Authors: Murray Hunter, Azly Rahman
In concluding our essay on Tawhidic-Singularity as a new philosophy of Islam, we proposed that Muslims need to interpret the core teaching of One-ness from a kaleidoscopic perspective.
We asked readers to reflect upon the applicability of Chaos or Complexity Theory to view Islam as an organic and living religion inviting its believers to look at the concept of One-ness as the manifesting of Many-ness. In this essay, we go deeper into the discussion of the soul of the Quran itself and how Muslims could perceive and read it as a postmodern text with multiple-level meanings based on his/her unique life experiences. We wish to propose the worldview of “Quantum Islam,” as a new way looking at this cultural belief system. We invite readers to think of Islam as more than just unquestioning faith and rites and rituals but as an evolving text to be made alive. The idea of a “living Quran” is a means of perceiving and feeling one’s existence as a world of interconnectedness. This world of deep personal connectivity is a world of the physical, emotional and spiritual self as it exists in the realm of the Universal self as a world designed as a Quantum being in itself.
Multiple Universes and the Quran
Islam is about what cannot at present be explained intrinsically through the science we know today.
The Qu’ran is a deeply layered book of meaning. However, the majority of Muslims have tended to take literal views. The Qu’ran has also foreseen many scientific discoveries and defined the nature of our realities. Such a view of the cognitive and metaphysical nature of the text has been dominant at a time when Islamic philosophy was being conceived, especially in the debates between scholars trained in Greek philosophy with those trying to rid the influence of rationalism in epistemologizing the meaning of existence.
The Qu’ran and Hadiths have shaped the worldview of 20% of the world’s population. But Islam today is viewed as a singular reality, embedded in ‘Arabism’ and ‘hellfire’ paradigms, coercing Muslims to follow literal views, within a ‘carrot and stick’ enlightenment and fear syndrome.
As a consequence Islam has not been the means to a higher level universal wisdom that the Qu’ran can facilitate, if read with this understanding.
Allah rabb al-àlamin, the Lord of the Worlds indicates a multiverse with parallel realities. There are parallel universes mentioned within the Qu’ran that we don’t have access to. These worlds are widely talked about within the Qu’ran, the world of the jinns, as in the verse ”And the jinn race, we had created before, from the fire of a scorching wind” Qur’an (15:27)
The 99 names of Allah also suggest multi-existential paradigms.
Challenges of constructing this multi-universal view
The first challenge is to escape the unipolar world and live in, and transcend to the multipolar world the Qu’ran describes. i.e., atoms can be both a particle and wave and thus be in multiple places at the same time. True realities are multipolar dynamics, rather than unipolar statics. Thus, to understand the complexity of the environment, we must develop both our personal self-awareness and social awareness. So where reality is multi-layered and kaleidoscopic, layered and deeper meanings can be derived from the chaotic environment we exist within through contemplating the layered intricacies and meanings within the Quran.
Muslims viewing the text of the Qu’ran as a living and evolving one, can find a meaningful guide to life and the universe, which we propose is what Quantum Islam means. What one sees with the naked eye, a phenomenon to be studied is just a level of Reality that we construct cognitively. However as one reads deeper into the meaning of the Quran, one may find the signs and symbols manifesting themselves in newer ways, which we digest and make meaning of through our self-awareness or spirituality.
The second challenge is that we must understand that we are not at the centre of the world. We must override the assumption that modern humankind has adopted in that humans can control nature and nature is here to serve us. What we think and the assumptions behind our very thoughts may not actually resemble reality, and may not be the truth. Once we shed this egocentric view of the world, we come to realize that we cannot control nature and we must nurture nature. In the Quran it is said: ”Say: He is Allah, He is One, He is Eternal He Begets not nor is He begotten and there is none equal unto Him” Surah Ikhlas 112.
