Profiling and personal fatwas

Published: July 6, 2011

The tolerance level is getting lower by the day with people churning out personal fatwas whenever they can.

We, Pakistanis, are an opinionated lot -that much is certain. But, when criticism turns in to censure then soon enough we see personal fatwa machines, depicting yet another poor prognostic sign for Pakistan.

Muslim-Americans fume at being profiled and singled out for scrutiny at airports, but happily join the melee of labeling people based on appearances – a hijabi is purity incarnate and only the morally corrupt wear shorts, don’t you know?

Prejudices are transmitted and bolstered by parents and families, and a good number of unfortunate people go through life not examining the outlandish mindset, let alone the fact that they sound like their grandmothers.

I grew up at a time when PIA chose air-hostesses based on height, weight and good looks. And, since Pakistani actresses were frankly obese, my glamour ideal was a PIA air-hostess.

My family was looking for a match for my uncle and someone suggested a pretty girl.

My grandfather’s words hiss in my ears till today:

“Absolutely not! She is an air-hostess!”

Out went my close dream of flying the skies.

I knew intuitively then and know definitely now that PIA air-hostesses endure sexual harassment because of my grandfather’s kind of mindset and not for other salacious reasons. I examined the bias that was fed to me with chapatis every night – many swallow it whole.

Not only do we presume and profile, we churn out fatwas at whim. Who would have thought that one needed intense schooling in the Holy Quran, the Sunnah, the Hadith and fiqh, to be able to be a mufti?

Our bias knows no bounds; we brand people casually at parties, to their face, behind their back, on national television and even in sessions of Parliament.

A harsh encounter

Once, I had the misfortune of running in to the moral police at parties where I happen to be wearing a sari. Somehow that puts them in the frothing-at-the-mouth mode, made worse by the fact that their husbands are engaged in animated conversations with me – about nothing other than religion!

There’s a deferential introduction by husband to wife and as her eyes bore deep into me, she demands to know whether I have read the Quran.

“Surprise! I have read Maudoodi’s translation,” I say, thinking that would be an olive branch better than Muhammad Asad or Yusuf Ali. But she’s underwhelmed – she condescendingly asks whether I have heard of “amar bil maroof wa nahin anal munkar” (promoting the good and forbidding evil). I was told quite seriously that we must practice what we learn from Islam.

Furious, I tell them that the tragedy of Muslims is that they insist on converting others to Islam despite many verses in the Holy Quran encouraging tolerance.

As I try to persuade her to be kind I can feel her branding me as wholly ignorant of religion.

And what was she wearing: hijab, jilbab (long coat) and her daughter had a niqab on.

I immediately felt a heathen in a sari. For a religion that means peace and promotes justice, these were angry, vicious people. A veiled fatwa was issued right then and there, and I know behind my back, if words could kill, you wouldn’t be reading this.

Crowds are roused to riot on national television by the likes of Amir Liaquat Husain, and fanatics murder Ahmadis in grisly madness.

Rana Sanaullah accuses Babar Awan of  bribery and goes on to call him wajibul qatl (one that deserves to be killed).

The intelligentsia makes up less than two per cent of the population but holds Pakistan’s destiny in its hands.

Blinded by bias, shuttered by ignorance and endangered by whimsical fatwas we catalyse Pakistan’s abysmal descent.


Mahjabeen Islam

A family physician and free-lance columnist who blogs at

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Pakistan

    Yes, you are rightRecommend

  • nafisa

    An Eloquently articulate piece. Very honest.
    Sadly most of us are brought up to believe in a Racist Supremacy Ideology.
    Luckily a few can see past it. Recommend

  • Deen Sheikh

    Ive been there, i know how u feel. An old acquaintance of mine threatened to publicly behead me for saying on a chat forum that I am not opposed to the burqa ban in France, mark my words i said i am not oppossed, i never said i am in favour of it. Ive met people who have told me on my face that I have committed blasphamey by not offering salat 5 times a day. People in this country are freaking me out, we have either religious extremists or liberal fascists, where have moderates gone.Recommend

  • Muzaffar

    ET, Hyperlink to Dr. Amir Liaqat Hussain is wrong.Recommend

  • The Forbidden Fruit

    There’s also a line in the holy Quran that says “La ‘ikraha fid-Deen” meaning: “Let there be no compulsion in religion” Somehow, these lines get left out!Recommend

  • mahindar

    It took 8 years for the religious scholars in our country to issue a fatwa against suicide bombings but when Nazia Hassan started singing on PTV, a fatwa was declared against her in a couple of days… in my entire life i have never heard of a fatwa been issued against honor killings ,corruption or domestic violence the actual problems of this country.
    I can only hope that the people of this country wake up and realize that these self proclaimed morally pure have hijacked their religion. Recommend

  • Faria Syed

    Thanks for pointing it out. The incorrect link has been removed.
    — Faria S. (Web Desk)


  • Zaigham

    I am not saying you are wrong, but profiling goes both ways. havent you seen , among scores of cars , only those with bearded men being stopped by the police? Shalwar qameez wearing boys being stopped at university gates? any person remotely resembling a Pashtun being judged as Taliban, or many times stupid?

    Stereotyping and profiling has become a part of our nature. We consider it our right to judge each and everyone based on appearance. So get over it.Recommend

  • Terahertz

    Thank you for writing this article. It is very true.

