On Monday June 23rd 2014, I had a chance to watch the movie, “Honor Diaries” with the great freelance journalist and public speaker, Raheel Raza. I feel very honored that she invited me personally to SUN News Network for her movie screening. The program was hosted by Ezra Levant of SUN News Network and as the movie started, it started with one line … “Culture has no excuse for abuse.” The movie is almost an hour long and at the end, I felt like I held my breath the entire time because I was unable to feel the blood flowing in me.
I was born and raised in Pakistan—the country that always remains in a controversy. Either it’s Malala’s case or honor killing issues—Pakistan has always been in the limelight on the name of religion—my religion, Islam. I try not to involve myself in a political, or a religious debate but after watching ‘Honor Diaries’ I couldn’t stop myself writing about it.
Despite (Pakistani society) being called as stone aged or oppressive when it comes to women’s rights—I still feel I was born and raised as a princess comparing to what I saw in the movie. I grew up in a very liberal and educated family—spending my entire childhood, reading fantasy books and fairy tales, just like any other girl in Western Society does. I studied with boys and my parents had never shown any opposition against me hanging out with my male friends. They showed their trust in me that helped me be an empowered woman I am now. I had worked in Karachi’s corporate environment, got married to the guy of my choice and now living a life of happily-ever-after as we say in our books.
After watching ‘Honor Diaries’ I realized that this was not the world I was living in. Maybe my parents had kept me in their cocoon and protected me from the society’s fanaticism and the rut where the rest of the society is in right now. I’d never imagine my parents killing me if I held a loving gazing toward a man (whom I wasn’t married). I’d never even imagine that they would disown me for their honor. And here, I’m not talking about my Pakistani society. I dug up YouTube and found out that honor killing is rotting not only South East Asian society but also Middle Eastern countries. It’s not only Talibans who oppress women in the name of religion—there are Hindu, Sikh and Arab women who are being killed or abused in the name of honor.
What is honor anyway? A sense of pride the parents have on their daughter—that she will keep their family’s name and dignity intact despite being abused or harassed by the new family in which she is bound to live and suffer for the rest of her life? Or, is it the sense of satisfaction for the poor parents who enforce their young girl to get married at the age of seven so that they will no longer feed her?
There were numerous issues raised in ‘Honor Diaries’—a woman being stoned to death on the act of immorality; a girl being pushed to an enforced marriage at a young age (before her puberty); a girl setting herself on fire after being so much abused by her husband that she thought it was better to kill herself than killing her parent’s honor by going back to them; a girl being killed by her own father only because she looked toward a guy; a woman being accused by several men only because she raised a voice on her right of driving a car; and the worse being female genital mutilation where a girl’s clitoris is cut and vagina is stitched so that she would never think of any sexual pleasure from any man, not even from her husband—seriously, in what age are we living in? It is worse than the stone age because in that era, we could think and contend that since there wasn’t much knowledge in the society and people were not educated—one can think that a human could be very close to living like an animal. But now, when Science has progressed so much, where humans are capable of transferring a piece of information within seconds (through Internet), it’s hard to believe that there are some societies who are living in poverty, illiteracy and ignorance. A man would kill in the name of religion (blasphemy) though he wouldn’t know anything about his own religion just because he was raised in that society and had always seen that tradition being followed. I believe NO religion promotes killing in any form—there’s NO excuse for abusing and killing an innocent. “… If anyone slew a person unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land it would be as if he slew the whole humanity: and if anyone saved a life it would be as if he saved the life of the whole humanity.” (Al-Qur’an 5:32)
Across the globe people have the misconception that sexual abuse, honor killing and extremism are only elements of Islam. Islam forbids any such acts that encourage these crimes—yet it is very sad that due to some people in the Muslim world, the entire religion is being blamed. It is ‘people’ who should be blamed and not the religion—it is the ‘culture’ that should be blamed and not the religion. All religions promote peace so that we all live in harmony and tolerance. I’m a proud Muslim myself and I don’t complain that my religion suppresses me for anything. I have a right to live, right to breathe, right to marry, right to write—and I know if I were born in some African tribe, this had not been possible, regardless if I were born as a Muslim or a Christian. And it doesn’t make us believe that it only happens in Muslim world. No—it happens in Western world as well. You can’t be oblivious and close your eyes saying that Western world is more cultured and civilized—a woman suffers domestic violence here as well, a teenage girl gets pregnant by consensual sex and we blame Eastern culture for enforced marriage. Wouldn’t you call it double standard? It was okay for an early Chinese emperor to have fifty wives and three hundred children but it’s NOT okay for Prophet Muhammad having multiple wives (mostly were widowed). It’s okay to get laid in high school by your will (and get pregnant) but it’s NOT okay when a fourteen-year-old girl is pushed to marriage. Why? In any case, a young girl’s body would react in the same way. Yes, I agree, getting married under the age of ten is completely inhuman and ridiculous but it has nothing to do with the religion—that’s the cultural problem. This happens in Africa, India, Nepal, and not only in Muslim countries. And who is overpowering this entire act? Their culture or their religion? Most of these countries are not even Islamic states.
