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‘Honour Killing’ In Pakistan As Girl Is Set On Fire For Turning Down A Marriage Proposal

Maria Abbasi

Maria Abbasi

And modernity, and decency, and sanity, wept.

When it comes to criticising some aspects of Islamic religion and culture, there is always the group of people who come in with protestations of why we shouldn’t demonise other people, as if it has to be a zero sum game of all or nothing when it comes to condemnation.

One can criticise the legitimately bad ideas a group of people hold without having to be characterised as bigots for hating them. Sam Harris has been battling this his entire career, because his opponents keep conflating, deliberate or otherwise, criticism of Islamic ideology with hatred of the Muslim people.

It’s not, and criticism of that sort often extends to all religions as well. There are some practices, cultural or religious or under whichever banner you feel like placing them- that immediately you hear of, you should rush to condemn unequivocally, no ifs and buts about it.

One is killing people for drawing cartoons, a case study some reasonably intelligent, supposedly ‘liberal’ people fail all the time. Another is killing a woman for supposedly ‘dishonouring’ her family, a practice rampant in some Islamic countries, Pakistan more than others.

Pakistan, relying on cultural and religious beliefs, continue to perpetuate the darkest atrocities, mostly against women and other powerless minorities.

An 18 year old girl (18 year old!) was burned to death in Pakistan by some senselessly devout men, for the simple ‘crime’ of refusing a marriage proposal.

See, in these insanely patriarchal societies, propped up by the archaic edicts of Islam, women are not more than chattel to be given off at the whims of the males in authority. Whenever a woman does something remotely resembling independence, she has to be brought back in line, brutally.

It wasn’t long ago that another girl had to suffer for having effrontery to help a friend elope. This case involves the 18 year old, a school teacher in North Eastern Pakistan.

Maria Abassi received a proposal which she turned down, from a man much older than her and reportedly a divorcee. He was the nephew of the principal of the school where she worked at.


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After refusing the proposal, a group of men came to her home, captured her; then drenched her body in petrol before setting her on fire, after beating her to within an inch of her life.

“Maria was at home baby-sitting her 5-year-old sister while her family went to a funeral in a nearby town,” said Rafaqat Abbasi, her uncle, according to CNN.

“At the funeral her family was alerted that she ‘was on fire.’ Initially the thought was there had been some sort of accident, perhaps a pipe had burst or something.”

However, it turned out to be far worse, a deliberate punishment. Her family found her with 85% of her body burnt, and carried her to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences in Islamabad. After fighting for her life for a while, she passed away on Wednesday.

“Before she died, Sadaqat gave a statement saying that the principal was among the men who tortured her, covered her in gas and burned her alive.” The New York Daily News reported.

Three people have been arrested in connection with the murder, whilst a fourth remains on the run.

The actions of these Pakistani is very symptomatic of the sort of macho mentality, which is ubiquitous in patriarchies, where men attempt to regulate whatever a woman wants to do, and attach consequences if they fail to acquiesce.

We might condemn it most when it’s physical violence such as this, but it runs far deeper than that- sometimes it takes the guise of emotional or verbal or other forms of violence. Every attempt in any society to restrict the freedom of women, under the guise of morality and religious rules or whatever, sends us down the path to this kind of society. The standards must be the same for everyone, irrespective of gender.

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