An education blogger is an agent, a beautiful model is a prostitute, a female politician is a thief, an actress is a disgrace and most recently, a wheel-chair bound philanthropist who uplifts others for a living is a “fame-hungry fraud.”
Welcome to Pakistan, where a combination of “not being born man” and “life achievement” will have you slandered by every tassaduq, dildaar and hajveri even if you have simultaneously cured cancer, rescued all the orphans of the world and managed a family of four whilst appearing like a dream. Let’s face it; breaking down the successful in general is a national hobby of ours and women are the most susceptible to this gulli danda, which is played with the human soul.
Name one Pakistani woman who accomplished anything and I will name 20 labels that the ignorant amongst us, used to tie a noose weaved of venom around her neck. Your sin is that you dared to be brave, happy and that you overshadowed a man.
Instead of trying to evolve to a higher level to raise our self-esteem, we take the lazy and vindictive road of assassinating the character of our heroes, whom we can learn from.
No wonder all that we’re left with are monsters who loot us. I am beginning to think that we probably deserve them.
Muniba Mazari was recently, thrown under fire by the media, the awaam, their mothers-in-law and pet parrot after being sued by her ex-husband for “defamation” charges with a demand of rupees 10 million (because this sum will return his metaphorical “izzat”).
I read her former husband’s statements, whose name I didn’t even know before this charge, and the issues that he had presented for causing altercations in their marriage appalled me.
The following are the statements made by her ex-husband:
“The petitioner said that she started visiting foreigners in diplomatic enclaves and embassies with her brothers, whom the plaintiff had given shelter in service accommodation. She developed an interest in modeling and singing which was against moral and social values and against the customs of plaintiff’s family. Being an esteemed officer of the defense forces, the plaintiff could not allow the defendant to continue such practices and eventually tried to stop her. The defendant (Muniba) instead of stopping, with her free will and choice left the house of plaintiff in September 2014 along with the minor adopted son, he said.”
To me, these statements sound extremely racist, sexist and anti-pacifistic. Instead of being inspired by his wife’s social skills, philanthropic spirit and artistic aspirations, he was threatened and probably gave her hell by not letting her be herself, as do many strictly patriarchal minded Pakistanis, be it men or women.
Based on these statements, the husband comes off as someone who doesn’t recognize a woman’s basic right to express her passions, interact with others and be in the limelight. He sounds like someone who is ignorant enough to object to music – a tool for peace and harmony.
When did befriending foreigners too “openly” become a sin? I thought that having multi-cultural friends was suggestive of being a tolerant and accepting human being? Not only does Muniba interact with foreigners but also with the most disenfranchised members of our society. She acts like a bridge between those at the top down to those, right at the bottom including transgenders, orphans and beggars with a smile as radiant as the sun. A smile that has acted as a source of strength personally for me and for millions of others, day after day, month after month and year after year and I know that that smile cannot be faked.
If it were so easy to fake her level of bravery, positivity, courage and humanitarianism, that too without having the ability to walk, then I invite all those accusing her of opportunism and defamation to achieve even a quarter of what Muniba has achieved and climb on this so- called “short-cut” to success.
She also sings beautifully, portrays a soft and positive image of Pakistan and motivates people across the world with her powerful story so if she did “slightly” portray her husband in a less-than-holy light then he probably deserves it as he doesn’t exactly sound like such a bright and enlightened being for (a) having objections to her expressing her talents and socialising with others and (b) suing her for 10 million rupees for his “izzat”, despite being married with a child and employed in a commercial airlines. Having the mindset that he has, he probably made it very difficult for Muniba to mobilise her already immobile body in society. If he wanted to have her sing praises of him then he should have behaved better.
Sadly, patriarchy has inflicted these oppressions over women for so long, that they have become an accepted and celebrated part of society so much so that even the act of questioning these social mores would taint a woman’s reputation. Dangerous slanderings such as “What a beghairat (dishonourable) bhai you are for letting your sister come on TV” can break families and take lives. Remember Qandeel episode?
It doesn’t change the fact that stopping a woman who was born to sing or an actress who was born to act is the equivalent of tying the legs of a horse that was meant to run or slicing off the fins of a dolphin who was meant to swim.
I have also attended Muniba’s Tedx talk in person and clearly remember what she said regarding her accident. Her exact words were, “The driver fell asleep whilst we were on the road to another city, which is when we met the accident” which sounds like a very graceful and covert way of telling the story.
If she really wanted to defame him, she would have used the term “My ex-husband” instead of “driver” or better yet, used his real name – I didn’t even know that she was referring to her husband until I read the article of her husband’s charges. Also, saying that he fell asleep does not mean accusing them of a crime, as it is not suggestive of an intentional act. With all of her influence, if Muniba wanted to defame him she could’ve had him outcast from the planet.
People are referring to a video of hers where she speaks well of her husband as proof that she is a liar when anybody trying to salvage their marriage would have said the same on national television. Sure, Muniba isn’t flawless and probably made human mistakes like all humans do but why is she solely being held to such impossibly angelic standards of morality?
The larger issue in this whole fiasco is how proudly and “heroically” her ex-husband tries to morally downplay her for having the aspirations of singing, modeling and networking. With one being a tool for peace and harmony and the second being a tool of personal empowerment.
The strictly patriarchal in our society believe that modeling is a lewd profession because attractive photographs can evoke “explicit” reactions in other men. My question is that what makes them assume that men don’t fantasize about women in offices, schools, and even out on the roads? Should women walk around wearing a Mr. Potato-head mask to conceal their faces? In fact, such ogling is even more prevalent in societies where women are oppressed and kept hidden from the public eye. I’m sorry but if you have that kind of thinking then you should probably migrate to Pluto with your wife where no man can see her face.
Sidelining one profession as “bad” is ignorant but we are a nation that concurrently watches Mahira Khan movies whilst not hesitating to call her a whore.
There is a reason as to why our country ranks as second lowest in terms of gender equality according to the World Economic Forum which means that women have been extremely deprived of basic rights and that includes the right to follow their passions. How so many people have turned against such a giving woman with half a functioning body also proves how difficult it is for our people to digest a woman’s success, even when it is a disabled woman.
Nonetheless, we shouldn’t overshadow all the good men who do support Mazari and believe in women’s empowerment. We just have to fight extra hard against these deeply engrained traces of patriarchy to ensure that our women are safe, healthy and happy. And that no one could walk in and tarnish their happiness at whim.
This whole incident leaves me to the following conclusions. This man is greedy for money, slut-shaming is patriarchy’s favorite tool to deal with envy towards a powerful woman and that considering the liberal arts as “bad” is still considered honorable.
Whilst I cannot tie both parties to a lie-detecting machine to learn the absolute truth, I can gauge all the positive influences Muniba has had over society, in the little time that she has been in the public eye. She personifies qualities that all Pakistani can use more of. Hence, demonising Muniba means demonizing resilience, strength, gratitude, happiness, love, community, acceptance and women’s rights.
Are you willing to see a society devoid of those?
This article was originally published on www.humaywaseem.com where the author blogs regularly.