Truth and denial
few hours Aqsa was no more. Her life was strangled out of her. Muhammad’s
beautiful baby is no more — she died from neck compression. Aqsa is dead; she
can wear a scarf no more; can go to the school no more. Aqsa can change into
jeans no more; she can breathe no more
Sixteen years ago, God endowed Muhammad Parvez, a cab driver in Canada, with a
beautiful baby-girl. Muhammad named her Aqsa Parvez. Eleven years ago, Aqsa
started school. For the past few years, Aqsa had been leaving home every morning
wearing track pants and a headscarf, headed for Applewood Heights Secondary
School. Once inside school premises, Aqsa would routinely remove her scarf and
change into jeans.
A year ago, Muhammad took a passenger to Applewood Heights Secondary School.
Perchance, he spotted Aqsa without her headscarf. Since that day, a year ago,
Aqsa had been showing up at school with bruised arms. At 8 am on December 10,
2007, the police received a telephone call from a man claiming to have killed
his daughter. The police rushed Aqsa, suffering from life-threatening neck
injuries, to Credit Valley Hospital. Aqsa, in critical condition, had to be
transferred to the Hospital for Sick Children and put on life support.
Within a few hours Aqsa was no more. Her life was strangled out of her.
Muhammad’s beautiful baby is no more — she died from neck compression. Aqsa is
dead; she can wear a scarf no more; can go to the school no more. Aqsa can
change into jeans no more; she can breathe no more. Did Muhammad use Aqsa’s
scarf to strangle her? Would Muhammad Parvez go to hell or heaven?
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police has charged Muhammad with second-degree
murder. (In Canada, murder can be first or second degree. First degree murder is
“planned and deliberate; murder while hijacking an aircraft, sexual assault,
murder during terrorist activity, murder while being associated with a criminal
organization or while committing intimidation.” Second-degree murder is “all
murder which is not first degree murder.”)
Honour killing is our export to Canada. Women who do not wear hijab are not
virtuous. Hijab is a Muslim woman’s identity. Hijab is religion. Hijab is the
sixth pillar. Hijab symbolises sexual modesty. The West is conspiring to crush
Islamic identity. Fact or fiction?
Here’s a fact: Aqsa has been murdered. For us, denial is not an option.
According to the United Nations Population Fund more than 5,000 women worldwide
fall victim to honour killing. Denial is not an option.
According to the UN’s Special Rapporteur “honour killings had been reported in
Egypt, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan, the
Syrian Arab Republic, Turkey and Yemen”. Egypt is 90 percent Muslim, Iran 98
percent, Jordan 92 percent, Lebanon 60 percent, Morocco 99 percent, Pakistan 97
percent, the Syrian Arab Republic 90 percent and Turkey 99 percent. Of the 192
member-states of the United Nations almost all honour killings take place in
nine overwhelmingly Muslim countries. Denial is not an option.
More recently, honour killings have taken place in France, Germany, the United
Kingdom and Canada. Intriguingly, all these honour killings have taken place in
Muslim communities of France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Canada. Denial is
not an option.
Here’s another fact: Illiteracy and honour killings are correlated. Jacobabad
District has a literacy rate of 23 percent, the lowest in Sindh. Jacobabad has
the highest rate of crimes of honour; 91 honour killings in 2002. In illiteracy,
next to Jacobabad are Ghotki and Larkana. Both Ghotki and Larkana have high
rates of crimes of honour: 67 honour killings in Ghotki and 62 in Larkana.
Hyderabad, on the other hand, has a literacy rate of 44 percent and there were 5
honour killings in 2002. Denial is not an option.
On March 1, 2005, PMLQ and MMA legislators in our National Assembly joined hands
and defeated a bill that was introduced to strengthen the law against honour
killings. In November 2006, the Senate passed the bill with PPP and ANP
supporting the bill while the PMLN abstained.
Another fact: Around 2.5 percent of humanity lives in Pakistan. But, nearly 30
percent of all honour killings reported from around the world are reported from
Is denial an option? Who will take the honour out of these killings? Who will
expose the horror from under the hijab? Who will protect women from the
laws of men?
Dr Farrukh Saleem is an Islamabad-based economist and analyst