Meanwhile in Pakistan, a love-match brings death by stoning

May 27, 2014 • 12:48 pm

And so we have yet another “honour killing”. It was by stoning, it was  a woman (Farzana Parveen) who was killed for the horrible crime of marrying for love, she was pregnant at her death, and she was stoned in front of the High Court Building of Lahore. Oh, and apparently nothing was done to the husband/father. It’s always the women who get punished. A man who marries for love apparently doesn’t besmirch his family’s honour.

The Guardian reports:

Nearly 20 members of the woman’s family, including her father and brothers, attacked her and her husband with batons and bricks in broad daylight before a crowd of onlookers in front of the high court of Lahore, police investigator Rana Mujahid said.

. . . Another police officer, Naseem Butt, identified the slain woman as Farzana Parveen, 25, and said she had married Mohammad Iqbal against her family’s wishes after being engaged to him for years.

Her father, Mohammad Azeem, had filed an abduction case against Iqbal, which the couple was contesting, her lawyer Mustafa Kharal said. He confirmed that she was three months’ pregnant.

The brutal attack apparently followed the court proceedings described above:

Parveen’s relatives had waited outside the court, which is located on a main downtown thoroughfare. As the couple walked up to the main gate, the family members fired shots in the air and tried to snatch her from Iqbal, her lawyer said.

When she resisted, her father, brothers and other relatives started beating her, eventually pelting her with bricks from a nearby construction site, Iqbal said.

The police have taken the father into custody and are trying to round up the other killers, but the lack of remorse, though expected, is chilling:

Parveen’s father surrendered after the incident and called the murder an “honour killing,” Butt said.

“I killed my daughter as she had insulted all of our family by marrying a man without our consent, and I have no regret over it,” Mujahid, the police investigator, quoted the father as saying.

“Insulted all of our family”?  What “honour” has been redeemed by this murder? Is the family more “honourable” than it was before they stoned a 25-year-old to death? Truly, this is a mentality and a world I cannot understand. I’ve seen stonings on video, and they’re horrible—not a way I’d choose to die. To kill someone like that—to kill someone you know and once loved like that—because they themselves married for love, shows how far religion can warp human morality. Those who threw the brickbats, after all, thought that morality demanded that behavior.

It not just Islam, of course, though Catholics and Orthodox Jews have less lethal ways of controlling women’s behavior and reproduction.  I’m not expert enough to suss out the role of Islam per se in honour killings, though I know that it’s far more common in Muslim cultures than in others. But I know that “culture”, “politics” and “religion” are much more intertwined in Islam than in other faiths. All I can say is that a 25-year-old and her fetus are dead, that a pack of rabid thugs killed them, and that religion almost certainly had something to do with it. Oh, and that this won’t stop until Islam stops treating women as wombs on the hoof, as temptresses, and as vessels of “honour”, but accords them the respect and support for their aspirations that is the decent thing to do in an enlightened world.

Mohammad Iqbal
Mohammad Iqbal, right, in an ambulance next to the body of his pregnant wife who was stoned to death by her own family in Lahore. Photograph: KM Chaudary/AP


81 thoughts on “Meanwhile in Pakistan, a love-match brings death by stoning

  1. And keep in mind that the killers probably won’t face prosecution anyway. See, under Pakistani law, the victim’s family can forgive the killer. Which makes it really convenient if you want to kill a family member, because someone else in the family can forgive you, and you’re done.

  2. The most common figure I’ve seen for proportion of honor killings by Muslims is 90%, but hard to know how accurate that is since reporting is so spotty. In the West, we’re leery of labeling honor killings for fear of causing cultural/religious offense, so we label them most often as domestic violence. They’re certainly that, but in a particularly horrific category of their own.

    1. 90% of people are killed in honour killings? Or 90% of Muslims (that would be … 950million or so) have performed an honour killing?
      I can make a guess at what you mean, but I don’t think that you actually are saying what you mean.

