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Welcome home, Sania

The temptation to write about the Shoaib Malik-Sania Mirza union is difficult to resist.

Fame, fortune, cross-border love, deception and betrayal are enough to turn a Bollywood flick into a blockbuster. But if the story unfolds in real life, it is impossible to expect the media not to obsess over it. ‘Bad boy’ Shoaib seems to have picked a really good girl. A pretty and internationally recognized tennis star, Sania has been an Indian icon ever since she was 18.

Sania’s choice, on the other hand, has ruffled more than a few feathers on the Indian side. Suffice it to say that Sania’s decision to settle down with Shoaib has called into her patriotism into question. While some have tried to portray this as a ‘love conquers all’ cross-cultural marriage which that will break down barriers and soothe the omnipresent India-Pakistan rift, others have focused on the gender issue.

Pakistanis are not as perturbed about the union because the idea of male conquest runs the argument.

Had it been a Pakistani woman and an Indian man, some contend, sentiments would have been different. “Would the reaction have been the same if Mahendra Dhoni decided to marry Naseem Hameed?”asks Amber Rahim Shamsi in her blog. But I’m not so sure that is the question to ask. Rather, would the reaction have been any different if Naseem Hameed decided to marry Irfan Pathan? Personally, I doubt it. This is less about gender and more about religion and identity.

Heady romance aside, who we choose to marry, does say something about how we define ourselves. The fact that both Sania and Shoaib have only considered Muslims as potential spouses suggests that their religion is very important to them.

If one recalls the Inzamam years, when the image of the Pakistani cricketer transformed from the nightclub-frequenting playboy into a beard-sporting namazi, Shoaib’s case is hardly surprising. However, Sania’s decision seems to have been a rude awakening to many in India. This in spite of the fact that Sania, like most accomplished Muslim women, had to overcome criticism from orthodox groups who found her tennis attire objectionable and unsuited to their narrow interpretation of religion.

Yet unlike Irshad Manji or Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Sania Mirza refuses to reject her community and does not let the unlearned interpretations of others affect her own Islamic identity. Just as ill-thought out fatwas from untutored men project Islam as a backward religion, so too are there are efforts to rob Islamic youth of its role models — depicting Islam as the exclusive domain of regressive attitudes.

Lobbies promoting such ideas can be found in both the western world and in India. They are eager to portray emancipated Muslim women as disowned by their own community and desperately seeking refuge outside of Islamic societies in order to pursue their worldly interests. Sania is a slap in the face of such notions. Not only was she supported in her tennis career by her Muslim family in Hyderabad but after reaching great heights while playing for India, she decided to marry a Muslim and a Pakistani of her own accord.

Moreover, when Shoaib and his mother were questioned by the media on her future tennis prospects and apparel, they stood by her decision to choose. Sania is no longer just an Indian icon but more importantly a rolemodel for Muslim women. The fact that Shoaib and Sania are choosing the neutral location of Dubai as their future home and agreeing to play for their respective countries goes to show that the two have given thought to the idea of equality in a marriage.

This is not about male conquest or outmoded concepts of ghairat, as Firdous Ashiq Awan touted on a talk show recently. This is about greater equality in the Muslim marriage and the empowerment of women within the realm of Islam. And for this reason alone, Sania Mirza’s marriage to Shoaib and hence affiliation with Pakistan is very welcome.

Reader Commments

Comments (15)
  • M.Aslam

    Overall a very good article. Why only shoaib is being possed as “bad boy”, sania has also lot of controversial things in past. I think media is more mature in pak. than there in india as far as the coverage of this special event is concerned. Religion is more important for pakistanis than the gender thing, u know….!

  • PS

    First sensible piece I have read on the subject amongst all the shrill cacophony during the past 2 weeks.

  • Ahad

    Thank you for sifting through the irrational, media-gloss dross that has been doing the rounds on the issue. Kudos for pointing out Sania’s role as a progressive force in the face of anachronistic religious backlash.

  • Afroze Khan

    Dear All

    The problem is “LOVE” is blind so she has choosen a pakistani partner, but what i believe why no body from Indian make her love in deep and marry by the Indian guy itself why too late becoz she is crossing the marriage age she has to decide very soon, and she is very upset by the boy friend of childhood done by her parents and that guy is not soo much recognizable compare to star tennis Sania.
    But her life is under complexity becoz she has chosen dubai as second home as she cannot stay in pakistan and her groom cannot stay in India.
    And almost all the 32 weeks she will be on sports tour and her groom also on his sports tour again they are away from each other what is this married life i don’t know.

    Some body is saying that “Who is true Indian”
    as sania took the pledge soo seriously
    ” All Indians are my Brothers and Sisters”
    so she choose the other nation.
    but for our indians it is agreat loss to the country
    as she is brought up her carrier, get good name etc for India and fell in the hands of arch rivalry. I am also very upset very much

    reply me the your openion also,

  • ratee

    Dear Afroze Khan she did not marry to please you or any one, shes married for her own happiness. So what is your problem?

    Marriage is her personal issue, so get married to someone and do not bother others hope you understand this?

