Pakistani Free Speech Hero of the Year 2016: Qandeel Baloch

Source: Qandeel Baloch Official Facebook

Source: Qandeel Baloch Official Facebook

She made a statement by expressing her sexuality in a society where it is considered an abomination. She was predictably accused of vulgarity in a society that has probably even forgotten the meaning of this vague expression.

Forsaken by the liberal media, in the words of feminist academic Nabiha Meher Sheikh, when she needed them the most and condemned by a society of self-righteous savages, model and internet sensation Qandeel Baloch tested the morality of our standards of morality.

Her selfie clip with Maulana Abdul Qavi pretty much realized my dream of watching Mathira and Mufti Muneeb-ur-Rehman do the tango on TV.

The shockwave that it caused not only resulted in his removal from the Ruet-e-Hilal Committee, an insignificant body that performs the significant function of sighting the moon but also leading to the murder of Qandeel at the hands of her own brother because she had offended his honor. Qandeel’s former husband was also said to be involved. To no effect, or without much substance, Mufti Abdul Qavi’s name was included in the investigation of her murder for provoking it on the complaint of her parents.

Yep, death comes that cheap in Pakistan. Or is it life?

Source: Human Rights Tulip Twitter

Nighat Dad – Source: Human Rights Tulip Twitter

Shout outs also go to some other free speech heroes in Pakistan, who are continuing their struggle in the face of brutal opposition. Heartiest congratulations and salute to internet privacy and digital rights activist Nighat Dad who won the 2016 Human Rights Tulip Award from the Dutch government. She has used the prize to establish the first cyber harassment helpline for the people of Pakistan.

A mention of publisher and social activist Abdul Wahid Baloch is also due, who was briefly abducted by unknown entities following his activism to find the whereabouts of the Baloch missing persons. These individuals have been the victim of the crackdown on the Baloch insurgency.  Thankfully, he is safely home.

Journalist Cyril Almeida became the victim of undue state scrutiny, following the daring release of an exclusive news story that revealed that the civilian government of the Sharif brothers had reprimanded the military leadership for inaction against religious terrorists. Almeida was briefly put on the Exit Control List by the Federal Ministry of the Interior following the government’s and the military’s repeated stern denials of his story. Too much fuss about nothing, of course.

Source: pakistantv.tv

Shaan Taseer – Source: pakistantv.tv

Another great Pakistani free speech hero remains to be Shaan Taseer, the son of the slain Governor of Punjab Salmaan Taseer, who was a free speech hero in his own right. Shaan Taseer is continuing the fight against the draconian blasphemy law and for the rights of the minority religious communities in Pakistan.

Source: Sunni Youth Parliament/Shaan Taseer facebook

Source: Sunni Youth Parliament/Shaan Taseer facebook

Qandeel’s antics may not sound serious to some of you, but the fatwa issued by Sunni clerics against Shaan Taseer, which he publicized on his facebook page, is no joke. If only this evidence was enough to convince people how much dangerous people we are dealing with here.

In the guise of peace and love, these religious zealots ensure that no one is safe from their venom. I can only commend people like Shaan Taseer for really taking them on in his bold and fearless manner. Now, I can’t do that for one, and the image of the “legal opinion” I posted above can be considered a death threat to Taseer.

All of these free speech heroes are important. Freedom of Press is important. Fighting for religious minority rights is important. But perhaps nothing is more important than a woman challenging the norms of a society that collectively hates women and is abusive to them. Pakistan remains to be one of the countries collectively abusive to women in the name of culture and religion, and apart from my own hometown of Rawalpindi, I have seen glimpses of that in various parts of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, such as Swat and Lower Dir. So, I am pretty sure of what I am talking about here.

For that reason alone, Qandeel Baloch is my Pakistani free speech hero for the year 2016.

As Nighat Dad herself said, every time a woman stands for herself somewhere, she is standing for all the women.

Read about the last year’s Pakistani free speech hero, Sabeen Mahmud, here.

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Boko Haram, Women and the Embarrassing Face of Islam

Source: abc

Source: abc

There is some problem with the way women are treated by Muslim populations, despite all the claims of honoring them.

Now there are a handful of events that actually directly point finger at the ideology, instead of the individual criminals.

