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Default Basic question - - 07-18-2010, 04:14 PM

I was contemplating to write a review of a new book out. I'll tell you which one it is after.

The author, an American man who bills himself as an expert on Pashtun culture, wrote some things that sounded strange.

I thought i should check a few - please don't mind my dumb questions!

First is a sentence I suspected he wrote to deliberately enrage American feminist women against Afghan and Pashtun culture. Maybe that's not fair, so before attacking him for that, if I do write the review, I wanted to consult you guys, if you don't mind.

This sentence followed a section on difficulties of Pashtun women to as the punch line to underscore the author's narrations of stories showing their lowly status:

"A Pashtun wife calls her husband her malaak, her owner".

Reading this I thought maybe he meant Malik, which does not have the accent on the second syllable and does not mean owner to my knowledge, but more like a powerful person, like the tribal elder.

What is the truth - is there another word malaak ?

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Default 07-18-2010, 04:25 PM

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Originally Posted by shlombay View Post
Salam brother ofcourse we do not mind wrora this is your community we will all help you, I will always help you.

Pashtun women are loyal to their husband i.e they have an extremely low rate of cheating and that is because they love there husbands and look up to them at times.

It does not mean we men consider them our property.
However, there is a new trend i've been observing, where the tables are turning and women are becoming disloyal.
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Default 07-18-2010, 04:44 PM

prehaps your right, but trust me i know what im talking about.
Oh and i think malik and maalak was referring to the same thing. Some pashtun women, well the ones with backward mentality do think men are better, i really don't know why but they accept that and because men are seen as the protector of women. Seeing this feminist would have a field day. But hey things are changing, particularly in the west.
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Default 07-18-2010, 04:54 PM

Hi, Catya! I look forward to your review; I'll be pleased to read it when it's out! Please let me/us know about it when it's done.

About the words "Malik" and "malak," "Malik" is an Arabic term that means owner or head in most contexts. (The first chapter of the Quran that we have to recite in our prayers 5 times a day is one of the many instances and contexts in which "Malik" = owner/head. For instance, it goes, "Alhamdulillahi Rabbil Aalameen. Maaliki yaum iddeen." = "Praise be to God, Lord of the worlds. Owner of the Day of Judgment.")

But in Pashto, what happens is we "Pashtunize" words that we borrow from other languages. This is typical of all peoples, I must add, so it's nothing unique to Pashtuns. Hence, "malik" becomes, once Pashtunized, "malak." A Pashtun female named "Malika" would then be called "Maleka" as well.

Now, commenting on the claim of the so-called expert, I must say that that's not true. You see, when ethnographic studies are done, ethnographers should (and often they DO) know better than to make such a generalization. For example, one must ask, How many women did you study? How well do you know Pashto to be able to translate controversial terminology like "owner"/"head"? It's very possible that the term that's used in Pashto to refer to a husband does not exist or has no perfect equivalent in English or another language.

Frederick Barth, also a claimed expert on Pukhtuns, says such things about Pukhtun women. In one of his books (the name of which escapes my mind at the moment), he calls Pukhtun women the slaves of their husbands, claiming that women have NO say in their marriage, both in the nikaah moment and afterwards, and that their husbands literally own them. He goes on to add that this is supported by Hanafi school of thought in Islam, which is actually quite untrue, according to my understanding of Hanafi law on women and wives.

The reason I don't like or agree with Barth's claims is that ... there will obviously and undoubtedly be some Pukhtun women who deem their husbands their owners, as there are many other women (I know of a couple of white American female friends who think women shouldn't work and that their husbands are their sole rightful owners), but to say that "Pukhtun women" consider their husbands their owners is just wrong -- why? Because in order for this observation to be accurate, the author or observer MUST add the word "many" or "some" or "it seems to me that." Without these specifics, his claim deserves no attention and respect, at least it shouldn't from those who thoroughly have studied or know what ethnography/anthropology really is. And if he's indeed an expert, he'll know HOW to perform ANY studies on any people, including Pukhtuns.

So, to answer your question, no, it's not true that Pukhtun women consider their husbands their owners or maliks. SOME Pukhtun women might (and do), yes, but certainly not all or just Pukhtun women in general. And there's a big difference between "Pukhtun women" and "some/many Pukhtun women." I highly doubt that any educated Pukhtun woman would think her husband owns her in any way. In that case, I'd have to definitely question the author's or so-called scholar's methodology and who all he studied -- just the women in the rural areas or women in urban areas as well? Just women who lack education or those with big degrees as well? Just women who live in Pukhtun areas or those who living abroad as well?

Last edited by Roshina; 07-18-2010 at 04:57 PM.
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Default 07-18-2010, 04:56 PM

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Originally Posted by shlombay View Post
Thats only in the west.

I as an American Afghan(Pashtun) have witnessed both but 99.9 percent of our woman back home do not cheat and they are faithful and loyal.
You've been to Afghanistan and Pukhtunkhwa? How long did you stay/live there?
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Default 07-19-2010, 03:41 PM

Thank you for all these responses~

Qrratugai, that was great! Extremely well written. I agree SO much about these blanket generalizations. By changing the words as you suggest, it would give the reader the feeling of an objective person is just trying to learn.
Not somebody who goes with a heavy overlay of his own or some other agenda which is to pound in again to the American or Western readers all the preconceptions which have been reinforced over and over by the general media.
Myself, I'm the type to assume the opposite and try to look for evidence for that. For example, that Pashtun women are actually very strong in their lives.

