Sunday, April 25, 2010

Shadows of hypocrisy

These days, the media seems striving to create symmetry in its outlook. While numerous instances of children's sexual abuse by the church bishops anger everyone, a darker side of Muslim societies are questioning the vanity of closed societies.Yesterday, the BBC's report on 'restoration of virginity in Arab communities' outstripped the pathetic plight of young boys exploited as sex-slaves in the 'bacha' industry in Afghanistan reported by PBS and almost every other news agency. Although, we can not base the whole judgement on two ad hoc reports, we can not deny the struggles towards disclosing the hidden realities of closed societies, especially the 'traditional Muslim societies', I cant dare to define these.

I noticed alot of Afghans being angry on the PBS documentary and many justified that such traditions exist in every human society and there is nothing new about it. Similarly, some Arab young men (through facebook) justified the importance of virginity for their new brides and blamed the Western media for deliberate attacks on 'muslim traditions'. I remembered that many of us Afghans were furious on the stories fabricated around virginity of Afghan women in the oasis of Kabul Beauty Saloon, a couple of year ago. The book ranked in top 10 of New York Times best seller and earned 'six-figure' deal from Columbia pictures.

I understand that these reports and their scope of focus are entirely different to each other- there is no monolithic 'muslim society' similarly as there is no homogenous 'open societies'. But there is a much larger issue than any impositions to claim sanity in such circumstances.

These realities also portray the pretence and hypocrisy embedded in many human societies but strongly held in most of the muslim communities. No society is ever entirely religious or entirely traditional. There is often a mixture of both and most of the time traditions juxtapose religion, or the real teachings of religion. Alot of people disagree with me that the existence of these issues such as the value of virginity and sex-slaving boys have nothing to do with the societies being muslims but I believe the religious claims of society prohibits any convictions to raise these issues publicly and at least create local understandings of their existence. So that when we see them through the lens of the 'independent' media, we dont get defiant. In urban Afghanistan, we are not able to discuss or question the issues publicly and if we do, the first person that will condemn and issue a stoning fatwa against us would the the local mullahs, among whom, some are involved in sexual abuse of boys and children.

I dont want to get into the debate on the nature of issues such as life-death value of virginity, or using boys as sex-slaves by men- but want to question the hypocrisy and pretending that such do not exist in our societies. Anyone from within the society that tried to raise the issues were suppressed and silenced. Some unconventional writers within the south asian region of India-Pakistan had written about the hidden realities rigidly religious and traditional societies including Ismat Chughtai who was indicted three times by the British-Indian court in the charge of obscenity for her popular short story called 'Lihaaf', the Quilt, in 1944. Similarly, a young journalist was sentenced to be hanged by the Kabul Supreme Court in 2008 for the charges of Blasephomy and was accused of questioning religion on the treatment of women. No one till date has seen what exactly he had written. Anyways, in societies with a dominant illitracy, we cant expect change through writing.

Back to the story of hypocrisy. A simple dictionary definition for hypocrisy is 'a practice of claiming moral values and standards to which one's own behavior does not conform'. A pretence that creates standards based on some abstract fantasy called moral values driven by religion, culture, upbringing, schooling, society, media, subjectivity and many other abstract thoughts. But the same standards are not seen in the person's life behind the curtains.

We dont take hypocrisy much serious but we forget that its like a pest that has infected our lives to a level that we dont understand what it means anymore. Although many would blame me for being naive and generalizing a complex situation, I think we first need to take the principles right and then cope with the structures. If principles that have shrouded our lives with vanity and tyrany are no longer applicable, then lets accept that and move ahead, but if even today we are committed with our principles, then lets face hypocrisy that flourishes rights inside us before it reaches the neighbor.