Muslims engaged in a cognitive and metaphysical reading of the Quran may propose that human existence is both physical and conceptual, and that as a Platonic view would content, we are both Forms and Appearance, and that if the self is an invention/creation to manifest the “truth”. There is a larger truth of “being and nothingness,” in another world of the “unseen,”. This is the idea of corresponding reality of existence. Islam proposes that this view of Quantum state of beingness can only be understood if one understands the meaning of “selflessness” or the “destruction of the Ego,” and to allow the self to be liberated from the confines of a physical and mechanistic world.
The third challenge is to read the question from a “culturally-neutral” perspective. This means stripping the notion that all that is Islam is Arabic and with fallacy, to believe that religious belief is not cultural. This is to begin to believe that to be a Muslim, one need not aspire to be or to become an Arab. If Islam is a universal truth, it is not ‘Arab-centric’, and many of the rites and rituals cannot be universal, if for example, Islam was to the truth on another planet like Mars. What would Islam be like without the cultural anchors that have grown around it and almost strangled the truth? If, as the last message of Prophet Muhammad would content — that Islam promotes a universal message of peace – and be viewed as the “final revelation,” and that only 20% of the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims are speakers of the Arabic language, what has been the consequence of Islam as religion that has been too much caught in the semiotics of Arabism? Simply put, why is being Muslim today synonymous of being or looking Arabic?
The three challenges above, namely that we are living in a multipolar world, that our existence is not central to the Universe, and that religion is a cultural construct to present ways for Muslims to view Islam differently. The Quran, in its very first few words of revelation, “Read … in the name of thy Lord who created Thee …” is a clear enough proposition for believers in this religion to “read oneself and to read the world on is living in.” It is an invitation for readers to not only “read the world” but also to “write” a story of one’s life, based on one’s own worldview and to unshackle oneself from being defined by others.
The challenges above are existential in nature, given by the Quran to the readers.
“Verily in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alternation of night and day, there are indeed signs for men of understanding; Men who remember Allah, standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides, and contemplate the creation of the heavens and the earth (with the thought) Our Lord! Not for nothing have you created (all) this. Glory to you! Give us salvation from the suffering of the fire” Qur’an (3: 190-191)
The Ummah as Singularity in Multiplicity
The Ummah is an interconnection of oneness, not segregated tribes who are at war with each other.
We are left to reflect upon the multiplicity of worlds that were created and understand that we are only a tiny part of it.
This opens up wisdom, develops humbleness, and increases empathy towards there being something greater than ourselves. The quintessential and foundational chapter of the Quran, Al Fatihah, or The Opening offer this idea of mercy, peace, gratitude, and wisdom in choosing between Good and Evil. It introduces the reader to the idea that the path of righteousness or the “Siratul Mustaqim” is the path of peace that will guide human beings in this journey through the bountiful and merciful world created by The Lord of the Universe. This path is a challenging one, as we can see that even the world “Islam” can be used to strike terror in others as well as create untold magnitude of destruction. The emergence of the ISIS “Islamic State of Syria and Iraq” or ISISL, The Islamic State of Iraq and Levant” or the Daesh (Darul Islamiyah) and the globalization of terror has is an example of how the word of Islam and the tawhidic message of peace can be misrepresented and be a guide to the path of “those cursed” as the last verse of the Al Fatihah reads.
This takes us into the “tawhidic-singularity” realm of Islam with the idea of Gnosticism factored into the belief system – of the ‘alam al-ghaib’, the concealed dimension of reality
We are told within the Tawhid to submit to Allah and be part of the greater universe. Yet the behaviour espoused by Islam scholars today tends to deem that OUR humanity is at the centre of the universe. It puts humankind above the natural laws of the universe, in a state of arrogance, detested in the Qu’ran itself.
Today we see many political Islamic ideologies that seek to dominate all.
This is contrary to Allah’s scheme of things within the Qu’ran.
The continual return to referencing Allah as the Merciful and the Compassionate reminds us of the need for humility, not hostility and cruelty to humankind.
