My parents shipped me off to an Islamic school, or madrassa, in Lahore, to “get educated,” as my mother said. I lived in a room with around 30 other girls—no chairs, no beds, no ventilation. In that room, we did nothing all day but study the Quran, pray, and listen to lectures on the prophet from a mullah, who stood behind a curtain. If a girl spoke out of turn, she would be publicly caned in the courtyard of the compound. Flies and vermin swarmed the washrooms. There were no sanitary napkins, just blood-stained towels. The toilet was a hole in the ground.
It sounds melodramatic, but over 5,000 girls are killed by their families in “honor” killings each year, and thousands more are abused for supposedly shaming their families. Very few women like Sabatina James (Pakistani-born Austrian who converted to Catholicism) would openly write about her experience and even start an organization to help abused and battered women. Notice that the focus here is on “Mother”, not “Father”: women are often complicit in the abuse of their daughters, and sometimes bear the greater weight of the shame within the community – the self-flagellation of the mother in this article is an extreme example.
The issue of Western clothing versus traditional Pakistani Muslim dress was mentioned repeatedly as the spark that elicited beatings. Nailah Lymus, an American Muslim born to convert parents, has recently started Underwraps, a modeling agency that seeks to promote Muslim models who can only wear clothing that is both modest and modern. While Lymus’s clothing fits the Quranic rule about leaving everything but the face and hands to the imagination, the reality is that women strutting in 6″ snakeskin pumps and a leopard-print turban/hijab hybrid down a catwalk are probably not exactly pillars of Islamic modesty. Personally I find the face/hands rule to be ridiculous, but why insist on joining an industry that openly promotes values that defy your beliefs?
Underwraps: Muslim Modeling Agency