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Published 26 Apr, 2020 06:02am

Cleric under fire for linking women to Covid-19

ISLAMABAD: Maulana Tariq Jameel’s statement linking “women’s immodesty” to coronavirus spread in Pakistan continues to stir the storm on social media as politicians and rights activists demanded an apology from him.

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf leaders without naming the maulana called it his “ignorance about pandemics or a misogynist mindset” and observed that making such a correlation was dangerous when violent crimes against women and girls continued to take place in the country with impunity.

Some critics slammed Prime Minister Imran Khan for staying silent, arguing that in his presence the maulana first targeted the media by labelling them ‘liars’ and then linked women’s immodesty for inviting the wrath of Almighty in the form of Covid-19.

While the maulana apologised to the media a day later for levelling the allegation against them, rights activists said he had yet to tender an apology over his controversial statement regarding women during the prayers at the end of Ehsaas telethon headed by the prime minister.

Federal cabinet members, too, criticised the comment, terming it a dangerous trend.

Federal Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari tweeted: “We will not accept the targeting of women on the pretext of such ludicrous accusations. We in Pakistan have fought hard for claiming our rights as enshrined in the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.”

Dr Mazari said it was absurd even to suggest that Covid-19 pandemic was the result of women wearing short sleeves, etc. “This simply reflects either ignorance about pandemics or a misogynist mindset,” she said.

Similarly, PTI MNA and parliamentary secretary on law Maleeka Bokhari also turned to social media and tweeted: “The spread of a pandemic must never and under no circumstances be correlated or linked to a woman’s piety or morality. It is dangerous to make this correlation as violent crimes against women/girls continue to take place with impunity. Further ostracisation can make it more complex.”

However, their tweets received comments that the statement made in the PM’s presence showed he too agreed to such believes.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan had already issued a statement against the wordings of the prayers by Maulana Tariq Jameel saying that the “HRCP is appalled at Maulana Tariq Jameel’s recent statement inexplicably correlating women’s modesty to the pandemic.”

Senator Sherry Rehman said: “Why has Maulana Tariq Jameel not apologised to women yet? He is blaming this pandemic on Pakistani women’s alleged immodesty, this is grossly slanderous on many levels, totally unacceptable.”

She said it was the time for suo motu action by the courts over his statement, as he was encroaching on fundamental rights.

Rights activists regretted that such controversial statements were being normalised in the name of religion, while some women asked for reasons behind the spread of coronavirus in Saudi Arabia.

Women rights’ activist Nighat Dad said: “TJ apologised to media but not to millions of women who he blamed for Covid-19, women who make half of this country’s population, where they are routinely abused, raped, killed and attacked.”

She said women were not even considered as humans. She said media persons and journalists were only concerned about them being called liar, “but everyone seemed okay what he said about women, not a single objection was raised”.

Rights activist Tahira Abdullah said the term “Maulana” should not be used for him for his hate-filled anti-women tirade in front of the Prime Minister of Pakistan on the nationwide and global telethon live telecast.

Despite repeated attempts Maulana Tariq Jameel could not be contacted to respond to the criticism against him.

Published in Dawn, April 26th, 2020

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