Everyday a new video, photograph, quote, news piece, or meme circulates social media and becomes the “trending topic.” Recently, a video of Pakistani cricket star, Shahid Afridi, was made public and became the topic of discussion all over social media.
Shahid Afridi, whilst giving an interview on a Pakistani news media channel, made a comment about how the women of Peshawar, Pakistan (his home town) were better off cooking in the kitchen, instead of trying out for sports like women’s cricket. My first reaction: “He is such a jerk!” I was and am absolutely outraged that a man of his position would say something like that!
Shahid Afridi, sometimes known as “Lala” or “Boom Boom Afridi” is a an internationally renowned Pakistani cricketer. He has been playing cricket for Pakistan’s national team for over a decade and has been a favorite, especially amongst the youth, for his good looks and style of hitting 4’s and 6’s (4 point hits and 6 point hits) in a match…usually when the team is doing not-so-well. He comes in and makes the game look so easy, scores a bunch of points, restores peoples’ faith in their team and leads them to victory. Good for you Afridi, you make Pakistanis proud. You make Pakistani men, women, boys, and girls proud.
I am writing this blog after being inspired by a post on a Pakistani news website, written by a Pakistani woman as a direct letter to Afridi. It is titled: “Why I Won’t Be Cheering For Shahid Afridi Anymore.” So, I need to vent out my feelings to Shahid Afridi and the world, therefore, I am doing the same thing–writing a letter to Afridi. (I hope that somehow, in someway, he reads it someday).
Dear Shahid Afridi,
You are the hero of Pakistan, the hero of cricket (the most popular sport in Pakistan). You bring joy to a nation that has a lot going on right now, a nation that is doing a lot of growing up right now. While I am very happy and proud that you help Pakistan win cricket matches, I think that you need to understand that with fame and heroism comes great responsibility. You become the face of the nation and you become the person young boys and girls look up to. You are the person the youth look up to. You are the new and current sensation.
Do you know how many young boys want to be a batsman or a bowler like you? Do you know how many boys want to have hair like yours? Do you know how many boys want to make their family and country proud like you do? Do you know how many boys want to be you?
Do you know what this means? This means that whatever you do, they will want to do. Whatever you encourage them to do and however you encourage them to think, they will want to do that and think in that way.
So, when you go on a TV channel for an interview and the anchor recounts, with extreme pride, that the girls of your hometown, Peshawar, are trying out for cricket and how everyone is so proud that women of Peshawar and Pakistan are entering the sports world (and that Pakistan is continuing to progress), you DO NOT snub him by declaring that “our women have good taste in their hands” and, thus, belong in and should remain in the kitchen.
Shahid Afridi, who are you to take the limelight away from the women of Peshawar and Pakistan? Who are YOU to declare that the women of Pakistan are better off in the kitchen of their homes? YOU, Shahid Afridi, have no right to speak of what a woman can and can not do. The women of Pakistan can decide themselves how they want to represent Pakistan. They can choose if they want to be a teacher, a doctor, a secretary, a politician, an engineer, an accountant, an entrepreneur, an actress, an author, an athlete, or stay home (and cook/clean/do the laundry, or do nothing at all).
People have been justifying your statements, saying “Oh, he is a conservative, what do you expect?” or “Oh, he is a Pathan, of course he thinks like that.” But this is not about YOUR social beliefs or your ethnic background. Just because someone is conservative, does not give them the right to put down another person (a man or woman). Just because someone is a Pathan, and has certain moral or ethical beliefs, does not mean that he can speak for all Pathans and put down another Pathan for being progressive.
The Pathan argument stems from the notion that Pathans/Pashtuns/Pakhtuns are conservative and strict Muslims, whose women stay in parda and do not go to school or work. This argument is invalid because I know many “liberal” Pathans. I know many Pathan girls and women who are free to do as they please. This stereotype of Pathans can not be used to justify how a few/certain Pathans might feel. (Refer to my story of Nusrat, an empowered Pathan woman). Islam does not oppress or limit women. Islam loves women, which is why a woman (especially a mother) has been given 3 times more importance in Islam than a man. Shahid Afridi, Allah says that when a girl is born, it is a blessing from Him to the father of the girl.
I hope that you know that Pakistan was created so that people may be free. I hope that you know that the founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, did not intend for Pakistan to be a theocracy and that is why Pakistan is one of the most liberal Islamic states in the world.
In fact, Pakistan has always been so much more liberal than other Islamic states, that often times Arab-Muslim countries look down upon Pakistan. They think that it is not a “real Islamic country” because it does not use Islam to impose religion and gender roles on its people.
