Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Where Sensitivity Is Needed and Where It Isn't

The gang-rape case in Karachi's upmarket Defence area - where two women were driven off the road by men in another car and one of them was abducted and then raped - has already received plenty of media and blog attention, unfortunately for all the wrong reasons.

In particular, some parts of the media and the Sindh government adviser Sharmila Farooqui have been quite rightly castigated by many for their criminally cavalier attitude in commenting on the serious crime. It seems there is still a long way to go for some to understand that nothing, and we mean nothing, justifies rape: not the 'character' of a woman, not the clothes she wears, not her past, not her 'activities', not anything she says or does, not anything. A lit bit of sensitivity to the trauma of a rape survivor may be too much to ask from some people but what is shocking is that parts of the media - which had voluntarily stopped naming victims many years ago in a positive move - seem to have unlearnt years of gender sensitization and reverted to their callous previous ways.

The best commentary on the whole issue so far has been provided by Pakistan Media Watch. I would urge you all to read it. There is nothing more that I wish to add.

. . .

In other news, I wanted to share the following recent story from Australia, which reader Umar Anjum shared with us. It raises some rather interesting questions about multiculturalism to say the least, but also about the knee-jerk way religion (or rather, a warped concept of religion) and cultural sensitivity have come to be used to justify the worst excesses.

I am thankful to @MyPplWannaJump for finding me an embeddable video. It is not of the highest quality however. If you wish to see a better quality version of the same clip, you can go here.

Regardless of the undoubted Islamophobic bigotry that sometimes accompanies the paranoia about the veil in the 'West', one must acknowledge the serious issues of security and recognizability that it gives rise to. In fact, this issue of the niqab (note, not the burqa) is hardly an issue limited only to the 'West.' This is increasingly an issue in Pakistan that impinges on security as well, let alone what it indicates about social dynamics over the last 30-odd years. I also know of a very well-respected university professor in Karachi who refuses to teach students wearing a face veil in his class. His contention is that he can neither tell, through visual clues, if the students are understanding what he is saying, nor can he be sure that the veiled students are in fact his students at all. I have to say, I completely sympathize with him.


Anonymous said...

Damn straight.

Anonymous said...

so you hv nothing to rite about... just ask ur bosses 4 an help... hehehehee...

Bolshevik said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bolshevik said...

Ms Farooqui claims that she does not know about "any conventions regarding not naming rape survivors". And to think that she "advises" the govt on media. Good god we're all doomed.

Anonymous said...

The War you don't See by John Pilger

A must watch documentary.

nikko said...

This is the letter to the editor I have written to daily times.NOT that it will ever be published.I am appalled at how crap a newspaper Daily Times has become

I was appalled at the callousness of Daily Times for publishing the
names and details of the rape victims in your newspaper dated December
21st, 2010. Are you that devoid of any sort of ethical standards that
you not only printed the names of both the victims but felt the NEED
to talk about who she lived with and THEN cast aspirations on their
character and depending on what the police thought?
SHAME ON YOU i say..shame on you…you are beneath every womans
contempt for falling so utterly low in so many of our eyes. How
degrading for every one involved.
I have watched first with amusement and then derision on how bad your
quality of reporting and newspaper has become over the past year or
so. Unfortunately, yesterday you crossed a line, utterly and totally.
My contempt for the Daily Times team is complete.
Shame on you. If those girls were your sisters, mothers,
friends….would you STILL publish every goddamn details of their
Shame on you.shame on your shoddy reporting
Mere words fail in my contempt for your reporting and UNETHICAL PRACTICES

Not that you will ever publish this letter to the editor, because you
are to full of yourself full of congratulatory, how amazing you are
doing as a newspaper.
You are so beneath my contempt

Paki Kaki said...

The most important thing that needs to be inseminated into the public mind is the disassociation of rape from a crime of sex/passion to one of control/power.

Rape is NOT sex. It's a violent act of assault and subjugation. Sex, is just a means to an end here.

