Tue. May 30th, 2023

Many circles in Pakistan consider girls riding bicycles obscene and contrary to religious traditions. Religious parties are prominent among them.

Why are religious groups against girls cycling?
Why are religious groups against girls cycling?


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A first-of-its-kind cycling camp for women was organized in Landi Kotal area of ​​the erstwhile tribal district of Khyber, which was organized by Pakistan’s famous cyclist Samar Khan and social activist Jemima Afridi. According to the organizers, 15 girls participated in this two-day camp, not only with the permission of their parents, but some of them were also present in the camp. However, some circles protested against it calling it “obscene” and against “religious and tribal traditions”. It is not the first time that in a traditional society like Pakistan, cycling by girls is being criticized. There are even fatwas declaring women’s cycling a “sedition” and “immorality”. But why are religious groups against girls cycling? How did they determine that it was their duty to forbid it? Also, how does cycling affect women’s health?

The Jamaat-e-Islami protested against the women’s cycling camp in Landi Kotal and raised the slogan that it is a conspiracy of the West in the name of development. Deputy Amir Jamaat-e-Islami Dr Farid Ahmed Paracha says that this step of the local leadership is commendable. Speaking to DW Urdu, she said that “women can be allowed to ride bicycles while veiled if necessary, but the agenda of the West will not be allowed to be promoted in the name of cycling camp.” Explaining this, he told DW Urdu, “The West wants to remove the love of religion from the hearts of people in the tribal areas. He wants to push them in the name of enlightenment into a culture where mixed gatherings are common, where religious values ​​like shame and modesty seem absurd and women come to consider chador and char-dwari as slavery. This is a conspiracy of the West in the name of development which is being spread knowingly, it will not be allowed to succeed.

“Women’s work is to sit in the curtain of the house, not to ride a bicycle.”

In this regard, we spoke to Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam FATA General Secretary Mufti Ijaz Shinwari and he said, “We are with the protestors, we fully support them.”

While talking to DW Urdu, he said, “Women’s job is to sit in the veil of the house and not ride a bicycle.” If women ride bicycles, who will run the household affairs? Tribal women don’t need such nonsense.

Do tribal women not have the right to cycle?

Both Dr Farid Paracha and Mufti Ijaz Shinwari were of the opinion that women in tribal areas do not need bicycles at all. Jemima Afridi, the local organizer of the said camp and a social worker, said, “Are tribal women not equal citizens?” Tribal women also have the same rights as any free citizen.

Speaking to DW Urdu, she says, “All allegations like Western agenda or promotion of obscenity are baseless. All the guests stayed in our house. We did not violate social norms while setting up the camp, but we are being threatened that you will be responsible for such activity in the future.

Who gave the contract to the religious parties to prevent girls from cycling?

In Pakistan, where on the one hand extremist stance in religious matters is common, there are many scholars including Javed Ahmed Ghamdi who are known for their moderate views. Khurshid Nadeem is an important name among such religious scholars and social intellectuals. Speaking to DW Urdu, he said, “80 percent of religious matters are individual. They have to be decided by the individual himself and this is his right which religion does not deprive him of.

He says, “It is the choice of every individual whether he is a man or a woman to ride a bicycle or not. Who gave the contract to the religious parties to prevent girls from cycling? In what capacity can they determine this?”

DW Urdu asked him why religious parties always interfere in such matters. So his answer was, “Religious parties in our country were made powerful for special purposes.” By the time the state reaped its benefits, the religious parties had strengthened their claws. Then, whenever the opportunity arose, they intervened in various affairs to show their power.”

“Religious parties are selling their own interpretation of religion, with the aim of maintaining their influence in power politics and thereby protecting their interests,” he says.

Cycling useful or harmful for women?

There is a lot of talk on social media about the health risks of women cycling. We contacted Dr Shamaila Ghaffar, the host of a health related program on PTV, Dr Shamaila Ghaffar. DW Speaking to Urdu, he said, “All such claims are baseless. Cycling is considered a very useful exercise for both men and women.”

She said, “In our society, women have very few opportunities to get out of the house anyway. Going out and cycling is not only a very useful activity from a physical and psychological point of view. Riding a bicycle in the beautiful surroundings is an effective way to get rid of problems like inner suffocation and mental stress.

For women, she also sees cycling as very useful in another sense. “Cycling is a great exercise to lose belly fat. It is a challenge for women to get rid of a hanging belly for their beauty and health after childbirth. In such cases, cycling proves to be very effective.

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