Friday, 12 September 2008

honour killings in baluchistan

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.


Julie said...

I'm so glad you wrote about this, I saw the column and was thinking about writing something, but you have done it way better than I could have! I'm glad your thinking turned into typing before mine did.

Frida said...

thanks for this link and your past. I am so deeply uncomfortable with the commonly held stereotypes of the "oppressed Afghan/Muslim woman" and "dangerous, misogynist Afghan/Muslim man" that I find it hard to find the space in which to contribute usefully to any discussion about my actual experiences working for five years with Afghan and other Muslim women and men to eliminate violence against women. My usual tactic is to limit my contribution to sharing my advocacy tools and experience with any group or person who invites me to do so and avoid speaking personally on the subject - let the people directly affected speak in their own voices. But sometimes they simply don't have the access and we can't immediately offer them the podium, so to speak - so we need to be willing to say something. If we can have this conversation, or make this case, without falling back into bigoted stereotypes then we might do something helpful.

One thing that matters to me - here at The Hand Mirror contributors are not afraid to examine, critically and robustly, our own record on violence against women. That sets up, for me, a starting point of some credibility from which to express genuine concern about the issue of violence against women in other settings.

glosoli said...

Thanks for your post.

I am interested in this comment:

"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"

This isn't an area I know a whole lot about, how do you see that bigotry manifested in the NZ context??

Genuinely interested and keen to learn more, cheers.