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A father's gift of freedom

Author Sami Rafiq never really understood why her father forced her to study. Today she realises the importance of education in a girl?s life.

india Updated: Jun 13, 2006 11:11 IST

To say that all fathers lay down the rules and expect to be obeyed would be a misnomer in my case, for my father gave me much more. He taught us that it was not Islam that was our identity rather it was "we" who could bring a good identity to all followers of Islam by developing honesty and integrity in our work and living.

Father had seen the exploitation of women in his family. His mother had never stepped out of the house unveiled and had no say in the running of the household. He had seen his sisters succumb to the injustices of a patriarchal set-up that insisted that they be married within the community of Muslim tradesman even if the grooms were not worthy. These things made Father swear to himself that he would not let me, his daughter, suffer likewise.

Instead of taking my education lightly because I was a girl, he was particular to make me study in good schools known for their multicultural environment. He made every effort that religious belief should empower rather than hamper my progress.

He dreamt of making a doctor or an engineer out of me, but when I had other dreams of my own, he gladly accepted that. I remember his first gift of a bicycle and how early he made me open my own bank account. He pushed me to ride my first moped to college and then put me in the driving seat of his car. Often angry and breathless at the way he pushed me into everything, I did not then realise that he was not pushing me, rather he was trying to put behind him memories of exploitation of women in the name of religion.

When my college-mates in Abdullah College prepared to marry and settle down, Father prodded me to come out with my own published book. Recalling his constant support, I do feel at times that if more fathers could so zealously involve themselves in their daughters' lives, Indian Muslim women would become truly emancipated.