In this acquaintance piece, Aamir Aijaz presents the problem of patriarchy as it relates to theological (mis)interpretations by those who preach about social life and cohabitation between men and women in Kashmiri society and the subsequent affair that such men are entangled in within their own mode of (un)thinking (or blind acceptance). In doing so, the writer falls short in imagining a socio-cultural reform of sorts to alleviate the hegemonic weight of a patriarchal worldview, which is far from being subverted.
The writer fails in providing the theoretical formulations required to instantiate thinking towards a sociological paradigm shift that would offset and defeat the patriarchal hold that maintains its hegemonic structural control in Kashmiri society and in several other places around the world. The writer also fails in realizing that identifying the problem is the first step of the process and that a grassroots conceptual and ideological framework is required to drive actual change initially by means of shifts in perspective, ideally leading to a reformation of sorts.
All such failures by the writer, Aamir Aijaz, point to the void left by the need for the progressive thinking that molds this short piece into being and gives it traction for some much-needed incisive thinking past the defensive and apologetic rhetoric of those who would potentially disagree with the writer’s ‘observations as denunciations.’ As such, the piece published here in the Acquaintance section dedicated to personal accounts, commentaries, testimonies and opinions, succeeds in fueling a conversation already in progress offline, such that any failures noted in this editorial introduction are merely byproducts of unforgivable flaws (within Kashmiri society) that the writer specifically points out and denounces. In that context, the piece is quite the success when it comes to inspiring criticality towards its subject.
Of course continued repression, mass polarization, alienation and subjugation under a militarized state has not helped, instead doing the contrary by exacerbating a toxic environment for regressive thinking that then becomes the stick with which Kashmiris are struck, on a definitive basis by certain state-endorsed media outlets south of the border. Regardless, many such internally critical and collectively introspective conversations have been developing offline, with their manifestations emerging on the online platform from time to time, with this one being one of them. Any attempt by men to understand or address the complexities of systems that privilege their position and mere existence is perhaps in some minor way a small step forward towards questioning fundamental fallacies that we tend to take for granted as permanent fixtures that endow us with such privilege and position in the first place. In this, Aamir Aijaz's opinion piece succeeds entirely to the point where his so-called failure to provide a solution to the colossal problem he presents is actually success inverted, or waiting to happen when more men who have witnessed what he relates herein take a stand.
I have always tried to call out the ugly patriarchal system whatever be the occasion and without ever caring for the costs and consequences it might generate. Having myself been the first-hand witness of this unacknowledged malady that has plagued our social system for long now, there, of course, is no one who can convince me, by any arguments whatsoever, of its non-existence. I have seen up-close how my mother and my aunts, not unlike any other women in Kashmir, were made to fall into submission by misinterpretation and misquotation of religious texts which, unsurprisingly, men in our society cherry-pick to embellish their claims of hegemony and make it sound somewhat a divine order.
I don't entirely toss the blame of this gross ignorance on the common masses, men, I mean to say. I have usually seen the spectacles of patriarchy unfold after the men would return from listening to the shrill and pumped-up sermons delivered passionately from the mosque pulpits by so-called experts of Islam. Being an attentive listener of these sermons I have always seen how these 'scholars of Islam' use religious texts as crutches to prove their point and how they exhaust every method possible to persuade their audiences, men and women alike, that women are bound to surrender themselves to the desires of men, concede to their demands and give precedence to their wishes, no matter how ill-natured they (men) may be.
If he is your husband, you as a woman have to die for him, sacrifice yourself; if he tells you to jump off a cliff you have to comply. Marriage is all about mollycoddling a man; a woman just has to keep on going with the domestic drudgery of household chores. This is what I have heard them say and as for women, well, quite simply, they have to listen with obsequious attentiveness. Such brazen immunity has let these 'scholars' get away with everything and consolidate further the edifice of patriarchy. No wonder, how later, these sermons help amplify the tyrannical masculinity and promotes no sense of shame when women are expected to see themselves as lesser beings who have to live, not for themselves, but for the senseless and insatiable pleasures of men.
In such a hegemonic gendered order, women have to do their bidding; they have to proffer men with ease of life and, yes, maintain their comfort zones. I have always found this proud affirmation in particular men repulsive and shameful. But, what always evokes feelings of surprise in me has been the unresistant compliance of women to the misleading campaign of these 'scholars of Islam' who are unfailingly dismissive of women’s rights in Islam. I have barely come across anyone, standing on that pulpit, who talks about women and their rights. If ever there is a sermon dedicated to the subject of women, it invariably revolves around menstruation but never about the rights granted to them. Then, of course, menstruation is also a social taboo that you are pre-emptively commanded never to talk about in your family circles or in presence of your 'respected elders'.
This mind-boggling deference of women to the systematic abuse of their rights has lead to many of them even internalizing this brand of patriarchy and equally thinking of it as an unchallengeable and unquestionable order. I have seen women listening and bowing themselves in docile posture while men have been puking away with such drivel. It has been long since I first recognized the unblushing character of patriarchy in our society such that it has left its undying imprint on my mind and even today, when I am writing this, a very unfortunate episode in the neighborhood riled me so much so that I was prompted to write about the pervasive patriarchal culture in our society.
This is not some indictment coming from a woman but a young man who has witnessed the clutches of this patriarchal culture tighten around the women I love and admire, strangling them finally while men around shrug with cold indifference.
My mind always hovers around the question as to what fails us, as a society, to decisively tackle this ever-growing shadow which has enchroached deep into our social fabric. Nonetheless, I have never gotten a reassuring response from myself in thinking about the subject, just a confusing mix of answers swirling my thoughts around, perpetually. I am also aptly aware of my social environment, where my words would mean little and there is no one to ask and seek answer from.