  • Dr. Altaf ul Hassan

    It is a very well-balanced article on this subject.Marriage is a purely personal mattter of the two individuals to get marry and this is not the first example of a cross-border marriage.This is true that Pakistanis are not as perturbed about the union because the idea of male conquest runs the argument but one need to change a mindset like that.All my gratitudes and compliments are due to both with a desire to lead a life full of joy.

  • MAJ

    A very optimistic and sensible account of writtings. electronic media is broadcasting tons of packages and exclusive reports, writers are writting dozens of articles with orthodox approach. But thanks AYESHA KHAN! you have come up with some genuine writting. it is the need of time. Hope to see some more in coming days..

  • AC

    Seeing Sania Mirza grow up from a lanky 18 year old tennis player into a global celebrity, supporting her all the way, her achievements making them proud, Sania Mirza made a place in every Indian’s heart. When news came in that she has decided to marry Shoaib, a sense of grief creeped into almost every Indian’s heart. And it was a natural reaction. Let me explain why. India and Pakistan are not very different from each other in terms of culture, especially marriage rituals. When married, a girl is deemed to be a member of the groom’s family. She is not considered part of the family that she grew up in, became what she is today. The family that gave her everything. Its hence natural for the girl’s family to experience a sense of loss. Its the same sense of loss that Indians experienced. I am sure it will all fade away in some time. But will India Sania Mirza the same again? Lets wait and watch.

  • SK

    First of all I like to congratulate Ayesha for a very well written article about this matter. I am an Indian and was proud of Sania’s achievements. I have rooted for her in the stands at the US Open. When I heard the news, my initial reaction was a sense of betrayal to India and I believe it is a natural feeling. I am being a partisan in my thoughts in this regard. Having said that, Sania has all the rights to chose her groom. After a while, I realized that it was not the feeling of “betrayal” I felt about this issue, but a sense of “loss”. The “loss” as explained by an commentor, AC.

    At the end, I would say, good luck Sania and Shoiab. I sincerely hope that you continue to play tennis and continue to be the inspiration to millions of kids in India and Pakistan!!

  • Abu Rifa

    muslim nations in general and muslims of egypt india and pakistan and bangladesh in particular suffer from a sickness. the sickness is an elite among their communities who like to think of themselves as “intellectuals” and try to mock the scholars of this deen as “backward” and “narow minded” and what not. here i would like to make clear that the sister sania mirza did what she did and its her life and as for her tennis attire and other life style is concerned she has said in many interviews that her dress are not proper. meaning she is suffering from weak imaan and may Allaah swt strengthen her imaan and our imaan as well. aameen. but the trouble is not people like sister sania who acknowldge their weakness in practicing islam. the problem is some self proclaimed “writers” and “intellectuals” and the “modern” and the “moderate” muslims who ridicule this religion and its scholars as “backward” for educating the masses about this deen. i hope Allah swt, guides these poeple who try to chnage islam for their own fancy and liking. its time poeple like this writer repented and got back to islam.

  • imran sahil

    Madam A.khan
    For ur kind information we not welcomed shoaib and sania after marriage,because first we think that shoaib is innoceint but when geo tv braek his interw in which he accept that he is married,his wife’s name is ayesha nd resedent of hyderabad dhakan india,its prove that Mr malik is big liar and as i muslim we not welcomed a big liar because he chet with ayesha,if he is cleared why he devorced her? we shamed on marriage of shoaib and sania and we are with ayesha after all she is also muslim.

  • ratee

    Imran Sahil Sahib you are also like the media who want to accuse a person for a crime without proper investigation (media trial). Who are you to judge that Sohaib is a criminal? Thinking like you would lead one to state that you can also accuse Ayesha Siddiqui as a criminal without trial. This is not justified by any legal or Islamic sense as the settlement has taken place between the two parties and we are not here to judge anyone’s character provided we do not have complete information.

    The media and people like you should mind your language that you do not jump to conclusions and give reasonable benefit to people who not been accused in any crime until proven!!!

  • imran sahil

    Dear Ratee,
    I think u are living in the dreamy world,dear today is media become powerful element or i am using as that media is resourseable force who monitor and evulate a single ant living in his hole,so plz dont be angry on me and think on whole sancaryo of Shoaib-Ayesha contavrsy, and for ur kind information i am not blaming on shoaib,it is my analysis which i see in the whole matter,u leave the whole matter just get information about shoaib’s interw on geo tv program “one day with geo” than i think u will stand with me.Thanks

  • ratee

    Imran Bhai the media is one of the worst villain in this whole episode just look at their performance making a reality show of this love affair.

    There are so many doubts about the many stories and leave the judgment to God as we are also ordinary beings and lets not blame any one person and wish the best to their married life.

    The media has no right to interfere in the personal lives of public figures negatively as was in the past no matter how important it is in the context of the world politics. If the Sania-Sohaib relationship was not strong one it would have broken up because of this unnecessary media hype created by the media hype.

  • melvin D'Souza

    Latest Rumour is Shuaib is Contemplating Buying Properties in Hyderabad and Bombay for Settling in India.I think He May not get a Indian Citizenship Very Soon.But ,if He Lives 5 Years in India and Showed Pro-Indian ,He May Get Indian Citizenship.Moreover ,Shuaib’s Mallik Clan is Basically Indian as far as I know.

    I hope Shuaib Enjoy the Secular Country where Religion is a personal affair.
    G’luck Shuaib and Sania.

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