“Log kya kahenge?” or “What will people say?” in Urdu and Hindi is a common enough phrase heard by many South Asians. No doubt Sania Khan, a Pakistani American may also have had to hear this too many times before she was murdered by her ex-husband whilst going through a divorce. Khan, 29 left her bad marriage as she felt unsafe with her husband due to his long-standing mental health issues. She shared her experience on TikTok recalling how “going through a divorce as a South Asian woman feels like you failed at life sometimes”. However, on 18th July 2022 her ex-husband shot her in the head then shot himself. Sadly, Sania Khan was pronounced dead at the scene.
But why has there been a rise in honour killings in the South Asian community and why is this toxic honour “culture” so important? Family reputation has huge implications for many South Asian families and is regarded as a very precious asset. Analyst News spoke to psychoanalyst Shukriya Mahat about how honour is all about abiding by family rules. “Honour is the highest level of integrity you have. When you are born into a family you have to abide by a certain set of rules and principles that come with that family, so you end up carrying a name of a family, you are not yourself.” That is exactly how the families of honour victims Sania Khan, Qandeel Baloch and Shafilea Ahmed viewed their daughters. For some South Asian families they are more than willing to kill one of their own when they do not abide by these “rules” to preserve their family’s honour.
“For women in the South Asian community, they gain respectability if they get married as their name becomes attached to a male,” says Neha Gill, executive director of Apna Ghar, a Chicago-based human rights organisation working to end gender-based violence. It offers services to predominantly South Asian women facing intimate partner abuse. Gill told Analyst News that divorced women still carry the stigma of unrespectability within the community – they begin to symbolise sexual impurity, leading to their shaming and shunning. The definition of what a “respectable woman” is, continues to be used today, because the community is obsessed with creating a woman who is the “marriageable type”.
Gill goes on to say, “Women like Sania Khan are not trusted to make their own decision of leaving a marriage or not” because, she believes, they are not trusted to uphold their family’s honour. “Many women are expected to ‘compromise’ in their marriage, and this can mean many women are expected to tolerate abusive behaviours solely to preserve honour. That is why we find when abuse victims leave their marriage, that is when the most homicides occur as the abuser loses power and control over their honour,” she explains.
According to the Sri Lankan author and activist Kumari Jayawaradena, the idea of “respectability” is a throwback to colonial times when missionaries who settled in India and Sri Lanka claimed they were bringing “salvation and the light of true faith”. By trying to convert the native populations, the Christians created female missionaries in schools with the aim of providing “good Christian wives and mothers” for male converts to uphold the principles set out in the Bible. A family’s honour was tied to whether their daughter was ‘sexually pure’. Thus rules for what a ‘respectable’ woman was, were rooted in fundamentalist Biblical ideas of abstinence before marriage and sexual purity. But Gill opines that colonialism probably made an already deeply patriarchal society even worse and compounded women’s low status. Indeed when missionaries were first placed in schools in India and Sri Lanka during British rule it was difficult to persuade parents to send their daughters to school as ‘reading and writing were not considered to be traits of a female’.
Gill explains how the culture is steeped in patriarchy. From the beginning of someone’s life “we praise a woman if she gives birth to a boy but then wishes them to receive a boy ‘next time’ if they give birth to a baby girl.” Unfortunately this attitude still exists today. A recent study found that there would be 6.8 million fewer female births recorded across India by 2030 because of sex selective abortions, where a baby is more likely to be aborted if it’s female. This cultural preference exists and is perpetuated through the generations, as a boy means he’s more likely to earn and become a breadwinner and girls are just seen as a “burden from day one” because someone needs to provide for them. And if you’re unlucky enough to have a girl, then the onus is to ensure she’s of a “marriageable type” so she can be married off as soon as she’s of age.
But why are these blatant discriminatory practices perpetuated today? Psychoanalyst Mahat believes that the patriarchal system continues to be upheld by the older generation which “instils these rules because for many of their generation, honour is much more important than life.” The problem then becomes that the community is stuck in a constant cycle of successive generations being taught that these backward-looking, paternalistic standards are the cultural norm.
Is there any way to stop this vicious cycle, change attitudes and restore women’s status? Shukriya Mahat feels one way to cut through is education. She suggests that by simply teaching younger generations that there is no shame in getting a divorce if marriage does not work out and setting better examples for them to follow would be a huge breakthrough. “However, re-educating South Asian adults can be the hardest challenge when they have been taught all their life to abide by these rules,” she says. But it will be women who have suffered at the hands of their partners, who will likely have the courage and agency needed to change the cultural mindset into one which truly values the fairer sex.