I'm sure you have discussed this on other threads at various times, but before I ask some of my other little clarifications regarding the new book out, I would love to hear what anyone thinks about how Pashtun women are instead powerful!
I think they are, at least their characters CERTAINLY are.
But I don't have so many actual details with which to refute that Western negative image of Pashtun women.
I am an American woman by the way who lived over there for awhile, and I call that region "my home away from home". However, I haven't been there for quite some time, so I'm also very interested to catch up on trends, etc. [Like eyeliner: what is changing, do you think about what you said?]

You have no idea how much I'm enjoying starting to read thru these threads, it takes me right back. Great forum!
I also appreciate the kindly comments helping and offering to help, like Shlombay's.

Qrratugai, I see you use Pukhtun rather than Pashtun.
Refresh my memory about the difference. I remember that one was more in northern areas and one in the more southern, or is that the difference? Which areas would say for example "PeKHAwar" rather than Peshawar?

I have a ton of questions, but yes of course if I feel I have something worthwhile to say about that book, the tone of which I didn't like, then I will surely write a review and post here. I want to think carefully first and not make any mistakes when I challenge what the guy wrote.
The only reason I'm not saying the author's name is that often people have "google alerts' out for their name and so IF he happened to see a link to the questions I'm writing here, it would let the cat out of the bag.
I want to have my criticisms totally ACCURATE before I spring that review. Because it will be criticised anyway due to my negative approach. All the other American reviewers, even experts, have heaped praise on him.
To me that reflects the cultural ignorance and anti-Islamic prejudices of the general Western mindset at this time.
No one even wants to learn anything different, or ask questions because these negative images are so entrenched in their minds that's it's actually frightening.

I have been trying to decide whether to challenge some of these, and where and how.
Maybe I would write a book some day myself, but meanwhile I figure I can do a little to offset all the torrent of negativity heaped on Muslims in general and Afghans in particular !
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Default 07-19-2010, 05:05 PM

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Originally Posted by Catya Sher View Post
Myself, I'm the type to assume the opposite and try to look for evidence for that. For example, that Pashtun women are actually very strong in their lives.
Yes, they most certainly are. One of my interests regarding Pashtuns is detecting cracks of resistance in the lives of Pashtun women. I dealt with the cracks of resistance among Muslim women where I live, and it was one of the most empowering things I've ever done as a gender studies student.

Cracks of resistance show that the subject being studied (in this case, women) are actually much more powerful than we give them credit for. We like to believe that women are weak, powerless individuals who don't have much a say in their lives, but the reality, according to Judith Okely, is far from different from this unfair assumption.

While Judith Okely in her studies and research focuses primarily on the women of the Australian Aboriginals, I focus on Pashtun women here where I live, all of whom are Muslims. (The study I did previously, though, was on Muslim women in general, not specifically Pukhtun women; Pukhtun women were among them.)

Thanks to Okely, we no longer have to be fooled by the idea that women are inherently weaker than men, though many people still believe this.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Catya Sher View Post
I'm sure you have discussed this on other threads at various times, but before I ask some of my other little clarifications regarding the new book out, I would love to hear what anyone thinks about how Pashtun women are instead powerful!
I think they are, at least their characters CERTAINLY are.
Yes, they certainly are very powerful to a large extent. Here. Take a look at this website featuring some of the most powerful Pukhtun women of our time. The list is incomplete, since it lauds only educated women. But the reality, of course, is that you don't have to have gone to school or be literate or all that well-educated in order to be powerful in your community.

This reminds me of a book called In Amma's Healing Room by Joyce Flueckiger. This author looks at power in a very interesting way, noting how people (both men and women) come to this one woman in India to be healed by her. I hope you'll find the book as fascinating as I did.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Catya Sher View Post
Qrratugai, I see you use Pukhtun rather than Pashtun.
Refresh my memory about the difference. I remember that one was more in northern areas and one in the more southern, or is that the difference? Which areas would say for example "PeKHAwar" rather than Peshawar?
Oh, yeah! :D Sorry 'bout that! I tend to use "Pukhtun" and "Pashtun" (and "Pukhto" and "Pashto") interchangeably.

Pukhtun = Pashtun = Pushtun = Pakhtun

Pukhto = Pashto = Pakhto = Pushto

The "kh" and "sh" sounds are simply the two main dialects of Pashto (soft and hard dialect). I'm from Swat, which is in the north, and we say "Pukhtun" instaed of "Pashtun." But other Pashtuns in the north use "Pashtun" instead of "Pukhtun." So it's not a north or south thing; it's just, whether you use a soft or hard dialect.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Catya Sher View Post
I have a ton of questions
You just ask them here, and I'll be honored to answer them, girl! If not me, many others here will

Oh, and, in case it's not already obvious, I love, love, LOVE discussing Pukhtun women and women in general So if I don't know the answers to the questions you ask, I wouldn't at all mind doing some searching to figure out the answer.

