LAHORE: A prominent Pakistani cleric has stoked controversy after his bizarre remarks relating to the coronavirus pandemic which he claimed was due to God’s wrath in view of increasing obscenity and nudity.
Rights activists and members of civil society have condemned the remarks made by religious leader Maulana Tariq Jamil on national television during Prime Minister Imran Khan’s telethon on April 23 to raise funds for the people affected by the Covid-19.
Maulana Jamil, who has a huge following in Pakistan, said, “Obscenity and nudity are the reasons behind God’s wrath in the form of coronavirus.”
“Who is making my nation’s daughters dance. Their dresses are getting shortened. Allah sends his wrath when obscenity is common in the society,” he said.
The remarks have been called “callous and demeaning” to women who make up half of the Muslim majority country.
Barrister Maleeka Bokhari, parliamentary secretary of law and justice, tweeted, “The spread of a pandemic must never and under no circumstances be correlated or linked to a woman’s piety or morality.It is dangerous to make this correlation as violent crimes against women/girls continue to take place with impunity.”
Federal minister of human rights Shireen Mazari said, “We will not accept the targeting of women on the pretext of such ludicrous accusations. We in Pakistan have fought hard for claiming our rights as enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan.”
Criticising the cleric for his “ludicrous” remarks about women in Pakistan, she said, “Simply absurd for anyone under any guise to even suggest the Covid-19 pandemic is a result of women wearing short sleeves or because of private schools/universities misleading the youth. This simply reflects either ignorance about pandemics or a misogynist mindset which is absolutely unacceptable.”
Nida Aly, director of the Asma Jahangir Legal Aid cell, said while women under lockdown needed security from the community, “the government trotted out Tariq Jamil on a broadly televised programme who not just objectified women but declared them and their individualist actions to bring the wrath of God and punishment in the form of Covid-19.”
The human rights commission of Pakistan said, “We are appalled at Maulana Jamil’s statement which inexplicably correlated women’s ‘modesty’ to the Covid-19 pandemic. Such blatant objectification is unacceptable and, when aired on public television, only compounds the misogyny entrenched in society.”
In Pakistan, nearly 12,000 people have been infected with the novel coronavirus while the death toll has reached 253.