At least 30 people die in recent violent protests in Baghdad, Iraq
On August 29th, Iraq’s Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr announced his withdrawal from political activity via Twitter, criticising the failure of fellow Shiite leaders to reform a corrupt government. He also announced the closing of all his offices nationwide. Al-Sadr’s announcement was followed by violent protests in Iraq’s capital, Baghdad, which resulted in at least 30 deaths and 200 injuries.
The protests were started by Al-Sadr’s supporters, who stormed the Republican Palace in Baghdad’s Green Zone, a heavily fortified area that serves as the headquarters of Iraqi regimes. Both foreign embassies and the government are housed there. But Al-Sadr’s supporters fired rocket propelled grenades and machine guns from there as well.
Due to the protests Iraq’s current Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Khadimi has now put off all government meetings until further notice. Al-Khadimi has also urged Al-Sadr to “help call on the demonstrators to withdraw from government institutions”.
According to some reports Al-Sadr’s supporters had been occupying parliament buildings for a while now. They then charged at the headquarters in the Green Zone. Pictures showed exultant Al-Sadr supporters cheering in the Republican Palace swimming pool,, waving around the Iraqi flag and a photo of Al-Sadr.
In response to the protests the Iraqi military said they are practising “the highest levels of self-restraint and brotherly behaviour to prevent clashes or the spilling of Iraqi blood.” However, according to reports hundreds of protesters were pushed out of the Republican Palace by tear gas and bullets used by Security forces.
The military also introduced a strict curfew, restricting the movement of vehicles and pedestrians as well, which was in place until further instructions by the government. In Baghdad the curfew was introduced from 3.30pm local time. Later, a nationwide curfew was introduced as well with the aim to urge protestors to leave the Green Zone.
As a response to the violent outbreaks, UN chief Antonio Guterres asked all parties to “take immediate steps to de-escalate the situation.” Stephane Dujarric, his secretary-general, also added in a statement that he “appeals for calm and restraint and urges all relevant actors to take immediate steps to avoid any violence.”
A day later, on Tuesday August 30th, Al-Sadr released a statement via television, apologising for the violence and saying, “the spilling of Iraqi blood is forbidden.” In his statement he also threatened his supporters that “if in the next 60 minutes they do not withdraw, as well as from parliament, then I will abandon these supporters.”
The nationwide curfew was lifted after the new statement.
Opinion: Don’t blame Muslims for Salman Rushdie’s stabbing
Rushdie’s 1988 novel is neither worth a fatwa nor a stabbing, but the West has double standards in its approach to free speech
Since the stabbing of Sir Salman Rushdie last Friday, he has been lauded a brave and defiant free-speech hero, while 24-year-old Lebanese American Hadi Mater, the stabber, has been (and rightly so) the object of fierce condemnation.
But for some reason the whole Islamic world has also borne the full brunt of blame for the vicious attack. Whenever an atrocity occurs by someone who cites Islam as their motivation, the religion and all Muslims are blamed, and even subjected to largely unreported discrimination– and of course, accused of holding ideologies which are alien and loathsome to them at the best of times.
The attacker, who was born almost a decade after the controversial publication of Rushdie’s novel which was cited as potential motivation for the stabbing, had only read two pages out of the offending book and merely believed that Rushdie was not a “very good person” because he was “someone who attacked Islam, he attacked their beliefs, the belief systems,” based on lectures he had seen by the author online. Never mind that Mater displayed the same symptoms that most if not all terrorists born and bred in the West do; socially excluded loners with a strong sense of alienation, suppressed anger at the discrimination and bombardment of millions of civilians in Muslim countries by Western & allied theocratic Middle Eastern governments.
Mater’s social media history was highlighted; his admiration of Ayutullah Ruhulla Khomenei, Iran’s former religious Supreme leader and Shia-Muslim hardliner who issued the religious edict or ‘fatwa’ – and $3 million bounty against Salman Rushdie after he wrote The Satanic Verses, a novel in which the Prophet of Islam was portrayed in a negative light, while the names of his respected wives – known for their bravery, sacrifice, virtue and morality – were denigrated.
