What would you think if US President Barack Obama were to appoint Benjamin Netanyahu as his special advisor to the Israel-Palestine conflict right after his speech offering an unclenched hand in friendship to the Muslim world? It would be a move that makes as much sense as President Nasheed’s recent appointment of Sheikh Hussain Rasheed Ahmed as the minister of state for home affairs.
The ministry is in charge of the police and defence forces – the maintenance of law and order in the Maldivian society. Its portfolio includes the treatment of prisoners. Was it not recently that Sheikh Rasheed voiced his wishes for re-introduction of capital punishment and amputation into the Maldivian penal code? And did President Nasheed not fundamentally disagree with Sheikh Rasheed’s position?
What confounds logic even more is that President Nasheed is putting Sheikh Rasheed in a leadership role in a ministry which says that shaping the social fabric of the nation is part of its mission and remit. An examination of the social fabric that Sheikh Rasheed would like the Maldives to be clothed in shows it to be of a cut and design that is hardly tailor-made for a democracy, to put it mildly.
For Sheikh Rasheed’s Adhaalath Party wants a Maldivian society in which there would be not just capital punishment, amputation and flogging. It would also be a patriarchal society that would function according to something called the ‘natural order’ of things. The natural order, Fate, Karma, God’s Preordained Blueprint for Life, or whatever one might like to think of it as, is one in which men and women are quite irrevocably different from each other.
The main proof lies in the biological make-up. Male and female reproductive organs are different. For those who cite biology as the reason for man’s superiority, the reproductive organs also testify to man’s mental superiority over women. One might ask whether, by the same logic, it follows that the intellectual superiority accorded on the basis of biological differences mean that it is these reproductive organs that are put to use when such men need their mental faculties to function – but one should not be so supercilious in one’s attitude towards such learned, scholarly dignitaries, so let us move on.
Even a perfunctory empirical examination of the societal idyll that Adhaalath Party has outlined for the Maldives, in their various publications online, renders one aghast that the leader of this party has now been appointed to a position that would allow for such thinking to be actualised. There is plenty of material to choose from, but the focus of this article is on the place women are to have in this ‘Adhaalathian Utopia’.
Women are equal to men, says Adhaalath. When it comes to domestic violence, that is. Take for example Lorena Bobbitt who in 1993 cut off her cheating husband’s ‘male organ’, as Adhaalath so very delicately put it. Rather than being a one off incident (excuse the pun), for the Adhaalath party it is representative of womankind as a whole, and shows just how wrong it is for women to claim such an ‘entitlement’ to victimhood in domestic abuse.
Now weigh this against the World Development Report of the same year which stated that ‘violence causes more death and disability worldwide amongst women aged 15-44 than war, cancer, malaria or traffic accidents’. Or measure it against the fact that 70 per cent of women experience violence from men in their lifetime or the fact that ‘at least one out of every three women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime with the abuser usually someone known to her’.
No matter, the enraged Mrs Bobbitt’s impromptu surgery on the very part of the philandering Mr Bobbitt’s anatomy that stood as testament to his superiority proved beyond any reasonable doubt that these ‘notions’ of ‘victimhood’ that women entertain are just silly female ideas that have no place in ‘the natural order of things’.
“Somewhere around Bombay”
Similarly, women cannot honestly claim to have no equality when it comes to rape either. For Adhaalath – without reference to any source material – provides ample ‘proof’ that this is simply not the case. One Adhaalath commentator, for example, tells his readers of having spotted a headline in capital letters [if it is in capital letters, then surely it must be true] in some newspaper somewhere in a remote part of India that a group of women used to phone a hapless doctor to come make house calls only to be gang-raped by a group of female ‘patients’ when he arrived at the door.
Adhaalath can also inform readers that ‘somewhere in or around Bombay’, sometime in 1989, another group of women gang-raped a boy who died in their violent sexually-depraved hands. These are not isolated cases – although they do appear to be concentrated ‘somewhere around Bombay’ – for there was another case where a farmer was raped by a group of horny women whose violent sexual machinations robbed the poor farmer of his life.
