hidden away in the herald today is the opinion piece i wish i'd written. irfan yusuf writes about the honour killings of 5 women in the northern pakistani province of baluchistan, and does so in a direct manner that allows for no excuses. best of all is this:
I wish more Muslim men would stop justifying theology or pointing to historical precedents and address current gender realities in Muslim communities. Violence against women is a men's issue.
The situation for Muslim women such as Mukhtar Mai and the Baluchistan victims won't change until men take action. Because if men stay silent, they are effectively lending a hand to the perpetrators.
in this country, i've often heard sheikhs at friday prayers condemn violence against women. even the most conservative have no tolerance for abuse. but we need still more vocal advocacy when attrocities like this happen in countries with a muslim majority.
i've been thinking about why i didn't write something earlier about this*. it comes down to the level of bigotry that muslims already face. by trying to highlight such issues as these killings, it's hard not to feel that you're siding with the bigots and giving them more cannon-fodder to attack a community that is already feeling beseiged. which is why ignorance and bigotry are so harmful. they engender a self-defence mentality that makes it difficult to be critical and to advocate more assertively for the change within which we know is required.
irfan, however, has shown how it can and should be done. he's not a writer i always agree with, but he provides many moments like this which are sheer brilliance. let me add my voice to his, in saying that the violence perpetrated against these women in abhorrent and unacceptable. let's hope the new president of pakistan will put the safety and well-being of women high on his agenda.
*i did know irfan's piece was coming a few days ago, but that's no excuse.