Sunday, February 01, 2009

Worthy of a Bollywood Soap Opera

So….there is this Indian doctor is stationed in Kabul. At the hospital where he works, he meets a young Muslim girl from a good family, and hormones being what they are, he becomes enamored of her.

The young woman is in high school and also works at the hospital part-time, after school. Does she love her suitor in return? Probably not, but she doesn’t find him repulsive. He is twice her age and also her boss, but her family likes the idea of a marriage match with a doctor. The only obstacle in their eyes is his religion, for Dr. Pant (no I’m not making up his name) is a Hindu.

The dedicated Dr. Pant promises to change religions and does so, also changing his name to Himmat Khan. The Afghan family of the young girl, Sabra Ahmadzai, is pleased to have made such a suitable match. They go all out with a huge wedding attended by seven hundred people.

Oh, but then duty calls. After several weeks, Dr. Pant is recalled to India, reluctantly forced to temporarily give up his newly-wed status until he can send for his bride, Sabra, whom he nicknames “Cat”. Isn’t that sweet?

Tick-tock. Time goes by. Cat waits by the phone but the communication from the ardent doctor is infrequent.

After a year, it is plain she has been duped. The devious doctor calls Kabul and spills the beans to his true love: he is married with two children. Meanwhile, since she is young, he thinks she ought to get on with her life, etc. You can imagine, right?

Unfortunately for the Indian bigamist, he really doesn't know who it is he’d “married”. He knows she'll be shamed, though, and she is, publicly and often. Neighborhood boys make fun of her, offering brief marriages. Some people suggest she take the honorable way out for her family and swallow poison. No doubt Dr. Pant, having been in Kabul long enough, hopes she’ll follow the advice he knows she is sure to get.

However, our heroine had other ideas. She finishes high school, borrows money in the form of a loan on a plot of land owned by her uncle, and gets on the bus, Gus. Ahmadzai travels to India to find the lothario who left her in the lurch. She has her wedding certificate, a video of her marriage, and a steely determination to bring the miscreant to justice, whatever form it takes.

Sabra doesn’t know a soul when she arrives in New Delhi with her mother. She finds the elusive Dr. Pant at his new station in the Himalayas and confronts him in front of his wife and children. She demands that he return to Kabul and divorce her. He refuses, offering her money instead. Are you noticing a pattern of dumb moves by this doc?
- - - - - - - - -
Having Ahmadzai show up at the door should have been a clue that things needed to change and that he was no longer in control of his own destiny. Without understanding it, Dr. Pant had turned his fate over to the hands of a very angry and determined young woman who has him by the short hairs. This man sounds seriously dim-witted.

Ahmadzai takes her case to the police and to the Army. You can imagine the foot-dragging going on in those quarters. If she had to depend solely on these bureaucracies she’d be an old lady before justice was done. And that is what she is determined to have: justice.

The nice thing is that lots of others now want to see justice done, too:

Overnight, her cause was adopted by local activist groups. A signature campaign began. Women and students waved placards and protested in support of her, and blocked traffic for five hours demanding that Pant be punished. Ahmadzai addressed the crowds. The city’s newspapers splashed her story on their front pages. Ahmadzai’s mother fell sick and returned to Kabul, but Ahmadzai came to New Delhi and met the home affairs minister and the National Commission for Women.

[…]

Pant could face charges of bigamy and changing his religion without the army’s permission, transgressions that could result in expulsion from military service. Under Indian civil law, Pant could face seven to 10 years in prison for bigamy, if convicted, according to Ravinder Singh Garia, Ahmadzai’s attorney in New Delhi.

So what will happen? Nothing at all for the moment. This will drag on and on as officials hope this young woman will give up and go home. Fat chance! Dr. Pant could tell them how likely that scenario is.

Ahmadzai’s appointments in New Delhi are now managed by the university students in the sprawling campus that is the font of India’s liberal politics. She communicates with her family daily on Google Talk, sits in on films and debates the Israeli war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Ahmadzai now says that if her case drags on, she may try to enroll in an undergraduate course. “I do not know how long my struggle will go on,” she said. “At least I will have a degree while I wait for justice.”

So there you have the real-life soap opera that Bollywood is sure to turn into a movie eventually. Meanwhile, the obedient young Muslim woman is going to end up with a college education while she waits for her day in court.

Justifiably, she’s already got an attitude. Combine that with some learning and Sabra Ahmadzai is going to be a powerhouse. Maybe she’ll go back to Kabul and run for office. Maybe she'll go to medical school. Now wouldn't that be poetic justice (the best kind next to actual jail time).

On the other hand, at the rate the Taliban is assassinating educated women, she might be better off staying in New Delhi and helping other victims.