The entire world was shocked when the Nigerian militant Islamist group Boko Haram abducted hundreds of teenage girls from a school. In a video released by the group, the girls were seen in Hijaabs and veils.

Well, if you thought their intentions were any good, they have been reportedly forced to convert to Islam and have a bride price to their names, which is another expression for selling slaves. The Nigerian state is vowing to take action against  the perpetrators.

Source: Independent

Source: Independent

On the same continent, a Sudanese Muslim woman Meriam Ibrahim who married a Christian was sentenced to death by a court in the state for apostasy. Coincidentally, she was pregnant at the time. So her punishment was suspended till the time she gave birth to a child, which probably the state was interested in “confiscating”.

She has delivered the child and is now awaiting a walk to the death row. The international community is outraged, but the Sudanese government is unmoved.

Source: awamiweb.com

Source: awamiweb.com

A few days ago, a Pakistani woman Farzana Parveen was stoned to death, right outside the Lahore High Court in an “honor killing”. The attack was carried out by her father, brothers and accomplices for marrying against their will to the man she loved. Her lover, turns out, strangled his first wife to death to marry her and got away with it as well*.

This incident would also reignite the debate on blood money laws in Islam, which allow acquittal on pardon for exchange of monetary compensation. However, it is encouraging that the news was highlighted by the media all over the world.

This was not necessarily a religious, but a cultural punishment. But one that is not necessarily frowned upon by most Pakistanis, and one that is reinforced by the treatment of adulterers recommended by the Islamic Shariah.

However, the Pakistani government has now ordered action against the criminals, most of them already arrested.

But when you ask yourself the question as to why the Punjab Police failed to intervene, while witnessing the incident, there are no simple answers.

Events such as these are just embarrassing for otherwise peaceful and sane Muslims who secretly harbor the same beliefs but choose not to practice them.

Peaceful and responsible citizens who would have a good sense that such beliefs have no place in a civilized society in any century, but choose not to renounce them.

Who would express sorrow at an adulterer being killed. Then present the caveat of four witnesses before finally agreeing that they should be stoned to death, when the question is asked.

Who would otherwise propose strict punishment for murder and encourage proselytizing, but would support death penalty for an apostate Muslim.

It is just an embarrassment. Plain and simple.

Though this little inconvenience is causing a lot of individuals their lives and liberty.

*EDIT: June 2, 2014 0226 HRS

On Objective Morality

Sacrifice of Isaac by Caravaggio - Source: Wikimedia Commons

Sacrifice of Isaac by Caravaggio – Source: Wikimedia Commons

In my opinion, there is no such thing as an objective system of morality, at least for an (intelligent and) emotional species such as human beings. I would not even consider a single value to be universally agreed upon, no matter how morally correct or incorrect it may seem to any person. Not even instincts of self interest in nature guarantee an objective system of morality.

Ayn Rand called her philosophy of preserving self interest and individual liberty “moral objectivism“. People find her philosophy immoral, but I like it and rather admire her for challenging moral conventions. However, I consider it a bit arrogant and naïve of her to call her philosophy moral objectivism. It is not moral objectivism in the true sense, because it is not objective, you may go with the name, but by her own definition, a more appropriate title would be “rational morality” or “moral rationalism”. Though people would even dispute that, on the count of rationality. I don’t have enough sympathy for the philosophy to even defend that label though.

Even if there is a God, and has ordered a certain set of morality, there is no reason for humans to accept it. God’s opinion is just an opinion and humans may find no reason to find it superior to theirs. And since humans have enough intelligence to reason for themselves, they do not need to follow the opinion of an alien entity, even when enslaved.

Somebody asked me that if there were no objective morality, would it allow people to rape babies. This question has nothing to do with the idea that there is no such thing as objective morality, because this tells more about the person committing the act. While a lot of people may commit the act considering it something wrong, while going on with it, while others would not consider it immoral at all, even if it kills the baby. Take righteous and honor killing for an example. An apparently very wrong act committed for very moral and noble reasons.

