One needs an unflinching resolve and conviction to replicate sentiments in Pakistan that had been deemed blasphemous in the very recent past. An inkling of doubt and one might prefer the mortal way out and add nuance while expressing the aforementioned views, if abandoning them altogether seems too heretic a task. Faith forms the spine that swathes that level of tenacity.

Junaid Jamshed has faith in abundance. Just like any other orthodox clergyman his belief in an outmoded version of his religion is unwavering and resilient. This is precisely why barely over six months after blasphemy allegations forced him to flee to the UK, he was back hogging the prime time Ramzan slot over the past month.

Jamshed had been accused of blasphemy for imitating an anecdote from the hadiths, wherein he dubbed women ‘twisted ribs’, in his usual endeavours to belittle one half of the global population. That the woman in his little playact was Hazrat Aisha bint Abu Bakr, the misogyny which is ubiquitous in religious seminaries, mosques and Islamic literature, after being coupled with modern-day sensibilities, snowballed into blasphemy allegations. Jamshed’s hatred for women, which compelled him to highlight the lack of females mentioned in the Holy Quran as the ‘rationale’ for their inferiority or God’s disapproval in a recent TV show, ballooned into a social media campaign designed to condemn barefaced misogyny.

While anyone with a quasi-moderate outlook towards human rights and the world in general would find Junaid Jamshed’s views repulsive and abhorring, it would be intellectually dishonest to claim that he conjures them up out of the blue. Jamshed’s views on women are in synchrony with his version of Islam, which still manifests 7th century ideals and is yet to evolve. Yes, Junaid Jamshed has his own add-ons – just like the Saudi judiciary for instance – but his core belief system is based on Islamic theology. While it’s easier to condemn Junaid Jamshed or Saudi Arabia – for the few that do manage to offer the criticism, of course – it is considerably more important to critique the ideology that is used to justify propagation of antediluvian ideas that contradict basic human rights.

Whether it’s the Talmud comparing women to slaves and cattle and calling them a “bag full of excrement”, or Exodus and Genesis reducing them to property that can be “sold” or “raped”, the ideas in orthodox Abrahamic religions are repulsively misogynistic. Leviticus reduces female value to 60% of men, while Islamic scriptures are cited to sanction female testimony as half of that of a man. Religion’s obsession with controlling women and restricting their role in the society by reducing them to bodies or objects isn’t limited to the Abrahamic religions.

Mahabharata and Ramayana declare women as “root of all evil” whose biggest desire is to transgress the “restraints assigned to them”. Even the Anguttara Nikaya deems “irritability, jealousy, greed and unintelligence” as exclusively feminine characteristics. To cite and comment on all misogynistic claims of religious scriptures would need libraries worth of literature, but it’s common for Islamic clergy to justify lopsided polygamy, marital rape, wife-beating and ownership of slave girls through Islamic scriptures. Junaid Jamshed’s anti-women endeavours are rooted in studying Islam through the orthodox lens.

This is not to suggest that religion has exclusive copyrights over misogyny or that hatred for women is a religious creation. Misogyny outdates the idea of organised religion by quite a few millennia, and can be traced all the way to the origins of humankind. However, it has been an integral feature of all modern-day religions, with divinity, prophethood and leadership being heavily skewed towards the male gender. The view that any religion in its orthodox form treats both men and women equally can only be summoned through rose-tinted glasses.

Again, this does not mean abandoning religion is the route towards gender equality. That would be insulting and contradictory to all those believing Muslims, and members of other religious community, that wholeheartedly condemn gender-based discrimination. The answer lies in reconciling modern day ideals with scriptural adherence in a way that human rights are always given preference over religious ideas, regardless of how orthodox or progressive they might be.

Over the centuries a significant chunk of Christians and Jews, especially those in positions of authority, have abandoned the violence against women endorsed in the Old Testament, without relinquishing their beliefs. This only became possible after orthodox religious ideas were criticised and condemned, whenever found incompatible with the modern world, instead of merely targeting the individuals that endorsed them. The Hindus abandoned Sati after ancient Hindu ideas were deemed contradictory to the progressive world.

Whilst fanaticism exists in all religious communities, and self-manifests in all parts of the globe, it is the Muslim world where the search for civic, societal and judicial answers through religious scriptures is more prevalent. This is precisely why nine of the bottom 10 countries in last year’s Global Gender Gap report are Muslim majority countries, with Pakistan being second from bottom in the 142-country list, mirroring the Muslim states’ rankings in most lists depicting human rights disparity.

The treatment of women in Muslim countries isn’t representative of Islam, whose scriptures are arguably more progressive than their Jewish or Christian counterparts. However, the wretched human rights condition in the Muslim world, and the prevalence of bigoted ideas and beliefs, most of which is the corollary of religious subjugation, does depict the scriptural adherence of the vast majority.

Religious bigots like Junaid Jamshed do not surface in vacuums. The popularity the likes of Jamshed, Tariq Jameel or Aamir Liaquat enjoy highlights the belief-system of a significant percentage of Pakistanis. It is that belief-system that needs to be targeted and not an individual bigot.

Until we’re ready to self-reflect, critique our scriptural adherence, and accept the secularisation of the state and society, human rights will continue to be abused as duty to Islam. At a time when Islam is constantly being singled out owing to the prevalence of Islamist terrorism all over the world, the biggest service that we Muslims can do to Islam is curb its use as a political and judicial tool. Apologia for the scriptures, which forestalls Muslim reform, and targeting individual clerics will continue to be counterproductive.