Choice is open to humankind within the teachings of the Qu’ran. This implies man can choose the realities he wants to exist within:
I control what I perceive
I control what I think
I control how I act
I am responsible for the consequences.
This must occur beyond the bounds of ego-centric consciousness and the assumption that there is only one possible reality.
The action upon literal translation of the Qu’ran is a denial of the true realities that the Qu’ran lays out in front of us. Literal scholarly understanding of the Quran has shackled our understanding to the cultural metaphors that have bounded Islam to its Arabness that we see today. This has blinded us to seeing the deeper dimensions of Islam and the messages of transformation towards Tawhidness. The Quran is a dynamic book, talking about change. It’s been interpreted as static dogma and doctrines, losing the central message about our journal of transcendence to the state of Tawhidness.
The paradoxes of metaphoric and material universes
The paradoxes of the Qu’ran advise humanity not to be too self-excessive and egocentric. Our greed, and other negative emotions, narcissism and other neurosis, addictions, pleasures, accumulation of wealth, and how we treat others is a quantum introspection that we are taught within the Qu’ran, in order to assist us seeing other realities (universes), that we have choice to enter and exist within.
Only through this open awareness can we experience the realities of the world around us, learn to submit to the greater universe around us, which is called Allah. Our essence of purity through the state of spirituality is the only paradigm we can use to understand the deep meaning of the Tawhid and its greatness, far beyond any person, society, or time.
Thus the Tawhid provides humanity with a meaning of life; that of being part of a greater existence; a worldview that accommodates not only the multiple worldviews of existing belief system but also respects the process of constructing emergent new ones.
The introspection of a literal Allah is a neurosis that blinds us to Allah’s true greatness and our true appreciation of this. This is the true reality.
In Islam, worldviews such as that proposed through Sufism takes Muslims away from the ordered mechanistic world view. The world can be seen for what it is, complex in almost mystical ways, as even the laws of nature itself can be seen beyond cause and effect, beyond karma which is too simplistic to explain reality. This is the Quantum view of Islam, which can also be found in the way Buddhism views the self, Reality, and existence. Buddhist ideas such as the self as non-existence and constantly evolving as the “being and becoming bodhisattva” journeys towards “nibbbana or Nirvana,” and constantly being aware of the impermanence of the self and the ephemerality of physical beings, and to live a principle of “non-attachment to this mechanistic and material world,”, and finally to view that life is a process of samsara or the evolution towards liberation, perpetual happiness, and next to enter the realm of “being and nothingness” – this view is where the similarity of Quantum Islam and core metaphysical teachings of existing cultural philosophies lie.
Perception and feeling become more important than any form of quantitative measurement in understanding reality. The Qu’ran itself is not a quantitative work. It is a compendium of propositions inviting readers to think of multiple interpretations of the meaning of texts, subtexts, and cultural contexts. It is a postmodern text that has not proper arrangement or a sense of story of creationism. In other words, it is not a structured story about the metaphysics and physics of creation and Man’s place in the universe. The Quran, in short is merely a set of annotated readings inviting the reads to deconstruct meanings. It is a book about representations of alternate realities in which even the “speaker” or “narrator” of this grand text utilizes shifting pronouns in telling stories and passing down decrees.
Reality and Quantum Islam
The perception of reality is about awareness as the Qu’ran teaches. It is about how individuals transcend the universe through a journey towards a destination and seek the final reality.
Mathematics breaks down in any view of reality, i.e., mathematics cannot explain 10% of infinity. Science cannot explain reality; as if we look at an atom we are not sure whether it’s a particle or a wave. There is a duality to everything, i.e., atoms can be in more than one place at the same time. Half of what we look at is in decay, so the “Schrodinger’s cat “is both alive and dead at the same time. There is a duality of consciousness that we must understand. It is both psychic and physical, full of emotion and emotionless, black and white, good and evil, hot and cold, attracting and repelling. Reality is thus an inter-connectiveness of nature and a web of relationships between humanity and spirituality, that makes up a unified whole within us.
