Countering Narratives

The Prime Minister’s decision to form a Rehmatul-lil-Alameen Authority (RAA) reflects the government’s positive approach in looking to handle the problem of sexual crimes against women and children. However, the means with which to go about eliminating this issue leaves a little to be desired.
The RAA, as announced by the government, looks to be too broad in its ambit. Spreading a positive image of Islam across the world is undoubtedly a good principle, and the government can use this as a means to counter rampant Islamophobia in the international community. For this, the RAA can be a positive influence and potentially very effective, if the right experts are chosen. Those with a more moderate leaning, to be able to exchange views to take the case of Islam’s peaceful underpinnings for greater understanding, would be preferred.
But here at home, the government is looking to lay too many issues under one body. From assessing changes to the educational curriculum, to monitoring social media, conducting research and even content generation for more Islamic and cultural programming—these are simply too many tasks to burden one authority with.
Additionally, the government’s approach to morality should take a different direction. Ideas that the veil is the only way to protect women, or that divorces are a social ill must be avoided at all costs. These views only perpetuate preconceived notions of women having the onus to protect themselves and taboos such as being a single woman in a family-oriented society. In a country with diverse faiths and belief systems, it is important to make sure that the behaviour of perpetrators is targeted, instead of potential and actual victims.
It is also imperative to take stock of the bodies that are currently already engaged in handling these issues. The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority is monitoring social media, the provincial curriculum boards will be assessing changes and inclusions in academic content and the Council of Islamic Ideology ensures that all laws in parliament are made in accordance with Islamic teachings. Bringing RAA into the mix with an overlapping role will only cause confusion.
There must be a clear demarcation of roles for any state institution to perform well. The RAA is a very promising idea, but it must not be bogged down by making it the overarching body with no clear distinction of what its role is. In order for this plan to be a success, it is hoped that the new authority will only be used as a means to engage the international community on the inclusive nature of Islam and keep the mandate restricted.