By Shumaila Ahmad
On September 3rd, the father, uncle, and ex-husband of twenty-eight year old Samia Shahid appeared in court facing charges for her murder. Shahid’s husband, Mukhtar Kazim believes that his wife’s family and ex-husband participated in her “honor killing” because they did not approve of her divorce to her first husband and her subsequent marriage. Several news outlets have reported that Samia, who is a British citizen of Pakistani descent, visited Pakistan because she was informed that her father was ill. She was murdered during her trip. This heartbreaking news conjures the memory of Pakistani social media celebrity Qandeel Baloch’s execution at the hands of her brother just two months ago.
The compliant attitude that accepts honor killings as an unfortunate yet inescapable part of Pakistani society is the same attitude that provides these individuals and families with confidence and the delusion of “honor” in their actions. If a woman does not adhere to the boundaries set by her household, ending her life becomes not just an option but a necessity in their eyes. The leniency of the law and loopholes such as “blood money laws” which enable families to forgive the killer and relieve them of harsh penalties (as well as enable families to conspire together to perform an honor killing and save each other from punishment) are not the only ones to blame. Many people on social media, both men and women, expressed approval of the murder of Qandeel. They cited that she “deserved” her fate in response to her provocative attire and actions. Similarly, Samia’s family has found sympathizers who allude to her second marriage to a man who does not belong in her extended family or the same denomination within Islam.
It is deeply ironic that the key players and instigators in honor killings often invoke Islam as the right-giver for their barbaric actions. Islam brought women’s rights to the forefront of a highly patriarchal and misogynistic society. The Qur’an dictates men and women as spiritual equals and requires Muslims to respect women as individuals as well as elevating their status as that of a mother, wife, and daughter. While the Prophet Muhammad proclaimed that “whoever is thrown into trial on account of their daughters, they (the daughters) are a screen for him from the fire of hell,” these individuals take matters into their own hands to protect themselves from trials that they blame on the women in their family.
There was a time in Arabia before the advent of Islam when infant girls were buried alive for being born female. Perhaps their fate was better than that of Samia and Qandeel who were left to live at birth only to suffocate to death with the hands of their kin wrapped around their neck.