Man involved in love-match that resulted in stoning of his bride admits strangling previous wife

May 30, 2014 • 7:15 am

On Tuesday I posted the sad story of Farzana Parveen, a 25-year old pregnant Pakistani woman who, contrary to her family’s wishes, married the man she loved, Mohammad Iqbal.  For that crime, she was stoned to death by her relatives in front of the High Court building of Lahore.

This so-called “honour killing” involved the arrest of the father, and a still fruitless search for the other killers, but underscored the lack of autonomy of women that leads, in Pakistan and other countries, to marriages that are arranged—often involving much older men.

I now have the sad duty to supplement that story with some horrible news that just emerged. It turns out that, according to the Guardian, this is not a black-and-white tale of star-crossed lovers thwarted by a retrograde culture. For Iqbal himself has now admitted that he was already married when he met Parveen, and, to get her as his bride, he strangled his first wife to death:

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. “I was in love with Farzana and killed my first wife because of this love,” he told Agence France-Presse. Police confirmed that the killing had happened six years ago and that he was released after a “compromise” with his family.

I have been excoriated by some readers for even mentioning Islam in connection with the stoning, but can you still excuse that religion now? Iqbal himself is a woman-killer, but didn’t serve a day in jail because of “Islamic provisions of Pakistan’s legal system.”

The story gets even worse:

Iqbal has also claimed that Parveen’s family killed another one of their daughters some years ago. Speaking to a researcher from the Aurat Foundation, a women’s rights organisation, he claimed that Parveen’s father, Muhammad Azeem, had poisoned the other woman after falling out with her husband-in-law.

This claim has not been substantiated. Finally, as if this weren’t sickening enough, the media and some educated people in Pakistan are excusing the stoning of Parveen. (I haven’t heard calls for prosecution of Iqbal: after all, he was exculpated). As I feared, but predicted, Pakistanis haven’t been rising up en masse to protest at this mistreatment of women (according to Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission, over 900 Pakistani women were murdered in “honour killings” in 2013).

Until Thursday there had been little comment on the case domestically, with newspapers and television stations focussing on other stories. One journalist, an editor of an Urdu national paper who did not want to be named, said the country’s media reflected its audience. “Although we have some educated people, most are still living in semi-tribal societies in far-flung rural areas,” he said. “In a country where people are being killed every day by miscreants and militants it is not so important when one woman is killed by one husband.” Some members of the public in Lahore clearly share the media’s ambivalence. Muhammad Yaqub, a student at a private university in the city, said he understood the loss of honour for the family but disliked the brutal way the woman had been killed. “He did some right and some wrong,” he said.

I wonder what the “right” is!  And really, it is “not so important when one woman is killed by one husband”? What kind of brutish and callous mentality produces such stupidity? Can we consider 930 such killings “important”? Ask anyone whose friends, relatives, or loved ones have been slaughtered in this way if that one murder was “unimportant.”

Here are the data from a 2013 Pew survey of Muslims in various countries asking, among many other questions, when honour killings are permissible for males and for females (note that the data are the percentage saying that such killings are never justified).  In Pakistan, less than half of Muslim respondents said such killings were never justified. In almost every case, when there is a difference between the sexes, it’s more justifiable to kill the female than the male.
This country is our ally! If Pakistanis won’t speak out en masse against this treatment of women, and the barbaric practice itself, let President Obama issue a strongly-worded statement. He was quick to decry the murders of 6 in Santa Barbara, so let him do the same for Pakistan, where the problem is far, far worse, for honour killings are socially sanctioned.
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37 thoughts on “Man involved in love-match that resulted in stoning of his bride admits strangling previous wife

  1. While I am no fan of religion, is the primary cause of this atrocity Islam? I think the root cause is a tribal society that uses religion to justify and enforce its mores and practices. In the search for what came first, I think the obscene patriarchal society that views women as property came first and Islam is a handy way of keeping the misogynists in control.

    1. Well, OK, but to support your hypothesis you have to come up with a tribal society with no religion where the same thing happens. There were plenty of Native American tribes. Did this sort of thing go on in any of those?

      1. Depends, I suppose, on what you mean by “this sort of thing”. Massive ritual sacrifice for religious reasons happened all the time in Mesoamerica and along the west coast of South America. Up here, closer to where I live, we have interesting examples, too.

        1. “Massive ritual sacrifice for religious reasons happened all the time in Mesoamerica”

          Well, there you go.

          Besides, even if Islam is not the direct cause of this behavior, it’s certainly the main substance that has embalmed this horrors for years, and as such, it should be countered.

