Tuesday, September 9, 2014

"Mosques of the UK should do their utmost to openly engage with the topic of sexuality."

Dear Eiynah,

I am writing to you in relation to your blog, and also your recent book 'My Chacha is Gay'. I must commend your efforts in tackling the thorny stance that Pakistanis have adopted with regards to sexuality. I sincerely hope that your book is well received. Such initiatives are sorely needed within the Pakistani community, not least in Britain, where I live. Sadly, intolerance seems to have become the dominant aspect of our 'culture', not just with reference to sexuality, but also to religion, ethnic origin, and any other possible criterion we can use to highlight our own individual superiority to those around us. 

Lets just hear those words again, shall we? 

"Sadly, intolerance seems to have become the dominant aspect of our 'culture', not just with reference to sexuality, but also to religion, ethnic origin, and any other possible criterion we can use to highlight our own individual superiority to those around us."

In my humble opinion, truer words have rarely been spoken.  

I remember attending a Pakistani wedding a few years ago. I was seated amongst the men, who were discussing Pakistani politics, and the women were celebrating in one of the rooms next to us. A few of the men sitting at a nearby table scoffed at the sound of the music seeping in from the room next door into ours, and remarked that perhaps if Pakistani women were to show greater propriety, then the country might not be in such an awful state!

The typical ignorant mentality, with nothing to back it but a bunch of hocus pocus. The same kind of thinking that is responsible for correlating homosexuality with earthquakes and masturbation with the death of kittens :P. As appalling as it is, this idiocy is everywhere. How much more 'propriety' do they want from Pakistani women, for fuck's sake? Was the fact that the women were shut into another room not enough? How dare they laugh, and ... listen to music....*gasp*

We are already married/ sold at the whim of our families (at disgustingly young ages some times), brought in to do housework and open our legs on command. We never dare to speak up about how we too have desires and feelings, because of this 'impropriety' bs. We shut the fuck up and bear children, one after another till we've finally produced an acceptable amount of sons. We keep our opinions to ourselves - because wtf do women know about important matters...we are segregated, pushed aside, covered up and kept indoors because our bodies and our existence is shameful. Damn these breasts!!  

I remember being thoroughly appalled by the nature of their comments, but sadly I didn't feel surprised at all. I recall another family friend once telling me that Pakistani society could never move forward until the red-light district in Lahore was permanently closed and cleansed. She (!) used the Urdu word 'saafai' (cleaning) for what needed to happen, but again, such remarks are hardly surprising. 

You're right, they are unsurprising. Perhaps we have just been numbed or de-sensitized from generations of putting up with crap like this. I assure you, the red-light district in Lahore is not at all responsible for the ills of Pakistani society. Just how delusional are these people? If they want to see whats responsible, they should look inside mosques. There, I said it. 

The type of intolerance that is spread through religious institutions in Pakistan is shocking. All comfortably under the cozy blanket of religion. The untouchable, un-critiquable, almighty, intangible, unprovable concept of 'faith'. Sigh. Till these things remain unchallenged and unreformed, we are certainly headed for dark times. We can deny, and blame shit on sex workers, homosexuals, non-believers...and continue to regress....


I would also like to share with you a few of my own personal opinions on some of the issues which you have raised on your blog. My comments abound with generalisations, particularly with regards to my use of the phrase 'Pakistani community' in the UK. Of course, there is no coherent, cohesive body, but instead a rather fractured and diverse range of individuals existing within the diaspora settled in the United Kingdom.

I note that you have asked a number of your respondents whether they feel that Pakistan is a sexually repressed country. I would proffer that Pakistanis are not sexually repressed - but have instead adopted an increasingly warped view of sexuality; one that is inextricably intertwined with misogyny and prejudice. In many respects, the Pakistani community in Britain is far more unwilling to discuss these issues openly in comparison to diaspora communities in North America and Canada, and even in Pakistan itself. There appears to be a blanket denial that sexuality forms a perfectly healthy part of human life. However, underlying this is another layer of prejudice which is at the heart of understanding sexual attitudes amongst British Pakistanis, and that is the issue of race. The threat of one's race being polluted or despoiled as a result of a relationship with a non-Pakistani (or, in some particularly depressing cases, a Pakistani of a different ethnic or religious identity), seems to encourage certain elements of our community into adopting a stance which ensures that misogynistic attitudes are reinforced. There even appears to be a perverse, unwritten hierarchy of preferred races. Obviously, Pakistanis (usually of one's ethnic/social background) are always the preferred choice for a potential partner. By and large, Pakistani women (particularly those from Pakistan rather than those raised in the UK), are considered to be dutiful, honest and obedient. This overwhelming need for purity is highlighted by the number of Pakistanis who travel overseas to find a wife, rather than try to find one in the UK.  

Ugh, this travelling to the motherland to find a dutiful, 'unspoiled by the West' wife is beyond horrific. Not to mention supremely hypocritical, but hypocrisy and double standards seem to be an accepted part of these groups. Whats ok for them, is not ok for their women. And they don't try to hide it. 

