Vendredi, July 09 2010
Funny Pakistan is officially called the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. I guess it may be a symbol for the hypocrisy that’s usually prevalent in society. Eg. I’ve often heard aunties saying that “girls should not flaunt their beauty”, but those same creatures encourage their daughters to dress up as flamboyantly as possible when a prospective rishta shows up. Come on, the dude is still a strange man. And when western attire (no matter how “shareef”) is usually frowned upon, it is so much more acceptable to wear navel showing sari blouses..You even see old people wearing those. Anyway, so hypocrisy exists in varying forms, including religious double-standards.
So yesterday I wanted to pray Asr before class and since I’d spotted a sign that said something about a prayer room a few days ago near the front-desk, I headed there. “Prayer Room- 3rd Floor” said a paper print out stuck to a wall at the reception. I walked over to the third floor and looked around for something remotely prayer-like. None found, I thought I’d ask for help…At the reception, a man with a mustache mulled over papers with a grim expression on his face…Not wishing to interrupt anything important, I waited for a little while before my inquiry. He looked up, stared at me like I was the ghost of Christmas past (okay a little exaggeration there, but the look was surprise mingled with annoyance I guess =P), and then wore an expression that said “Yes, why are you here?“. So I asked him “Where’s the prayer room?“. Poor guy looked very confused; clearly his job description hadn’t mentioned “will usher people to prayer rooms” =P. Anyway, for about 5 seconds, the guy looked shocked. Then he stammered “Umm..they are on the third floor”. Oops, I’d gotten used to the American idea of floors where ground floor is 1. Then he said something as an after-thought “Err..The room is only to be used by men”, clearly hinting I shouldn’t go there. Annoyed, but still wanting to check the Qibla direction I went upstairs. The room, when I saw it-actually all the 3rd floor it seems- was completely devoid of life. The room itself was a simple, with straw mats and a jaa-namaz in the middle. And it was empty, no men praying..
So it wasn’t a big deal, you might think. But seriously, isn’t it important for women to pray as much as it is for men? And as an Islamic Republic, as the country’s name suggests, shouldn’t there be such religious freedom? Yet this is not the only time I’ve seen prayer rooms for men only. In fact, even some mosques prohibit women from praying because they don’t have separate facilities.
I grew up listening to nasheeds that said “All the earth is a place for prostration”…So why are some areas restricted for men only? As far as I know, namaz was fard on both genders. What is ironic is that when I was at university in Boston, they had more accessibility to prayer areas then we do here at times. At uni we had a prayer room in a central place convenient for students. It was a small cosy room with a carved wooden screen partition…
But its not the lack of resources that prohibit women’s freedom here..It’s the weird mindset where some of us in society don’t even think about women.