          I too believe that scriptures are reflections of primeval impulses and prejudices, and so are religions in general. Religions, in turn, perpetuate these ancient impulses and intuitions to the point where they can no longer be countenanced.

    2. It is a complex relationship, where culture feeds the local religion and religion shapes the local culture.

      Even so, the underlying authority of just about every religion is always going to be a strong conservative force that will oppose any change, be it for better or worse. Clearly the culture that has regular honor killings like this is shockingly morally behind the rest of the modern world. There are no doubt many obstacles preventing cultures like that from moral progress, but religion has to be one of the biggest ones.

    3. Quite a coincidence, George, that Islam mandates these kinds of punishments and in countries where Islam is central to government policy-making you find these horrors playing out.

      I know… it is culture, not religion that is at fault. (/scarcasm)

      1. A Canadian Imam and jurisprudence scholar was interviewed about this stoning on CBC radio Friday morning and does some apologetic twists regarding culture versus religion. It’s about seven minutes long but well worth the listen for an example how to be an apologist.

        Summary: Women are not property,they can’t be forced to marry, there IS stoning in the writings about Islam (I assume he means the hadiths?), but only for serious crimes – or rather, only for adultery (said matter-of- factly as if that makes it all OK – and besides it is onerous to prove adultery so it’s used as more of a threat to keep people in line as opposed to actually being carried out). More obfuscation etc. etc.

        To listen for yourself Google CBC radio – click on schedules and programs, then Friday May 30, 2014 – 5:30 Metro Morning – Beyond Horrible

    4. If Islam were a new religion, this might be a credible idea. However, with it being well over a millennium old, I think we’re well past going back to any different root cause for this behavior.

      Islam is widely believed (maybe you’re right that the controlling class believes it less, after all, you don’t see the bin Ladens of the world going out on suicide missions to obtain paradise). But, it is undoubtedly used to justify these actions on a regular basis and the fact is that most people there truly believe the religion is divinely mandated and thus these rules are acceptable.

      I don’t see the question of which came first, the misogyny or the religion, as at all relevant to current events. It’s kind of like asking whether the cause of an automobile accident is the driver who ran the red light, but then saying that it’s actually the driver who cut him off half a mile back and slowed him down, but then it’s that driver’s toddler who hid his keys and made him late, but then it’s the wife who convinced him they should have another child three years prior, and so on. It’s pointless to go back in the causal chain in this manner when the direct root cause is blatantly obvious.

    5. Religion is an aspect of culture, they are not two separate things. It is not some objective thing independent of the culture. Islam is whatever the people who label themselves as such demonstrate that it is. These people themselves disagree with you.

      If you haven’t read the Koran I invite you to do so. There are plenty of examples of misogyny and brutality in it for adherents to learn from.

      People use religion to justify their behavior because it does.

        1. One of the definitions of “culture” is: “The totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought.” That would seem to include religion, as well, so the whole culture or religion? question is kind of silly although, in their own “feedback loops”, religion does influence culture, and vice versa. If you want a “bottom line”, it is that this behavior is WRONG- if a religion that is predominate in this culture lends it approval to such behavior, then it is WRONG, as well.

    6. “I think the obscene patriarchal society that views women as property came first”

      Of course, as partriarchy predates Islam. But Islam has not only codified and condoned these practices; it has elevated them to moral obligations. When these people commit these acts, they do not see themselves as barbaric. They probably have as much capacity for love, kindness, and even empathy for the suffering of others as you have. But these capacities have been warped and twisted by the tenets of their religion. When they tie a woman to a post and throw rocks at her until she dies, they see themselves as behaving ethically and seeing to it that the will of the creator of the Universe is being fulfilled. She has committed an atrocity in their eyes, and probably elicits in them the same emotions that many people feel when they see a death row killer.

      Their extreme hatred for the woman, which dehumanizes her and cancels out any possibility of empathy, is underwritten by Islam.

    7. The history is clear on this. Arabs did not use Islam. They created it. It makes no logical sense for an atheist to see religion as something outside culture or society that is merely used as a tool. Such thinking would require that religion has its origin outside of mankind, or in other words that it is divine. And that is nothing but fatheism.

      Mohammed’s first wife was a successful business woman according to islamic sources. There used to be powerful queens and goddesses in pre-islamic Arabia. So it is likely that those who created Islam made things much worse for women.

  2. Does the same thing happen in primarily Hindu tribal areas adjacent to Pakistan? I’m honestly asking, but I seriously doubt it. That seems like the fairest test of whether Islam is a contributing factor.

