Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Pakistani Woman Stoned to Death Another Victim of Honour Killing

Hearts are pounding, blood pressure is rising and anger is building at the sight of a woman lying lifeless on the ground of Lahore High Court in Pakistan. She is one more casualty or victim of honour killing that we get to read about-----many incidence of are never reported to the authorities. Cries of condemnation and protestations are muffled for the sake of keeping up the pride of the family and a crime is not seen as a crime anymore. Soon it becomes acceptable to see women as perpetrators in trying to bring shame to their families by making a choice to either marry someone they love or refusing to marry someone they don’t love. Being of Pakistani origin I often come across questions to determine whether my environment connotes a situation where choices have been forced on me. Although I am fortunate to have a partner who supports me but each time someone inquires me a part of me wrenches back to recall stories of friends and cousins who were made to realize they had no right to make their own choice in the country of my origin.

If open and democratic societies are to function in an environment where civil liberties and freedom of choice is to be given to all, isn’t it the duty of every democracy-loving political party in Pakistan to stage similar protest to condemn honour killings like they do to protest against TV channels whose views are considered unacceptable because they support forces with agenda working against the national integrity, or to highlight drone attacks in the Northern region. If Islam is a religion to uphold the honour of a woman will this incident bring some condemnation from religious scholars and commentators like Dr Farhat Hashmi, Maulana Fazlur Rahman and Aamir Liaquat who have always highlighted Western ideologies as the root cause of moral degradation and immorality in societies!

The reason why Shafilea Ahmad was killed by her own parents is 2003 in Bradford are no different from what caused the death of Farzana Iqbal. In both cases parents killed their own daughter. While Mr Iqbal who married Farzana claims that nobody came to help his wife when she was being attacked by her own family members, it is believed that Shafilea Ahmad’s parents were helped by others in disposing off her body. Misogyny which leads to crimes of honour killings is aided and supported by feudalism or interpretation of a belief which considers women as inferior and dependant on male support to exist in society.

Is it reasonable to hope that Muslim scholars and commentators in Britain will be forthcoming in highlighting honour killings and crimes against women which take place within their own community; because they do happen! Surely saving a human life is of more value than blasphemy charges on creating cartoons and debating segregation in universities. 

The Next EU President

With the rise of the far-right parties in Europe is it possible to turn the tide and save the EU commission from disintegration! The results of the recent elections were far from being unpredictable as Cameron himself admitted that he ‘absolutely understood and received the message,’ of voters disillusionment with the future of EU.

However the seemingly simple message from UKIP leader Nigel Farage that immigration is the real issue behind sluggish economy and unemployment is non-existential and not true. In the globalized world of ours economy and trade seeks no boundaries and Britain can achieve sizable gains from investment and business opportunities offered by other European countries. EU provides the mobility to debate climate catastrophes and youth unemployment and it can also be the corridor to offer faith and democracy to closely co-operating states like Ukraine, because in the complex global society it is not divisions, but the soft power of negotiating agendas, relations and economic advantages which matter.

The resounding message of the European elections is that the anxieties around unemployment, austerity measures and immigration from within the EU are proving to be a fertile ground for xenophobic, divisive, and exclusionary forces. In order to send the message across that European Union is a platform to debate and restructure new policies, the political leaders will need to focus on creating a sense to connect with the ordinary citizens, in order to prove that there will be genuine political participation and representation which will lead to debate.

Politics is about personality and if EU members are deciding on whom to elect as the next EU president it is essential that they chose someone who can establish optimism that EU Commission offers meaningful answers to the problems of economic growth and supports the values of an open society. The next president should be able to understand the need to build alliances which will lead to formation of liberal free market blocks. How the eurozone to be made robust and sustainable is what the EU leader should be focused on achieving. Questions on maintaining or abandoning austerity policies should lead to serious debates in the parliament. So far the rise of the far-right parties has undermined the parliament’s claim to democratic legitimacy and the next president will have to convincingly work to prove that the EU has more to offer in terms of participation in lawmaking. 

This obviously requires someone who has worked over broad spectrum successively and has a statesmanlike personality with important portfolios on the international diplomatic stage. If the contenders for the election have to be really well-grounded in understanding the dire need to campaign against the withdrawal from euro and crackdown on immigration the message has to be resounded clearly. The message from the UKIP party does not resound diversity of globalization which creates opportunities and cannot be blamed for giving rise to disengaged societies burdened by the collapse of benefit and health system. A disintegrated Europe will not work in favour of Britain to exercise weight and influence in the world.

The voters have to be won over and EU members must realize that the next leader has to address the democratic debate that ‘Brussels,’ has to change to gain popular support and legitimacy in the longer term.