      1. Oh, I thought it was very clear, that 90% of honour killings are committed by Muslims. No?

        (I don’t know if that’s true; but I think that’s what was meant.)


  3. Appalling beyond words. Why can’t the western world cut off all relations with countries that still countenance such barbarity?

    1. I guess the argument is that they will stop countenancing it faster if we engage rather than disengage.

      I am not sure whether there is concrete evidence either way (i.e. favoring engagement, or favoring disengagement). Though I tend to side more with the engagement=good crowd. This is just a personal impression, but it seems like every time some authoritarian tries to set up some utterly inhumane regime, one of the first things they do is try and cut down or warp the information coming in from the outside world. If the bad guys see contact with western culture as undermining the parts of their culture *they* like (and I abhor), then I am inclined to agree with them that contact probably undermines those things.

      1. “I guess the argument is that they will stop countenancing it faster if we engage rather than disengage.”

        Starting when?

        When we engage with reprehensible regimes or cultures we seem more likely to start overlooking all sorts of inconvenient behaviors rather than make a difference.

    2. So here’s a very real potential dilemma I have with this, admittedly on a micro scale. A month or so ago I was asked to be the outside reviewer on a PhD thesis from Pakistan. I did this once before – the advisor and the student were both female in that case, and I believe the same is true of this one.

      The way it works is that if you agree, you’re put on a list of ten willing to do this, and one (or maybe two) are selected. I’m not convinced of the last part, and in this case I haven’t been contacted yet (which is why it’s just a potential dilemma at the moment), but it may well happen that the thesis just lands in my mailbox.

      So if it does, and assuming nothing is done to the murderers, do I refuse to review it, or do I go ahead as a way of contributing to elevating the status of women over there?

      1. Wait, what’s the logic behind refusing to review the thesis of people from Pakistan? This attitude is specially condescendig if they are women, after all surely women in Pakistan don’t need wealthy priviledged westerners to educate them on the violation of their right and they should not be punished for the existence of grave injustices.

        1. It’s a micro version of and reply to the question @ 3. You want to do something, but there’s nothing you can effectively do.

          But BTW, that would be a whole lot less condescending than stoning a woman to death, not to mention the fact that the system there doesn’t seem to recognize women’s rights not to be stoned to death in the first place.

      2. Before you punish individuals for the collective actions of their countrymen (and countrywomen), ask yourself whether you would think it fair and reasonable if someone did the same to you.

        In fact, aren’t you just using the same logic OBL used to justify 9/11, but on a smaller scale? Western economic policies and support for Israel hurts us, therefore we are justified in collective punishment of western civilians.

        If its not obvious, I’ll just out and say it: I think you should not refuse, unless you have some evidence that leads you to believe these specific individuals condone the stoning (and similar policies).

      3. It seems obvious to me that you should not think twice about serving as a reviewer. I meant only to refer to diplomatic/economic/governmental relations.

    3. Why can’t the western world cut off all relations with countries that still countenance such barbarity?
      A very simple answer:Because much of our lifestyle (cars, food, vacation travel) is predicated on consuming their oil. Europe is in the same position with respect to Russian gas.

      1. Yes, I expected that answer. But their economies are also dependent on selling their oil to us. If all first world countries acted in unison,* the stoning-age cultures would find themselves in desperate straits, particularly the rulers.

        *Like that would ever happen!

        The current system of engaging economically while giving lip service to or tacitly ignoring human rights violations accomplishes nothing.

  4. Related (but more religious violence than misogynistic), a doctor in Pakistan was just gunned down in front of his wife and 2-year-old, most likely for the “crime” of belonging to the Ahmadi sect of Islam. He was over there doing volunteer work, having brought over medicines and equipment he collected charitably in the US. For a clinic that served all Pakistanis, regardless of sect.

      1. No, being Ahmadi is quite enough. They are constantly subject to attack as “heretics”. They apparently oppose violent jihad and support education for women.

        1. Nevertheless, the CIA has been suspected of, and admitted, running vaccination programs as a cover for surveillance.

          This has led to reprisals and murder, and not only in the volatile northern tribal regions.