The form of our realities is the product of our observation of this. A tawhidic consciousness is therefore so important in our interpretation of reality.
Seeing this is the order within the chaos that shrouds our minds by focusing too much on the poles of the existential paradoxes. Paradoxes can only be understood through balance. Then one can see the truths within people, relationships, and events.
Prof. Anis Bajrektarevic indicates that it: “corresponds with the Buddhist Yogacara assumption that all perceptions do leave traces which make future similar perceptions more probable/plausible – origins of the potentialities within the quantum realm.” Finally, professor concludes: “This is why mankind kept practicing a prayer.”
Many Islamic writers resorted to using poetry to enhance the understanding of non-linear world.
The Qu’ran talks of a transition to a level where the duality of mind and body cannot be distinguished. We shift into a singularity where there is no time, no space, just a transcendence or universal oneness. We transcend the four dimensions that we understand into further dimensions which the Qu’ran speaks of but we have no direct prior experience. This is the state called Syurga.
The direct experience of reality is a psychic and emotional breakthrough to what Islam calls Al-falah.
The only tool needed to see reality is a tawhidic transcending awareness, which is the key to openness and seeing something greater than our selves.
This is why we rely on rituals such as Zikir (where prayer is incorporated) which builds up higher levels of consciousness. Zikir should help us create an empty mind so all thoughts are cleared to enable us to see the greater universe free of our own egocentrism.
This is where insight come from as we experience ‘eureka manifestations’ of both personal and universal nature. Einstein wrote of this epiphanic moment in his journey to construct the “theory of relativity,”
Our intellect is developed through our experience, which gathers knowledge and interprets meaning for us. The heart of all knowledge for a human is experience. For example, we cannot know what it is like to scuba dive, without actually scuba diving. 100 hours in a classroom cannot give you the same knowledge as a few minutes under the water.
Without experiencing the universe we are blind. This blindness can only be overcome through being open and empathetic to the world around us. Blindness to the universe is a human neurosis.
Science, sense, and soul
A quantum view of reality puts an end to materialism. It is within this paradigm Quantum Islam that one need to look at reality in a different light, taking into consideration that life is not entirely founded upon Materialism.
The Tawhid espouses us to transcend materialism. The non-physical element of our life is our existence, not material things, only their images and symbolic meanings within our minds. This triggers our emotions which create Al-fasad realities for humankind, bringing humans to a level of personal destruction through greed, etc.
This also has repercussions in thought and future actions, and can be considered ill-intentions, contrary to what the Qu’ran espouses. This is our mystical jihad of finding our true uncorrupted existence.
The worldly realities mediate and shrivel over our Tawhidic consciousness, which tells us what is right. Going against what is right is sin and our physic destruction.
Tawhidic consciousness is the true universal wisdom, just as quarks within atoms possess energy which has its own consciousness described for example, by physicist such as Freeman Dyson. Like quarks, we have the capacity to make free decisions.
The non-physical, all embracing empathetic and compassionate mind is what we can develop through Tawhidic guidance. This takes us into the realm of Allah and Syurga.
Allah exists within our higher levels of consciousness, as we are told many times within the Qu’ran.
The narratives of the Qu’ran are concerned with both individual and social (universal) consciousness, the yin and yang of our existence.
This has great implications which haven’t been discussed within the Islamic world. Most are restricted to reading from the literal universe of the Qu’ran, and clinging to this unipolar universe.
To see reality, we must discard the concepts of language and images. Structure gives bias and shackles our ‘knowing’.
Higher intellect cannot be obtained through the processes thinking within mechanistic realities. This blinds us to the understanding of the essential nature of the universe. With a literal understanding of the Qu’ran we are in a paradigm lock within a singular universe of nature. Without paradox, we cannot see meaning, as paradox is the only way we can interpret. Paradox is the language above all other languages, the only way we can create benchmarks within our mind, in order to interpret the universe around us.