The front pages of western papers were plastered with the leaders of Iran blaming Rushdie himself for the attack, while at the same time disassociating themselves from the attacker and denying any connection to him. If a Muslim leader supports harm to Rushdie, he’s given excessive coverage. But Muslims who condemn such attacks, despite being offended by the author’s writings, are given little to no coverage. It is almost always ignored. Muslim responses in the form of books which condemn violence and suggest peaceful discussion, are totally disregarded by the media.
But the truth is just so much more simple. Nothing that Rushdie, or anyone, ever wrote or ever writes can be worth killing anyone over or issuing a ‘fatwa’ for his death.
The denigration, mockery and insulting references directed towards the founder of Islam in Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses pales into significance as compared to the degradation, torture and persecution the Prophet Muhammad and his followers suffered for twelve years at the hands of the illiterate pagans of seventh century Arabia.
At that time poets made sure to devise verses far more disgusting in nature than anything the ‘great intellectual’ Salman Rushdie could ever offer – whether about the Prophet himself, his followers, friends and loved ones. In fact, it was the leading tribe of the Quraish, not Rushdie who first devised the plot of the “Satanic Verses,” by loudly uttering the verses praising their goddesses while the Prophet led the Muslims in prayer to the One God. The Quraish then proceeded to perpetuate the rumour that the Prophet had been influenced by Satan and had uttered the verses himself. So, abusing Islam is nothing new. But the response the Prophet Muhammad and his early followers took was of patience, dignity, and superior morals. They never responded to verbal abuse with violence.
Instead, the Prophet taught the principle of forgiveness and restraint. Only when Muslims where being physically attacked, the early Muslims were compelled to take up arms in self defence. But they were subjected to endless days of ridicule, mockery, and salacious rumours. But can anyone cite one incident when the Prophet or his followers responded to these with violence?
A life so frequently biographed by Muslims and non-Muslim alike and with such depth should be enough to prove in of itself that blasphemy was never punishable in Islam since its inception.
“And Messengers indeed have been rejected before thee; but notwithstanding their rejection and persecution they remained patient until Our help came to them,” says the Qur’an (Ch.6: V.35).
As the 10th century free thinker, poet and practising Muslim Omar Khayyam, hailing from what is now modern day Iran, so eloquently put it, “The moving finger writers, and having writ, moves on; nor all your Piety nor Wit, shall lure it back to cancel half a line, nor all your tears wash out a word of it.”
So it is with Salman Rushdie, Charlie Hebdo, as well as those who decide to take up the pen to exercise their freedom of expression in disagreeing with the latter’s words, because countering incitement through words has always been effectively done through the same medium.
Those hailing Rushdie as a free speech champion are riding on a transient wave, because when those same liberties of freedom of expression without caution or limit come back to haunt them, as they often do, and threaten their own way of life and ideological preferences, they are the first to clamp down on those liberties and denounce then. One needn’t look far to see this in practice; after the European Union banned Russian state-sponsored media on all of Europe’s airwaves, a Russian government spokesperson was moved to say that “Europeans are trampling on their own ideals.” Why ban anything and everything Russian if we believe so much in free speech?
Evidently, if the western, ‘civilised’ world remains the last beacon of free speech and openness, it is selectively so. Ask all the Russians in Europe who have nothing to do with their president’s war yet are bearing the consequences by their European hosts; unless all Britons wish to take the blame for Tony Blair’s 2003 Iraq adventure in which millions of civilians and hundreds of British soldiers lost their lives.
When majorities in European countries are voting in favour of banning the building of minarets– the traditional Muslim architectural style of roofing – or the forced removal of Muslim women’s headscarf, how can it be said that the right to insult an already marginalised, discriminated minority can be defended under free speech? Where does it all go when others want to exercise their free speech?
The Taliban’s Broken Pledges: a regressive state for women’s rights
It is an unfortunate plight that the Taliban have come back into power in Afghanistan. The Taliban’s broken pledges, prove that Afghanistan is a regressive state for Women’s rights.
The return of the Taliban and their uncompromising government following their capture of Kabul on August 15th, 2021 is seeing the lives of Afghans spiral back into one reminiscent of that during the 1990s, and once again the rights of women are being violated the most – showcasing the examples of the Taliban’s broken pledges.
The Taliban’s promise to uphold a less repressive leadership seems to be failing especially concerning the liberties of women. Women and girls are being prevented from basic human rights such as freedom of expression, movement and freedom to earn a living.
