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Am I Opinionated? By Aminath

March 17, 2010

Living in India as a housewife for the past one year has got me into the habit of comparing issues and incidents that happens in India to that of Maldives. Analyzing the issues from both angles and being contemplative about it is intellectually very stimulating. Listening to discussion programs pertaining to Islam broadcasted on the TV certainly helps in broadening the limited knowledge on the subject as well comparing and contrasting the situation. Frankly speaking often I sit glued to the TV and admire the forthrightness and openness in which religious issues are discussed within the Muslim community. Wearing the “Buruga” is often a subject of discussion between Muslims and non Muslims where everyone’s opinions and beliefs are expressed in full public view. What stand out most is the unwavering firmness of the Muslims when voicing their feelings for a subject such as that of not wearing the “Buruga”. Vicariously I associate myself with them. Seeing Shabana Azmi and many others voicing out their opinion regarding their belief in not wearing the Hijab gave me a sense of contentment. They are women who are similar to many of us in their opinion regarding wearing the “Buruga” but the difference lies in their spirit, bravery and courage to speak out. It is well known that Shabana is a strong critic of religious extremism. After the 11 September 2001 attack, she has opposed the advice of religious leader who called upon the Muslims of India to go to Afghanistan and has retorted back to him to go alone. This strong reaction encouraged other Muslim leaders to counsel restrain and tolerance and shun terrorism.

In contrast the situation in Maldives is different. Women are rarely able to say what we want regarding such issues. The fear of singling out and being religiously and politically incorrect is too much for overburdened mothers and even for the fathers. But I always remember that though there is no reason for me to support the political views of Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party, the day that the former President, an Islamic Scholar openly stated that “Buruga” is not mandatory for women. The subsequent explanation with reference to Quran and Hadees on the topic is enlightening and praiseworthy.

Of course there are reasons for everything. No doubt India is the seventh largest country by geographical area and second largest based on its population of 1.15 billion and the most populous democracy in the world. Hindus dominated the country and Muslims are minority group comprising 13 percent of the population. With a large population with numerous media sources it may be difficult to single out a person based on issues like this in the way that happens in Maldives. Maldives is 100% Muslim country with a population size of 298,000 living in 200 islands scattered over 859 thousand square kilometers. Looking at it from another perspective on can also wonder whether we are trained to be like that or is it a question of rights. Do we have the right to express our opinions on religious matters? Whatever maybe the reasons the culture does not exist to speak out our opinion on certain issues easily. Definitely the government must be in charge of religious affairs among other things in the rightful way.

We in the Maldives, the people who believe that “Buruga” is not mandatory tend to ignore or talk within the like minded and move on with our lives as there is nothing that can be done. Fathers who are statesmen and who believe that “Buruga” is not necessary may have important issues like that of Climate Change and Sea Level Rise to deal with. True Climate Change and Sea Level Rise involve our existence and what can be more important than that? Yet as a mother I know that for some young women who are studying in schools life often becomes intolerable. The pro “Buruga” often verbally harass the classmates who are not wearing the “Buruga” often confusing and depressing them. Peer pressure is not only an issue of vice such as drug abuse. Even male students question her integrity regarding Islam based on the “Buruga”. Perhaps statesmen who can do something might be failing to notice the fact they are our daughters; daughters of our country with a huge role to play in future. Are we not unintentionally restricting the ability of the future generations their freedom and their rights similar to what has happened to us?

Looking back to our society in transition one can recollect the days where everyone or most were not wearing the “Buruga”. Overtime It seems that we do agree that mistakes might have been made, at the policy level not deliberately, in selection of institutions abroad to which students are sent to study religion. Perhaps with limited general knowledge teachers who are narrow minded with extreme views of Islam may not be the ideal teachers to impart religion to our children. To negate the fundamentalism that is creeping among us many times I speculate whether the government is doing enough to renew moderate views on Islam. Local Islamic scholars with moderate views of Islam need to have open forums and debate on these issues. It could of immense benefit if the content of the existing Islamic Studies Syllabus be debated and discussed in for greater awareness and substance. There could be many more issues that need to be thought of to fight against religious fundamentalism that is looming on us and threatening the mere existence of many of us. As sometimes it seems that the misery of Afghan women is closer to us than that of the threat of Climate Change and Sea Level Rise.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Zeek permalink
    March 17, 2010 12:25 pm

    Amazing Article! Very well written! Speaks on behalf of a lot of women I personally know, including myself! Thank you very much for voicing it out. I applaud you.

  2. Nano permalink
    March 17, 2010 12:33 pm

    Youre feature artical/ blog is interesting, touching on a subject that not many people talk/ write about because of being afraid to voice their opinions and I think that being extremists is something humans naturally tend to do because we over analysize little details and twist it, eventually destroying the meaning of something. These days most people have the picture of muslim girls/women wearing a buruga and covering up their faces because of the things they are told through media and people and comparing it to global warming and sea levels emphasizes on the importance of the subject. In Male’ its hard to voice youre opinions and step outside the box because everyone is told the same thing and have the same idea- being a little different and not sticking by other peoples opinions gets you shunned.

  3. Aishath Manike permalink
    March 21, 2010 12:36 pm

    This article touches upon many a concerns of mine. Global warming is bad and all but the issue of fundamentalism is something we face in our daily routine. From the taxi driver who ‘just happen to be playing’a CD on covering yourself when you get it to the nasty calls for burga of first ladies, prominent politicians and top government post holders.

    Don’t give up ladies, be steadfast in your work.

  4. April 1, 2010 4:41 pm

    This website shows the fallacy of who are enamored by the trappings of the Western culture yet dont have a solid understanding of it and criticising Islam without understanding its basis.If you have any issues with Islam,leave buruqaa,veil,…etc and

    1.Prove that a Creator does not exist
    2.Prove that the Quran is not from the Creator or try to create even one verse of the same genre

    If Islam is unfit or non modernised prove its invalidity from the root and if you think western capitalism/democracy is the panacea for all the ills prove its correctness from the root.

  5. May 5, 2010 3:29 pm

    What a great article. I love your view, and I am in total support. It’s a sad thing that many Maldivians are currently being suppressed, and voicing an opinion has become very much harder despite the freedom of speech.

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