Webpage Editor: Ingrid H. Shafer, Ph.D.
e-mail address: email@example.com
Posted 10 April 1999
Last revised 29 May 2000
Web-edition copyright © 1999-2000 Ingrid H. Shafer
FOR THE RIGHTS OF FEMALE VICTIMS
OF VIOLENCE IN PAKISTAN
II. PREAMBLE TO THE VISION/MISSION STATEMENT
The veil of secrecy and shame which has been draped over the issue of domestic violence for centuries is gradually being lifted. Ever-increasing amounts of statistical data pertaining to domestic violence - the major targets of which are women and children - makes it indisputable that such violence is a global phenomenon of large proportions which is not confined to any one region, country, community or culture in the world.
In the West where Islam and Muslims are often stereotyped in negative terms and associated with violence, one of the commonest ways of "Islam-and-Muslim-bashing" is to point to ways in which girls and women are discriminated against in Muslim societies and cultures. It is understandable that Muslims, especially those living in the West, feeling that they are continually under assault, react defensively to anything which appears to reinforce the negative stereotype or the association of Islam and Muslims with violence.
Certainly there is nothing at all in normative Islam embodied in the teachings of the Qur'an and the Prophet of Islam - the two highest sources of the Islamic tradition - which authorizes or legitimizes the use of violence particularly toward disadvantaged human beings. On the contrary, the Qur'an and the Prophet of Islam were extremely mindful of the fact that at the time of the advent of Islam in a society in which female infanticide was practiced, girls and women were victims of serious discrimination and degradation. So central was gender-equality and gender-justice to the worldview of normative Islam that it gave girls and women not only the right to live and other fundamental rights given to all human beings, but also many special rights which - taking account of their weakness and vulnerability in pre-Islamic Arabian society - were intended to safeguard them from any kind of abuse, oppression or injustice.
Unfortunately, due to a number of reasons especially the fact that the major religious traditions of the world developed in male-centred and male-controlled or patriarchal cultures, in Muslim countries and communities - as in other religious and non-religious countries and communities - there is a big gap between professed ideals and actual practices when it comes to the rights of girls and women. This is why in recent times, through world conferences on human rights and women's rights, and numerous documents of the United Nations and other world organizations, so much emphasis has been placed on identifying and eliminating various forms of discrimination against girls and women. There can be no doubt that acts of violence such as are represented by so-called "honour killings" constitute a very serious form of discrimination toward girls and women and that such acts which violate the sanctity of human life - the most fundamental of all human rights - cannot be condoned in the name of any culture or religion.
The so-called "honour-killings" of girls and women by their male relatives constitute a crime which - by no means - is confined to Pakistan or even to Muslim countries and communities. It has its roots in ancient tribal customs which became incorporated in many cultures. Nevertheless, it is profoundly regrettable that such a crime should be so widely prevalent in Pakistan, a country whose very name - "Land of the Pure" - denotes the idealism of the Muslims of India who engaged in a long and arduous struggle to establish a "homeland" in which the lofty principles of Islam could become actualized and institutionalized.
Many Pakistanis have reacted negatively to the documentary "A Matter of Honour" and called it "biased," "anti-Pakistan" and "anti-Islam". What is important to remember in this context is that regardless of the intentions of those who made or broadcast this film, the fact remains that the female victims of violence shown in this film are real human beings who are speaking in their own voices and whose intense pain and agony we see with our own eyes. By denying, ignoring or obscuring the occurrence of horrible crimes ranging from having acid thrown on one's face to being set on fire to being physically mutilated to being murdered - which are documented not only in "A Matter of Honour" but in the findings of many highly-credentialed researchers - one is neither taking the high moral ground nor advancing the best interests of Pakistan.
A number of people who have come forward to create the INRFFVP are of Pakistani origin or friends of Pakistan who love Pakistan and would never engage in "Pakistan-bashing" to please an anti-Pakistan or anti-Muslim faction or agency. The sentiments of the young Pakistanis who have volunteered to be a part of the INRFVVP are well-expressed by the young woman who said, " I have joined this network because I want Pakistan to be what it was meant to be. Iqbal, the great poet who is considered to be the spiritual founder of Pakistan had dreamt of a land where people could actually exercise the rights given to them by God. Pakistan was created in the name of Islam and to me the essence of Islam is compassion, justice and peace. Even though I live in the West, Pakistan is part of my heritage and I want to reclaim it. The only way I can reclaim it is by joining other like-minded persons who want to work towards eliminating the wrongs and violence being done to women and girl-children in Pakistan"
She deserves a chance!
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