For many Afghan girls however, their right to education has been their most precious ambition. But with the hope and promise of this education, these dreams have been just as quickly crushed as girls were turned away from schools, following the announcement that only girls in grade six and below were eligible to attend. Additionally, despite giving more flexibility than their predecessors, like allowing selected jobs or circumstantial travelling, the Taliban have maintained that women need to be accompanied by a male family member at all times, resulting in a negative domino effect on other rights. Thus, it seems life for girls now doesn’t differ much from how it was under the Taliban’s last rule from 1996-2001.
Canadian journalist Kathy Gannon suggests that this failure to fulfil promises to Afghan girls comes from a discordance within the Taliban itself. It seems members from newer generations in the group – many of whose daughters reportedly receive their education in Pakistan – are at odds with older and stricter members. It may be that those holding onto more conservative views of the Taliban from the 90s are perhaps the obstacles in the way of more progressive and necessary changes.
The rest of the Afghan population also continues to suffer from dire human rights violations. With more than a reported ‘95% of Afghans’ being food insecure for almost the entire year of Taliban government, millions of civilians, specifically children, are subject to malnutrition and facing either ‘crisis’ or ‘emergency’ levels of food insecurity. With aid halted from international governments and the restrictive measures on the roles of women, people are having to turn to extreme solutions like sending their children to work. But this alone does not provide enough to sustain even low living standards. And with a collapsed healthcare system, Afghans are barely existing.
Human Rights Watch notes this is largely due to the failure of the Taliban and foreign governments to come to an agreement regarding financial aid, and given that before August 2021, 75% of Afghan economy was dependent on foreign aid, it appears that the Taliban’s ability to fulfil their pledges relies on their cooperation and communication with both domestic and international bodies. But this doesn’t absolve foreign governments of their responsibilities – particularly in the West – who likely deliberately fail to engage with the Taliban because its politics oppose majority global opinion, and who value political favour more highly than Afghan lives.
US Operations in Afghanistan and Beyond: A threat to locals
The assassination of Ayman Al- Zawahiri through a drone attack shows the US has still not given up on its operations in Afghanistan.
The assassination of Ayman Al- Zawahiri through a drone attack shows that US operation in Afghanistan have still not ended.
The Al- Qaeda leader, wanted for his role in various terrorist attacks around the world and in the US, has not only left an empty place for a future successor but has also opened a place for the Taliban to calculate their moves against the US and the groups within the country.
The Twitter feeds of Afghan journalists are filled with various videos of clashes between Taliban militants and the Islamic States sympathizers of Khorasan Province (ISKP). The clashes have resulted from the former group’s attack on Shia gatherings and busses that has caused numerous casualties. These videos containing several graphic scenes of blood and bodies are just an insight into the state of Afghanistan after a year of America abandoning it in the hands of the Afghan Taliban.
Since the United States removed its forces from Afghanistan after 2 decades of controlling the country’s borders and shifting the political and social dynamics of the region, the country has been struggling to regain its identity and strength. While the Taliban forces are trying to imitate governance with an Islamic rule in the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, extremist groups from the inside of the country are becoming a challenge for them. ISKP has already claimed the lives of more than 300 people between January 2020 and July 2021. The casualties from the Kabul airport attack and the recent attacks on Shia groups in the Holy month of Muharram hike the number up to around 600.
The recent killing of Al- Qaeda’s leader Ayman al Zawahiri in a drone attack orchestrated by the US in Kabul has further fueled the unrest. Zawahiri, who was leading Al-Qaeda’s operations since the killing of Osama Bin Laden, had been on the United State’s wanted list for years. His involvement in the infamous 9/11 plans had put a bounty of 25 million dollars on his head. The attack through which according to the US “justice has been delivered,”, has been called a violation of the Doha pact signed between the Taliban and US officials in 2020. While Al-Qaeda is deciding on a new leader, the group is also being prompted to respond to this loss. Several statements from ISKP’s telegram have been made to frame the Taliban for assistance in the attack, mocking the apparent alliance between Al-Qaeda and The Taliban forces.
The situation in Afghanistan keeps getting worse but it appears that America is using the savior narrative, to explain the US operations in Afghanistan, for its people to distract from the bigger changes that are taking place in the dynamics of foreign affairs, seeming to be a threat to locals. The narrative that aided its involvement in Iraq, sanctions on Iran, and 20 years long control over Afghanistan have not bore any fruitful results, but rather have overturned the sociological and international stature of the region.