There can possibly be a moral system in which even eating the babies would not be considered wrong. On the lighter note, it actually calls to mind Jonathan Swift‘s satire “A Modest Proposal“. But consider someone actually following the outrageous idea for moral reasons

So there is only one explanation of subjective morality systems around the world. Humans came up with it themselves and almost all of them have some sort of contradiction at some point.

—-

Answer to Quora Question: If there is no God, then how can there ever be any sort of objective system of morality?

The Logic Behind Honor Killing

Source: Sajjad Qayyum (AFP/Getty) under fair use

Source: Sajjad Qayyum (AFP/Getty) under fair use

Call me naïve, ignorant, immoral or disconnected from my culture, but I never could understand the logic behind honor killing.

I have thought about the subject a lot anyway, but hearing a recent news of one of these frequent incidents made me want to ask the question loud.

Why do brothers and fathers, or any other male (or sometimes even female) members of a Pakistani family, who outrage so much when a female of the clan is found to have a relationship against their wishes, and what particularly changes in the nature of sexual relationship when she copulates with someone of their choice under a matrimonial bond?

Marriage merely becomes another tool to control people, doesn’t it? But seriously, someone is still having sex with that woman. Oh, is it about sex?

This emotion known as “gairat” is rather loosely and perhaps erroneously translated into “honor” and this emotion is shared by population throughout the country, and even in other countries such as India, Afghanistan and actually people here and there all around the world.

While gairat has something to do with family honor, it is also related to sexuality and the jealousy affiliated with it. There would be probably be no film noir had there been no such sentiments in the West. I am not even sure if such emotions can be termed natural or not, but they surely make sense.

Now while it seems a very noble and chauvinistic quality, it probably kills its very supposed purpose by finding satisfaction from killing the very “offender-victim” it is meant to protect.

And if a jealous cuckold husband kills an adulterer or a cheating couple gets rid of the inadequate husband, it would make sense, but it requires the brain of Sigmund Freud to get your head around fathers and brothers killing daughters and sisters and sons killing mothers.

But during a marriage, which, at least and especially in Indian culture is a mere material transaction for the woman to spend the rest of her life as a slave, the family honor is somehow fulfilled giving away their daughter in such a manner. This shameless public display of humiliation is somehow considered honorable.

What is even worse, many, if not most, of these families would tolerate all sorts of atrocities in the name of married life. You would expect them to wreak even more havoc in the event of acts such as domestic abuse, not that such exceptions do not occur, often depending on the social status of the offended.

So in the Indian subcontinent, domestic abuse is widely considered nothing unusual in the married life by most traditional people, who find separation and legal divorce process a disgrace.

The rationale behind honor killing is certainly that women are property, the attachment of great offense to its violation and that women do not have the privilege of pursuing sexual liberties like men. People are brought up believing that all around the world in one way or another actually.

Though in the conservative Pakistani society, even men are not completely free to pursue sexual relationships, with peace at least, either. Because let’s face it, men are also victims of honor killings and are at least traumatized when a partner is targeted.

This is why I consider establishing a sexual or marital relationship in the Pakistani society a great risk that could potentially take your life. You just never know where you would offend the honor of a person, and usually one person in a group is enough to initiate a riot.

It is like committing a blasphemy with which most people somehow get away easily, but not everyone is so lucky. And you could be next.

But it is only understandable why people are so outraged about the event of the greatest cosmic significance in their lives. After all, the propagation of the human race depends on it. It must be pure and noble.

It is a pity that God chose sex as the method of procreation and created the vulgarity of genitals in the human body.

Nevertheless, sex is a sin. And the penalty is death.

Of Honor and Cruelty

Protest in Karachi for Rimsha Case (Source: Sunny Gill for Christians in Pakistan)

I missed talking about a recent case of public lynching that took place in Tando Adam, Sindh, recently, as I had not outraged about it half as much as I had done with the Sialkot incident. The Tando Adam incident is important because it is more offensive in so many ways. While the brothers in Sialkot were suspected robbers, the boys killed in Tando Adam were suspected by people of having sex with a girl in an “illegitimate” way, which was apparently not forceful. The young boys were brutally beaten in public and made to bleed to death. Sounds worse than Muslim Hell to me.