However, these paradoxes are ruled by personal emotions, of which we both project and introspect with the dualities that define our world. It is within these dualities that we define ‘good’ and ‘evil’, ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, ‘virtuous’ or ‘sinful’.
Islam and particularly the Tawhid is a field of potential. It is a reality beyond our materialistic reality, and our consciousness which is intertwined with our ego-self. The Tawhid can only be entered into, discovered, or become an awareness through humility on the inside and compassion filtering to the outside, without the ego-self bounding us back to our materialistic existence. This dimension is a field of human and universal purity, full of wisdom; al-Falah. Islam is really about how we transcend the lower earthly dimensions of ourselves into the higher dimension of Tawhid-purity.
This is Quantum-Islam; the potential to be, the choice that has been given to all humanity within the Quran.
Exploring idea of Quantum Islam, as the name suggests, requires the mind of the Muslim to engage in the phenomenological and metaphysical experience of conceiving worldviews beyond the mechanistic view of the personal and physical self and move toward a higher plane of quantum physics and metaphysics. In other words, Muslims should raise the level of understanding Islam from mere doctrinal and cultural to philosophical and muti-universal and multi-dimensional. This requires a new understanding of what god is, beyond how this concept of a creator is understood. A Kuhnian shift in Islamic metaphysics and ontological evolution is needed, as how the idea of a Heisenberg Principle of observing Objectivity was conceived. Muslims need to explore the semiotics of believing itself and venture deeper into the meaning constructing the meaning of reading their “book of readings”: The Quran.
Over 1,200 Migrant Children Deaths Recorded Since 2014, True Number Likely ‘Much Higher’
In 2015, a photo of a Syrian boy found dead on a beach in Turkey after attempting to reach Greece made headlines across the world. Since then, many more children have died during migration, but the true scale of these tragedies is unknown due to a severe lack of data.
Since IOM, the UN Migration Agency, began collecting data in 2014 through the Missing Migrants Project, it has recorded the deaths of more than 1,200 child migrants, nearly half of whom perished while attempting to cross the Mediterranean. This figure represents less than 5 per cent of the total number of migrant deaths recorded during this period by IOM.
The real figure is likely to be much higher, given that approximately 12.5 per cent of all migrants are under the age of 18, and the number of children migrating around the world has been increasing in recent years. For example, roughly one quarter of the approximately one million migrants who arrived by sea to Italy and Greece in 2015 were children, and, in the case of Italy, 72 per cent were unaccompanied.
The call to action released yesterday by UNICEF, IOM, UNHCR, Eurostat, and OECD highlights the lack of data essential for understanding how migration affects children and their families – and for designing policies and programmes to meet their needs. Data on children moving irregularly across borders, and those who have gone missing or lost their lives during their migratory journeys are particularly scarce.
“We are aware that there are a growing number of children on the move, and that many of these children face significant risks during their journeys,” said Frank Laczko, Director of IOM’s Global Migration Data Analysis Centre, which hosts the Missing Migrants Project. “In only about 40 per cent of cases where we record a migrant death are we able to estimate the age of the person who died,” he said. “It is extremely difficult to find data disaggregated by age.”
Of the 1,202 deaths of child migrants recorded by the Missing Migrants Project, their age is provided in only 21 per cent of cases. Often, sources will only mention that the deceased person is a ‘child’ or ‘infant,’ which means that it is difficult to assess which child migrants are most vulnerable. Of the children whose age was provided, the average was just 8 years old at the time of their death. Fifty-eight of these children were infants under the age of 1, and 67 were between 1 and 5 years old.
Though the scarcity of data on child migrants means that it is impossible to say which migratory route is most dangerous for children, the available data indicate that crossing the Mediterranean, especially from Turkey to Greece, is particularly deadly. At least 396 migrants under the age of 18 died while crossing the Eastern Mediterranean since 2014, with a further 164 recorded on the Central Mediterranean route, and 16 on the Western Mediterranean route.