After watching ‘Honor Diaries’, I truly believe that despite being born and raised in the same society, following the same religion, I had totally different culture. Girls are treated as princesses in my family because that’s what the teachings of Prophet Muhammad are. He treated his four daughters as his princesses, and always told his followers that a daughter is a door to heaven. If you give her your love, provide her education and be a good parent, she will be the door to Heaven. I don’t know what religion in Eastern society is being followed—treating girls as animals. This is not my religion—this is not Islam. At the early times in Arab, newborn girls were destined to bury alive and Prophet Muhammad strictly forbade all these cruel acts. There are still some tribes in India who drown a newborn girl praying she’d come back as a boy next time. What religion are we following now? A girl has a right to marry by her choice—that’s the choice Islam gives and in Eastern society a girl is pushed to marry a man she doesn’t want to live with. I think its equivalent to the rape, and none other, than her parents, conduct this rape.
My daughter visited Pakistan last October when she was seven and still after eight months, she claims it’s still the best place she had ever visited. She keeps telling me that she wishes to be a born Pakistani than being a born Canadian—that’s because she saw the best of that place where people like me are born and raised in a fantasyland. If this is the ‘real’ world that ‘Honor Diaries’ has shown then I’m better living in my fantasy world. Call me insensitive, heartless or uncaring but this is the NOT the world I’d want my daughters to be raised. I’d try my best to give them the same cocoon full of fairy tales in which I was raised and loved because I know no matter how hard I try, I cannot change the world it is now. It is deshaped in its ugliest form, full of senseless and cruel people. I’d never want my daughters to see and meet those people and I could only wish that this wouldn’t happen because I know they will grow up someday and find their own ways. I wish they both find the right men of their choices and live in the same fantasyland in which I’m living in. I believe any religion in any true form is not being followed at all. We all have disparate views of our own cultures, traditions and beliefs. Within a religion, we think, act and follow differently.
But that doesn’t mean it is allowed for Western culture to blame Islam is any form. I don’t think it is allowed in Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism or Sikhism to have sex before marriage then why it is so that only Islam is being blamed for imprisoning women’s rights and not other religions? Hindu girls get married under the age of ten then why only Islam has to be blamed? Christian nuns covered their heads then why only hijab is accused in Islam? Aren’t these accusations bigoted? I’ve no right to taunt or accuse any other culture or tradition when I know my own culture is burrowed in filth. Likewise, I don’t think any non-Muslim has the right to blame Islam for any cultural or traditional oppression as immoral acts are penetrated in his/her own society too. So I request everyone not to accuse any religion when you don’t have knowledge about it.
It tears my heart apart, just by thinking about it that there are still some girls on the other side of the world who are abused, molested and harassed on the daily basis. What the women in ‘Honor Diaries’ are doing—helping other women, raising their voices against cultural abuse and their sufferings—they all truly deserve a standing ovation. I wish them all the best and would love to help them in any form in creating awareness in our society.
Some people may not like my opinion but that doesn’t stop me to write. All I would like to say is that honor killing, sexual abuse, child marriage, female genital mutilation are NOT part of any religion—it’s the cultural disease that has infected our literate and illiterate society—and I totally hold the responsibility to the country’s government for all these inhuman acts. This is the plead to all the rulers of the countries in which this is all happening—please open your eyes and see what is happening in your country. Don’t just rely on United Nations to come to your country and provide aid to those people.
In our entire life, we try and act to be good Muslims, Christians, Jews or Hindus in order to please God—in order to have a key to Heaven and prevent ourselves from Hell. Yet, we forget that He asks us to be good humans first. We don’t need to die and wait for our souls to burn in Hell. Hell is not far away—just open your eyes, read the World’s news everyday and watch movies like ‘Honor Diaries’—Hell is just a blink away.