    1. Honour killings (as well as significant levels of domestic and sexual violence) do occur in Hindu and Sikh populations in the subcontinent. At levels that (should) greatly exceed any modern society’s tolerance.

      1. This is just a general impression, but there have been some horrific stories of violence to women in India and Pakistan recently. The two societies obviously share a lot of history, but it’s interesting to see the difference in the level of outcry and protest in India vs Pakistan. Pakistan is a country with an Islamic majority population and, apparently, some sort of Islam-based clauses in its laws. India, while obviously not immune to its own religious fundamentalism (see the current PM), it is officially a secular state, and this may have had an influence on creating a civil society that is more likely to speak out against the horrors committed there. In India the political response has been quicker and more definite (firing and arresting the police officers who failed to investigate the missing girls). In Pakistan, the officers were exonerated because the woman had married illegally –

        So I think it’s hard to exonerate Islam on the whole in this situation, both for its justification of these most recent crimes (and honour killings in general), as well as for being inserted into the nation’s laws to allow such crimes to go unpunished.

        1. At least I. India you can speak out against said atrocities and not be labelled a an apostate to face your own torture and death. I have more hope for India.


    The “International Honor-Based Violence Awareness Network”
    1000 Honor-based (HB) killings in Pakistan
    1000 HB killings in India
    5000 HB killing worldwide, annually.

    Pakistan population 182M
    India population 1,270M

    “Particular issues in Hindu communities are caste and gotra (patriline). Marriage opportunitess are very restricted and there may be particularly fierce opposition to any contact between a woman and a male of lower caste; it is often the case that it is the man who is the primary victim of violence by the family of the woman he has approached. While it may be required that any partnerships do not lose caste, marriages within a gotra are condemned as incestuous, despite their rarely being any close consanguinueity between any members of the same gotra. Panchayats have actively policed gotra restrictions and called for the deaths of couples who have contravened such norms.”

    Anyone have any comments on this?

    1. It would be interesting to break down that number (1000) for India to see how many were Muslim and how many were not. There’s probably more Muslims in India than in Pakistan. And what about Bangladesh?

  4. There are serious issues with misogynist honour killing, domestic violence and rape in all of the subcontinent, it is far too common in India among Hindus and Sikhs as well as Muslims. So this is a case where I would say it is the “culture” foremost. The religion is not helping, but I’d say the religion was made to fit the culture, and not the other way around. How do you fix it? I think saying “remove the religion” would be a simplistic and ultimately futile approach. It has to be a cultural shift, and yes it will be agonizingly slow.

    An example of Sikh Indo-Canadian family having their daughter tortured and killed for marrying the wrong caste:

    And yes, before you accuse me of being an apologist for Islam, the popular outrage in India is very different (it exists!) than in Pakistan. At least considering these horrible stories of gang rape which have made international news. There has not been the same level of outrage when the crime is by the family or husband/father (i.e. the gang rape/murders are by non-related strangers).
    But still, India there is cause to be hopeful for change, Pakistan seems stagnant.

    1. Daoud:
      It’s quite shocking that almost half of all honor based killings occur in India and Pakistan… I would never have guessed, particularly among Hindus and Sikh.

      The other half are primarily in the Mideast and North Africa, which I was more aware of.

      I think with the facts in hand, it’s easier to make an argument that honor-based killings and fundamentalist primitive religious beliefs both spring from a common root, not that one derives strictly from the other.

    2. A lot of the cases in India may be Muslims–more of them in India than in Pakistan, I think (if not, it’s close). In India there rape isn’t uncommon,unfortunately,but many of the rapists are quite severely prosecuted. Lots of problems in lots of countries, but I’m not convinced Hinduism is just as bad as Islam, on this matter.

  5. As long as the “moderate” majority of Muslims worldwide are silent about this…then the problem is Islam – not culture.

  6. I’m still trying to figure out just what it is that this country does that makes it our “ally”- seems to me to be an “artifact” of the cold-war era in which we gave vast sums of money out to Third-World governments, no matter how awful they were, so long as they resisted Communism. Of course, they DO turn a blind eye to our drone killing program….

  7. I don’t particularly dislike or disapprove of any particular religion(s), as I find them all equally ridiculous. That is a quote I paraphrase from a columnist whose name I forget, who once characterized Bush’43 as ‘that strutting ignoramus.’ An accurate observer, that columnist.