    I often find that people are particularly quick to judge those who are doing the very things that they themselves want, but do not have the guts to do. Perhaps the fatwa lady dearly wanted to wear a sari and engage in intellectual conversations, but was always too afraid that she herself would be judged. These silly people seem to think that just because they don’t want something (or can’t for whatever reason), that no one else should have it either. They judge others so that they can justify the choices they have made in life. If you listen to them, you will end up stunted and with several lifetimes’ worth of regret. Recommend

  • Taimoor

    Very well written. Alas, I dont see how we are going to take a step towards becoming more tolerant.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Excellent write up. When Karl Marx said ‘ religion is the opiate of the masses ‘ he was so very right.Recommend

  • Amjad

    I am sorry but isn;t the sari a Hindu type dress worn by Indians? You never see any native Pakistani wear it but it is an import from India just like the bindi that some people wear. I always thought only Sri Lankans and Indians wore the sari because none of Pakistani family would ever wear it.Recommend

  • pakistani

    agreed… fanatic people are always ready to jump to the, i am not concluding anything out of this lol :PRecommend

  • PostMan

    @Amjad: ‘I am sorry but isn;t the sari a Hindu type dress worn by Indians?’

    Tell you what. Do you know the shalwar kameez you wear? where it comes from?

    ‘Gandhara art is the high water achievement of the people of Pakistan. Mahayana Buddhism was the inspiring ideal of the time …. It was this time that the country was known as Kushana-shahar, the land of the Kushanas, …. It is these Kushana kings who have gifted the national dress of shalwar and kamiz and sherwani to Pakistan.’ – Ahmad Hassan Dani

    So you are wearing a non-muslim creation. I hope you wont roam around naked. Regards.Recommend

  • Hiba

    I agree with your article partially, I do agree with the fatwas part- But wearing a sari you are doing no good to the image of Muslims either. Just as the lady took it to one extreme, you took it to the other. Don’t think of yourself as being the righteous one either. Recommend

  • amjad khan

    excellent piece.atleast someone has the courage to expose the religious dogma suffocating our society.i’ve faced a lot of islamic fascists myself and their absurdities.i invited my ahmadi and hindu groups members to my house for doing our term project in my MBA but the rest of the group told me that “we wont come to your house if you invite these people also,tell them to email their part to us and we’ll edit and finalise it,we don’t want to eat and drink on the same table with them”

    eating from the same plate or drinking from the same glass as an ahmadi or hindu doesn’t make an iota of difference.The islamic fascists should realise the extent of their horrible brainwashing and get rid of their deluded self created sense of moral superiority over the non-muslims.Recommend

  • Talha


    Apt name, corresponds with your thoughts.

    What’s wrong with a sari?

    Don’t dictate others girl.Recommend

  • Mukesh Kumar

    Nice article.

    If we investigate various religions closely, they can be divided in three major parts: Cultural, Moral, Spiritual. Generally, it is the cultural aspect of the religion people stick to, and use politically to rule people. It is high time for religions to get over this cultural aspect. Recommend

  • http://deleted Nazia

    @amjad khan !!

    I dont appreciate the words of ur mates to not invite ur hindu and ahmedi frends..
    I also have hindu and ahmedi friend . but in sum matters we have to put limit.
    but b a muslim atleast, eating from same dishes is not ALLOWED !! u r sayign it for the heck of saying .. !! think about it.
    May ALLAH give all of us guidence . and if i said somthing wrong . mercy on me !Recommend

  • http://deleted Nazia

    well written, go ahead with whatever you wear sarri or skirt . but remember your moral and religious values :) everyone is mature enough to deicde for his or her false/correct doing.Recommend

  • KolachiMom


    If people like you weren’t so amusing, you’d be scary.Recommend

  • Habiba Younis

    the problem lies in the superiority complex that is indoctrinated deep down the heads of people like that woman who confronted you baselessly. Thinking themselves to be a ‘Holy’ soul, they consider it their birth right to tag people this way. Recommend

  • Dodo

    “With or without religion you will have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.” – Steven WeinbergRecommend

  • rehmat

    Please see Pakistani serials like Dhoop Kinare. You will find plenty of Muslim characters in that serial wearing sarees. Also your notion that Pakistanis never wear sarees means that you refuse to recognize Hindu Pakistanis as Pakistanis. Finally remember Bangladesh? It used to be part of Pakistan and even today the Prime Minister of Bangladesh (who is by the way a Muslim) wears a saree.

    Saree is a dress of this subcontinent just as salwar kameez is. To discard traditional clothese and take up Arabic ones to prove your Islamiyat is very strange – to say the least.Recommend

  • rehmat

    Are you aware that Bangladesh is a Muslim majority country? Are you aware that the PM of Bangladesh wears a saree?Recommend

  • Z. Akbar

    my sentiments exactly.

    Well written!

    Moral Brigade at their own convenience.Recommend

  • TheLowBlow

    Those ANIMALS! For a second I thought they’re just jealous of you speaking to their husbands at the party because you must be more attractive than the average woman, but then I took a closer look at your display pic. No danger of that happening.

    So it MUST be what you said. Nice post, uggo.Recommend

  • Neferetti

    Our beautiful religion teaches us moderation in every aspect of life.
    Live & let live. Let ALLAH be the judge!!Recommend