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Moral Regulation Pakistani women

Moral Regulation Pakistani women

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Published by: toorie on Sep 20, 2009
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Gender and the Politics of Islamization in Pakistan
Saadia Toor
College of Staten Island, City University of New York, USA
This paper looks at two instances of ‘moral panicin the recent history of Pakistan. As women are the repositories of national culture, their moral and sexual regulation is arguably coextensive with state formation. However, incountries like Pakistan, this process cannot be understood as based on some pre- given ‘Muslimness’; rather, Islamization itself is contested terrain and not theonly source of meaning, with local tribal traditions and complex class alignmentsequally at play. This is demonstrated in the first case that I discuss: General Ziaul-Haq’s military regime’s enactment of a series of laws in the1980s
the ZinaOrdinance and the Laws of Evidence
aimed at controlling women’s sexual,social and political status. A direct consequence of these policies and theirimplementation was the launch of a counter-attack against the regime by urbanmiddle-class women who formed an umbrella organization of feminist groupsand individuals, deploying innovative forms of cultural protest in a situationwhere direct public action was severely restricted. The second example, popularly known as the ‘Saima love-marriage case’, which occurred during thedemocratic years of the 1990s, also reveals how contending social classes and cultural forces mediated their struggles for hegemony through the bodies of women (and men). At issue throughout the discussion is the need to reorient 
Vol. 9(2) 255
275 (ISSN 1369-801X print/1469-929X online)
2007 Taylor & Francis DOI: 10.1080/13698010701409186
common-sense approaches to the victim figure of Islamic fundamentalism,especially at a time when Islam has globally become the sign of illiberalism and the justification of new imperial agendas.
This paper makes a preliminary argument about the relationship betweenwomen, Islam and the Pakistani nation-state by looking at two instances of ‘moral panic’. My analysis is embedded within a framework which under-stands ‘moral regulation’ to be coextensive with state formation.
I arguethat the process of ‘moral regulationis best managed in modern(postcolonial) nation-states through discourses of nationalism and culturalauthenticity, and, since women are interpellated as repositories of culture,tradition and the honour of their family, community and/or nation, controlover women’s sexuality (and in some cases men’s) becomes a constitutivefeature of the process of state formation.Islam is usually a key ingredient in national identity and culture whereMuslim states are concerned, and this is true of Pakistan. However, thisrelationship is not a simple one; how and to what degree Islam featureswithin nationalist ideologies in the Muslim world is not pre-given by the‘Muslimness’ of the nation-state under consideration. Moreover, Islam is notthe
ingredient, and it is often in the articulation between the differentelements of national culture, in the interstices between Islam and local(feudal or tribal) traditions and the contradictions generated by them, thatthe true story lies. I pose a problematic in which nationalism and Islamfeature not as monolithic superstructural ‘ideologies’ instrumentally de-ployed by power-holders, but as internally contested and contradictorydiscourses which shape subjectivities, structure social relations and legit-imate forms of power (Corrigan and Sayer 1985; Foucault 1980; Gramsci1988).What we need is historically grounded scholarship which can highlight thefact that Islam itself has always been a contested terrain. I thus stronglyargue that while their specificities should not be ignored, states in theMuslim world should be approached as examples of the more general case of the postcolonial nation-state, which is, ultimately, a particular kindof modern nation-state. There is a tendency, particularly in this post-9/11era of sanctioned Islamophobia, to understand the increasing importance of Islam in public life within Muslim societies (and among Muslims in theWest) as ‘atavistic’ and/or evidence of Islam’s ‘essential’ inability to deal with‘modernity’ (identified with ‘the West’)
when in fact it is precisely a resultof the condition of modernity itself, complete with its contradictions anddiscontents (see, for example, Asad 1993, 1999). We have only to look at the
1 In theirpath-breaking workon culture and stateformation, PhilipCorrigan and DerekSayer define moralregulation as ‘aproject of normalizing,rendering natural,taken for granted, ina word ‘‘obvious’’,what are in factontological andepistemologicalpremises of aparticular andhistorical form of social order. Moralregulation iscoextensive withstate formation, andstate forms arealways animated andlegitimated by aparticular moralethos’ (1985: 4).
USA today to be reminded that the resurgence of the religious right, thecreation of ‘moral panic’ and the resultant focus on women’s bodies andregulation of ‘deviant’ sexualities are not the purview of ‘Third world’ orIslamic societies alone (see Asad 1993), nor can they be explained by theoriesof incomplete modernization.Tentative attempts at a synthetic understanding of the relationshipbetween gender/sexuality, nationalism and the state have been initiatedwithin postcolonial feminist scholarship, and specifically within literature onIslam and gender.
In her introduction to one of the pioneering texts withinthis field,
Gender, Islam and the State
, Deniz Kandiyoti proposes that ‘post-independence trajectories of modern states and variations in the deploymentof Islam in relation to different nationalisms, state ideologies and opposi-tional social movements are of central importance to an understanding of thecondition of women’ (1991: 2). In fact, as I argue through this paper, thereverse is equally true: the construction and regulation of norms of genderand sexuality are crucial to processes of state formation
understood asrelations of ruling
and their legitimation (Smith 1990).‘National culture’
and the processes which underlie its production,enforcement and contestation
thus provides the conceptual link betweenwork on gender and nationalism, and gender/women and the state. In theirmonumental work, Corrigan and Sayer argue that the
‘state’ is as much ‘the concentrated and organized force of society’
. . .
in thecultural sense as in the economic, concerning wider forms of regulation and modesof social regulation through which capitalist relations of production andpatriarchal relations of reproduction are organized. (1985: 5)
If the ‘state’ as an ‘idea’ is deconstructed and understood primarily as a claimto legitimacy then the construction, invocation and deployment of anormative ‘national culture’ can be understood more clearly as a means tosecure that legitimacy (Abrams 1988). Since both ‘nationalism’ and ‘culture’are deeply gendered discourses, the field of ‘national culture’ is a particularlytreacherous one for women. In fact, postcolonial feminist work has notedhow these gendered discourses have ‘precipitated
. . .
iconic forms of womanhood, which, in metaphorizing women as symbolic bearers of national identity, have rendered the materiality of women’s lives and bodiesall the more vulnerable to forms of violence and violent exclusion’ (Banerjee
et al.
2004: 126).In this paper I focus on two instances of the state’s engagement in moralregulation
in the first case, through a programme of ‘Islamization’, inparticular the passage of a set of laws designed to control women’s sexuality;and in the second, through the case of a ‘runaway love marriage’. Legislationsets limits for the social imagination through the construction/imposition of 
2 See Abu-Lughod(1993), Kandiyoti(1991), Moghadam(1994). Onnationalism andgender/sexuality, seeMosse (1985) andParker
et al.
(1992).On the link betweengender andnationalism withinthe Indiansubcontinent, seeButalia (2000) andHussain
et al.
Saadia Toor

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