    Critical thinking is the issue here, I think. Some religious types are able to integrate and employ critical thinking skills in almost every aspect of their lives, although there is no theistic concept that would exist if each and every human being maximized critical thinking practices.

    A great many religions and/or subgroups within are as hostile to disciplined, objective empirical thinking outcomes as it is possible to be, and act accordingly; always pushing the bounds of savagery and repression to expand existing limits.

    Cultures with societal institutions recently calibrated at least in part upon Enlightenment ideals on occasion appear further removed from tribal in group-out group mores than some of their contemporaries.

    But egalitarianism is far, far from a settled human condition in any country or culture. Primitive authoritarian dictatorship is always only a sufficient crisis (climate change) away from implementation anywhere, any current country/culture.

  8. As long the religion card keeps being played to exculpate these murders, religion is the problem.

    1. A nice concise distillation of the problem with religion.

      Makes you take a second look at accommodationism when you say it like that.

  9. When I first read the table at the end of PCC’s post, I pondered if “offense” referred to the honor killing or the “offense” that prompted the killing. Then I looked at the numbers and the countries for clues as to which interpretation was correct. Were the highest “never justified” numbers in more westernized countries? Yes, mostly.

    In the end, I agree with PCC’s interpretation but it wouldn’t take much to persuade me that it is really the other way around.

  10. Remember too that the Pew data cited here is incomplete as it does not include India (which has over 170M Muslims and a separate Sharia court system for them) and Saudi Arabia. The overall situation is likely quite different, possibly worse, than that envisioned from the above data alone

  11. I don’t mean to minimize the role of religion by noting the problem is multi-faceted. But even eliminating religion — which if not restrained by secular law often is the obvious, even state sanctioned, source of permission for intolerance, hatred, violence, and murder — does not guarantee removal of all of the roots of the problems women confront 24/7.

    ‘… Globally, childhood politeness lessons are gender asymmetrical. We socialize girls to take turns, listen more carefully, not curse, and resist interrupting in ways we do not expect boys to. Put another way, we generally teach girls subservient habits and boys to exercise dominance.’

    ‘It’s not hard to fathom why so many men tend to assume they are great and that what they have to say is more legitimate. It starts in childhood and never ends. Parents interrupt girls twice as often and hold them to stricter politeness norms. Teachers engage boys, who correctly see disruptive speech as a marker of dominant masculinity, more often and more dynamically than girls.

    As adults, women’s speech is granted less authority. We aren’t thought of as able critics or as funny. Men speak more, more often, and longer than women in mixed groups (classrooms, boardrooms, legislative bodies, expert media commentary and, for obvious reasons religious institutions.) Indeed, in male-dominated problem solving groups including boards, committees, and legislatures, men speak 75% more than women, with negative effects on decisions reached. That’s why, as researchers summed up, “Having a seat at the table is not the same as having a voice.”’

    1. Indonesia would be another interesting control to examine. They have Islam without the tribal trappings, if my public school understanding of Indonesia is in any way accurate.

      This report indicates that in the majority Muslim nation of Indonesia, honor killings are rare.

      It could be that Islam+tribalism = honor killings… but it could equally be Any Religion+tribalism = violence against the dispossessed or outsiders.

    2. “We socialize girls . . . in ways we do not expect boys to.”

      I can only speak to my own incomplete, imperfect several years experience in K-12 public schools, and observations of Amuricun adults.

      I perceive that teachers, starting in kindergarten, work hard at not succumbing to this differential socializing. At the least they do a lot better than their forebears of a couple generations ago. They have their hands full dealing with the effects of outside-of-school socializing influences on their young charges.

      In my experience, there’s just something (cultural? genetic?) about not-a-few non-Asian U.S. male children. (Re: the article you linked.)

      I was in a high school “Honors” chemistry class four days this week. Notwithstanding the liberties with which certain students feel themselves entitled to (attempt to) take with substitute teachers, the substance of the referenced link was quite manifest in all classes. With one or two minor exceptions, the ladies were focused on their final exam preps. The same could not be said of at least half of the gentlemen (or should I perhaps say more accurately – as manifested by their behavior – “adolescent male children”?).

      There might have been a time when one could reasonably and consistently impute in the moniker “Honors” or “AP” the traits of self-discipline and self-direction, but no more. Whatever naturally-occurring or culturally-induced attention deficit may exist, it has been further exacerbated by (post-?)adolescent smart phone obsession. Oscar Wilde would nowadays have to amend his quote: “I can resist anything except smart phone temptation.” It is one more ridiculous headache and distraction with which teachers and administrators must deal, one of those bloody “unintended consequences.”

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