we are not in favour of ‘mixed culture’ in educational institutions and at work places”, he says, adding that Islam lays great emphasis on education, including girls’s education.
Unlike the JUI-F, the JI believes in the right to hold peaceful processions like the Aurat March. “Our party has no intentions to create any impediment to the participants of the Aurat March. They have every right to put forth their demands. Nevertheless, we believe that this group of women does not represent our society or their gender.”