Alert Sign Dear reader, online ads enable us to deliver the journalism you value. Please support us by taking a moment to turn off Adblock on

Alert Sign Dear reader, please upgrade to the latest version of IE to have a better reading experience


DAWN - Letters; 13 September, 2004

September 13, 2004

French ban on headscarves

France has enforced the ban on the wearing of headscarves by girl students in state schools on the assumption that they are religious symbols. Well, they are not. The only connection between Islam and the headscarf is that Islam prescribes a strict code of morality for Muslim women, but this can be interpreted in different ways by different communities.

This is clearly evident from the fact that not all Muslim women of every country wear headscarves, yet no one would exclude them from being followers of Islam. Conversely, any woman of any faith can, if she wishes, habitually keep her head covered.

French girls cover their heads, just as they probably desist from extra-marital affairs, because they wish to assert their adherence to moral standards. The truth is that as a sign of modesty heads were covered in earlier ages even in the West in days when stricter morality prevailed in that region.

Standards and symbols of feminine morality keep changing. Before the two world wars no English woman would go out of the house without a hat and stockings. In pioneer American life, as we can see from serials like The Little House on the Prairie, women wore floor-length skirts with full sleeves and caps on their heads.

In 19th-century England we read about a girl being punished by her mother by being locked up in her room for a week for happening to expose her ankle. Queen Victoria invariably kept her head covered, and no one could really mistake her for a religious person.




This is apropos of the editorial "Voiceless & indifferent" (Sept 7) and the letter by Ms Sadia Siddique (September 10). Headdress or hijab is a part of the dress and not a part of religion. It also does not depict Muslim identity as the Sikh turban or the skullcap worn by Jews do, because most Muslim women do not wear headscarves.

While the Muslims' reaction to the French ban on the wearing of headscarves (including turbans and skullcaps) by observing an "International Hijab Solidarity Day" was uncalled for, the French perception of equating it with religious extremism is equally unjustified.

The wearing of a headscarf is a sign of modesty and not of extremism. However, observing a uniform dress code in schools so that it should not show any religious distinction is probably not such a bad idea.



Russian response to Beslan

The precedent of 'preemptive strikes' set by the White House has now taken a new turn after the Russian announcement that it would launch preemptive strikes on suspected terrorists groups anywhere in the world.

The fear that other nations may employ similar tactics has been a concern ever since the US decided to launch wars against sovereign states such as Afghanistan and Iraq in the name of the 'war on terror'.

The latest announcement by Russia has put the US in a unique situation. Ever since the fall of the Soviet Union, it was the US alone that granted its client states the right to wage war.

The prime examples are Israel and Turkey. Now Russia, the ex-superpower, wants to employ US tactics without its approval. While the EU has voiced its opposition to the Russian announcement, reaction from the White House is yet to be seen. If the US opposes Russian action, it will be exposing its double standards even more.

On the other hand, if America goes along with Russian measures, it will be tantamount to Russia (once again) challenging the global world order - a situation that has not arisen since the demise of the Soviet Union.

Whatever has happened to diplomacy? If brute force is the way we are going to 'resolve' global political issues, then let's just put an end to the United Nations Charter which has become a joke.

On multiple occasions the US, the UK and Israel have shown blatant disregard for the UN without suffering the consequences. The laws are only applicable when they serve the interest of the US and its allies.


San Francisco, CA., USA

Enforcing the Shariat

Mr Anwar Syed in his article "Enforcing the Shariat" (August 29) has rightly pointed out that equivalent to the Islamic institution of hasba or hisba is the present-day National Assembly and not the mohtasib.

Besides, appointment of mohtasib to enforce the Quranic injunction to enjoin right and forbid wrong - amr bil maroof, wa nahi anil munkar - in a society where different sects are having different practices according to their fiqh will create more dissension.

The private life of a person is beyond the reach of the government and to that extent he, in his individual capacity, is responsible to Allah Almighty for any violation of the Divine edict.

This is why the Holy Quran lays emphasis on controlling nafs which, of course, can't be of society as a whole but of an individual. If we want to cleanse society of all ills, we have to start working on our own character-building as individuals.

We have to inculcate in ourselves the values of social justice, equality, accountability, neighbourliness, moderation, tolerance, brotherhood, chastity, modesty, frugality and austerity.

And these virtues cannot be imported or imposed on individuals through hasba. It is only through education that one can learn, understand, adopt and ultimately practise these virtues.

What we lack is education, and without acquiring education our society will remain tribal, primitive and essentially retrogressive. The spread of education is a sina qua non for the progress and prosperity of society. This is what Islam has enjoined, as the first revelation of the Holy Quran starts with Iqra.