Dr. Pant deserves…well, let’s see what the courts decide he deserves. Were I in charge of his case, I’d start with an IQ test and go from there to a forensic psychiatry exam. It's plain that the man is either dumb or crazy.


Hat tip: Zenster

18 comments:

Zenster said...

More than anything, I'm looking forward to the commentary that Whiskey might contribute regarding this delightful little cross-cultural vingette.

Sabra should be admired for her determination to out this sort of blatant abuse. Let us see whether India will recognize if being "an officer and a gentleman" has any meaning within their armed forces.

Further, the ostensible conversion of Dr. Pant (the delightful wordplay that his surname offers is nearly endless), is just one more button on the coat of Islam's hair shirt. A Hindu (no less), converts to Islam solely for the sake of how it absolves polygamy. Priceless.

Be it polygamy, sutee, FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) or any of a host of incredibly misogynistic practices, India and Pakistan alike need a wakeup call.

WOMEN REPRESENT OVER HALF OF THIS WORLD'S POPULATION. What part of this equation is unclear? Is the institutionalized abuse of women supposed to be such a mitigating factor that it allows for its continuation or is it something that must condemn its practitioners?

Sabra is doing everything to expose the disproportionate aspect of traditional male privilege. While I despise embedded chauvanism and patriarchal practices, it is still important to understand the myth of male superiority.

ALL OF US suffer from the stereotypical roles that sexuality imposes upon us. ALL OF US can find liberation in expressing more affection and tenderness to those that we love. NO CURRENT MORALISTIC LAWS adequately address this need.

None of this changes how Islam is utterly deficient in its ability to address these matters.

san said...

Zenster,

Whatever the doctor has done is his own personal folly, and not that of wider society, which frowns upon such behaviour.

Regarding your caricatures on the alleged practice of sati, this is an sensationalist myth, and is certainly illegal under Indian law in any case. Female Genital Mutilation is an African Muslim tradition, and has nothing to do with East Asia.

Derailed Cluetrain said...

What is her complaint? She belongs to a religon which happily embraces polygyny. Apart from the obvious - this gives her a chance to be away from Afghanistan and get an education courtesy of Indian taxpayers mediated through "activist" - why is this even news?

Dymphna said...

cluetrain--

Umm...I see why your little engine went off the tracks. Hope you're able to keep the caboose from falling off the cliff, m'boy. Don't make any sudden moves and you'll be okay till help arrives.

In the meantime, skip this post. It appears to be beyond your ken.

Dymphna said...

san--

Your assertions are a bit off the mark...

Granted, FGM originated in African cultures. But it spread into Islam as the Muslims invaded and took slaves.

In a detailed post, with numerous citations, Western Resistance has the rates of prevalence of female genital mutilation in various countries. Unfortunately, no country with Muslims appears to escape, including the US. FGM continues despite the laws against it. There is a singular hadith cited by WR, to back up the practice:

...one Hadith in the collection of Sunan Abu Dawud which claims that Mohammed approved of the practice for girls. Book 41 (Kitab Al-Adab or "General Behavior"), Hadith 5251 states:
Narrated Umm Atiyyah al-Ansariyyah:
A woman used to perform circumcision in Medina. The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) said to her: Do not cut severely as that is better for a woman and more desirable for a husband.


Here is some information about FGM's incidence in the ME:

FGM occurs in south Jordan and Iraq. In the rural area of Germian, in Kurdish Iraq, a study found that more than 60% of women had undergone FGM. There is circumstantial evidence that FGM occurs in Syria, and suspicions that it also happens in Iran. It does not occur in Afghanistan, nor is it a practice in North Africa (Morocco, Algeria, Libya). The Bohra Muslims who live in Pakistan and parts of Gujarat in India do practice FGM. The Bohra are mostly Hindu in origin, who became converts to an Islamaili subsect of Shia Islam.

India in general is far too Western now (in addition to having a coherent religious culture which predates the Muslim invasions by who knows how long) for the barbaric customs --even its own, which included suttee-- to survive. That doesn't mean that there aren't problems, including the high rate of female foeticide, despite the Indian govt's attempts to outlaw the practice (for example, private doctors are legally permitted to own ultrasound machines but GE continues to turn them out by the thousands for the Asian market).

As a result India, like China, has waaay too many single males to be considered culturally stable. Poor men often rent out their wives to even poorer guys who have no hope of marrying.

The West's post modern problems that the commenter Whiskey delineates have yet to reach their full flower in non-Western cultures. God help us all if they do. As grim as issues like FGM are, they do not suffer from the nihilism of the po mo feminist West.

In non-Western cultures, women are still at risk. In Western culture, men are. The freedom women were given in the West (they did NOT achieve it solely by themselves, despite the propaganda) didn't improve their condition because freedom without concomitant responsibilities creates libertines. Narcissistic libertines at that. Or maybe the term is redundant?

