Farzana Parveen, 25, married and three-months pregnant, was savagely beaten to death on May 27 outside a court building in Lahore, Pakistan. Rejecting an arranged marriage to her cousin, Farzana married Mohammad Iqbal, her fiance of three years. Free will and love were her undoing — the reason why 20 members of her family, including her father, brothers and family-approved fiance smashed her head with bricks in full sight of a paralyzed urban public. The onlookers did not help Farzana. Perhaps they were too shocked.
Or, did some of them condone the murder of an independent, pregnant woman?
Because Farzana “dishonored” her family by marrying the man she chose rather than the man it chose for her, her family carried out a longstanding, barbaric tradition known by the ultimate oxymoron, “honor killing.”
According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, more than 869 women were murdered in “honor killings” last year in Pakistan alone. Experts caution that this number reflects only the tip of a brutal, blood-stained, animalistic iceberg.
Mohammad Azeem, Farzana’s father, surrendered after the murder. “I killed my daughter as she insulted all of our family by marrying a man without our consent,” he admitted.
“And I have no regret over it.”
So much for the view that, all over the world, people are basically the same.
The heinous acts of this father and his family against a pregnant daughter, sister, cousin, niece and the chilling words that justified the attack shock the civilized world.
Be prepared for more shocks. Until something elevates a woman’s status above that of bargaining chip in an arranged marriage, then tribal-based, religion-based killings will continue unabated, and too often unmourned.
In reporting Farzana’s murder, and the murder of her three-month-old fetus, some news venues maintain that honor killings have nothing to do with Islam. We do not suggest that all practitioners of Islam condone this monstrous brutality Clearly this is not the case. That said, we are hard-pressed to find any other religion in the 21st century that allows, or tolerates, honor killings. In Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism and Christianity, the concept is absent. Arranged marriages, and their all too frequent awful end, are the norm among conservative Pakistanis, most of whom follow Islam.
The tragic plight of women in the 21st century remains a real issue. Trafficking in women, even pre-teens, seems more prevalent than ever. Ditto, forced marriages (check: Nigerian girls). While various cultures practice some form of forced marriage, it is only in Islamic culture that we hear of the punishment for resistance to a forced marriage being murder.
The need to reiterate that a woman is equal to a man in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is to state the obvious in the United States of America. Not, however, elsewhere. This month, Pakistan. Last month, Nigeria. Next month?
The educated class in Pakistan is reeling over Farzana Parveen’s very public killing. We hope it will be the last. But until equality permeates every single land, culture and heart, don’t count on it. At this late date, it is still necessary to teach that women’s lives are neither expendable nor exploitable.
The “honor killing” in Pakistan is beyond unacceptable. It is an affront to G-d. When the Hebrew Bible wrote at its very beginning that the human being is created in the image of G-d, the denotation was not, “the male human being.” The denotation was, and remains, every human being.
Copyright © 2014 by the Intermountain Jewish News