However, as less than 20 per cent of the more than 15,000 deaths recorded on these routes contain information on age, IOM’s recent Fatal Journeys report estimates that at least 1,300 children have died in the Mediterranean since 2014.
Worldwide, the Missing Migrants Project has recorded the deaths of 137 children migrating in Africa, 20 on the US-Mexico border, and 18 on land in Europe. By far the most deaths were due to drowning – 681 children have been lost while crossing a body of water, most of whom perished in the Mediterranean Sea or the Bay of Bengal. Sixty-eight children died due to vehicle accidents or suffocation during vehicular transport; 50 due to exposure to harsh environments during their journeys; 35 as a result of violence; and 23 due to illness and lack of access to medicine.
Some 803 of the children recorded in the Missing Migrants Project database were originally from Asia, including the Middle East, while another 171 of the dead were from African nations. Sixty-one were from the Americas, while the origin of the remaining 167 children could not be determined.
Gathering more and better-quality data on migrant children is extremely important at a time when states are discussing how best to achieve safer and more orderly migration. Finding better ways to measure and document child migrant deaths is also important given the inclusion of migration and age in the in the 2030 Global Agenda for Sustainable Development. According to this agenda, states have agreed to work towards promoting safe, orderly and regular migration, and to end preventable deaths of children.
Julia Black, Coordinator of the Missing Migrants Project, concluded, “We know that our data are incomplete. The truth is that the number of children who die during migration is much higher than what we know. Obtaining better data could help to reduce such tragedies in the future, as well as help families to identify their loved ones.”
The daily reality of working poverty
Louisette Fanjamalala, has worked hard all her life, yet, like millions of working poor around the globe, she barely makes enough to survive.
Fanjamalala, from Madagascar, lives with four teenage children – two of her own and two orphans she has adopted. Their home is a cramped one-room house in the Antananarivo suburb of Soavina. Her husband left years ago.
For years, she worked in textile factories, getting only short term contracts and earning as little as 70 000 ariary (about US$20) a month in some cases, and, at best cases 300 000 ariary (about US$90). That was barely enough to feed her family. Now, things are even worse.
“It is becoming increasingly difficult for me to be hired because I am considered as too old. It is a shame because I am qualified, I work as fast as and even better than younger workers. However, nowadays, human resources departments usually turn down my request without even giving me an appointment,” she sighed.
Because she was also a victim of violence at work, Fanjamalala recently received support from an ILO programme which provided her with new skills and a sewing machine. She now makes some money by doing sewing work at home for people in her neighbourhood. She also makes clothes and curtains that she sells at the local market. However, getting food on the family table remains a constant challenge.
“Fanjamalala’s story is unfortunately very common in Madagascar and in many developing countries,” said Christian Ntsay, Director of the ILO Office in Antananarivo. “You only need to walk in the streets here and talk to people to realize that the findings of the World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends 2018 (WESO) on vulnerable employment and working poverty translate into a reality faced by millions of people,” he said.
“Ninety-three per cent of Malagasy workers like Louisette Fanjamalala have no other choice than working in the informal economy to survive,” Ntsay added.
1.4 billion workers in vulnerable employment
“Working poverty continues to fall but – again – just like for vulnerable employment , progress is stalling,” explained Stefan Kühn, lead author of the ILO World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends 2018.
”Vulnerable employment affects three out of four workers in developing countries. Almost 1.4 billion workers are estimated to be in vulnerable employment in 2017. Every year, an additional 17 million are expected to join them.”
In 2017, extreme working poverty remained widespread, with more than 300 million workers in emerging and developing countries having a per capita household income or consumption of less than US$1.90 per day.
Overall, progress in reducing working poverty is too slow to keep pace with the growing labour force in developing countries, where the number of people in extreme working poverty is expected to exceed 114 million in 2018, or 40 per cent of all employed people.
