(Dar es Salaam, Tanzania)
In one of our brief meetings at the mosque, my friend recalls that as he tried to relax with his family on a breezy Saturday afternoon at Dar es Salaam’s hotspot, the Oysterbay Beach, he was not only dumbfounded at what he saw, but was actually forced to fire his engines and leave even before he could actually enjoy the cool and soothing view of the beach. Next to his car, a young couple, barely married a half a year ago, Ithnashe of course. The young woman, dressed in a tight fitting top blouse, and figure hugging trouser, did have a scarf on her head. They were accompanied by some other members of the family. Slowly, they all came out of the car, and is usually the case, settled for the bonnet of their small car. Much to the amazement of my friend, the young woman went and sat on the laps of her husband, and they then started exchanging very cute and lovable gazes, and of course treated themselves to the crisps, and kichwa naazis that were on offer by eager vendors.
Fifteen years ago, when this very friend of mine went to London, he was similarly stunned when a white young and in all probability unmarried couple, publicly started to indulge in a very private matter, and he had said that if this ever happened in Dar es Salaam, the public would not tolerate such a thing. Naturally, he felt defeated and betrayed, and remembered with melancholy that although those days of deprivation under socialist rule were difficult, we still had our most precious possession – honour, respect and dignity. He did drive away from the scene, but he had to spend the rest of the evening, discussing and at times arguing with his teenage children, of why this was bad. He then told me he had set up an effective communication system with his children, but on this occasion, the children were using the same channel to tell the father that “at least, she was with her husband”, kind of things.
The issue that has just been narrated, is not unique to Dar es Salaam, and is not in any way meant to target any one population. But the issue here is that the most backward country of those days, has now reached the UK of 15 years ago, in social contexts, and is fast pacing ahead, engulfing all of the newer generation in its fold. Most children now watch television that was regarded vulgar in those days. Not that the man-woman relationship was unknown to the people who lived in those days, except that they were unanimous in the fact that this wonderful relation, even when institutionalized, was not for public display.
And then you probably have heard of young men and women who endlessly fight their parents, because they wish to wear prohibited outfits or want to stay out late. Little is usually done by parents, who are themselves guilty of watching nude MTV shows or even others that are daily occupied in showing the body of a woman. Last week, there has arisen uproar in India, where the country’s top two cities have come under fire because of how dangerous they are for women. Rampant assaults on women and in cases of rape have been unearthed in Delhi and Mumbai. In all opinions given by experts in news channels of the country’s major cable operators, amazement was echoed by the speakers that whereas suppression of women was not anything new in the country, why this expression of sexual audacity was being accelerated so widely. This surprise of course, is hardly in tandem with the social ruin that the entertainment industry has caused by constantly and consistently propagating that sexual expression needs to be pronounced in public. Look at any Indian Television advertisement today (arguably, some of the finest cratives in the world today), and you will see that the selers and media companies are telling people that all products have a relation to sex, and that it is vogue to be public about it.
Role models of society are at the same time playing negative roles, due to a well rationalized backdrop of oppression. Top film and TV stars all over the world, who are virtually revered by throngs of masses, are today playing negative roles and winning accolades more than those playing goodie roles.
There is a widespread confusion and as a community, we need to effect steps to curb this situation. Sexual audacity, when it will tomorrow stare use at the face, in our own houses, will stun us just as it did stun my friend. And on that day, we will not have arguments to support why “older” values are right and the new global ones are faulty. After all, even today, when you tell a young man to wear respectable clothes at home, he would tell you that you are living in the Jurassic age. Young people aside, adults in our society are as well confused, because on one hand they insist on segregated Islamic seminaries for their children and on the other, they are lobbying for women participation in meetings, or of mixed gatherings “under hijaab conditions”. Will we finally bend all the laws? Are we not silently swaying in the same way that the kaafirs are deviating from their lord? Is Satan not fulfilling his promise of distracting people from Allah’s way by making everything appear colourful and glamorous? The challenge today is to set the right rules, the right examples, and the right priorities. Of spending our human and monetary resources in saving a social collapse, and not in brick and mortar which will then be occupied by lip serving Muslims.