While in Kashmir, I had the opportunity to observe many things. I mostly met women, and I focused on learning as much as I could about them. However, while I was there, I also viewed some things about the men in Kashmir. There were three simple observations that I made while there. These are not huge criticisms of their culture, but these are three simple practices that serve as insights into their culture.
The first begins with an interesting custom among the men in Kashmir. They will often hold hands with other men to show their love and admiration for one another. I saw this often, and to be honest, it gave me quite a shock. We see this in America, but it generally means something totally different. I do respect their custom, but as I observed the mostly Muslim people in the touristy places, on the streets, and in the markets, I never once saw a man holding a woman’s hand. We can make the argument that in this culture, a man would never do that to another woman unless they were married. That is certainly true. However, out of all the people I observed, why did I never see a man hold their wife’s hand? This simple observation lets us in on a brotherhood that seems to exist in Islam. The relationships between males are often held in more esteem than that between a husband and wife or any male, female relationship.
I made another observation on a visit to a friend of my host. She was a housewife with two young boys. While we sat in her room and attempted to talk, her 9 year old son ran around the same room and showed persistent disrespect to his mother and to her visitors. At one point, the mother tried to show us old family photos, and this boy ripped them out of our hands, and flung them around recklessly. He also hung the phone up on his mother when she attempted to make a phone call. Of course, there are naughty children everywhere and in every culture. I am the parent to two of them some of the time. However, this boy showed such disrespect towards his mother, that I was dismayed. It is one thing to be disrespected by a mother-in-law or even your husband, but to have no control over your own son would be heart breaking. I do not believe that every 9 year old boy in Kashmir behaves this way. In fact, I saw many that behaved otherwise, but I do believe that this problem is more rampant than we realize. At 9 years old, this behavior is already ingrained in him. What kind of man will he grow up to be?
Lastly, I had the chance to visit a friend and her mother that are so close to accepting Jesus. They have watched the Jesus Film, and they say they know Jesus. They are very open to talking about him, and as a result, we had a deep discussion. One of the things that the mother spoke of was the sinful nature of women. It is her belief that women are more sinful than men. She even stated that more women will be in hell than men. When pressed for a reason, she just said that they are. They gossip and lie, and are just more sinful. I have an idea that this is related to Eve being the first to take of the forbidden fruit, but do not miss what this conversation gives us. It shows us that ultimately, they believe that there is no hope for women. Men have decided that they are holier, and can even go into holier places in the mosques. Not only have the men practiced this, but even the women believe this about themselves.
So, how can we change the way women are viewed in the Muslim world? The misuse and abuse of women in these societies is passed on from generation to generation. This stronghold has to be ended. Our Savior did not agree with this view of women. He included them, he taught them, he healed them, he loved them, and he certainly respected them. He was present at the creation of the Earth. He formed man in his own image and created them male and female. And God blessed both of them. He saw what He created, and he knew in his heart that it was very good.