  5. The point is, even if some Islamic scholars claim that honour killings are not a tenet of their faith, wasn’t Islam meant to make people morally better than unbelievers (i.e. anyone non-islamic)?
    If so, why are honour killings still rife in countries where Islam has been the main or even state religion for centuries?

    1. But didn’t this particular killer think he was morally justified? It’s a remorseless, coldhearted moral certitude that seems to be the badge of this brand of killing.

      1. Yes, that’s what I mean: assuming the killers where muslims, they thought they were morally justified despite the fact that their religion is supposed to tell them otherwise. So their religion obviously failed to make them morally better people. Which defies what their apologists try to tell us.

        1. Well, they ARE morally better by their own lights, and that’s all that really matters to them.

        2. I think you missed Mal’s point. His point is that they think their religion is making them better people because it helps them perform honor killings while us immoral, corrupt, kaffir westerners do not.

  6. It seems to me it is less of an Islamic problem than it is a problem with extremely patriarchal societies.

    There have been a couple of high profile “honour” killings in our local Indo-Canadian community, which is not Islamic but highly patriarchal.

    Among some fundamentalist Christians you can see the attitude that once a woman has lost her virginity she is spoiled, and if unmarried, an embarassment to her family. It isn’t an impassable step from there to “honour” killings.

    1. I think it’s quite a step from embarrasment to stoning to death a family member over the alleged embarrasment. Not a step any rational person would consider under any circumstances.

    2. It seems to me it is less of an Islamic problem than it is a problem with extremely patriarchal societies.

      That is true but it is also true that the mainstream Islam is an extremely patriachal religion. Even many of the “moderate” muslims live very patriarchal lifestyles. In many muslims countries girls are taught different topics than boys and the mainstream Islam has many other deeply sexist pratices. For example, the testimony of women counts as half of that of men, women inherit half compared to men, restitution for women is again half of what it is for men, women are routinely considered unfit for many positions such as judges and Islam conveniently spreads the sexist stereotypes about women. For example women cannot be judges because they are too “emotional” and less “logical”. In general, the mainstream Islam does not consider men and women equal but “complementary” which is a different way of saying that it believes women are best fit to stay at home and cook and breed.

      So yes, it is true that this is a problem with extremely patriarchal societies but not only Islam does not help with this problem, often times it actively contributes to it.

      1. That is true but it is also true that the mainstream Islam is an extremely patriachal religion.

        I’m sure that Iphigenia would like to express her pleasure at not being in a Muslim society. Such patriarchal dominance is not to be countenanced.

        There’s the making of a good play or three in there. Someone should try it some convenient millennium.

    3. I wonder how common “honor” murders are among the ~4% of Pakistan that are not Muslim. If it is mostly due to non-religious patriarchy then the rates should be similar between the non-Muslim and Muslim populations.

    1. Lots of things can drive people to kill their kin: jealousy to name just one.

      However, it takes a certain twisted logic to convince someone that murder is in fact a good and moral thing. That is where religion and “culture” come in.

    2. Just a second – I know this one!
      [forces head into a shell of thinking like a religioista. A hammer is in use.]
      Which is more immoral – your kin being killed by someone who knows them and loves them and only has their welfare at heart, or having them killed by someone who doesn’t care about them?
      Ohhh, I feel the pressure of the mould of religiososta thinking building. Step ba…

  7. As you said, it’s difficult to suss out the role of Islam per se in honour killings, and I think it’s probably a bit hasty to blame this solely on Islam. As someone who grew up Muslim in a Muslim majority southeast Asian country, the concept of honour killing is utterly incomprehensible to me, and I daresay, to many of my compatriots. I think commenter Dean may be on to something.

