Jahalat: There is No Honor in Murder; Criminality is not Culture

Posted on August 30, 2008
Filed Under >Adil Najam, >Owais Mughal, Culture & Heritage, Law & Justice, Women
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Adil Najam and Owais Mughal
Let us be as clear and unambiguous as we can. Those who think they can “restore” their honor by murdering others have no honor to begin with. There is no honor in murder. Ghairat cannot be gained or regained by butchering the weak. Indeed, murder is beghairati personified.

And let us never – never – let anyone confuse criminality with culture.

Yet, two members of the Pakistan Senate insist on doing exactly that. In defending (or seeming to defend) the most barbaric of so-called “honor killings” (in this case the burying alive of three young girls) Senators Israrullah Zehri and Jan Mohammad Jamali have not only shamed the Senate and all of Pakistan, they are in fact abusing and shaming the culture and traditions of all Baloch. They are conflating criminality with culture.

No, Senators, murder and criminality is NOT a part of “tribal tradition.” Clearly murder and criminality is not part of any religious tradition. It is certainly no part of Islam. There have been criminals and murders in all cultures and in all religions in all times. But criminality and murder is not part of any culture, any tradition, any religion. Even if some murderous actions have gone unpunished in the past, they do not define tradition, they define criminality. Those who confuse the criminal behavior of the murderous few with the essence of any culture (their own or someone else’s), abuse that culture and tradition itself. Not every tradition needs to be defended, and many need to be abandoned.

Let us never let anyone defend criminality and murder in the name of tradition and culture. Indeed, instead of defending criminality and murder in the name of culture and tradition, we should be defending culture and tradition from criminality and murder committed in its name.

For those few who may not know what we are talking about, here are the essentials from a news report in Dawn:

Balochistan Senator Sardar Israrullah Zehri stunned the upper house on Friday when he defended the recent incident of burying alive three teenage girls and two women in his province, saying it was part of ‘our tribal custom.’ Senator Bibi Yasmin Shah of the PML-Q raised the issue citing a newspaper report that the girls, three of them aged between 16 and 18 years, had been buried alive a month ago for wishing to marry of their own will.

The barbaric incident took place in a remote village of Jafarabad district and a PPP minister and some other influential people were reported to have been involved. The report accused the provincial government of trying to hush up the issue. Ms Shah said that the hapless girls and the women were first shot in the name of honour and then buried while they were alive. She also said that no criminal had been arrested so far.

Acting Chairman of Senate Jan Mohammad Jamali, who was presiding over the session, said: “Yasmin Shah should go to our society and see for herself what the situation is like there and then come back to raise such questions in the house.” Maulana Ghafoor Haideri of the JUI-F said there was no tradition of burying women alive in Baloch society because it was against Islam’s teachings. Jamal Leghari of PML-Q emphatically stated that there was no custom of burying people alive, adding that the Baloch people did not believe in it.

Senator Jan Jamali commented: “This is a provincial matter and it is being investigated at the provincial level and let us wait for the report of the investigation.” Leader of the Opposition Kamil Ali Agha accused the Balochistan government of ignoring the incident and said no jirga could order the burying of women alive and no law allowed anyone to commit such a crime and go unpunished. He urged the government to punish the people involved in it. Leader of the House Mian Raza Rabbani said: “We condemn the heinous act and assure the house that a complete report on the incident would be submitted on Monday.”

One can be shocked and angry and aghast at what one has been hearing. But one cannot remain quiet. To merely speak out may not help in itself, but to remain silent is to condone that which is horrible and inhuman with our silence. Even if speaking out does nothing except provide us with catharsis, silence emboldens the criminals and murderers who commit their heinous barbarism in the name of culture; and in doing so kill not only the innocent and the weak but the very culture and traditions that they speak of.

So, speak we must. But as we speak, let us also remain focused on what it is that shocks us and makes us angry and aghast. Yes, it is the words of these Senators – people who should know better – that cannot be reconciled. But, even more than that it is the act of barbarism that triggered the controversy in the first place. One does not want these two Senators to get away with what they have said, but even more than that those who have committed the henious act of burying three young girls alive must not get away with it.

