An imam in the western province of Herat has installed billboards around Herat city to encourage women to wear the hijab--a headscarf--and has allegedly instructed his followers to punish women who refrain. Rights activists say this is an “extremist” and “misogynist” move.
Along with billboards, Mujeeb Rahman Ansari, the imam of Gazargah Mosque in the city of Herat, has told his supporters to apply Sharia rule--to punish-- women who are not using the "proper" hijab, as determined by him and his followers. He has asked his supporters "not to wait for the government’s action in such instances," according to his public speeches.
‘A man is a coward whose woman disregard Hijab’.
By this, some residents said, the religious scholar is overstepping the law in Herat.
Ansari has recently named the cultural component of Gazargah Mosque as the central office of Amr Ba Maroof Wa Naih Az Munkar, which literally means "commanding the good and forbidding wrong," as a social organization that basically pushes his conservative agenda.
“This country has sovereignty--it has law. Any religious scholar who is concerned about the social situation--it should be addressed by the government,” civil society activist Hamid Momin said.
“This approach can have negative impacts on civic movements,” said Behnaz Jahind, a human rights activist.
Abdul Qayoum Rahimi, the governor of Herat was earlier questioned by a local media outlet about Ansari’s movement in Herat province, wherein Rahimi said he is not going to confront Mawlavi Mujeeb Rahman Ansari as they are being good friends.
“Any man who thinks he has ownership of women is a coward. A real man is the one who considers his wife to be his counterpart, not a commodity!”, Waheed Omar, a government official tweeted in response to a billboard message by Malawvi Ansari where it says ‘A man is a coward whose woman disregard Hijab’.
This imam is using various psychological techniques to get women to wear the hijab but none of them constitutes "encouragement" as the article states. Encouragement would involve offering rewards for hijab-wearing: perhaps assurance of a better place in heaven, or pointing out the satisfaction that would come from knowing one has been a good Muslima and followed Islamic teaching to the letter. Instead he threatens punishment for those who don't wear hijab—negative consequences to follow such behaviour. Reward and punishment are opposite sides of the coin. It would be interesting to know how these reports came to include reference to encouragement—is it a euphemistic word to divert from the reality of what would likely be a physical beating (as we know occurs in Afghanistan)?
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