Debate

by Awais Leghari

Before I present my side of the argument, let’s just revise what you had said that has me excited over this debate.

Sanya Shiraz: “Firstly, my religious beliefs and between me and my God. I won’t have anyone telling me whether or not religion is a playing tool. Secondly, I know it isn’t. Thirdly, and importantly enough if you would have read my message correctly, I said I don’t believe in them or think that they’re wrong because I’m not knowledgeable about them. I’m not one of those people who’ll read the Quran and take it for what it is. It’s not just a book for me. If it really is a so called guide book, then maybe I’ll read it that way, when I really want to learn more about my religion. Lastly, I don’t not agree with things because they don’t appeal to me. Religion is a matter of choice. I only pray right now cuz my mom wants me too and cuz it does give me peace. You know, if God Himself isn’t here to impose any conditions on whichever way I choose to communicate with him, I don’t see why anybody else should have the right.”

And then you said:

Sanya Shiraz: Lol are you seriously as stupid as it sounds? Are you seriously trying to go mullah on me? I told you once Awais, my religious beliefs should be of no concern to you, hence your whole argument is invalid, because NOTHING regarding my religious beliefs should concern you in ANY way at all. That is if you’re not a mullah of course, which I hope you’re not. 

Secondly, once again you didn’t pay any attention to what I said. I don’t claim whatever is written in the Quran is wrong. I said I find it incorrect. Example? Like a bikini is inappropriate in Saudi Arabia, but not in America. So a normal Saudi Arabian woman – who lets say – is a feminist wouldn’t say that the whole concept of a bikini is wrong. She would just choose to say, kay I disagree with it. Cutting of hands isn’t wrong, but I find it to be something I disagree with – just an eg. not the real thing – and that’s maybe because I haven’t learned its history and how it came into being and the real reasons why God chose this punishment.

Thirdly, your beloved caliph, Hazrat Umar at a situation like this, himself said, that there is no compulsion in religion. It is people like you who are responsible for interfering with other people’s religious beliefs and pointing fingers at them. And you’re damn right its up to me, and whether or not you would hate me is none of my concern right now, in case you haven’t noticed.

Also, is this a society based on Islam? I won’t mention Zia because that wouldn’t be fair to you, and how he was an ass and how he destroyed EVERYTHING, because maybe Zia didn’t follow the “correct interpretation of Islam” as Muslims say. So yeah, this isn’t an Islamic society, I haven’t grown up in one, I’ve grown up in a society where ISLAM – being the religion – is an institution, that’s all there is to it. We might be the Islamic republic of Pakistan, but if you read our constitution correctly, it’s not based on the so called principles of an Islamic state.

Lastly, it really is between me and my God. It is people all over the world who consider other people’s religions to be their own business, who have destroyed it. Whether is is some idiot Pakistani, who sends an email to a secular like page, abusing him or someone else. What you don’t get is that my religion is my business. I may choose to do whatever the hell I wanna do. In an Islamic state, the punishment for a person who gave up on religion is death, have you ever seen that happen in Pakistan? (God forbid it ever happens, no pun intended.)

Hence, if you will choose parts of religion and choose to implement them in a democratic state, which is only partly based on religion, then you yourself are doing nothing else, but just choosing.

So that’s all what you said. Now, it’s my turn to give an answer.

First of all, I would start the debate by conceding to your right of privacy when it comes to religion. I, by any means, am not the one who should hold you accountable for whatever religious beliefs you foster. But for the sake of debate, let’s just talk, let’s just skim through each other’s arguments and learn to accept the ingenuity of belief behind them. Let’s learn to respect. But if you do really need a reason as far as my ‘intervention’ in your religious beliefs is concerned, then here I start.