[Whew! This is just under 500 words...much longer and I'd have had to make this darn comment a post]

Dymphna said...

oops, missed one. This passage should read:

private doctors [in India] are NOT legally permitted to own ultrasound machines but GE continues to turn them out by the thousands for the Asian market.

DP111 said...

Now if Dr Pant Pant had read GoV or JW, he would have known that he could send a text message to Sabra, divorcing her. Such a method of finalising a divorce is acceptable in Islamic law- for a Muslim man anyway. So Dr Pant, miserly for the cost of a text message, is now facing a bunch of irate feminists in Delhi, as well as the secular courts. There is one way out for Dr pant. As he has declared himself a Muslim, he can apply to the sharia court in India, or just send that text message.

Czechmade said...

Said ibn Mansur Ibn Kammuna (died 1284) :
"...to this day we never see anyone converting to Islam unless in terror, or in quest of power, or to avoid heavy taxation, or to escape humiliation, or if taken prisoner, or because of infatuation with a Muslim woman, or for some similar reason."

san said...

Dymphna,

Yes, it's true that in Asian countries, there is a preference for male heirs in poorer families -- but only in poorer families, where children are often expected to help out on the farm, etc. In more educated and middle-class families, this is not the case at all. The more people move out of poverty and up the economic ladder, the less gender matters.

And this is where the class warfare of the socialist Left only helps to perpetuate economic deprivation in lieu of social gains. It's worth noting that many poor nations newly emancipated from colonialism were quickly infected with marxist socialist ideologies before they'd even had a chance to have their industrial revolutions. Whereas marxism in Western Europe came about as backlash to some of the excesses of the industrial revolution, in Asia it penetrated societies already poor from colonialism, and pre-emptively blocked their industrial revolutions.

Once industrialization and other forms of development become more prevalent in Asia, along with increased economic mobility, then I think that gender issues should rapidly decline, as they have in the West.

Dymphna said...

san--

Are you familiar with the ancient Indian saying, "May You Be the Mother of a Hundred Sons"?

You are giving me your opinions. Please back them up with proof.

Here is just one scholarly citation refuting your claim that female foeticide is limited to the poor.

I don't understand why you'd claim something that is so easily disproved. In the paper cited above, Dr. Patel says:

Even more alarming was a study of centers in Bombay which revealed that out of 8000 abortions in six hospitals preceded
by amniocentesis, 7,999 were female fetuses. Between 1978 and 1982, according to one report, 78,000 female fetuses were aborted after a sex determination test (Kusum, 1993; Shah,1992). In another study, 430 out of 450 female fetuses were aborted in one hospital, while none of 250 male fetuses were aborted even when there was evidence of a genetic problem(Ramanamma, 1980).[my emphasis -- D]

[...]

Indian society is patrilineal, patriarchal and patrilocal. Sons carry on the family name. They are also charged with the task of supporting their parents in old age... Daughters, on the other hand, become part of their husband’s family after marriage...

[thus] Indian sayings such as, “Bringing up a girl is like watering a neighbor’s plant,” and “The girl who has married is like the spittle which has been spat out"...

[...]

Since many of the reasons behind son preference are economically based, it is ironic that the most extreme sex ratios are seen in the higher castes who tend to have most of the wealth (Miller, 1981). The reason for discrimination against daughters in these groups seems to be related more to issues of family pride than to concern over money...


I urge you to read Dr. Patel's article in its entirety.

It would be nice if what you propose were true, but it simply does not square with the facts. Harsh as it is, the truth is always a better guide to reality.

Dymphna said...

san--

"Gender issues" in the post-Industrial West have not disappeared at all. As women gained "equality", the situation simply morphed into something equally ugly and unjust as that which exists in Asian cultures.

As the mother of sons, I do not like what is happening to men in my culture. Nor do I like the ways in which Marxist feminism has twisted the souls and psyches of present day Western women.

Met any "mean girls" out there? Unfortunately, they are on the increase, and they're predatory creatures.

So while I hold you to a standard of truth re the treatment of females in Asian cultures, I do not pretend that what we have in the West is better. It certainly isn't, and no one I have read sees much hope for improvement.

Change for the better will *never* happen under the current multi-culti, p.c., "tolerant" feminine regime. However, I don't have enough predictive intution to guess how things might possibly improve. The only glimmer I see on the horizon is the notion that when the Laws of Unintended Consequences rebound back on us, change will occur.

Probably won't be pretty, though.

Robin Shadowes said...

I hope you keep this case updated. This example of girl power is much more interesting than that of the Spice Girls fame.

Dymphna said...

