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Are we really free?

Areeba Siddiqui

The writer is a mass-communication student at Karachi University.

Are we free? What is freedom? As women, we often ask ourselves this question? If not then how can women become free? The concept of freedom varies for every person. Some women are satisfied with the amount the independence she has such as the right to an education, the freedom to speak for her rights, and considers its complete freedom. Some demand more as their concept of freedom is much different.
When we speak about freedom in our society, we often speak about Western culture thinking that they are the benchmarks for freedom and independence. We do not think about our local norms values and often forgo our traditions and customs in adopting Western culture. Despite living in a diverse society, we want to have the Western concept of freedom. A Western woman struggles to have complete freedom, while women in our society struggle to have the freedom of a Western woman. These women do not realize that when you shun your culture and embrace a foreign way of life, then there will be serious repercussions on our society.
The West considers itself to have complete freedom and independence. There is a difference over what constitutes freedom in the West and our society. These are not just two societies with distinct norms, culture, values and traditions, but rather two differing ideologies. In the 18th Century, the West changed its concept of freedom. There was a shift from the ‘Will of God’ meaning only things were permitted which were ordained by religion to the ‘Will of Man’ which meant doing those things we consider acceptable. Subsequently, philosophers began to support this Western concept of freedom. The most prominent name was Isiah Berlin who gave the concept that every man is free. According to him, a man should have complete freedom in three aspects: his life’s decisions, what he wants to achieve in society and his life, and what is his purpose in life. After his ideology, every person in the West is considered completely free particularly women who are now equal to men.
Women in our society are attempting to adopt this Western concept. Our society which was working on the ‘Will of God’ is also gradually shifting to the ‘Will of Man’. Women have forgotten their own culture in their attempts to adopt these modern and progressive concepts. The feminist movement in the West gave birth to similar movements over here. Our women want to do the same things which Western women are doing. The role of a Western woman is now outside the house. Women at home are considered unproductive as they cannot generate incomes. Every Western woman has stepped outside the home to be considered equal to men, and now our women are also working outside alongside men.  
Islam has ordained that the role of a woman is within the confines of her house and to support her husband and children. While man has been ordained to provide the means of sustenance for his family. In our quest for freedom, we do not realize that a women has more respect within the home rather than stepping outside. Western women have more responsibilities as they have work outside and in their home, whereas women in our society only have to worry about household responsibilities.
The problem with women here is that they want Western type of freedom and Eastern rights. They demand equality but still want chivalry to stay ahead in the queue. They demand property rights but don’t realize that the Western women they are trying to immolate don’t even have such rights.
When Western women stepped outside the home, a problem arose over who would be responsible for their child’s upbringing and caring for the elderly. As a result, daycare centres and old-age houses were established. Since women have also stepped outside our homes, these have started to step up here as well. In the West, busy parents admit their children in daycare centres, and when they grow old then their grownup children leave them in old-age centres. These people often suffer from depression as they have no loved one, family or relative around them.
When we celebrate Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, it is the tradition of these ‘free’ people. Western societies have dedicated just one day every year to go and see your parents and spend some time with them. Western women started to dress indecently and now we consider the Hijab, which was supposed to protect us, as a hindrance in our freedom. A survey conducted in Western countries said that women face sexual harassment due to skimpy outfits. A Western woman has to fight her own battles as she has no one to support her. Now we have to decide whether we have freedom? We are better off not being ‘free’ and being one step behind men rather than standing equal to them.  
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