Belief is literally the foundation of everything we do, or of the things we don’t do. Humans have been gifted with the intelligence to monitor his or her’s surroundings, and formulate opinions based on them. Simple idea, right? But it is the crux for a belief. If we consider the scientific history of belief, then I may very well refer you back towards Philosophy, specially towards the dialogue between Socrates and Thrasymachus over the concept of Justice. If we read the book called ‘The Republic’ By Plato, Volume 1, we can learn a lot of things from these dialogues between Socrates and Thrasymachus; for example, the very essence of the debate itself, which circumscribes the concept of Justice within it’s fold – but more importantly what we can learn as far as this debate is concerned, is that any idea, belief or motivation/inspiration are similar in nature – only the interpretation differs, which of-course arises from the subjective experiences of each individual. Nonetheless, any feelings that you espouse don’t differ in any way from the feelings that others feel. They are empirically the same. The same idea extends over beliefs. If, for example, you believe that Football is your favorite game, it really isn’t any different from saying that Islam is your favorite religion. By not discussing religion because it’s private doesn’t really make any sense. A belief is never a tool of privacy, only physical assets or things that have impact on your physical assets deemed to be given the status of private. Today in this world of ever-blossoming technology, you may say photographs are ‘physical assets’ because your physical presence has been translated into a virtual domain. On the other hand, a belief can be a product of a single human mind, or an idea that you may pick up along the way. Doesn’t it seem ironic that on one hand, people consider religion to be a private matter yet the very idea of privacy in religion has been ‘stolen’/taken from an idea postulated in another theory? If you think deep enough in a more philosophical sense, you might get what I’m trying to say. To conclude my justification, it is my belief that no belief can be deemed private, and hence even religion can be debated upon. If we can’t debate on religion because it’s personal, then you’re no different from a monarch ruling your mind and refusing to open up. I hope my point has been established. Sorry for all the fuss I created nonetheless, it’s just that when you told me that you needed to learn how to run away from a debate, I thought it wasn’t really a noble thing to do.

The second issue, which really commences the debate, is your dilemma with knowledge. You are an observer of reality and from this, you derive your beliefs. One of those beliefs is classified as the ‘feminist ideology’. While there is nothing wrong with believing in such an ideology, you must also consider the different strains of feminist ideology existent within the society. The main aim of the feminist movement is women empowerment. Empowerment, obviously, is a very vague term. It does not, for example, tell us what would empower the women, or what empowerment really is in the first place. Some say it’s the right to be treated equally to men, but then again, this leaves a chasm; equality is not an objective concept, but varies according to the definition of each and every individual. Therefore, the very essence of this movement is delusional because it says it desires women empowerment, but then limits the channel by which the women are actually empowered. Ironic, isn’t it? For some, women empowerment may be equivalent to ‘C’ while for others, it might be ‘D’. This is where religion actually comes in. It must not be a revelation to you that the Holy Prophet did consider Islam as perfect for women empowerment and liberation. Many Muslim women believe in wearing the Hijab. They see it as another way to women empowerment. However, ‘feminists’ you claim to be in a majority (which I really don’t know how you determined) don’t acquiesce to the notion held by these Muslim women. They believe that somehow the Muslim women don’t understand their own rights. This is nothing but a shame when the feminist movement does not really have a face because they fight among themselves over the definition of women empowerment. Unless or until we can decide what women empowerment means, I think you shouldn’t be really bothered when you exclaimed about the drama dhuwan’s mysterious character who tells a woman to come to Peshawar with him in a burqa, all the while ignoring the fact that the women agrees to his demand.

Just so we’re clear, I do believe that forcing a woman to do something that is against her will is a crime for me. But if a woman does really believe in empowerment by the burqa, she has every right to proclaim herself a feminist.

Now, as you told me, that you are not very well aware of what your religion really says about women empowerment. That’s actually okay too, since not all of us are really super practicing Muslims. However, the moment when you reject the importance of Burqa and other restrictions imposed on women in Islam, the irony of it all can’t be more clear. How can someone reject something and then say I don’t know a thing what the other thing advocates for? It’s like saying “I’m in love with Plato and I follow him because he’s a great soccer player”. To be more clear, and this is just a neutral observation which is not intended to invade your privacy, it seems as if you followed a religion and didn’t really know why you follow it. This doesn’t really synchronize well with your courage and devotion that you house for the feminist cause, which I partially admire. So here comes an advice – don’t be too quick to judge, specially when you’re not full on information. I’m sure that when you picked up the feminist cause, you did that only when you observed the atrocities being committed against women in the society of the past and the present, and then by formulating a conscious approach, you led yourself towards the definition of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. In order to be just, however, you need both sides of the picture and then decide. ‘Right’ isn’t always just, and I believe your judgement on religious notions about women empowerment is a testament towards that fact.

And having established that you are not so much aware of religion, which you confirmed before, leaves a big question in my mind. Why would you, of all people, help promote an agenda that you cannot be sure about. Isn’t this another example of Yellow Journalism? Remember, you post things on Facebook so that you can change the mindset of those people who you believe are wrong with their approach towards women’s place in this world. How would you feel about yourself when you find out, some years down the lane, that you’re wrong? As bold as you are, which is something I admire about you, I bet you won’t regret it. You’d accept it as a part of your life, and argue that we all make mistakes. That would be noble, but what would be more noble is when you make a just decision – after acquiring all the information that you lack at this point in time, specially when it comes to religion. You stated in your case that you take Quran as a guidebook, and would like to read and follow it someday. That’s a really stupid thing to do, because you’re spreading ideals that may very well be wrong and yet at the same time, you think it’s okay to let things be the way they are and let the Quran rest in the shelf a little longer, so that when you finally get some air, you can read it. You read a lot of stuff Sanya; I know that you read a lot of novels and other kinds of books and I think it wouldn’t hurt to learn the religious perspectives on the most crucial of things in our life. You’re just cheating yourself, and that’s not you.

