Pakistan: Clerics beat female visitors at the Faisal mosque

The Friday Times
Mohammad Shehzad reports, "On a sunny Sunday afternoon I saw maulvis beating women outside the Faisal Mosque. Where is our country heading?"
Two maulvis were beating up two young women, shouting: They are gushtian [prostitutes] giving people dawat-e-gunnah [invitation to sin]. We told them to cover their heads. When they did not listen, we thought to teach them a lesson!
Every Sunday I go for a little trip. This week I decided to visit Daman-e-Koh, a hill station above Islamabad. On my return, I stopped by the Faisal Mosque, one of the busiest public places in town. Those who consider the military dictator General Ziaul Haq a true soldier of Islam visit the mosque frequently to pay homage to him. But I just visit because of the beautiful architecture.

When I was coming out of the mosque, I witnessed a frightening scene. Two maulvis were beating up two young women with sticks, while shouting: Cover your heads you bay-sharam [amoral] and bay-haya [unscrupulous] women. Since I have an inherent habit of interfering in such brawls, I intruded.

What the hell are you doing?

They are spreading obscenity. They are gushtian [prostitutes] giving people dawat-e-gunnah [invitation to sin]. We told them to cover their heads. When they did not listen, we thought to teach them a lesson!

But you have no right to beat them. You have no right to force them to cover their heads. Why are you angry if they are not covering their head?

The girls started speaking to defend themselves: We are not loose women . We come from good families. They were staring at us with wicked looks. When we protested, they started beating us while concocting this story.

They are taxis (prostitutes). We will not allow anyone to corrupt society. We are the workers of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal and have won the elections. Now, the country will be governed by the rules of shariat. We are the votaries of Maulana Fazlur Rehman. He is going to be the next prime minister of Pakistan. We will see you and these whores again when he has power.

This is not Afghanistan. You better disappear, or I ll call the police, I warned them and they left. The women thanked me and went into the mosque. It was a horrendous incident. Islamabad is not Kandahar; it is the capital of Pakistan, a nation of moderate, forward-looking Muslims. Or so we like to believe. Faisal Mosque is located in the most exclusive sector of Islamabad, E-7. People visit the mosque not just for prayers, but also for fun. Such an unseemly sight at such a spot was inconceivable.

I was shocked at the wickedness of Maulana Fazlur Rehman s aficionados. They were acting as if Islamabad was a country of infidels that they had conquered through jihad after the October 10 elections. Now, the infidels has only two options either to embrace their brand of Islam or face the severe punishment prescribed by the maulvis, which would be death, perhaps through stoning, for the gushtian and taxis don t allow anyone to stare at them with evil eyes!

What kind of message does this incident send across the world? That the MMA is the legacy of those vandals known as the Taliban? That it is hell-bent on following in the footsteps of Mullah Omar, the host of international terrorists?

The MMA leadership is very unhappy with the media, particularly the Western press. They say it is working at a systematic character assassination against the MMA. Qazi Hussain Ahmad told me recently that the West was not upset with the MMA s victory, it was only the Western media owned by the Jewish lobby that had spearheaded a malicious campaign against the MMA. This leaves a very simple question: Why is the MMA leadership and membership issuing statements that provide the media masala (material) to ridicule them with? For example one of the MMA s leaders recently said that women in the NWFP would not be allowed to have their clothes stitched by male tailors. And on May 16, the clerics in NWFP imposed a complete ban on male instructors for women s payers. Now women in sports will not be trained by men. All signs of women have been removed from advertising hoardings in the Frontier. Where is this madness going to end?

If Maulana Fazlur Rehman ever becomes prime minister of Pakistan, the country could witness a replay of the Taliban phenomenon, and be pushed back into the Stone Age. Would this lead to the next war on terrorism being waged in Islamabad? And what of the lackeys of the party such as I saw outside the mosque? If cloaked in the veil of authority, what atrocities out in the far reaches of the countries would go unseen by us? How many replays of barbarity will it take before we react?

Originally published in The Friday Times, 5 June 2003.