Like Alia Chugtai states in her blog post, “Mr. Afridi, women in Pakistan are not like the women of Saudia Arabia where they can’t drive, or have to fight to be a part of society – women in Pakistan have the passion, the intelligence to do whatever they want to do. They are a part of this society and have fathers and brothers, who provide the support system for them to do exactly what they want to do. More so, they have courage.”
As a representative of Pakistan to the world, you must realize that you represent the women too–including women who work and provide for their families. And you should know and understand that the women of Pakistan have contributed greatly to their society and country. The women of Pakistan have made their country and people proud in ways that the men have not.
Take advice from the founder of your country,
“No nation can rise to the height of glory unless your women are side by side with you. We are victims of evil customs. It is a crime against humanity that our women are shut up within the four walls of the houses as prisoners.”— Muhammad Ali Jinnah
And then, take advice from him again,
“There are two powers in the world; one is the sword and the other is the pen. There is a great competition and rivalry between the two. There is a third power stronger than both, that of the women.” — Muhammad Ali Jinnah
Why? Because he was the man who had his sister, Fatima Jinnah, at his side at all times. And do you know what he accomplished?
“Few individuals significantly alter the course of history. Fewer still modify the map of the world. Hardly anyone can be credited with creating a nation-state. Mohammad Ali Jinnah did all three.” — Stanley Wolpert
What I want you to take away from this letter is that Pakistan is a modern state where men and women are free. Of course there are people who are afraid that a woman might become more powerful than a man and therefore oppress her, but those people are in the minority. And they will remain a minority. Pakistanis will not stand for any injustice done against a woman. Pakistani law gives its women rights and freedoms. The country of Pakistan allows for its women to participate in sports and therefore it is wrong of you to suggest that women don’t belong in sports.
It is wrong because some young boy might hear you say that and start to believe you. He might, in the efforts of trying to be like you, start to think women should be degraded and limited to the kitchen. He might start to judge the empowered women around him (women who may be doing a lot for the progression, modernization, and well-being of Pakistan). He might start to impose gender roles on his mother, sister, wife, daughter, cousin, niece, etc. He might start to oppress a woman. Why? Because Shahid Afridi said that our women have great taste in their hands, thus implying they should stay at home and cook for their families.
While it is true that Pakistani women (like my mother, aunts, grandmother) make great foods and do have a lot of taste in their hands, they cannot and should not be forced to do so. They should cook and serve their families with their own pleasure. Also, women are not the only ones with good taste in their hands; the men do, too. I have grown up watching my father and uncle cook (and cook very well!) and entertain people…they even have signature dishes that people often request specially. I know of many other Pakistani males who have a passion for food and cooking. Do you suggest that the men who can cook (like restaurant chefs or bakers) also be confined to the kitchen of their homes?
It is not my business (just like it is not yours to snub the Pakistani women) to tell you how to raise your kids or how to treat your family members, that is entirely a personal matter between you and your family. However, I do want to make a small suggestion…
Shahid Afridi, God must love you because he has blessed you with four beautiful daughters. We often see them on TV cheering on their dad and their team and they are so cute. I know that they will grow up to be respected women in society and I am sure that you will raise your daughters to be educated, modest, and pious young ladies whom the world looks at with respect. I hope, however, that you raise them to be independent and empowered so that no person can rule over them and that they can make a name for themselves. I hope that you raise them to be something more than just girls who stay at home and cook and clean. I hope you let them have the opportunity to serve Pakistan in the way they feel best, just like their daddy did.
In case you wanted to know what Pakistani women have accomplished in the time since independence, read this article by Rafia Zakari: “Seven defining moments for the Pakistani woman.“
Here is yet another post by an Indian man, Karmanye Thadani, who is a freelance writer, an author, and a lawyer about Women in Sports (Pakistani, Indian, Hindu, and Muslim).
Madeeha Syed writes on the Dawn’s website an article titled “Ask Afridi the Wrong Question and You Will Get a Stupid Answer.” This article takes a different approach to the controversy you are facing today by interviewing the women who have had a positive impact on Pakistan and the world and how they feel about your remarks towards Peshawar’s women’s cricket team.
I have now reached the end of my letter. I could keep writing but then this letter to you, Shahid Afridi, would turn into a book. Therefore, I conclude here by saying that next time you make a remark about a certain group of people, think twice, and then think again. You are speaking as a Pakistani hero to the people of Pakistan and as a representative of the free state of Pakistan. Please watch your words.
Best of luck in this T20 World Cup and with the charity you have started to build schools and hospitals for the poor in Pakistan. I hope that the schools you build welcome girls and boys with open arms and encourage them to become positive world leaders.
Note: The photos published in this post are not the property of wanderingderwish.com. They were taken from a Google search and have been linked to the sites they were taken from.
Read about the Rights and Status of Women in Islam.