Someone English (or just 'white') lies in the middle of this hierarchy and is often viewed with a mixture of awe and disgust. Such partners are often praised or envied for the fairness of their skin, yet derided for their lack of family values or (in the case of women) for dressing indecently. At the bottom of this hierarchy lie those of African-Caribbean heritage. For a Pakistani to take black partner is simply considered unacceptable, and is on par with being homosexual, that other great taboo. 

Hit the nail on the head there, "viewed with a mixture of awe and disgust." - an odd combination of aspiration and condescension.

You bring up an important point - this hierarchy of race and colour within the Pakistani community has boggled my mind for years. Even amongst ourselves, we have shadeism and a ranking of Pakistani ethinicities... sigh. 

It is here again that I must praise your book 'My Chacha is Gay'. Are you aware of whether this book is being published either in Pakistan or in the UK?

Thank you kindly *blush* - It has been published here in Canada, and we are shipping it all over the world! :D I've sent quite a few copies to the UK , only a few to Pakistan sadly, but that is a whole other blog post. You can get a copy at www.mychachaisgay.com

I would be interested to know of the impact that it would have in either country, specifically amongst the Pakistani diaspora in the UK. Such a publication was long overdue. I know you are most probably being inundated with messages about how unacceptable your book is and how it is the most immoral thing to be published since Marquis du Sade's '120 Days of Sodom', 

(Ah...such flattery..haha yes indeed, I do get several interesting messages a day! The comparisons of my CHILDREN'S book to Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses I find the most amusing/bizarre! :P 

but you have rendered an important service to everyone who values equality and diversity. I can only hope that such a publication will lead to a greater awareness of homosexuality amongst Pakistanis worldwide and will enable this subject to discussed without the stigma which is overwhelmingly associated with it. 

I am sure that you are aware of the recent report into the abuse of 1700+ young girls in Rotherham. The majority of these abusers were of Pakistani heritage. The abusers represent the most disgusting and extreme manifestation possible of the dangers of the combined prejudices of misogyny and racism. Given that many of these girls were white, it was felt that they were easy to target due to their perceived lack of values. Interestingly, the report published on the Rotherham abuse also discussed the abuse of Pakistani girls (often by Pakistani landlords and taxi cab drivers) within the Pakistani community. This has not been discussed previously in any great depth and marks an important stepping stone for the discussion of sexual issues amongst the Pakistani diaspora.

A pretty accurate analysis of the immensely sad and shameful Rotherham case. I cannot believe that one of the monsters involved has actually been able to leave the country and go to Pakistan where pedophilia is rampant, often unreported and punished. I have struggled with whether I should write about this case or not, but I am just consumed with anger any time I think about it. I wouldn't even know where to begin. 

I honestly believe that there is a widespread need for sex education within these communities. However, it is not just schoolchildren who need to be educated, but entire households. Many parents within the Pakistani communities living in these areas have not received any sex education (or  any academic education at all, for that matter). As a result, I believe it is important for the authorities to consider the need for the provision of sex education, not only in English, but also in Urdu for parents and families as a whole. Furthermore, the mosques of the United Kingdom should do their utmost to openly engage with the topic of sexuality. 

YES YES YES!!! This can't be stressed enough. As you pointed out, the UK Muslim community is alarmingly intolerant (not all obviously, but a frighteningly large number) - this is not a matter of cultural sensitivity, its a matter of holding everyone to the same standards. They seem to be a rather isolated community, unlike Canada, where I live - on the whole we do a pretty good job of including and engaging everyone. In fact I met someone who worked for an organization who went around giving sex ed talks in mosques around Toronto, which I thought was brilliant. This kind of thing needs to be done everywhere. 

Many young men in their early teens will be enlisted at a mosque by their parents, and I believe an effort should be made by mosques to discuss these issues openly and frankly. Blindly ignoring these issues will only lead to another generation of misogynists, with disastrous consequences. 

Somebody get this guy into a mosque^ - honestly...you put things so accurately. You have great vision, and an ability to see the bigger picture. We need more people like you speaking out. You need a job with the government. 

It is a great shame that the Pakistani communities living it the UK have failed to tackle these issues, but it is not entirely surprising either. Pakistanis in the UK are amongst the poorest performing ethnic groups in fields such as education, health, employment and housing. The existence of ethnic ghettos in certain areas in the Midlands and North of England is testament to this. These communities face a varied range of issues, ranging from religious extremism to drug addiction and homelessness. 

Much like in Pakistan itself, there is a thin film of elites within the Pakistani diaspora in the UK, who seek to distance themselves from the issues facing the majority of the Pakistanis. 

I also wish you the best of luck and hope that your blog continues to attract success.

Thank you so much for your email. I think you've said what a lot of people have been thinking, and you've put it in a very streamlined and organized way. 


1 comment:

  1. Hi there,

    Lots of love from India, i am glad to find your blog, this was shared by a friend of mine in austria.
    Do check my blog, although it is just bunch of my one line jokes, but it also has videos of delhi pride march that i happen to shoot from my cellphone.
    I have friends in Pakistan who also belong 2 lgbt community and no matter how much the media wants to deny, they are very much present in the society and unfortunately issues of harrassement of young boys is altogether very common.
    Most homophobes are basically filled with hatred and denial, kind of like "oh i am not gay, i donot "like" men i just fuk them"

    anyways i tend to write in outbursts

    you are doing a great job,