“Emerging countries achieved significant progress in reducing extreme working poverty. It should continue to fall, translating into a reduction in the number of extreme working poor by 10 million per year in 2018 and 2019. However, moderate working poverty, in which workers live on an income of between US$1.90 and US$3.10 per day, remains widespread, affecting 430 million workers in emerging and developing countries in 2017,” said Kühn.
“The findings of the WESO Trends 2018 report is a reminder that more efforts need to be done to reduce inequalities and to ensure better living and working conditions for people like Louisette Fanjamalala and the 1.4 billion workers facing a similar situation throughout the world,” he concluded.
The Worst Horror Story – Rape
Rape in all its horrendous forms is a marred and an abhorrent trace of patriarchy and misogyny. The direct victims are majorly women, but the fact that men can be –and often are– victims cannot be discounted. Devising its roots in power-play and control, today it carries a heavier weight as a statutory offence with set penalties. Despite these penalties and a massive international attention taking forms of media outrage, studies, monetary and legal aid, awareness programs, and safe shelters, rapes of women – young and old are alarmingly high in South Asia by offenders of varying age groups.
In Nepal, as reported by a national daily, 78 rape cases have on average been reported every month over a course of five years, many of the offenders being septuagenarians and octogenarians. The Indian National Crime Bureau Report (NCBR, 2016) claimed 338,954 reports were made between 2015 and 2016 as crimes against women out of which 38,947 were rapes. It also reported an increase of 82% in the incidents of rape of children. Likewise, in Pakistan, Human Rights Watch asserts of at least one rape every two hours and one gang-rape every eight. In Bangladesh, 13,003 rape cases were reported between 2001-2017 out of which 85 were rapes by law enforcement agents such as police, jail agents, and the army. These data are only the tip of the iceberg as many cases are unreported by the victim, withdrawn upon coercion, or refused to be registered as a legit case by the authority
The causes of rape are far too many, and differs from case to case. The reasons that surface commonly are sexual frustration in men, poverty, mind-sets and attitudes that reflect machismo, a sense of entitlement, unawareness, and acceptance. In 2012, a report by UNICEF published that 57% men and 53% women in India thought marital rape as not rape, and a sizeable number believed that beating of wives by their husbands was not violence. In India and Bangladesh, the legislations on what constitutes a crime declares it as not rape if the person is married to the victim and if she is over 15 years of age, excepting judicial separation.
We need to remind ourselves that in the South Asian countries, men often grow up being told and shown that they are superior to women who then grow old with a sense of entitlement as they deem it fit for a woman to be available on their demand. When these men are unable to earn for the family due to unemployment or otherwise, their frustration takes the form of rape to demonstrate their ‘masculinity’ and maintain superiority over the women.
Now, this mentality also works in reverse, where a woman is told be to weaker than men and should protect herself from them if she does not wish to get raped. In most South Asian families, females have lesser liberty of movement and choices as compared to their male counterparts. This obviously arises from expected gender behavior that good women should be meek, submissive, and obedient but is also centered around the fact that the families do not want their females to be raped.
This objective of giving women the security inside the family homes is flawed for two reasons. Firstly, rapes and molestation within the family very often exist. In January 2018, a baby girl of eight months was raped in Delhi, India by a relative in her house. Little girls of varying ages have been raped right next to a family member by another family member or neighbors in several instances in Nepal and they could do nothing, not even file a complaint because this façade of a domestic protection does not concern a female’s bodily security but societal reputation.
Once a person is subjected to rape, the victim becomes unchaste and impure and is thought to bring dishonour to the family. The terminology in Pakistan is kari, referring to someone who has lost virginity outside marriage and an honour killing, karokari, is subjected by the village council. The victims often commit suicide or are killed by their own families for tainting the honour. In 2002, Mukhtaran Bibi challenged this status quo by not committing suicide after a gang rape that was ordered on her by a village council but filed a case against all her rapists. Initially, they were sentenced to death but in 2005, five of them were acquitted due to lack of evidence. In 2011, the sixth offender got acquitted too. In 2017 in Multan, Pakistan, a jirgah (village council) ordered revenge rape on the sister of an offender. In all these years, nothing has changed and even today revenge rape is still being ordered on innocent girls for no fault of their own as punishment.
