She who must not be named? | Pakistan Today

She who must not be named?

  • Why can’t mothers be named?

According to an Afghan Taliban spokesman in an interview with Reuters, “Mentioning the names of mothers, wives, sisters and daughters is not culturally tolerable in our society,” he said, claiming that from a religious point of view, taking the name of a woman is prohibited, that women cannot be mentioned by name.

The context of this curious statement was the question of having a space for a person’s mother on a national identity card, an idea that the Taliban clearly do not approve of.

Which religion is the above spokesperson speaking of? There is no such prohibition in Islam. In a real Islamic society every member is expected to respect other members, women in particular, and the last time one checked respect did not translate to incarceration, or making a woman ‘she who must not be named.’ If that were so, among other problems we would have had a hard time speaking of the female family members of people we hold special in history and benefitting from them. Instead we refer to those women with reverence as Bibi Khadija, Bibi Ayesha and so on and learn from their achievements and character.

It is time that ultra-orthodox factions in society understood that life is more than the ‘s’ word. It is up to the education we all receive to help everyone understand this fact. The absence of such an understanding makes not just for embarrassment, but for suffering on the part of women and children and as a result of this of the whole of society. Women after all are not just the ones who bear but they raise children too. Women’s abilities, their minds and their well-being deserve care and respect in the interest of us all

It is obvious that for ultra-orthodox persons, women are synonymous with sex  alone, and have no other role in life.

In Saudi Arabia which, like Pakistan, is one of the countries where a national ID card is compulsory, and which as a country is oddly enough considered by many to be the standard of correct Islamic conduct,  only those women who are widowed can register and update their children’s information in the family documents. Otherwise the law considers the father as head of family, and only a father can deal with such documentation as ID cards and birth certificates. It is only when the father dies that this authority devolves upon the mother. When some men fail to register or update their children’s information for a variety of reasons the mother cannot perform this duty. It is hardly a surprise then that in Saudi Arabia just three quarters of births are registered. It might well be the same in Pakistan.

Afghanistan is one of those countries where every Afghan adult over the age of 18 must possess and carry an  ID card, called a Tazkira, the usual small plastic card with identifying information including the owner’s name– even if it’s a women– and a surname.

Three years ago a young woman by the name of Laleh Osmani began her campaign to make a space for a mother’s name on these identity cards. It is this that the Taliban spokesperson above was referring to.

It has been a struggle for Osmani, and she had to face the usual threats and insults but this courageous young lady and her supporters came up with results. Just a few days ago an amendment was signed by the President of Afghanistan according to which it should be possible to allow the mother’s names on an identification card and the birth certificate, as well as the father’s. One can only hope the amendment is able to make it through the obstacle course.

You wonder why the fact of having a mother’s name on an identity card was so difficult to accept since if anyone is entitled to it, it should be the person who has definitely produced the child. If one thing is certain about a child’s lineage it is who his or her mother is, and this is not an attempt at facetiousness, it is a simple biological fact. It is of course not necessary to have either parent’s name on the card.

Identity cards are not a must in all countries. They are not, for example, in the United States and Canada. Instead, everyone owns a birth certificate, which is issued by the State. The States report this information to the federal government for the purpose of statistics. The information sheds light on population changes, childbirth trends, parent trends as well as maternal and fetal health. The names and addresses of both parents are required on the form.

It is time that ultra-orthodox factions in society understood that life is more than the ‘s’ word. It is up to the education we all receive to help everyone understand this fact. The absence of such an understanding makes not just for embarrassment, but for suffering on the part of women and children and as a result of this of the whole of society. Women after all are not just the ones who bear but they raise children too. Women’s abilities, their minds and their well-being deserve care and respect in the interest of us all.

Laleh Osmani deserves respect for her efforts towards this goal.

Rabia Ahmed

The writer is a freelance columnist. Read more by her at http://rabia-ahmed.blogspot.com/



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