    1. I agree, fazufazu, based solely on a conversation I had recently with a good friend who happens to be a Pakistani immigrant and devout Muslim. I was utterly shocked to hear her steadfast claim that Islam is a peaceful religion, that the rampant violence toward women in her former home country is due more to culture than religion. Her own experience growing up in Pakistan was never one of fear or violence from within her family or her community. I certainly could not argue the point with her, although I did fail to ask her about Sharia Law. I don’t know if it’s practiced in Pakistan or not. I know that she, her husband, and her children are exemplary human beings despite their adherence to faith, so it confuses me a bit to learn that perhaps Islam has less a role than I, at least, thought it had in the brutal and senseless violence toward women in parts of southern Asia. I have not read the Koran but hope to someday. Until that point in time I rely upon those who have read it, both those from within our culture in the west as well as those from within the cultures that practice the so-called peaceful religion of Islam. I suspect the families and communities in Pakistan such as those of my friend happen to be moral people as such who pick and choose the parts of the Koran they need to validate their world views. I know of similar people here who do that with the Bible, mistaking it for the source instead of as rationalization. At least they choose to use passages that lean toward morality as opposed to those people that use all passages as an excuse for immoral behavior passing off as religious morality. Ahhh! It’s hard to articulate. I hope my intentions here are understood. I certainly don’t condone religion in any way, shape, or form and would prefer people like my friends from Pakistan and my friends and family from here in the U.S. renounce religion altogether, standing on their own morality (which they do anyway) instead of using the crutch of dead tomes.

      1. If it’s such a peaceful religion, you might want to discuss with your friend how she feels about the fact that the penalty for apostasy is death. Seems pretty harsh to me.

        1. Apostasy is an attempt to kill Goddah or Yahlah or whatever the call Thor’s dad in that religion. Which is of course the most unimaginably bad crime out and so deserves the most extreme of punishments.
          There are probably good muslims standing in the bloody mud around the stoning victims thinking “should have used smaller stones. And sharper. And salt.”

        2. Pierre, yes, I wish I had thought to ask her about apostasy. Hopefully I will get the chance to engage her in this manner again soon, at which point I will ask her that very thing. I am unaware of where apostasy comes into play from within the religion of Islam. Is it in the Koran directly, or is its source a hadith?

    2. the concept of honour killing is utterly incomprehensible to me, and I daresay, to many of my compatriots

      To many of your compatriots? That’s not quite as comforting as you might believe.

      1. Maybe my understated way of writing conveys the wrong message. I tend to be cautious about making absolute statements about an entire group consisting of millions of people but if it helps, I’d rephrase by saying that the concept of honour killing is utterly incomprehensible to me and my compatriots.

          1. At the risk of their lives?
            Do you make any noise about [insert aspect of your country’s life that you find horrible but many people support]?
            To quote (allegedly) Khrushchev, lambasting the Central Committee for not opposing Stalin : “Who said that? Who said that? [silence all round] That is why I didn’t oppose Stalin.

              1. Good for you if you have. And so that gives you the right to encourage other people to put their lives and those of their families at hazard?
                I’m relatively sanguine about encountering further grief for my (so-called) apostasy when travelling into and through Muslim countries for work. But would I put my wife’s life at risk? … Well that’s a question that’s unlikely to arise unless Egypt gets significantly more attractive as a holiday destination in the near future.

              2. You asked if I make noise and I said I do. I didn’t say anything abut encouraging anyone. To each his own, and my way is not passivity. I don’t see how change can be accomplished otherwise.

          2. I’m not sure what you are driving at. But I suppose some of us do express our horror at the idea of honour killing, though for most us, the day-to-day challenges of surviving in a world of rising inequality, reduced prosperity, increased globalization that undercuts traditional areas of comparative advantages and competitiveness, mildly repressive governments, climate change…are probably more pressing than acts of violence – no matter how horrendous – committed by strangers living thousands of miles away.

            1. True – the challenges of daily living are more pressing…unless these acts of violence are happening to us.

  8. Every time I see articles like this I feel sick to my stomach. Literally millions of women live in fear of an attack like this if they dare to step outside the bounds of what the men in their families and communities expect of them. Billions more women are controlled in some way by societal expectations. Most of these expectations stem from religion and the way it teaches that women are something to be feared and therefore must be controlled. Hate comes from that fear and leads to violence, of which this is an extreme example, but has the same ignorant roots as even fairly benign things like taking your husband’s name after marriage. (Which, incidentally I don’t object to if that’s your choice and not because of expectations.) As usual, education is the answer.