US President Biden, in his remarks on the attack, assured the people of America of their safety and security, “We will always remain vigilant, and we will act. And we will always do what is necessary to ensure the safety and security of Americans at home and around the globe.”
In the meantime, the US continues aid to Ukraine against Russia, and its visit to Taiwan amid growing tensions between China and Taiwan is signaling a threat that is potentially greater than Al-Qaeda.
As Biden pledges to “continue to conduct effective counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan and beyond”, it remains unclear how the US plans to address the impact of these operations on the lives of the people in Afghanistan and beyond where people are already living under a threat of a humanitarian crisis.
The Horrifying Abuse of Uyghur Muslims in China
The horrifying abuse of Uyghur Muslims in China
On a recent visit to the Xinjiang region, China’s President Xi Jinping said, ‘Islam in China must be Chinese in orientation.’ There he spoke to officials and said religions should adapt to ‘the socialist society.’
With the tightened grip on society that the President has, his government has been repeatedly accused of oppressing Muslims and detaining them in “re-education camps.” Ever since the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) implemented its five-year plan to “sinicize” Islam, there have been countless Mosques across China that have been deconstructed or repressed. However, it does not stop there, an estimated ‘three million Uyghur Muslims have been unjustly detained in Chinese concentration camps.’ China has proclaimed that these facilities are so called ‘re-education camps’ however survivors have confirmed it to be ‘worse than prisons.’
The Human Rights Watch has said that Uyghurs – the largest minority ethnic group in China’s north-western province of Xinjiang – are subjected to intense surveillance and forced to provide DNA and biometric samples. Anyone who has relatives residing in at least twenty-six “sensitive” countries have been reportedly rounded up and swept into detainments. From there, they are made to learn Mandarin Chinese, and to criticise or renounce their faith.
Approximately nearly half a million Muslim children have been torn and separated from their families and placed in boarding schools. The detainees have been subjected to forced labour, medicine is forcibly administered to women to stop their menstrual period and several women survivors – even during their teenage years – have reported being gang-raped by guards at their facilities.
A recent article was released by the BBC revealing all the human lives that had been torn apart by China’s Uyghur concentration camps. These leaked secret CCP documents known as Xinjiang Police Files were obtained by unidentified hackers and exposed the prison-like nature of the concentration camps that officials insisted to be “Vocational Training Centres.”
Amongst files upon files of rules and regulations, there were police manuals describing shoot-to-kill policies on any Uyghurs attempting to escape and the document also provided a solid amount of evidence towards a policy which was targeted to any expression of Uyghur identity, culture, or the Islamic faith – with a chain of command that ran all the way up to the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping.
Many have been detained just for ordinary, apparent signs of their Islamic faith or for visiting countries with majority Muslim populations. Offences such as “growing a beard under the influence of religious extremism” have led people to become interments for more than sixteen years and the Chinese state have then determined their expression of Uyghur identity to be illegal.
This ongoing rights issue has led to questions of consent and whether it has been applied to this situation. In Tumxuk, Chinese scientists are trying to find a way to create an image of a person’s face using a DNA sample. This facial recognition technology is advancing and being used to sort people by ethnicity and the usage of DNA is to tell if an individual is Uyghur.
Ethics of science have been pushed beyond the barriers of privacy, China has been accused of creating “technologies used for hunting people.”
Religious indoctrination is being forced upon Muslim Uyghurs; they are made to chant “Communist Party Akbar” instead of the traditional “Allah Akbar” (God is Great) that Muslims say to praise and glorify God.
These “re-education camps” have led to slow, painful deaths for many Uyghurs. Physical and mental torture, beatings, crowded cells, no toilets, and forced medication.
Four People Shot near Vancouver by Gunman
- Four people were shot near Vancouver, Canada at a casino, homeless center, bus stop, and highway before the gunman was found and killed by the police.
- Two people were shot fatally, and the gunman is suspected to have been targeting homeless people, with the motive still unclear.
- The shooting began at midnight and ended early in the morning. Residents in the area received public service alerts about the shooting at 6:15am.
- Mayor Val van den Broek commented on the tragedy and spoke about the problem of homelessness in the British Columbia province, calling on officials to work harder to address it.
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