September 11 Digital Archive: XML Document
Title:An evening with a minister
Publication:New York Awam
Blurb:Not one woman had been invited to hear Roohullah Madni, the NWFP minister of womens welfare address womens rights in Islam in New York recently.
Body:At an event in New York, I got a chance to see the Maulana [religious leader] Roohullah Madni, a provincial minister from the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP), Pakistan. Madni holds the portfolios of religious affairs, social welfare and womens welfare.
The event, organized by the Khyber Society, was well attended. In his speech Maulana Madni defended General Pervez Musharref's policies, as was to be expected. He also made a number of absurd claims, for example, the minister claimed American bases in Pakistan were set up to treat the wounded from the war.
Maulana Madni, as the minister of womens welfare, spoke about the rights of women in Islam. He talked about how women may leave their houses unveiled, to going to work. But they must not dawdle on the streets. The same goes for men, he said. Women must also not dress provocatively and not dawdle, he added.
It is common knowledge that clerics like Maulana Madni put more restrictions on the mobility of women in society than on men. They justify this practice by invoking Islam. Neither the minister nor the organizers were troubled by the absence of women in the audience, in fact, not one had been invited to attend.
But the Khyber Society boasts democratic traditions. After the guest of honor has had his say, the audience is encouraged to question him.
Why did the minister feel obliged to accept the portfolio of women and welfare? Would not a woman be better able to understand the problems and challenges facing women in society? asked an audience member.
When the ministry for highways can go to a man, so can that of women and welfare, Madni said.