Oh my sisters, agitate. Leave no peace to the men till they give you religious freedom by opening mosques for prayers not side by side with men but in reserved quarters attached to all the mosques, so that the habit of praying in public and self respect and self-confidence becomes general amongst women. On that foundation of religious equality, you can then build social, economic, patriotic and political equality with men.

I do not think you realise yourselves and I am sorry to say, certainly the men of Pakistan, and a few other Muslim countries, do not realise the importance of women taking an equal rank with men in the welfare, in the Government and in the general activity and prosperity of the country. Only the other day, the Minister of Wakfs, one of the leading “ulemas” of Egypt responsible for religious affairs, was telling me that a country is like a human body, men and women are two lungs, if you reduce the power of women, you crush them with inhibitions and imaginary restrictions based ultimately on man’s superior physical power, in a nation, it is exactly like a human being who has one lung perforated by tuberculosis and only one lung to work.

Ladies believe me, if Pakistan does not rise to the modern idea of the equal position of women, you will find not only Europe but all the other countries of Asia going ahead of you.

Ladies believe me, if Pakistan does not rise to the modern idea of the equal position of women, you will find not only Europe but all the other countries of Asia going ahead of you. I am heartbroken when I see how little so many of our men realise what it is, and how little the women contribute, compared to what they could contribute to the moral and material happiness and prosperity of the country.

To begin with, the women here, to my horror, are forbidden in taking part in the religious life of the country. In practically every Muslim country the women are allowed to go to mosques for Friday prayers and there are proper wings divided by ‘purdahs’ from the men where they conduct Friday prayers. Perhaps the greatest blot in Pakistan is the neglect of Friday prayers by Muslims generally but above all, not giving women occasions for participating in these most important prayers. If you are forbidden even prayer what can you expect! The first thing to agitate for, is to get your right for your prayers, which women enjoy in practically every Muslim country. In Cairo, there are special mosques, like the Mohammedali Mosque, where galleries are reserved for women. In North Africa, in the Paris mosque and the London mosque at Woking, in Iran and in Turkey, women have their own special place for Friday prayers. When you do not allow the women to pray, how can you expect them to do any lay service for the country.

First of all you must win the right to prayers, then win your right to equality in production, industrial service and in office work.

First of all you must win the right to prayers, then win your right to equality in production, industrial service and in office work. I am an old man and I can expect very little in this world but my message to you women is: organise yourselves, resist and fight for your rights.

One last word, some of our champions of inhibitions fear that liberty will lead to sexual immorality. Believe me, when women from childhood and adolescence have seen men, then there is very little likelihood of that, except in naturally bad characters who will be bad always under any conditions, either of freedom or restrictions. I have lived in most European and American countries, and I have no hesitation in saying that only one out of 1,000 families is broken up by sexual misdemeanour and the other 999 go through happy life bringing up children, living perfectly moral lives in which little thought is given to sexual relations and the whole life is taken up for service to the children, to the family, to the husband and to the country.

My dear Muslim sisters. One result of this is that some of your men who lock up their women, when they go to Paris, rush to indulge in their horrible instincts and for that go to places where (like in every great city, even in Muslim countries) there are prostitutes and shows for encouraging sexual depravity. But that is not the life of the people. The overwhelming life of the people is happy family relations and far more devotion to children than you can possibly get out of “purdah nashin.”

Oh my sisters, agitate. Leave no peace to the men till they give you religious freedom by opening mosques for prayers not side by side with men but in reserved quarters attached to all the mosques, so that the habit of praying in public and self respect and self-confidence becomes general amongst women. On that foundation of religious equality, you can then build social, economic, patriotic and political equality with men. I pray Allah Almighty to open the eyes of our benighted men and some of our still more benighted women.

His Highness the Aga Khan III

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