‘For most of history, Anonymous was a woman.’ – Virginia Woolf
There seems to be a structural resemblance among fundamentalists of all hues, evident from their comments in the wake of the 16 December gangrape in New Delhi of a 23-year-old woman who subsequently died from her injuries. Just like RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat had opined that rapes happen in India and not in Bharat, the Jamaat-e-Islami has also submitted an 11 point recommendation to the Justice JS Verma Committee, which the government has constituted to suggest changes required in existing laws to provide better security to women in India. Two points out of the 11 that the Jamaat-e-Islami, a politico-religious organisation whose ultimate goal is to bring khilafa (creating God’s kingdom) on Earth, has proposed are worth our attention. (For details look up: http://jamaateislamihind.org/eng/ban-co-education-live-in-relationships-to-prevent-rapes-jamaat-e-islami-hind/).
First, (3) Co-education should be abolished and proper education facilities meant for women only should be available at all levels of education.
Second, (4) Educational institutions should prescribe sober and dignified dress for girls.
How should one look at this take from the Jamaat? It has its roots in history. The Jamaat is afraid of gharabzadgi, an Iranian concept prevalent in the 1960s – 70s, which is often translated as ‘Westoxication’, “Westitis”, “Westmania”, etc. These terms denote an illness, a virus, a plague from the West, which has a devastating effect on any culture or community. It is a very common perception among these patriarchs and self-proclaimed guardians of a community that women are most vulnerable to this gharabzadgi. Therefore, through women, the warp and weft of the social fabric would be easily contaminated and then this gharabzadgi will wreak havoc on the Muslim culture. They also want to make us understand about the ‘evils’, which Europe and the US owe to the desegregation of the sexes, and the shamelessness and immodesty of contemporary Western culture. To score points over the West they place Islamic rights and stereotyped roles for women in opposition to the eroticised other — in this case the Western civilisation. As per their understanding, the female body provokes men and arouses them sexually and hence endangers moral behaviour so women must not take part in the public sphere. Therefore, the best way to arrest crimes against women is to house arrest them, either by imposition or by coercion. Such mentality and mindset makes legitimate, in many areas of the Islamic world, women’s surveillance by the family, community, and the state.