    1. I suggest that where the society is patriarchal the religion is often moulded to convenience. Christianity was the religion of the autocratic, patriarchal Roman Empire and retains vestiges of the same. It is only recently facing up, if at all, to issues of gender repression and tolerance/imposition of stereotyped roles. If Christianity seems better, it is because it has changed as Western society has changed.
      I would comment on contemporary issues such as the gun-toting Christians in the USA, the shameful situation in Northern Ireland (which I can say is not improving that much in spite of the Peace Agreement, having lived there until last year), a religious nut running amock in Norway, the unresolved scandals in the Catholic church.
      Then there are the historical issues: 2000 years of repression of women and gays using religious constraints. Antsemitism. the Spanish Inquisition, the Crusades and the perennial bickering about which version of Christianity is the “right” one.
      Islam in the West would be much the same.
      Religion is bendy.

  9. What I find particularly telling is that they didn’t kill the fiancee- it highlights the “males couldn’t possibly be wrong” attitude of this medieval belief system. In their thinking, it was SHE who “violated” the family’s honor, not him; since she was willing to do that, she was probably a “temptress”, as well, who bent this innocent man to her evil, dishonorable will, so he wasn’t as “guilty” and deserving of death. This, “women are to be feared, distrusted, and kept under control” meme harkens back centuries to extremely primitive attitudes of jealous awe by men of women’s ability to produce life; their mysterious monthly “emissions” (when a man bleeds, it’s just blood- when a woman bleeds from her “down there”, it’s “unclean”), as well as a resentment of the power that women have to arouse men’s libidos to be at odds with rational thought. The only thing that can possibly change this situation is education, education, and MORE education!

    1. Presumably it would be the guy’s family who would stone the guy IF he disobeyed their orders (not to marry the woman). But we don’t know whether they actually disapproved or not. Its entirely possible they approved, it was just the woman’s family who didn’t.

      So, while I think you are probably right in that a rebellious act by a male will not be punished the way a rebellious act by a female would be, we have no data on whether this was actually a rebellious act by the man or not.

  10. “Is the family more “honourable” than it was before they stoned a 25-year-old to death? ”

    No. They’re contemptible. No respect due at all.

    1. No. They’re contemptible. No respect due at all.

      Your opinion doesn’t matter to them in the least. The opinions that matter are those of their friends, family and society.

  11. Women are percieved as inferior creatures from the day they are born so I doubt this woman was ever loved.

    Of course the alternative for her would have been to be forced to marry a cousin or family friend and then to be raped by him for the rest of her life.

    Not good.

    1. One hasn’t lived until one has dealt with middle school- and high school-aged male children on a daily basis.

      Just try to appeal to their (as A. Lincoln put it) “better angels of their nature.”

      Until then, we have to cope with (as C. Hitchens put it) their “too-small pre-frontal lobes, and too-large adrenal glands.”

  12. The sad part is that women do nothing to stop things like this from happening and more often than not it is very possible the women themselves make sure these “traditions” are followed by other women.

    After all, women themselves teach many of these traditions to their children and in some cases i.e female circumcision the women themselves perform the procedure.

    So, I guess both, men and women need to change if they want to live better.

    1. Has anyone else watched *My Big fat Gypsy Wedding*? Exactly the same amongst Anglo-Irish *gypsies*: Mothers inculcating acceptance of women’s subservience in their daughters. Daughters being force to leave school illegally early to look after their younger siblings when an older sister marries. Daughters who refuse to do so and going on to get a proper education being shunned.


    2. So why, Slaj, on a planet not far away are women being berated – berated for suggesting that the openly expressed views on gender roles of a Mr Elliot Rodger of Santa Barbara CA should play no part in explaining his little murder spree?

