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Outrage as Pakistan preacher blames 'immodest' women for Covid-19

Tablighi Jamaat cleric accused of misogyny and ignorance for comments on live television

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Outrage as Pakistan preacher blames 'immodest' women for Covid-19

Maulana Tariq Jameel calls on Prime Minister Imran Khan at his office. (Photo: Press Information Department)

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A revered Pakistani televangelist has sparked a fierce backlash from rights activists for saying that the coronavirus pandemic is God’s wrath upon people because of immodest women.

Maulana Tariq Jameel, a senior member of Tablighi Jamaat, made the controversial remarks in the presence of Prime Minister Imran Khan during a live telethon on April 24 to raise funds for people affected by the ongoing lockdown.

While offering prayers, the 67-year-old cleric condemned women for dancing and dressing indecently, claiming these immoral actions have brought the Almighty’s wrath upon the country.

He also accused the media of disseminating lies, for which he later apologized during a talk show. But there has been no response from him regarding his remarks about women.

Among those who were quick to call out the preacher was human rights minister Shireen Mazari.

“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. Absolutely unacceptable,” she said in a statement.

“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 the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.” 

Sherry Rehman, a senator, called for an apology from the preacher.

“Why has Maulana Tariq Jameel not apologized to women yet? Because he needs to. He’s blaming this pandemic on Pakistani women’s alleged immodesty.  This is grossly slanderous on many levels, totally unacceptable. It’s time to take suo moto notice against him. He is encroaching on fundamental rights,” she tweeted.

“He has endangered women already made vulnerable by poverty and health deficits. How is he being allowed to get away with inciting hate speech in PM House against women??! Tariq Jameel needs to apologize to women.”

In a statement, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said it was appalled at the preacher's statement inexplicably correlating women's modesty to the Covid19 pandemic. "Such blatant objectification is unacceptable and, when aired on public television, only compounds the misogyny entrenched in society.”

In a hard-hitting editorial on Sunday, Pakistan’s most credible English-language daily Dawn also took the cleric to task.

“For the maulana to claim that women should be blamed for a global pandemic is not just ill-informed but also inflammatory. The statements are troubling; not only do they betray a deep-rooted misogyny, they were also aired, unchallenged, from a very high-profile platform,” the paper noted.

“This mentality is reflective of society’s unfortunate tendency to marginalize women simply because social power structures allow them to be viewed as lesser beings. The remarks also reinforce a dangerous yet normalized idea that targeting women is permissible.

“The reality is that women in Pakistan, and elsewhere, face systemic discrimination and violence. During this pandemic, domestic abuse cases have soared as women are forced to stay home for extended periods with their tormentors. Despite these challenges, women strive to be recognised and shatter glass ceilings — as evidenced by the effective response of global women leaders in this pandemic.”

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