Speed's warning to Bari

Malcolm Speed's letter of warning to Wasim Bari is a clear indication of what he thinks of the cricketing countries of India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. The rudeness and arrogance evident from the letter is least expected of a person holding such a prestigious position as CEO of the International Cricket Council.

He is behaving as if he were the final authority at the ICC, and all others, particularly ICC President Ihsan Mani, merely showpieces. Irrespective of the interests of Pakistani cricket, even as ICC president Mr Mani should put his foot down and ask Malcolm Speed to explain why similar action was not taken against David Shepherd as in the case of was Aleem Daar of Pakistan. Was it because Aleem Daar was not a British?

It is time the cricket controlling bodies of India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh joined hands and passed laws to prevent such incidents in the future.


Lahore Cantt


It is very annoying to read the words International Cricket Council CEO Malcolm Speed used in a "confidential" letter to chief selector Wasim Bari. The letter was no less than insulting to Mr Bari as well as to Pakistan.

As Mr Speed himself admits that Wasim Bari has not breached the ICC code of conduct, he is not justified in writing such an insulting letter to Bari and then releasing it to the press. He should have written a letter of reprimand to umpire David Shepherd instead of to Bari.

The PCB's response in this matter has been subservient. It should have taken a stand in defence of Wasim Bari. I agree with Imran Khan that cricket umpires are not sacred cows and they should be criticized for their bad decisions.


Via email

O and A level system

This refers to Mr Ayaz Amir's article "For roses to bloom" (August 27) and Mr Asad Lodhi's comments (September 3). First and foremost, Mr Amir's contention that "every Indian student sits for the same examination and there's one syllabus, one set of books to study" is wrong. Besides the matric examinations held by the state-run board of education, there is a federal examination called the Indian School Certificate, equivalent to O and A level exams. Students who fear state oppression on religious basis have recourse to ISC examinations.

Mr Amir asks: "How many Dr Salams have our O level schools produced?" May I remind that Dr Essa Daudpota and Dr Pervaiz Hoodboy are both products of the O and A level system? They left lucrative jobs in the United States to return to Pakistan in the hope of reviving the educational system.

May I also remind him that the outsourcing of jobs from the US to India is possible because of the English-medium schooling system encouraged there? India has not one but two national languages, namely, English and Hindi.

Those studying in any state are free to choose their "second language" and Hindi is not imposed on anyone. I agree with Mr Asad Lodhi's suggestion that instead of abolishing a better education system, we should try to improve our own system of education.


New York City, USA

Builders and broken promises

In response to advertisements in May 1996, I booked a residential plot measuring 120 square yards in a scheme in Gulshan-i-Surjani, Karachi. According to the schedule of payment, I paid all dues amounting to Rs140,000. The builders issued a letter of possession for the plot located in block "I" of the scheme on March 21, 2002.

Since then I have been visiting the site to locate my plot but have never found the builders at their office. The builders have been frequently changing their office from Jason Trade Centre to Defence, from Defence to Clifton and from Clifton to Jason Trade Centre.

Last week I found at the site a person who told me that the land had been in dispute for a long time, and that there was a case in a court of law. He also told me that people could neither visit nor take possession of their plots. I appeal to the authorities to look into this.


Flat No. 908-A, Block A, 9th Floor, M.A. Jinnah Road, Karachi

Is it mere rhetoric?

This is with reference to Mr Kuldip Nayar's article "Is it mere rhetoric?" (September 4). While he fully remembers the statements given by top Pakistani leaders, particularly Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, in 1947-48, he conveniently forgets statements of top Indian leaders, particularly the first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, who had taken the Kashmir dispute to the UN Security Council in 1948 and had accepted the council's resolution envisaging the right to be given to the Kashmiri people to decide whether the Kashmiris wanted to be with Pakistan or India.

Nehru made a commitment to the world for implementing the resolution which never envisaged partition of the Kashmir state on the basis of religion. The right given to the people of the princely states to join either Pakistan or India was inherent in the Partition Plan prepared by the British government under which freedom was accorded to the subcontinent. If any of the Pakistan parliamentarians visiting India talked of partition of the Kashmiri state on religious lines, it does not depict Pakistan's official stand.

Mr Nayar has again talked of the Pakistani president's seeking a timeframe for resolution of the core dispute of Kashmir. The question is: what is the alternative in the presence of the long history of India making and breaking commitments? The Shimla agreement too provided for resolution of the dispute through negotiations. What has India done to move towards the goal during the last 32 years?