The victims in other countries face social stigma and have to live in fear because once someone falls victim to rape, they are prone to more rapes because the value of a person is reduced from that of a human to a commodity that is free for public use. In Haryana, India, a girl was gang-raped twice by the same set of men who were out on bail after raping her the first time six years ago. A take-home message is that the onus lies on a woman to protect herself from men who are always lurking in hunt of a prey to rape, yet again asserting that the victim befalls such fate on themselves due to their actions, or in Pakistan actions of their family members.
Rapes are justified for godforsaken reasons and victims told they were ‘asking for it’ by travelling alone at ungodly hours, dressing provocatively, being friends with men, or indulging in so called notorious activities like smoking, drinking, and partying. The way these protectionist measures are advised always revolves around victim but never around the offenders, due to the notion that men have an insatiable sexual appetite and if women portray themselves to be ‘easy’, they are raped. Ranjit Sinha, head of Indian Central Bureau of Investigation once commented that if women couldn’t prevent rapes, they should enjoy it.
In India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, victims of rape are subjected to a two-finger test to determine their sexual activeness. This procedure exists despite so many pleas from within these countries and outside to get rid of it on the bases that it is flawed on so many levels as it renders women who chose to be sexually active out of consent as lecherous and dirty who have already been touched by a man. This violation of a victim’s body is backed by the government in the form of a random stranger determining of their worth. This is of course scientifically inaccurate, and extremely irrelevant in case of rape.
Equally exasperating is the fact that women should remain pious and dedicated to only choosing to be sexually active with their legally married husbands but when their husbands rape them, it is not recognised by the legislation. O. P. Chautala, an ex minister in India, once stated that girls should be married as they turn 16 so that sexual needs of women are met and they will not go elsewhere and rapes will reduce. However, even statutory age of marriage is above 16 in India, and marriage is not a way to end rape. Rather, such a statement renders women as cattle whose ownership belongs to the husband.
These instances prove time and again that the role of a woman is always reduced to pleasing her husband in bed without considerations. In fact, marriage is a holy sacrament that can undo rape – perhaps why victims are married off to their rapists in South Asia who then continue to rape them for the rest of their lives.
Most importantly, the police and other protectors of law find ways to make money out of instances of rape. Like, in January 2018 in Kathmandu, Nepal, a woman of 22 years withdrew her report of rape after few days and it was later revealed that the police were involved facilitating monetary settlements between the accused and the complainant with a personal gain. In Bharatpur, Nepal in February 2018, police coerced a woman to withdraw her rape complaint. So many more cases have surfaced in the southern plains of Nepal where the police have been involved as middlemen.
Hindrance to Justice
The reasons behind rape are men-centric but they have been ingrained in the societies as acceptable by both men and women. Reporting of rape has been increasing in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Pakistan but the cases are not dealt with caution. The victims face injustice and have to go through denigrating treatment by the police and health officers, questioning their character and morality.
The portrayal of a victim in the media is a stereotypical one, a non-provocative, harmless, and morally upright person with no past sexual history. Any victim deviating from this stereotype probably brought it on themselves. Further, the media has been reporting on sensitive issues like rape without sensitivity like revealing the victim’s name which is illegal or slut-shaming the victims.
Lastly, even death penalties are not enough to deter people from committing rapes. In Pakistan and India, rape can be punished with death but the crime is still on the rise. After the 2012 Nirbhaya case in Delhi, India, a strong plea was made to change the judicial system and a fast-track hearing was introduced for rape because national outrage by the citizens was not deemed enough to bring a change. In Nepal, the fast-track court is in practice too, but the problem arises in procuring evidence which is substantial in these cases.
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