SHAFAQNA – A woman in Pakistan burned her 17-year-old daughter alive on Wednesday to punish her for marrying against the family’s wishes, the latest in a series of so-called “honour killings” that claim the lives of nearly 1,000 women every year in the conservative Muslim country.
Police say Zeenat Rafiq’s mother, Parveen, tied her to a cot and drenched her with kerosene before lighting her on fire. Neighbors in the congested, working-class neighborhood in the eastern city of Lahore came running when they heard the screams, but family members kept them from entering the house, said Nighat Bibi, who lives nearby.
The police eventually arrived and found the charred body near a staircase. They arrested the mother soon thereafter.
The victim’s husband, Hassan Khan, told reporters the two had been “in love since our school days” but the family had rejected several marriage proposals, forcing them to elope last month. He showed an affidavit of consent signed by his wife before a magistrate. He also showed cellphone photos of a smiling Zeenat wearing a red dress.
Sheikh Hammad, a local police official, said Parveen confessed to killing her daughter with the help of her son Ahmar. He quoted the woman as saying “I don’t have any regrets.” Another police officer, Ibadat Nisar, said the body showed signs of beating and strangulation.
Hundreds of women are killed every year in Pakistan — often by their own family members — for violating the country’s conservative norms regarding love and marriage. Sex outside of marriage is seen by conservative Pakistanis as a stain on the honour of the woman’s entire family, one that can only be removed by killing her.
While countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan or Turkey have seen such violence against women become somewhat of a social norm – a fait accomplit, the police has long failed to address due to the religious entanglements it implies, “honour killings” are not Islamic in the slightest.
In fact, Islam absolutely forbids for anyone to force a woman into a union she has not chosen, and accepted for herself. Should a woman be ever forced into marriage, God would not recognize the union as valid or lawful.
It is ridiculous to think that while God would gift mankind with free will, allowing for men, and women to follow, or not in His Guidance, He would tolerate for women to be forced in marriages they do not agree to.
Women in Islam are more than mere commodities to be traded off on the market place. Women are not owned, they are they own person, and as such they are entitle to their own choices.
To rationalize violence by arguing Islam and Islam’s tradition is nothing short of insanity.
Again we need to recognize that it is Wahhabism which has perverted and twisted Muslims’ understanding of Islam – to such a point where violence has been declare lawful, and righteousness painted as a sin.
In our arrogance we ought to realise that it is in our scholars, and our Imams we should turn to – those keepers of Islam’s tradition who dedicated their life to deciphering the Scriptures … not for their glory but in service of God and their community.
Shia Islam here offers a guidance which remain unparalleled.
If we remain ignorant to our faith, it is abuses and persecution we are inviting into our lives, and society.
Last week a schoolteacher, Maria Bibi, was set on fire for refusing to marry a man twice her age. The prime suspect in the case – the father of the man she refused to marry – and the other four are in custody.
A month earlier, police arrested 13 members of a local tribal council who allegedly strangled a girl and set her on fire for helping a friend elope. The charred body of 17-year-old Ambreen Riasat was found in a burned van.
Khan, the husband of the woman killed in Lahore, said her mother and uncle had visited her three days ago to try to persuade her to return home and have a marriage ceremony with the family, so that she wouldn’t be branded as someone who had eloped. He recalled his wife telling him: “Don’t let me go, they will kill me.”
By Catherine Shakdam for Shafaqna