One fears that the outrage has been not only triggered by but is focused on these two Senators and only on their words. Yes, indeed, what the Senators have tried to defend is indefensible and their words must be condemned in the strongest. But, and for exactly that reason, let us never forget that this story is not only about what the Senators have said, it is about the vile an venomous act of murder and criminality that triggered those words in the first place. Ultimately, even more than being about the words of two Senators this has to be about the actions of the murderers who killed and the lives of the women who are no longer alive because of those actions. It is important, but not enough, to have the Senators take their words back. It is far far more important to make sure that what happened to these three young girls must never happen to anyone, anywhere, ever again.

It was jahalat that killed them. But let neither the words of these two Senators nor the silence of the rest of us condone that jahalat.

79 responses to “Jahalat: There is No Honor in Murder; Criminality is not Culture”

  1. ghazala khan says:

    Dear Friends
    http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/wecareforpakist an/
    I have initiated a petition to protest the appointment of two Federal Ministers in Pakistan.Please visit the link above and read and sign the petition, it explains everything.If you want to read more about these events,you can use the links below to visit the various newspaper links and editorials that talk about it.Please forward it to all the people that you think care about this.


    http://www.thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=1450 07

    http://pakistaniat.com/2008/11/07/jahil-bijarani-z ehri-vani-honor-killing/

    http://pkpolitics.com/2008/11/06/capital-talk-6-no vember-2008/

  2. Younas says:

    What a sorry state of affairs this is.

    But I am glad the govt has acted and some of these people are now behind bars.

  3. Aisha says:

    Jahanzeb EFfendi:

    Surely you are jesting when you said, “Democracy has and will bring such INHUMAN CREATURES as our rulers!”

    If you believe this then you obviously have no understanding of the true meaning of democracy.

    Democracy supports that all people are created equally. Hence, corrupt and immoral rulers need to be held accountable for their actions/views/morals and removed from office asap or never “elected” by the people in the first place! Freedom of the press is also necessary and so is the protection of journalists who uncover or expose corruption and bad behavior of leaders or those running for office.

    Without the Press, the World would be blind and dumb…and currently journalists as well as women are being restricted & controlled in Pakistan!

  4. Aisha says:

    This article is alarming and frightening. We hear of these honor killings taking place so frequently in Pakistan. Why? Surely “everyone” knows that honor killings are now illegal in Pakistan. But, who in any village dare to speak up against any man or family that kills one of their women in attempt to maintain family honor by showing their superiority and control over a woman. Ah…if she marries someone of her choosing…she cannot be used as a family bargaining chip in attempt to gain local status, wealth, allegiances…etc.

    I have been married for over 12 years to a non-violent decent Pakistani Muslim man. Just imagine my surprise the other day when we were discussing that people should have the right to choose their own spouse and he spouted out that if his sister ever married someone that his family did not agree with or approve of that he would shoot her. How nonchalant the words came from his mouth…as if he felt he had every right to end another persons life in order to maintain “Family Honor?” Why is what the man wants accepted as being so much more important than what a woman wants for her own life? It appears to me that Jahalat mentality is not so uncommon…when it comes to controlling women with an iron fist.

    Just think, if MACHO MALE mentality changed and women were actually permitted to make their own choices…that would mean that men would have to start treating women better or else they mind find themselves without anyone wanting to marry them or find themselves divorced which we see happening more and more.

    Ah yes, control the women so that they have to be obediant because she has no alternatives to escape the choices they make for her except through death. Local residents, elders, the police, and the laws in Pakistan support oppression of women. Where are the social programs to help women who find themselves having to be financially independent either out of choice or circumstance? Shame, Shame Pakistan…the lack of such services is just another attempt at keeping women in line and is like turning a blind eye to the neglect & abuse that many women are subjected too!

    These young ladies who died represent so much to the women of Pakistan and in other places in the world where women are completely dominated by the men with little or no punishment. Indeed, they have died as Martyrs for human rights and women’s rights. Hopefully, their wrongful deaths will not be in vain and will be the catapult for much needed changes in Pakistan.

  5. Ali says:




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