Threatening our ‘image’?

November 09, 2010

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From blaming the world for all our problems to being the hard-hitting cynic, we all have been trying to find our own ways to survive through these times. It has come to a point where we see people justifying gruesome incidents of lynching, increasing incidence of child rape, and deteriorating conditions of our minorities, maybe because we lack the potential to deal with these problems. Not because they are too complicated but simply because most of us do not want to make the effort.

I received a lot of hate-filled comments in response to my last blog-post, not that it was the first time this had happened but it left me shocked and thinking nonetheless. Just to give an idea of the kind of reaction, here are some of the comments I received:

Hameed Ice: Dear Sana Saleem, I like you very much and I like your article also but why you say that we do nothing? 40,000 women get rape in America per second but no one do anything. Why you not write about that? please tell me who pay you to write this we are Islamic country and nothing like that happen ever it happen in the whole world but not Pakistan but do you see any American writer talk about this because they love their country ????? WHYY? bcuz they love their country and we Pakistani always want to talk bad things please you don’t talk about it. Salam, Your reader

Coolboy30: Salammzz Madam Sana, Your article in dawn newspaper was very bad. I was very hurt that you talk about all this thing and wear hijab??!!you know it is bad for woman to talk about that thing because it will not be good for her. Please you look nice and inoecnt frm face and scarf so you please not talk about it. What you want woman to tell everyone to rape it’s not good. allahhafiz

My last blogpost was about the increasing incidence of rape, and our apathy towards such heinous crimes. Not something I was expecting hate mail on. But this is not about me, it is about us and the kind of society we have created. The kind that refuses to acknowledge one of our most pressing problems, and prefers to live in ignorance. The mindset that believes that acknowledging our issues is threatening to our ‘image’.  What good is an image, other than deceiving ourselves, is another question altogether.

Knee-jerk reactions and our love for conspiracy theories have made it even more difficult to think rationally, let alone look for solutions.  There is a void, which can only be filled with open dialogue. We need to talk about our issues, give each other space and try not to judge people simply because their opinions differ.  There is a huge difference  between disliking someone for being a cynic and blaming them of being on a certain agencies payroll.

Most of these comments are ill-informed, are personal attacks and reinforce the mindset that taboos should never be tackled, irrespective of the damage it causes to the social fabric. They highlight the culture of “silent and shame”  and the rampant mindset that a woman regardless of her sufferings should never be vocal about the plethora of psychological, verbal, physical and sexual abuse hurled her way. The only thing she should do is let her existence be shoved under the rug.

The most shocking comments came from someone who claimed to be related to the Khipro rape incident, suggesting that the video was fake and that “some culprits want to start linguistic war in interior Sindh”, but what got my blood-boiling was this particular remark “I have heard about the Sialkot incident they (both brothers) were not innocent and now reading about Khipro gang rape (...)Furthermore, as per my information this girl is a big flirt, she use to be speak over phone all night with allot of other boys from Khipro, Sanghar & Mirpurkhas areas and it's also came in my knowledge her mother & her mother's sister use to be work as prostitute in Khipro but still media (most of Sindhi media) declared her "Sindh g niyani"(the daughter of Sindh) why?”

Hurling accusations towards a rape victim is not a new phenomenon, thanks to the Hudood Ordinance that propagated society, where a woman has to prove her piety before being legible for justice. To all those who hold the same opinion, I want to ask why not? Why shouldn’t we speak up against violence regardless of the victim’s personal life? Why should we allow the ‘holier than thou’ mentality to justify heinous crimes simply because the victim was presumably not up to their scale of ‘morality and piousness’?  This is not about America, Islam, Morals or conspiracies this is about us and things that affect our mothers, sisters and daughters. It is about upholding human rights, taking a stance against violence and ensuring equal rights to all, everything else is secondary.

Sana Saleem is a Features Editor at BEE magazine and blogs at Global Voices,  Asian Correspondent and her personal blog Mystified Justice. She recently won the Best Activist Blogger award by CIO & Google at the Pakistan Blogger Awards. She can be found on Facebook and tweets at twitter.com/sanasaleem.

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.