And you have disappointed me when you screamed:  Lol are you seriously as stupid as it sounds? Are you seriously trying to go mullah on me? I told you once Awais, my religious beliefs should be of no concern to you, hence your whole argument is invalid, because NOTHING regarding my religious beliefs should concern you in ANY way at all. That is if you’re not a mullah of course, which I hope you’re not. 

By the way, let me just point out a logical fallacy for your knowledge. My argument can never be invalid just because your religion is of no concern to me. I think it can be important for not only me, but for each and every individual in the society. Although I have argued sufficiently on this, I know you wouldn’t just like to sit back and take the beating. To supplement my previous arguments, let me throw in a question – What if, in any stage of your life, you were granted of the opportunity that loaded responsibility upon your shoulders towards the general masses? Although that responsibility is still upon you as well as me, but let’s just follow the more direct course first. The thinking of a responsible individual will always impact the political system and geography of a society. What if people in our country rally behind the cause of enforcing burqa on women, and let’s just say you’re the prime minister, what would you do? Would you veto the people just because your own beliefs won’t let you do it? If so, then you will be violating the right of the general masses and in turn becoming someone you want to stand against. Men, as you say, are evil and want to keep women in their own control. If you deny people of their wishes, you are becoming the ‘man’ by keeping them in your clutches as you’re driven by your own beliefs, even if your beliefs are right. But then again, there is nothing right or wrong – everything is subjective.

As far as the non-direct way is concerned, your ideas do impact our society. Your presence does impact the society. Everything you do has an influence, no matter how limited or vast. So following this argument, your religion should be my concern, because god forbid, if people started to give Taliban religious space, they’ll do what no one would want them to do. In short, whatever you believe has the potential to physically impact your fellow human being. If you believe in social welfare, your actions could be inspired by your beliefs and you could change society for the better. Let’s call this social welfare idea religion, so by this standard, religion might make life of individuals around you better, regardless of your claim whether if it’s a private thing or not.

However, what really got me angered is when you used the word Mullah in a negative sense. If I curse womanhood, call them sluts and all the vile stuff that one could think of, and also deny them the space outside the kitchen, you would surely curse the hell out of me. You have stereotyped men as misogynists which isn’t right, and I think you would agree. Similarly, you have stereotyped ‘Mullahs’ which I think is really immature and stupid on your part. A part of your campaign is actually against stereotypes such as ‘women should belong to the kitchen’ or Hitler’s popular ideas about ‘woman raising children at home’. So, again, you’re against stereotypes. And you’re not even afraid of categorizing mullahs as vile, evil creatures on this planet. You should be ashamed of yourself, really. So let me tell you something you probably don’t know. I have been to the largest Madrassah in Asia, which is at Raiwind, Lahore. They admit students after intermediate level of education, and their bachelors is of nine years. NINE YEARS. Over the course of nine years, they learn the tafseer of the Quran, learn all the tafseer for Hadith, learn everything about the sunnah and all about the different schools of thought in Islam. What really impressed me was that they gave Islamic education as diverse as possible; that is to say they let you decide what school of thought you would like to follow. These are the real mullahs. They at least know about religion unlike you, and I think after nine years of rigorous religious education they possess the right to examine society in their own way and comment on what’s wrong or what’s right. People like you and me are self proclaimed pseudo intellectuals, who know nothing but nonetheless claim to know something and believe in that something with all the madness. I believe what these Mullahs do is not different from a doctor advising his patients which medicine to take, and we’re the ones who get caught with a fake degree. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t believe in something, or shouldn’t care for the general welfare of society – but I think we shouldn’t blatantly reject those people who are more educated than us over religious matters. The least we can do is to understand the arguments behind religious policy and then decide.

As far as your comments about Zia and all that is concerned, I don’t see in anyway how that was relevant to the debate we were having. You also said that you haven’t grown up in an Islamic state. Well, let’s just accept that – please tell me in what way is this supporting your argument?

I think that’s pretty much it. If I came out as rude, harsh or a bad person, please accept my apology; I do not intend to come out as such. Waiting for your witty response (I’m sure). Cheers.

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