Tuesday, March 08, 2005

A more complete account of the Sharia-court-sanctioned gang rape of Mukhtar Bibi

Click on the title for a better-than-BBC explanation of the circumstances and events that led to Pakistani schoolteacher Mukhtar Bibi's 2002 public gang rape by members of a panchayat or jirga, a type of Sharia-based elders' council. This story made the news again Sunday after a Pakistani court decided to let the men go free.

I've been disturbed by the frequent use of the word "tribal" by American and European media in describing the panchayat and this part of the Muslim world. I believe that for many westerners, the word conjures up images of face-painted, loincloth-clad ectomorphs squatting in dusty forest clearings trying to squeeeze a lucid thought out of their hallucinogen-addled brains. But get this (from Adnan Laeeq's 2002 article, linked in the title of this post):

Most tribal chiefs in Pakistan have enjoyed higher education; many hold office in the country's legislature on the basis of their tribes' allegiance and bloc voting pattern; all are at least locally, and many nationally, influential. However, many tribal chiefs do not appear to integrate their roles in national politics and their tribal milieu, keeping the norms, standards and discourses well apart. They hold jirgas with unquestioned authority, then fly to Islamabad to take part in a formally democratic system based on the notion of equality for all.

Now perhaps my concept of "tribal" is a little, um, backward, but it looks to me like what is going on here is another example of a Muslim society letting men have it two ways while women get humiliated, abused, or even killed. Don't forget that Mukhtar Bibi wasn't even before the panchayat for anything she had done. The gang rape's supposed "legal" purpose was to punish her family for an infraction her brother had committed (an allegation which was very likely fabricated anyway to cover for the elders' having gang-raped him earlier in the day).

These men need to be brought up to speed. We can't share a planet with this and call ourselves good (or safe, for that matter).


Post a Comment

<< Home