بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
كَأَمْثَالِ اللُّؤْلُؤِ الْمَكْنُونِ
“And [for them are] fair women with large, [beautiful] eyes,
The likenesses of pearls well protected.”
[Al-Quran – Surat Al-Wāqi`ah (The Inevitable): 22-23]
When we look around us, huge billboards, and commercials in magazines, on television and on the Internet, are not portraying our Muslim women as icons of modesty and Haya. In fact, indecency has become common and is a danger to our Iman.
So I decided to interview other minds and voices and this is what they had to say…
Sabah Yaseen, a student of the Arabic language: “Sexual exposure in ads makes me feel sad. Especially in a Muslim country, when we create such ads, we are publicly defying our Islamic beliefs and values.
We should try talking to the people who are involved. For instance, we should approach their marketing department and voice our opinions directly to them. Boycotting and not buying their products may not help, as the people who don’t believe in the way they are marketing their products are a minority.
I think the people who are against this are the victims and the people who don’t think that anything is wrong are the cause.”
Abeer Al-Redha, a UAE national and a mother of 2: “It makes me feel a bit disgusted and disappointed. These ads are published because they get a response. Anything that can grab attention will be used to benefit the brand/company.
We are both the victims and the cause. We can show our indifference by completely ignoring the ads. The concept that ‘no publicity is bad publicity’ is becoming more and more prevalent in such ads. They are encouraged to publish more and more ads like these due to the attention we give them. Negative behavior attracts attention, hence serving their purpose.”
Sehr Amjad, Co-founder and President of the CARE Foundation Pakistan Dubai Chapter: “If a woman or male model doesn’t have any objection in being objectified and if he or she likes to be known as an object of beauty then it’s his or her own choice. I believe in freedom of speech and freedom of self-expression.”
This question made me further question her: Aren’t there usually more women models than male models that are treated as sex objects? They are valued more for their looks rather than their intelligence. Should there be no rules and regulations? Especially when our own children are exposed to such commercials?
Sehr Amjad: “There should be parameters and boundaries but if the woman has no problem in shedding her clothes or inhibitions then that’s her prerogative. And parents need to set their own limits for their kids.”
Sara Al Mulla, a researcher: “The entertainment and media industries need to be given strict rules about such ads. Such ads should not be so readily available in the mainstream media but only in “adult” media. There needs to be government governance on this issue.”
Sonia Farhan, a Tajweed teacher: “I think a few years back we were the cause, and now we are the victims. Why have women become such a commodity? Why can’t products be sold without a woman having to be exposed in such a manner? This is very similar to the period of Jahaliyat (ignorance) that existed before the time of Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم).”
Sara Hazoor Buksh, a Tajweed Teacher: “I feel very uncomfortable when I see such ads, especially the huge billboards, with women posing in vulgar ways. Such advertisements on billboards should be banned. If you are trying to sell the lawn, then advertise THE LAWN!!”
Sara Naveed, a student of the Quran: “Ads can be good, without being vulgar and going against our cultural Islamic values. Companies like Junaid Jamshed, Five Star and Icon are able to be highly successful, without having to go the lengths of defying Allah’s Commands.”
Tahir Ashraf, a manager of Al-Dar Textiles: “Such ads are being created because they are creating hype and people are showing excitement and response. People are not creating as much fervor as they were last year, so the hype might calm down and we might not be exposed to such ads in a year or two. We are the victims, yet we as a society, are also the cause.”
Hannah Khalid, mother of two, trainee at the Froebel’s Teacher Vocational Course: “It is not only we who are exposed to such billboards, but also our kids who feel embarrassed, and our husbands and drivers who also get very distracted by such vulgarity.
I myself feel very confused and the images are so powerful that they completely attract your attention and draw you towards them.
In fact, I have heard from many of my friends that their husbands have started to think that the women in such ads are the epitome of beauty, and want their own wives to start dressing like them!”
Farhana Saif Rehan, a mother of two, an economic lecturer at CAMS, College of Accounting and Management Science: “The job of the advertising and marketing departments of companies, is to make the lawn attractive and sellable. Hence, from their perspective they are doing a good job.
However, a censorship board usually exists for everything. I really don’t know whether a censorship board exists in Pakistan and if it does, then either they don’t care or they have forgotten that they live in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
There was a time a woman in Pakistan’s media could not be seen without her head covered. Now there seems to be no limit! If we don’t act now, how far will it go? If we are exposed to such ads constantly, we slowly start accepting them and gradually become more and more desensitized to sin!”
Dr. Shabnam Rashid Khan, a private practitioner: “I feel disgusted when I see such ads. We constantly travel on the roads and we are usually not alone. We are traveling with family or with our drivers and it is very uncomfortable to see such ads.
How come it is always the women who are considered to be sex objects and expected to remove their clothing for a product to sell, whereas there are no such expectations from men?”
She suggests boycotting such brands that treat women as such.
Tasneem Riaz, a mother of four: She feels angry when she sees Muslim women exposed in such a manner. “The best way to speak up against this is by visiting their various outlets and informing them that what they are doing is wrong.”
She mentioned a famous incident of a very pious man Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki and how when he was on his deathbed he had requested such a man to perform his janazah prayers who had the four following traits:
- His Tahajjud prayers had never been forsaken.
- Attended every prayer in the masjid on time.
- Never missed his Asr Salah
- Never looked at a non-mehram.
So the Mughal Emperor, Shamsuddin Altamash, reluctantly came forward and announced that he had such similar traits. He didn’t want to publicize his good deeds but rather, he wanted the man to be able to have his Janazah.
While this example from the past was being related to her friends, one friend commented that in those days there were no billboards with such ads and hence people could protect themselves from seeing non-mehrems!
In addition, she quoted the Ayah of Surat An-Nur,
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يُحِبُّونَ أَن تَشِيعَ الْفَاحِشَةُ فِي الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ فِي الدُّنْيَا وَالْآخِرَةِ وَاللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ وَأَنتُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ
“Indeed, those who like that immorality should be spread [or publicized] among those who have believed will have a painful punishment in this world and the Hereafter. And Allah knows and you do not know.”
[Al-Quran – Surah An-Nur (The Light): 19]
A study was conducted by the UK based, Mothers’ Union which have a report based on their research, carried out by ComRes, into the opinions and experiences of 1000 parents; a review of existing research and literature on the commercialization of childhood, and on the thoughts and experiences of over 1000 Mothers’ Union members. From this, they launched the Bye Buy Childhood Campaign to raise awareness of the issue and push for change.
As their President Rosemary Kempsell says,
“While we are concerned about the impact of the commercial world on childhood we know that not only children are influenced – adults can also be susceptible. Without awareness of and alertness to how and why the commercial world is selling to us, we are at risk of allowing ourselves to be over-influenced. However, children and adults do not have to be passive recipients of commercial messages. We can choose what to accept and what to filter out.”
In conclusion, if such campaigns can be established and can have an impact, then all of us within our Muslim Community need to stand up for what we believe in and actually DO something about it.
We as a society need to realize that commercialization is the responsibility of us all.