But, of course, what I have to say may not be the same as what others might have to say, and it's always good to get a variety of responses to any questions you ask so that you get a deeper understanding of what you're looking into.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Catya Sher View Post
The only reason I'm not saying the author's name is that often people have "google alerts' out for their name and so IF he happened to see a link to the questions I'm writing here, it would let the cat out of the bag.
I want to have my criticisms totally ACCURATE before I spring that review. Because it will be criticised anyway due to my negative approach. All the other American reviewers, even experts, have heaped praise on him.
To me that reflects the cultural ignorance and anti-Islamic prejudices of the general Western mindset at this time.
Good! That's totally understandable, and I appreciate it very much! That's a sign of a sincere attempt at fully understanding the topic/point in question, and not all people are as honest as you to study something thoroughly and understand all sides possible before making a judgment or conclusion about them. If they were, can you IMAGINE what a pleasant world we'd be living in?! Ahhhh!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Catya Sher View Post
Maybe I would write a book some day myself, but meanwhile I figure I can do a little to offset all the torrent of negativity heaped on Muslims in general and Afghans in particular !
I can totally see you writing a book Maybe we could work on some field studies together, yeah?! That'd be VERY interesting! What do you do? Are you a student or a professional, or what?

Pleased to have you around! Lemme know if I can be of any assistance to you!

Last edited by Roshina; 07-19-2010 at 05:16 PM.
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Default 07-19-2010, 09:18 PM

Catya, I thought I should also add that the females here as well as on other Pashtun forums (like Khyberwatch) also represent certain groups of Pashtun women. Sure, most of us are "young" and all, but we're tomorrow's mothers, wives, daughters, professionals, and leaders, so our views also matter. I really don't know who people consider "Pashtun women" when the thoughts of younger females aren't taken into consideration.

Also ...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Catya Sher View Post
Not somebody who goes with a heavy overlay of his own or some other agenda which is to pound in again to the American or Western readers all the preconceptions which have been reinforced over and over by the general media.
Many people accuse the west/America for its negative, often wrong, assumptions of eastern women or the east in general. But I think it's unfair to make this "fight" appear only one-way when it's a two-way deal. The east is no more innocent than the west: Both are equally unjust to each other. I say this the west has its own assumptions about the east, especially eastern women or the east's treatment of its women, JUST as the east has its own assumptions (also often wrong) about the west or the way the west treats its women.

I think the only way we can overcome this problem -- this whole seeing each other as better than the other, or feeling like we have better ways of dealing with our women than the other side does -- is if we stop judging others using our own standards. Why do we have to apply OUR standards, OUR definitions, OUR judgments to other peoples? Why does the west have to define "oppression" in such terms that it applies mostly (if not solely) to eastern or Muslim women? But on the same token, why does the east or Muslims have to define the same word in such terms that it applies mostly or solely to western or other non-Muslim women?

You'll very rarely see or get hold of works written by unbiased scholars -- who are the real scholars in my opinion -- who won't make any judgments about the people or religions they study, even if they've studied them for decades and beyond. And while easterners often complain that the west has made too many assumptions about them, they don't seem to want to admit that they've made assumptions about the west and westerners as well! Both are each other's enemies in that way; neither side seems to want to understand the other side from the perspective of that side.

Last edited by Roshina; 07-19-2010 at 10:55 PM.
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Default 07-21-2010, 04:56 PM

Qrratugai,
Thanks so much for all this thoughtful input about these topics.

Are you still a student, then?

I'd be interested to hear about the previous work you have done.
Yes I remember reading Frederick Barth too.

My personal idea is to challenge all these stereotypes with real facts. It sounds like you have done much research already. I am so new here, I didn't know this is a topic you specialize in.

I do have some other mundane questions to ask about before getting to more serious subjects.

One is a dumb one too, but just for my own curiosity.
In this book, the guy described parathas - which he annoyingly spelled paratas, only annoying to me probably because they are my favorite food just about! =
as yesterday's bread fried in oil.

I have watched them being made and I was sure they are made out of fresh dough which is elaborately wound around somehow and then fried.

I suppose it's possible in a pinch to use leftover bread and just fry it for breakfast.
Is that common to do among Pashtuns? I was in the Pashtun areas during the war with the Soviets, so life may have been more difficult, and they only ate nan. I don't know.

Can you be so kind as to shed some light on this ponderous subject?!

If only there were a Paratha bakery near me....or Barbari, the Iranian bread I love too.
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Default 07-21-2010, 05:10 PM

LOL @ Paratha's description :P

My family and relatives don't call it "paratha" when it's "yesterday's bread fried in oil." Paratha is supposed to be a freshly made bread, you're correct. Otherwise, it's just "ghwarra dodai" (oiled bread). It's common, I'd say, yes, especially for me. I love, love, LOVE frying left-over bread, especially naan, and eating it with tea.

It is also common among my relatives and my friends in Swat.

That wasn't a dumb question at all, by the way. A very good one, in fact.

And, yep, I'm still a student. Planning to remain one for the rest of my life, too, marey
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