Outside Looking In: What is Blasphemy? What is Honour?


What is honour? Pakistan has the highest number of honour killings of any nation-state in the entire world. Is this an honourable state of affairs for the State?

In Pakistan, most appear to be women; women are murdered for dishonouring the family honour more than men in Pakistan. Is this honouring women?

Gulalai Ismail fled from Pakistan because of the impacts on her from the military forces and the theocratic control mechanisms, so a dual network of control in which a women’s rights defender had to flee. Her and her sister, Saba Ismail, have been highly important to articulating the rights of women and girls. Is this an honourable set of systems for governance?

They spoke to Pashtun rights; they spoke to rights of women survivors of sexual violence by state forces. That’s religious and armed forces oppressing and threatening the lives of family and individual women for arguing for the equal status of women. Is this reflective of an honourable religious leadership and armed forces?

I see nothing honourable in trying to kill, scare, or imprison, individuals who fight for equality, justice, and fairness. Nothing is new in Pakistan in regard to this. What about actual murders? Are these honourable? In fact, are these common or uncommon?

‘Qandeel Baloch’/Fouzia Azeem was murdered by her brother, M. Waseem, via drugging and asphyxiation for bringing disrepute to the family’s honour.

Ayman Udas was shot by two of her brothers.

Tasleem Khatoon Solangi was tortured and killed.

Three teens and two middle-aged women were beaten, shot, and buried alive in Balochistan in 2008.

Farzana Iqbal, née Parveen, was shot to death.

Saba Qaiser was beaten and shot in the head, though amazingly survived.

Samia Shahid was raped and strangled to death.

A Pakistani mother has burned her daughter alive.

Rozi Khan and Zainab Khan were shot; in fact, Rozi was shot to death.

In 2018, a 19-year-old woman was murdered in Karachi, Pakistan, and claimed as a “sinful woman.”

Shafilea Iftikhar Ahmed was murdered for becoming too westernized.

Sandeela Kanwal was murdered by her father.

Ghazala Khan was shot and killed by her brother.

Rukhsana Naz was murdered by family members.

Aqsa Parvez was murdered by her father, via strangulation.

Hina Saleem was murdered by her father slitting her throat 28 times.

Sadia Sheikh was shot to death by her brother.

The Kohistan video showed, at least, three girls murdered.

Samia Sarwar was shot to death.

What is honourable in these acts? Is the goal to make women’s rights defenders, such as Gulalai Ismail and Saba Ismail, or simply women and men making free and personally informed choices, subject to threat & fear of murder by close family – including father, mother, or brother – or the State?

Blasphemy is similar to these cases in the illegitimate use of force and threat of murder against innocent people who merely use words or make free choices in expression, similarly as women and men make free choices stated as dishonouring the family or otherwise.

‘Ayaz Nizami’/Abdul Waheed has received the death penalty for blasphemy, for words, as an example.

A god, Allah, infinitely powerful, all-knowing, and all-good, cannot carry out these acts for him, requires state apparatuses, religious fundamentalists, military personnel, and public conscience incapable of handling criticism, free women, or the mere existence of atheists in their midst. “But why go public with the words?”

Fair enough, some can live freely expressing opinions and others cannot. Inherently hypocritical, but open and honest in it, “But isn’t this all in the past?” Not truly, Abdul Waheed’s case is happening now.

Taimoor Raza was sentenced to death for ‘committing blasphemy’ on Facebook within the last little while.

80 people are imprisoned for blasphemy right now: Abdul Waheed is the most notable case as a public agnostic/atheist. Half of the 80, at least, have been sentenced to death, according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

The honour killings have been happening over the past two decades or so, in and out of Pakistan for those with Pakistani heritage – probably longer. It’s the culture of family honour entrenched as a mechanism to murder dissenters, exported or kept internal to the country, which is the issue.

Even recently, Aneeqa Ateeq, she was lured into a religious discussion group on WhatsApp and made comments about ‘holy personages,’ obviously critical. She has been sentenced to death.

So, I, and countless others like me, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, ask, “What is the honour here?”

What is honourable in killing others by the State, by religious dictates, by armed forces, by family (father, mother, or brother), or otherwise?

Did not the Quran state, “Therefore We ordained for the Children of Israel that he who slays a soul unless it be (in punishment) for murder or for spreading mischief on earth shall be as if he had slain all mankind; and he who saves a life shall be as if he had given life to all mankind.”? [Surah Al-Ma’idah Ayat 32 (5:32 Quran)]

If one praises the murderers, one praises those whom The Holy Quran claims have “slain all mankind.” You make the vote when you pick the side – and apathy is picking the side of the murderer, too, in many ways, passively, because a human being’s life has been taken wrongfully.

Blasphemy or dishonour to family, murder is murder and is a dishonourable act; and, indeed, we all know this, but, sometimes, act otherwise, and will continue to do so, I presume to the deaf to the message of this article or the blind to the meaning of its intent: Universalism for all humanity.

Photo by Hamid Roshaan on Unsplash

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