Of the three great systems of exclusion governing discourse — prohibited words, the division of madness and the will to truth ———” Foucault
The non-existence of women is the most important problem that has plagued the discourse in the Muslim countries. “Representational discourse” is in itself a discourse of exclusion, the “woman” and “woman hood” are representational entities, the Woman has always been be represented in the discourse , she never had her own voice. The famous existential philosopher Simone de Beauvior whilst writing her seminal feminist work “The second Sex” reached the conclusion : “No Human is born a Woman”.
In fundamentalist ‘Islamic’ context this representational discourse acquired a legal status where woman was judged to be unworthy of testimony. De-humanization of woman reached its peak under the USA sponsored Islamization of the Muslim world. General Muhammed Zia ul Haq and the theologians brought the “Law of Evidence” according to which the testimony of the woman was to be considered half of that of man. The traditional reading of Islam brought about the concept of “Naqis ul Aqal” “semi compos mentis” for the Woman. An animal which is not capable of making independent decisions, is source of Sin and lust and hence must be covered in a black veil, to protect the piety of Men, whose place is within the 4 walls of the house and who cant leave it without a male relative escorting her.
“Zina” (or fornication) became the ultimate focus of the project that aimed to suppress women’s sexuality with the fear of stones and lashes. “Chador or Char divari” became the official state doctrine for “woman” with approval from Mansoora! [Pakistan’s self-styled Vatican, headquarter of the Jamate Islami]
The Progressive left led a heroic struggle against the Neo Fascist Zia ul Haq, resulting in one of the most brutal crackdown against them, hangings, torture,murders,exiles, lashes—. Fahmida Riaz , Kishwar Naheed stood up against this tyranny , the result was the emergence of a radical feminist discourse that was modernist and progressive and which challenged the Islamist discourse on woman.
Fehmida Riaz is a true artist who never compromised , she was victimized by Zia ul Haq and his political Son Nawaz Sharif but she stood firm. Chador aur Char Divari is one of the most important poems ever written in Urdu. It traces the origins of Islamist exclusionist discourse and de constructs it. It asserts the “humanity” of woman , her independent will and voice and her challenge to the tyrants.
Translation follows Four Walls and a Black Veil What shall I do, Sire, with this black veil? Why do you bestow on me this great favour? I am not in mourning that I should wear it To show the world my grief. Nor am I sick That I should hide my shame In its dark folds. S Stamp my forehead with this Dismal seal? If I am not too impudent, Sire If you assure my life, may I tell you, Most humbly: There lies, in your perfumed chamber, A corpse that stinks. It begs for pity. Cover that shroudless corpse. Not me. Its stench is everywhere. It cries for seclusion. Listen to the heart-rending screams Of those still naked beneath the veil. You must know them well, these maids: The hostage women of vanquished peoples, Halal for a night, exiled at dawn; The slave girls who carried your blessed seed And brought forth children of half status only, yet Was it not honour enough for them? The wives who wait their precious turns To pay homage to the conjugal couch; The hapless, cowering girl-child Whose blood will stain your gray beard red. Life has no more tears to shed; it shed them all In that fragrant chamber where, for ages now, This sacrificial drama has played And replayed. Please, Sire, bring it down. The curtain. Now. You need it to cover the corpse. I am not on this earth merely as a signet Of your great lust. These four walls and this black veil— Let them bless the rotting remains. I have spread my sails In the open wind, on the wide seas, And by my side a man stands, A companion who won my trust An exceptionally bold critique of the traditional values about woman in Islamic societies, A historicist reading of the poem can lead to accusation of Blasphemy!.Another of the crime which was being done by Islamist regimes all over was the destruction and denial of woman's sexuality. She was being ordered to lie passively beneath the man, her husband as a religious duty. The woman who denies the advances of her husband was the subject of curses by the Angeles of God, the Aroused man was like a solider of God with sword in hand, any expression of sexuality by her was Sin ,her perfume could destroy the piety of Men,her voice can make them mad and put them on path of Sin and lust.Any awareness of sexuality could make her a "Rebel out of control". In Arab world the mutilation of female children in name of "circumcision" is the politics of orgasmic control.By doing so these women are deprived of "sexual pleasure" for ever, making them just an instrument for pleasure of the male. Any pleasure on behalf of her is a Sin."Modesty" and "Asexuality" were another of Islamists doctrines,challenged by Fehmida Riaz. French Kiss is a lovely poem by Riaz, an expression of female sexuality and her humanity.
Deep myrrh-scented kiss, deep with the tongue, suffused with the musky perfume of the wine of love: I'm reeling with intoxication, languid to the point of numbness, yet with a mind so roused an eye flies open in every cell. And you! Sucking my breath, my life, from its deepest, most ancient abode. Kiss. Wet, warm, dark. Pitch black! Like a moonless night, when rain comes flooding in. A glint of runaway time fleeing in the wilderness of my soul seems to be drawing closer. I sway across a shadowy bridge. It's about to end, I think, somewhere ahead, there is light. Breaking the Silence----Fahmida Riaz Shaheryar Ali