A group of Islamic clerics in KP’s Kohistan region has stirred controversy by issuing a fatwa, or religious edict, prohibiting women from engaging in election canvassing. The controversial fatwa against women, labeled as unIslamic, has surfaced just two weeks before the February 8 general election in Pakistan, adding a contentious aspect to the political arena.

Controversial Fatwa Against Women’s Involvement in Election Canvassing

A local source revealed that approximately 400 ulemas gathered in Kohistan to release a six-point ‘declaration,’ asserting that women participating in canvassing violates Sharia law. The controversial fatwa raises concerns, especially since three women candidates are contesting elections to the provincial assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province for the first time in the region’s history. The controversy surrounding this fatwa questions the religious leaders’ authority to influence political participation and highlights the delicate balance between tradition and evolving societal norms in conservative regions like Kohistan.

Under a recently issued fatwa, at least 18 ulemas have asserted that taking women to voters’ homes for canvassing violates Sharia; the decree deems voting for a candidate opposing the Islamic system as a grave sin, discourages voters from pledging support on the Holy Quran, and labels voting for monetary gains as the worst form of bribery. The fatwa also opposes differentiating between votes for national and provincial assemblies, asserting that it contradicts ulema ideology.

Preserving Tradition or Suppressing Women’s Political Participation?

The fatwa, while claiming to uphold Islamic values, has faced criticism for potentially restricting the powerful role women could play in Kohistan society. The declaration, signed by at least 18 ulemas, prohibits taking women to voters’ homes for canvassing, citing it as against Sharia. A local politician, Bakht Buland, argues that the fatwa aims to prevent the misuse of a tradition where women seeking pardon or favors with a copy of the Holy Quran have historically been successful.

The religious edict, prevalent in the conservative Kohistan region of Pakistan, has raised concerns about its potential impact on the candidacy of three female contenders in the upcoming elections, challenging the existing tradition where women play a major role in mediating disputes and seeking favors using the Holy Quran. Despite criticism, local politicians argue that the fatwa aims to prevent the misuse of this traditional practice and maintain the integrity of women’s influential role in the region.

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