Robin--

I got the tip from Zenster and it's an MSM source. So I doubt they'll do follow up much. Depth ain't their strong point.

I had a heck of a time trying to keep current on Mukhtar Mai after the initial flurry of stories...

...there ought to be a better system.

Czechmade said...

Do not forget dowry - one starts saving money the very day his daughter was born. Imagine you get three daughters.

According to classical Hindu sources this system was introduced relatively recently...following a general lack of brides, before it was the other way.

Also not all casts follow the same rule. I remeber some Madras lawers abolishing the dowry system among themselves on their own.

Ancient Hindu sacred/legal books do not know the "untouchable" cast/jaati concept at all.

In Kerala they developed also "unlookables".

Zenster said...

Dymphna: The only glimmer I see on the horizon is the notion that when the Laws of Unintended Consequences rebound back on us, change will occur.

Probably won't be pretty, though.


The corrective actions for Liberalism seem to comprise almost exclusively of events arising from the Laws of Unintended Consequences. I can only presume that this is because so many Liberals are utterly irrational with regard to ways, ends and means. Magical thinking akin to that of the Underpants Gnomes seems to predominate while, as we so often see, reality is given short shrift.

...there ought to be a better system.

There is, my dear Dymphna, and you are helping to build it with this wonderful forum of yours. Thank you so much for doing the heavy lifting in this thread. I'm still chasing down lead gathered at Photonics West and haven't had the time to participate as fully as I would like.

I vote with Robin, that routine updates about this case would be rather grand. From what I can see of young Sabra, she is not about to quietly into the night like the usual obedient Muslim girl.

Justice-for-Sabra!!! said...

I created a blog to higlight Sabra's plight. Here is the link:
http://justiceforsabra.blogspot.com

PS: I must admit that I have a whole lot of differences in ideology with your blog. But on this issue, I guess we are on the same page.

san said...

Dymphna,

I didn't say the awful practice female foeticide was strictly limited to the poor, but I'm saying that it is highly correlated with education levels. Yes, some families are excessively interested in continuing their family line, and don't want to die out by having daughters who will marry off into other families.

But as an Indian myself, I think you are excessively relying upon anecdotalist accounts from 3rd parties, when you haven't experienced a country for yourself. I find it laughable that you would lecture me on my apparent "lack of familiarity with India" in comparison to your own armchair "experience". I think this in itself says more about you, than about the subject you're commenting upon.

May I ask what your own educational background is?

Dymphna said...

san--

The rhetorical defense you're using here is called (among other things), "deflection".

That you are from India doesn't negate my statements. There’s much I don't know about the laws of my own country. Thus, I research areas which interest me –e.g., the gun control laws here on the state and federal levels, as one example.

You claimed:

…it's true that in Asian countries, there is a preference for male heirs in poorer families -- but only in poorer families, where children are often expected to help out on the farm, etc. In more educated and middle-class families, this is not the case at all. [my emphasis – D]

I disagree. I’ve found nothing to back up your claim. There is reams of research that prove female foeticide (and infanticide) is prevalent across all socio-economic strata in India.

I ask you:

1. Why does Indian law forbids private doctors from having their own ultrasound machines?

2. Why do they buy them illegally anyway?

3. Why does the American manufacturer, General Electric, continue to sell thousands of these machines to private doctors in India?

4. Why is there a growing business in traveling vans whose sole purpose is songrams of pregnant women?

Those are not anecdotes, they are facts in the form of questions.

I backed up my assertions with Dr. Patel's research re the incidence of female foeticide in India. Please note that she is Indian also. Her statistics are documented with citations from other scholars. Dr. Patel's work is not anecdotal, it is fact-based research. So which Indian has the facts and which Indian has claims without evidence?

Google is your friend. Use it to document your assertions or just admit that India has serious cultural problems just like the rest of us.

America’s solutions are shameful. We legally permit viable infants to be left on the table to die. At least in India there is respect; Hindu rituals have evolved over eons to “cleanse” the house and family where the abortion or female infanticide has occurred.

It is not a simple problem. Dr. Patel says:

Multiple surveys have been undertaken to determine the general population’s view towards…sex selective abortion. In one study of middle class Indians in Punjab, 63% of women and 54% of men felt that amniocentesis should be undertaken if the couple has no son and more than two daughters. If that test shows that the fetus is female, 73% of women and 60% of men felt that it should be aborted…

IOW, more women support this custom than do men.

How is my education germane? Is this a battle of diplomas or a reality-based discussion? Just another deflection, attempting to use elitism to challenge unpleasant facts.

Google “incidence female foeticide India” (without quotes). Over 8,000 hits. Nowhere in those hits will you find validation for your claims.

This is my last comment on the subject. We say here, “put up or shut up”. IOW,prove it, San.