So now you cannot even have sex with some random person in Pakistan without getting killed. But thankfully, most of the people get away with it without meeting such fate. These particular individuals were not so lucky unfortunately. As usual the local police was nowhere to be seen but not sure if they were as much involved along with the primary offenders as in the Sialkot case. The video clip got leaked or was released with planning this time around as well and the media further propagated it. In any case, such brutalities of the society should not go unnoticed. The following video has extremely graphic content, posting for the record.

Ghairat” which is roughly and pretty inappropriately translated to the word “honor”, has been a great domestic killer in Pakistan, though it is also a phenomenon prevalent in the rest of the sub-continent. Not long ago, the parents, the brother and the sister of a Pakistani-Belgian girl have been found guilty for murdering her “in the name of honor” and are now doing time. While some people have objected to the term “honor killing” for the righteous impression it could give and have called for changing it with something like “dishonor killing” or something (which sounds even more ridiculous), I think that keeping it this way busts the myth that something like murder could be associated with (false) honor.

Well so much for the copulation-preventing honor, but “ghairat” is a term with a much more broader meaning and it actually also applies to being empathetic and sensitive towards atrocities and injustice, believe it or not. So while our nation can be perfectly “ghairatmand” or “honorable” to kill its daughters for having their own way with their sex lives, it is perfectly “beghairat” or dishonorable for letting a little girl rot in jail for a “crime” that she does not even understand. Blasphemy.

Just after 3 days of the 65th independence day and 3 days before Eid, Rimsha Masih, a young girl of 11 or 14 years of age, and who happens to be Christian, was arrested by the Islamabad police on the charge of desecrating the Holy Koran in the G-12 sector of Islamabad, the nation’s capital. The girl has been reported to be suffering from Down’s Syndrome, a mental disorder which disables a child’s cognitive abilities. At that age and with that mental condition, I can hardly imagine if she would even be aware of the existence of Muslims or the Koran, let alone the thought of understanding any hatred fed to her by anyone, as is the impression on many people.

The child was reported to be caught by some locals with burned pieces of a children’s learning book for reading the Koran, so you cannot even be sure if the burned page had any Koranic verses on it. But let’s suppose there must be. Regardless of that, it was inhuman of some of the locals to try beating the child and to hand her over to the police and she is still rotting in their custody. Ironically, handing her over to the police is considered rather safe in this case. What’s worse, the Christians of the colony had started leaving for the fears of a Gojra like incident, in which Muslim mobs set an entire Christian colony on fire. The matter has finally come to the attention of mainstream media, after days of outrage in the Pakistani social media circles, which has actually led to somewhat shocking discoveries.

Hafiz Khaled Chishti (Source: PukhtoonistanGazette)

On Geo TV political talkshow Capital Talk, which is hosted by journalist Hamid Mir, the Imam Masjid, or roughly the pastor of the local mosque, Hafiz Khaled Chishti was interviewed. He admitted on TV that he had been urging the locals to drive the members of Christian community out of the area, “since we are an Islamic state”, and that their presence was causing a hindrance to allow them to perform their “religious obligations”. What I cannot figure out is why that Imam Masjid has not been arrested for such a sermon instead of that poor troubled little girl. I think you hardly need to say anything else about the state and government of Pakistan and the moral degeneration of its self-righteous society.

Furthermore, the most disappointing aspect of the talk show was that no one was ready to even discuss that blasphemy should be challenged as a crime or not, which is the reason why the tone of this post is so biased in favor of the child. Also it is shameful how condescending the attitude of some of the participants was towards the “minorities”. The anchor seeing the silver lining that people actually did not seek mob justice and did not set her house on fire and the Maulana on the panel bestowing the favor of letting Christians conduct their religious ceremonies and congregations. Well thank you very much. I find it utterly disgusting.

I think we have a long way to go, if there is any end in sight anyway.

The following is the talk show as available on youtube in Urdu.

This post is dedicated to all the people who claim that Islam is an all-encompassing religion which offers complete protection to non-Muslims in a society under its domain. It is also dedicated to the people who think that certain religious minorities such as Christians are not being persecuted in Pakistan and it also requires the attention of those who consider Muslims to be incapable of any such behavior.

But then again, why worry.

Rimsha is just another guinea pig to be sacrificed in Quaid-e-Azam’s laboratory of Islam.