‘These incidents should be viewed as discriminatory, bigoted ideas about women being victims of sexual violence at the hands of men. Men are suffering on a similar scale at the not-so-delicate hands of women. ‘It is an injustice in itself to think that women alone are victims of violence in this world’. No one is claiming this to be the case, but then again why listen to these ridiculous ‘Western notions’ in their entirety?
Anyway, the only reason that studies and figures from world organizations investigating such matters are mainly concerned with women’s victimhood is probably because they have failed to include this particular area ‘somewhere around Bombay’ in their data collection and analyses. Ah, the laxness of research these days.
Now that it has been established it would be wrong for anyone to think that Adhaalath Party is of the opinion that men and women are entirely unequal, let us return to the ‘natural order’ according to which the ‘Adhaalathian Utopia’ would function. It is a picture best painted in the words of Adhaalath itself – no one else could render it quite so evocatively as their writers, nor be as eloquent in the depiction of their vision for a new Maldivian society.
The following is an extract of a publication by on the role of women in society. The Adhaalath material is an abridged translation from an article that appeared on the Adhaalath website in July 2008.
“The ‘natural order’ is one in which men and women simply cannot be equal. This is as natural and irrefutable a fact as the earth revolving around the sun. Human lifestyle is based around the very same natural order, the same organizing principles as those found in nature.”
“All human life is run according to this ‘natural order’. The problem that we are confronted with today is that there are an increasing number of people trying to upset the system. The main problem is the increasingly loud voices of ‘certain people working for women’s independence who insist in calling for gender equality’. ‘These people’ are claiming that men and women are equal! ‘This is absolutely and completely against the natural order’ of the world. This policy has devalued the family by destroying the family structure that forms the very foundation of society.”
“It makes absolutely no sense that the family should be exempt from the rules of management that apply to any other business – a manager is appointed to run the show and the minions follow him. To appoint the husband as the director/manager of the family is not to say that the wife is inferior, nor is it to say that the husband is superior. The husband should be in charge of planning, strategizing and running the business of family – this is the natural order of things, and what God intended. Just like He intended the earth to revolve around the sun, and that night should follow day.”
“Should we listen to ‘those people’ agitating for equality between men and women, catastrophe and destruction will follow. For appointing the husband the head of a family is as natural as appointing a boss over employees, a prime minister over ministers – this is only a matter of practical and administrative concern, not a suggestion of superiority of one person or group over another.”
“In terms of status, men and women are equal; both sexes deserve equal respect. Sometimes women are even more equal than men. It’s just that they need guidance and supervision of men without which they would be helplessly bumbling about, trying to make sense of a world without order.”
“This is the main problem of modern times. According to notions of equality fostered by modernity, men and women rushed into employment together. This has led to increasing unemployment because it deprived men of their [God-given] rightful place in the labour force. Once women forgot their place at home the so-called problem of unemployment arose. There is no tangible development or benefit to be seen from women having joined the workforce.”
“Now that they have joined the workforce, nothing is being done at home. As a direct consequence, the whole society is rife with problems. This is the real reason behind such mayhem: women forgot their place in the natural order.”
What (or should I say, with what) possibly could President Nasheed have been thinking? Can anyone see the logic behind his appointment of the learned Sheikh Rasheed as state minister for home affairs in light of such ‘enlightened’ policy his party espouses? No doubt that Sheikh Rasheed is popular and that he is ‘the great Islamic scholar’ that his 194-strong Facebook fan-base tells us he is. But, what place does the kind of thinking espoused by his Adhaalath Party have in a democracy? By giving him such a portfolio, President Nasheed is upholding policies and ideas that should be anathema to a democracy. Shame. And here we were almost convinced by those learned men that timidity is an entirely female characteristic.
Munirah Moosa is a journalism and international relations graduate. She is currently engaged in research into the ‘radicalisation’ of Muslim communities and its impact on international security.
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