Until we can make this distinction clear for the law enforcement officers, doctors and the common man (and woman), we will continue to sensationalize the subject, scandalize the victims and push this crime under the rug of "taboo".

I am most surprised by the judgmental knee-jerk reaction of some women, as well as men, who auto cast aspersions on the character of the victim.

I saw Orya Maqbool Jan, on AAJ TV last night. He was ranting and raving about how young girls are using their mobiles to send "lachar" and "fahash" SMS to their friends and such "azad-munsh" gals are, by extension, bringing this on themselves.

Not just the Zehris, the jahils, but such "educated" mindsets need to be educated. Who will do it ?.

Anonymous said...

Orya Maqbool Jan is right
you can't have your cake and eat it too

Philistine said...

XYZ: I'm curious about what exactly the niqab says about social dynamics over the last 30 yrs? And the university professor that you mention seems very insensitive. Do women who desire to veil themselves not deserve the right to an education? People all over the world dress differently in different contexts, it would be nice if we could make peace with that.

The report itself seems to be really hyped. The entire argument seems to be how DARE somebody (a muslim woman no less) accuse a cop of being racist? As a citizen/ resident she has the right to file a complaint if she feels she is being harassed. that is what that mechanism is there for, to protect her right as a citizen. If it turns out that the claim does not have any weight, it can be dismissed. Why the need for all this hullabulloo? The report is overtly biased in favor of the police as well, with all their talk about "just IMAGINE the consequences he would have to suffer!" compare this to the daily racism that people of colour in australia or other western countries face. Does it ever get so much media coverage? They could have at least pretended to be a little impartial. But given the Islamophobia that you acknowledge, this doesn't seem to be necessary.

I think it would do us good to remember the care and determination with which Islamophobia is being manufactured in the west right now, and how it forms an intrinsic part of the ideology / knowledge that legitimizes the War on Terror. This media snippet is completely in line with that, projecting as it does the white cop as victim and the 'hysterical' muslim woman as the aggressor. (Similar to the osama aggressor, US victim rhetoric.) It's not even so much an issue of who is right or wrong here (although I personally am on the Muslim woman's side), but of the purpose that media coverage of this type serves.

In case anyone is interested, a lot has been written on the desire of the white male to unveil the muslim woman in the context of colonialism, which is pretty relevant today. (See leslie peirce, winfred woodhull, meyda yegenoglu.)

Anonymous said...

@Philistine Did you watch the video from the cruiser cam? If you did you would know that in this particular case the woman was using the race card and religious bias as a means to get out of a simple breath analyzer and a ticket. The full clip from that cruiser is here:

Irrespective of this, the niqaab is something which is quite debatable. It does prevent one from being identified. With a veil on you cannot tell explicitly if its a man or a woman. There is some scholarly agreement on the fact that women should unmask themselves for law enforcement. Even in the Quran it asks one to dress modestly to cover one's private parts so that its not apparent. fair enough but is the face a genital?

P.S. Regards the rape case in Karachi: Travelling alone at 3 am in the night in any major metropolis in the world is dangerous whether you are male or female.

Anonymous said...

off topic but can you confirm this? or what is the story behind this "story"?

Anonymous said...

Hurrah for that "professor" The taliban try to stop female education by blowing schools Our liberals will acheive that goal by banning the niqab wearing ladies.If the professor has a problem then he should stay home!

Anonymous said...

Any chance I could get a hold of the "very well-respected university professor's" email address?Does he/she have any clue how many women they will be alienating by the insensitive attitude.Academics and their "I know better than thou" complex it boogles ones mind sometimes.

If teachers could tell just by looking at a student how well they understand something don't you think everyone would be getting straight A's.Last I checked the best students are those that "ask" questions not sit with "I-have-a-question" face!Guess the professor is one of those who doesn't encourage students to ask questions and has to resort to reading their faces.tsk.tsk.