The current course of events surrounding the women protection bill and its culmination in the “Mullah vs Feminists” battle is a typical portrayal of the simplistic mindset, our religious and secular elite reflect whenever religion and law is brought together .This polarization has not only been quite evident for some time now but is also predictable as they are but small players in a global game of politics and power.

The real casualty of this dogmatism is the very “woman” and “family”, both claim to stand for.

Professor Tariq Ramadan cited as one of the hundred most influential people by Times magazine and by the Foreign Policy Magazine as one of the top hundred global thinkers tends to view this dogmatism as an intellectual limitation. In his book Radical reform he tackles head on the issue of revival and reform in Islam and Islamic law. He talks about the need of “reforming thought” and not the “scriptural sources”. He writes:

“Muslims must at a particular time in history be able to rediscover the essence, ethical substance, and superior aims of Islam’s message to implement them faithfully and adequately in sociocultural contexts that are by essence changing, in constant mutation. In short, no faithfulness to Islamic principles through the ages can exist with evolution, without reform, without a renewal of intelligence and understanding.”

The debate on the actual VAW (violence against women) bill, spearheaded by our mainstream news channels has again only added fuel to fire by deepening the divide. Aurangzeb Haneef an academic at LUMS, interested in religion and peacebuilding puts it eloquently:

“We must not give in to our own prejudices regardless of which side of the debate we find ourselves to be. All sorts of women belittling, Mullah bashing, West naming, religion hating is coming out showing prejudices from all sides. The nature of discourse around this subject has not changed in the last fifteen years or so. There is little thoughtful conversation on religion and law if any. It is a good time for media ratings; a sad time to know that divisions are only getting wider; but a promising time to look inward and acknowledge our own insecurities, egos and biases.”

A more desirable position and valuable effort by the state and the media in this regard could be to bridge the gap, lessen the divide by providing a platform for tolerant debate. The biggest challenge of our time is penetrating into inflexible rigid minds and the only way to penetrate such minds is to develop engagement and contribution in areas of common interest and common goals like education, economics, social justice etc.

According to Professor Ramadan, “starting a discussion about the reasons, the context and the history” concerning an issue “is the way you change mindsets”.

Indeed a sincere effort to change and understand such a mindset would certainly take into account the history, socio cultural and religious factors and sensitivities surrounding an issue. The debate should arise from within a society. It cannot be imposed upon it. It should be a natural consequence of self evaluation, education and informed dialogue. The reality however is otherwise. Genuine creativity and effort concerned with the progress of a society can only actually come from the actors within. Stifling their thoughts and voices, imposing imported readymade models of progress will only escalate the tensions and divisions within. The objective of all the debate and education should be to tap in the intellectual and creative energies of the individual in the society and to use that force for the collective good of all.

Maryam Sakeenah, an academic, writer and someone who sympathises with the “feminist cause” also notices the same dogmatism plaguing the Liberal Feminists.

“Attempting to pit women against men” according to her is a “crass and peevish brand of feminism which again flies in the face of the beautiful balance of the genders being complementary rather than competing”. Encouraging her fellow feminists that it is beyond intelligent assumption

“to think that if you are critical of the bill you are automatically a misogynist, a woman hating violent bigot” and asks them to “learn to listen and understand before judgment”.

A point to move forward from would be to realize the need to foster a tolerant and educated environment for intelligent discourse amongst the secular and religious factions of the society. Academics, lawmakers, clerics and minority representatives should be engaged. Sadly no attempt at all as yet has been made. It is quite evident that the sensible of both factions are for the protection of “women” as well as the “family” and society in consequence. Both can come up with recommendations and discuss their insecurities on equal footing to reach a consensus. Consensus is an inevitable consequence of intelligent discourse. The very inability of both the factions to reach one is alarming and not at all a good sign for a society or a state.