By Donu Kobagra
LAST week, I wrote in support of Lubna Al-Hussein, a Muslim Sudanese journalist who had launched a protest against the Islamic conservatives who rule her country because she and some of her girlfriends had been arrested for â€œviolating sharia valuesâ€ and for â€œdressing indecentlyâ€ (ie, for wearing trousers in public).
While Lubnaâ€™s terrified and weeping girlfriends had pleaded guilty in court and had been sentenced to l0 humiliating and painful camel whip lashes each for their â€œcrimesâ€, Lubna won my unadulterated admiration â€“ and many supporters on her home turf and globally – by not succumbing to tears, fears or intimidation.
Even when the authorities offered her immunity from prosecution and physical punishment (to shut her up and prevent her from embarrassing them in front of a watching world), she rejected this olive branch and decided to campaign vigorously against oppressive and old-fashioned laws that demean her gender.
So what happened next?
Lubna arrived in a Khartoum courtroom in a very determined frame of mind, earlier on this week. But she lost her legal battle. However, instead of imposing the maximum penalty of 40 lashes, the judge decided to be lenient and fined her $200.
Lubna wasnâ€™t ready to play along with this compromise because doing so would have been tantamount to an admission of guilt. She stubbornly refused to pay the fine and wound up being jailed last Monday for her courageous defiance.
But she only spent one night in custody because the Sudanese Union of Journalists stepped in and paid the $200 on her behalf, without notifying her in advance.
When Lubna was freed, she issued the following statement: â€œI am not happy because I told my friends and family not to pay the fineâ€¦and because there are more than 700 women in the prison who have got no one to pay for themâ€.
Lubnaâ€™s reaction made me smile. She reminds me of myself. Iâ€™ve always had a rebellious and idealistic streak. I frequently elevate principles above my personal interests. I often worry about victims of injustice who arenâ€™t as privileged as I am.
I sometimes get into trouble because of my penchant for risky anti-establishment stances. People who care about me are always trying to save me from myself.
Lubna, despite her grumbles about being freed against her will, is probably deeply touched by the concern that has been displayed by the media colleagues who ignored her steely willingness to face martyrdom and rescued her from the incarceration she masochistically inflicted upon herself. And, since it must be profoundly traumatic to sleep in a prison cell, she may even have been secretly relieved when she was told that well-wishers had purchased her liberty.
But I strongly suspect that Lubna The Brave will continue to fight. And I pray that she eventually succeeds in having a significant impact on Sudanese society.
Many Vanguard readers texted me last week to comment on Lubnaâ€™s predicament. And I thought I should reproduce some of the messages I received.
(From a senior military gentleman who did not want his name or phone number to be published): “Hi Donu, glad I read about Lubna today, I pray that she is vindicated because it means so much for oppressed women all over the world”.
+2348028945457 (From Favour, Benin): “By the grace of God Almighty Lubna will achieve her objectives and nothing will harm her, because I love great women who take risk to protect womenâ€™s dignity and I despise dictatorial regimes too”.
+2348037042678 (No name): “Women of this calibre should merge to fight to the last for womenâ€™s liberation, especially in Africa. Thank you for the bold step and God bless. Be assured of my prayers”.
(From a Kaduna-based reader who did not give me permission to identify him): “Haba Donu. Every part of a female should be covered except her face and palms. Islam is a religion that guides its followers on every issue, because it is a complete way of life. Do not pass judgement where you are not knowledgeable. Even the Bible abhors indecent dressing.
Women should not be seen or appear in menâ€™s clothes and vice versa. Westernisation and the so-called civilization-cum-female liberation are the grounds used in promoting female nudity, which surely contributes in the rampant cases of rape.
What a shame for both sexes exposing what one man is supposed to be privy to. Are todayâ€™s men not jealous? Are you saying that those caned in Sudan were victimised; that is, did not break the stated laws?…Allow Sudanese some breathing space to practice what they know better”.
Let me seize this opportunity to answer the Kaduna gentleman:
My dear brother, forgive me for offending you, but it is extremely unfortunate, in my opinion, that you are so doggedly clinging to such unprogressive and misogynistic views in the 2lst century. Imagine insisting that faces and palms are the only parts of a lady that should be seen in public in this day and age! Are you a dinosaur?!
You say that I am not knowledgeable and imply that Lubna was un-Islamic for wearing trousers; but are YOU as knowledgeable about Islam as you think? The Koran does not even mention trouser-wearing females in the first place, so accusing them of sinfulness doesnâ€™t even arise. Ditto the Bible.
Also please note that there are many predominantly Muslim countries â€“ Pakistan, for example â€“ in which trousers (or shalwar) are regarded not as â€œmenâ€™s clothesâ€ but as respectable traditional outfits for both married and single women.
It also bothers me, my dear Mr Kaduna, that you think that we should indulge men who are psychotically jealous and blame â€œimmodestlyâ€ dressed women for rape. Men who canâ€™t cope with normal modern females should be encouraged to seek counselling!
Any man who is so dangerously oversexed that he feels obliged to attack women who donâ€™t look like purdah victims should be chemically castrated!
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