Oh, Junaid. Won’t you ever learn? Do you not listen to all the people in your life—and surely there must be at least a few—who tell you not to be such a condescending misogynist because nothing good ever came of being waspishly holier-than-thou? In the strangest twist of fate, our favourite neighbourhood televangelist has been accused of blasphemy by the very people from whose bosom the amazing grace of Junaid Jamshed sahib emerged. The act itself is terrifyingly reminiscent of the Salem witch hunts or anti-communist hysteria in the United States—you can call anyone a blasphemer/witch/communist and be taken very seriously and entirely at face value. I wouldn’t wish such a dangerous accusation upon anyone, and in our current religious climate one must be very, very careful. But the essence of the accusation is that one must afford proper respect where it is deserved, and JJ’s inherent misogyny has, colloquially speaking, bitten him in the behind.

In his tearful apology he says he isn’t an aalim, that he didn’t mean it like that. If you aren’t an aalim, what business have you to be talking about religion as if you were an authority? Does that mean that anyone can get paid to do mosque tours and television shows as long as they do their ikhfa’a properly? More tellingly to me, he says he didn’t mean it like that—he didn’t mean to be rude, but he nevertheless thought it fit to tell a story that portrayed a highly respected, intelligent and brave woman as a petulant housewife. Of all the stories we have about the amazing wives of the Prophet (PBUH), JJ thought that this was the best anecdote to tell an audience hanging on his words. One sighs. He obviously thinks far too much of himself to be able to realize the enormous impact the Mothers of the Faithful have had on the history of Islam, because after all, they were just women. They helped in wars, they looked after our Prophet (PBUH), they advised him and were role models for women learning how to be good muslimahs. They are still women we look up to as strong, faithful and steadfast people who had the courage of their convictions and weren’t afraid of anyone. They are part of that first guard of Islam, beside the first four Caliphs and many sahaba in the rank of the best and most loyal Muslims there ever were.

When it comes to women’s rights, we all like to quickly trot out all the freedoms Islam allows its female adherents. Women have the right to divorce—before we cross out that entire section at nikah-time, because it’s a bad omen to acknowledge that one’s daughter may need an exit strategy if, God forbid, her arranged marriage to a stranger doesn’t work out. Women have rights to property and inheritance—before their brothers conveniently usurp that property at distribution time, or sisters are pressurized into ‘gifting’ their share to their male relatives. There is no point of knowing your rights as a Muslim woman when the society you live in is hell-bent on taking them all away. There is no such thing as the liberal, enlightened, moderate Islam we idealize to others in this country because people like Junaid Jamshed continue to perpetrate their myopic, misinterpreted, village-level-mullah version of it far and wide.

So what do we do, this little band of moderate Muslims who struggle every day to protect themselves and their faith from a constant onslaught of extremism and small-mindedness? We do what we can, starting with refusing to buy JJ clothes. We write to television channels that pay men like JJ and Amir Liaquat to wear flashy kurtas and lip-synch naats on national television and make a mockery of religion. Ironically a real aalim or aalimah would probably never be on a morning show because scholars are usually people who are more interested in knowledge than fame. Maybe some of them should foray out into the public gaze, if nothing else than to neutralize the stellar variety we currently have on air. We also make the change in our own houses. We teach our girls and boys their responsibilities and rights as Muslims, equally. We send the boys to Qura’n class as well as the girls. When we marry our children we don’t have one rule for our daughters and another for our daughters-in-law. It’s never as easy as it sounds, but other groups are organized, confident and ruthless when it comes to their version of religion. It’s time to learn at least that lesson from them.

The writer is a feminist based in Lahore