      1. I disagree with Siaj strongly about women needing to get their own house in order, but we’re talking about Pakistan here, and I’d prefer not to drag the whole kerfuffle about Santa Barbara and the patriarchy into this thread, please.

  13. to kill someone you know and once loved like that

    I wonder. See, I also can’t believe how somebody can kill a loved one like that, and so I wonder if they ever loved their daughter or sister. Is there perhaps a possibility that men do not actually love the women of their own family if a culture is too deeply steeped in misogyny?

  14. A few years ago two of our PhD students (him Pakistani, her British) married and moved to Pakistan. Last year we heard that he had been murdered in a drive-by shooting, apparently for the crime of being associated with the west.

  15. “Nearly 20 members of the woman’s family, including her father and brothers, attacked her and her husband with batons and bricks in broad daylight before a crowd of onlookers in front of the high court of Lahore, police investigator Rana Mujahid said.”

    I amazed at the fact the crowd of onlookers who in all likelihood outnumbered the attackers, and had the power to stop them, didn’t bother to help the pregnant woman.

    Where were the mythical peaceful muslims we so often hear about????

  16. Re: the whole cultural cause vs. religious cause debate. I tried briefly to look up numbers of honor killings or domestic violence killings per capita for India (predominantly hindu) and Pakistan (muslim), to compare, but couldn’t really find anything.

    The “it’s culture” hypothesis would predict the numbers would be about the same, while the “it’s religion” hypothesis would be supported if they are different. To further tease out the relationship, one could compare both numbers to the per capita rate of honor/domestic killings amongst 2nd-gen (i.e., acculturated) muslims and hindus in some western country or city. The “its culture” hypothesis would be supported if the western numbers for both are significantly lower, while the “it’s religion” hypothesis would be supported if, even in the west, the numbers are different.

    Anyway, since I don’t have data I figured I would at least frame the problem in terms of what data might help us figure out the main factor. Maybe someone else can take this and advance the ball further by finding some relevant data.

  17. Yes this is a horrible situation. As you note, “honor killings” are most common in Muslim countries and particularly in Pakistan. However, honor killings also occur in India, particularly in cases where there is a dispute over a dowry or when a woman disobeys her family’s wishes over an arranged marriage. One difference between honor killings in India and Pakistan is that in many states the Indian government has taken strong steps to eliminate this practice. Nowadays honor killings in India occur almost exclusively in a few states. Presumably Muslim countries could eliminate this by insuring that the perpetrators were severely punished.

  18. Every time I see this religious/cultural type of violence, I think of Shirley Jackson’s short story, “The Lottery.”

    What people can do to each other out of ignorance is hard to believe.

  19. So what else is new? Many, if not most fundy cultures are crazy. I think leave ’em alone, let ’em stew in their own juices, welcome them when they sober up.

    Or, perhaps medical science will discover a cure for insanity.

      1. Perhaps mentioned elsewhere (and not to presume to advise it be a topic for posting 😉 ), but, noted in 5/28/14 NYT that an Afghan wife had had enough abuse from her husband and proceeded to set him afire. Perhaps women in Pakistan (and NYC) will note this and proceed accordingly.

  20. In a new twist, the husband admits to killing his first wife in order to remarry. And, you guessed it, the adopted religious laws were used to let him off his murder sentence:

    “A Pakistani man demanding justice after his pregnant wife was murdered outside Lahore’s high court this week admitted on Thursday to strangling his first wife, in an admission that is likely to focus even more attention on the prevalence of so-called “honour” killings in the country.

    Muhummad Iqbal, the 45-year-old husband of Farzana Parveen, who was beaten to death by 20 male relatives on Tuesday, said he strangled his first wife in order to marry Parveen.

    He avoided a prison sentence after his family used Islamic provisions of Pakistan’s legal system to forgive him, precisely those he has insisted should not be available to his wife’s killers.”

    “Police confirmed that the killing had happened six years ago and that he was released after a “compromise” with his family.”

    [ ]

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