India has always been following the doctrine of "might is right" and has adopted tactics to buy time. Apart from Kashmir, India forcibly occupied the Siachen glacier in 1980s, though it was on the Pakistan side of the Line of Control, and the Indian defence minister now says that India will not vacate it. Is this not "might is right"?



Misuse of police mobile vans

The Sindh police in general and the Karachi police in particular spend a large portion of their budgets on the acquisition and running costs of hundreds of mobile vans and other cars provided to all and sundry in the department.

However, these vans are mostly used to escort VIPs and VVIPs rather than for more serious errands. Given the law and order situation in Karachi, now even junior police officials prefer to be escorted by a mobile van.

As if this weren't enough, lately my friends and I have witnessed mobile vans with Sindh police number plates being rashly driven at night by under-age offsprings of police officials and their friends, particularly in the Defence area.

Teenagers run around blaring sirens, using emergency lights and jumping traffic signals with no respect for the law and government property. As a taxpayer I would like to know why I am paying for the 'entertainment' of police officials and their families.



Akhtar Shirani

Legendary poet Akhtar Shirani died and was buried in Lahore, the city of his fame and love, on September 9, 1948, at the age of 43. Akhtar Shirani blazed a romantic trail in Urdu literature. His poetry influenced a whole generation of illustrious poets, including Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Rashed, Majaz and Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi.

He lived with his father Allama Hafiz Mahmood Shirani, the renowned scholar of his times who taught at the Oriental College, Lahore, on 18 Fleming Road. From the small dingy room where Shirani lived and worked rose the sun of his poetry whose rays penetrated cities and towns through the length and breadth of the subcontinent. In this city he was blessed with the adoration and love of Salma, whose name became part of the legend of Akhtar Shirani.

Lovers of literature and poetry owe it to the memory of Akhtar Shirani to raise a memorial to honour him. I propose that 18 Fleming Road where Akhtar Shirani lived be acquired by the government and converted into Shirani Memorial House where his literary works be preserved. Further, Fleming Road may be renamed as Shirani Road.



Barricaded roads

The prime responsibility of the police is to protect citizens. But the Lahore police have lately made the lives of citizens miserable by erecting barricades on busy roads apparently to check vehicles.

Besides disrupting the traffic flow, the barricades pose a danger to motorists as they have been placed without any warning signs. Can the relevant authorities take notice of this?




Lahore gives a majestic look due to its spacious roads, footpaths, greenery, sparkling lights and magnificent parks. Construction of a few underpasses in the city has increased the grace of Lahore. The passes are well-lit, tastefully painted, with proper gradient/elevation. They have also facilitated traffic regulation.

Taking a cue, the administration in Rawalpindi has planned some underpasses. It is expected that the governments of Karachi and other major cities where population has increased manifold will also construct underpasses.



Ashfaque Ahmed

Renowned writer, intellectual and broadcaster Ashfaque Ahmed was born on August 22, 1925, in the Ferozepur district of India and authored some 20 books. He was a great social reformer of his age and a torch-bearer in highlighting social issues.

As a short-story writer and playwright, Ashfaque Ahmed was a naturalist who loved romances and nature. His short stories reveal that there is much more to life than misery and woe; there is beauty and loveliness which can be best appreciated when viewed against the background of natural scenery.

His short story, Gadaria (shepherd), brought him fame as great short-story writer. He blended romanticism with realism in his early works. He wrote, produced and acted in a popular weekly radio feature, Talqeen Shah, for more than quarter of a century an became an icon in Pakistan's broadcasting history.

Ashfaq Ahmed's contribution to television drama ranges from Eik Muhabbat So Afsane, one of the most popular series of Pakistan Television in the early 70s, to Tota Kahani in the 80s. He turned to religion in his later writings. We miss a great spirtual reformer, short-story writer and playwright.



Prime Minister and IBA

This is with reference to the letter "Prime Minister and IBA" (September 9), questioning the IBA for publishing an advertisement congratulating Mr Shaukat Aziz on being elected as prime minister.

I see no harm in an educational institution honouring and congratulating one of its outstanding students on being elected to one of the most prestigious positions in Pakistan.

During the time that I was at the Institute of Business Administration, Mr Shaukat Aziz was frequently quoted as an example of how a person could achieve a lot in his/her career not just in the country but internationally through hard work. This was before there was even any indication of him joining politics or coming back to Pakistan.




Apropos of the report "Denationalization stirs new controversy" (August 31), it is clarified that the general body of the registered Catholic Association of Karachi was suspended by its patron and Archbishop of Karachi in April 2004.

The archbishop has entrusted the complete control of the association to an independent commissioner appointed by him. Some people have tried to give a wrong perception that the Christian community is split on any issue, including denationalization.


Catholic Associaiton of Karachi