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‘Girl Power’ and Honor in Pakistan: The Unsurprising Death of Qandeel Baloch

Posted on | November 26, 2016 | 2 Comments

“I am a social media sensation, I am a fashion icon. . . . I’m a girl power. So many girls tell me I’m a girl power, and yes, I am.”
Qandeel Baloch, July 14, 2016

Fame is a dangerous commodity, and shockingly cheap in the Internet age of DIY social media, where young people can become minor “celebrities” on the basis of YouTube videos and Instagram accounts.

Qandeel Baloch (neé Fouzia Azeem) became known as “Pakistan’s Kim Kardashian.” She “shot to fame for her provocative selfies and videos in the conservative Muslim country,” as the Guardian reported in July after the 26-year-old was murdered by her own brother, Muhammad Waseem. Her mother said that Waseem “killed my daughter after being taunted by his friends. They would infuriate him and tell him she is bringing you dishonour.” Qandeel was from a poor family, and claimed her family forced her into an unwanted marriage to “an uneducated man” at 17:

I said, ‘No, I don’t want to spend my life this way’. I was not made for this. It was my wish since I was a child to become something, to be able to stand on my own two feet, to do something for myself.
But then they married me off when I was 17, 18. I was not happy and never accepted him as my husband.
What do you think will happen in a forced marriage? With an uneducated man, an animal. . . .
I never accepted him as my husband in my heart or mind.
How I spent a year and a half with him, only I know. And I only did it because of the child. Otherwise I wouldn’t have spent even one month with him. . . .
The kind of torture he has inflicted on me, you can’t even imagine. Why? Because I was cute, I was young. He was older than me. He didn’t trust me. I don’t know why. I couldn’t connect with him on an intellectual level. Our ideas were very different.
Then I had a child, so I sacrificed. I spent a year and a half with him. After the child, I told him I want to study. I want to complete my education, I want to get a job, I want to stand on my own two feet. But he never agreed. . . .
My family never supported me. I would say I don’t want to live with him, but they didn’t support me.
That man tried to throw acid on me. He said ‘I’ll burn your face because you’re so beautiful’. And today the media isn’t giving me any credit for speaking about empowerment of women, girl power.

The brutal violence suffered by women in Pakistan includes attacks where women are disfigured by having acid thrown on their faces:

According to New York Times reporter Nicholas D. Kristof, acid attacks are at an all-time high in Pakistan and increasing every year. The Pakistani attacks he describes are typically the work of husbands against their wives who have “dishonored them.” . . . According to a New York Times article, in 2011 there were 150 acid attacks in Pakistan, up from 65 in 2010. However, estimates by the Human Rights Watch and the HRCP cite the number of acid attack victims to be as high 400-750 per year.

“Muslims commit 91 percent of honor killings worldwide,” Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch says, noting that Islamic law sanctions such murders: “Until the encouragement Islamic law gives to honor killing is acknowledged and confronted, more women will suffer.” In a 2010 article for Middle East Quarterly, Phyllis Chesler reported that 58 percent of honor-killing victims were murdered for being “too Western” — an accusation that can mean “being seen as too independent, not subservient enough, refusing to wear varieties of Islamic clothing,” dating a non-Muslim or “wanting to choose one’s own husband.” In the West, female celebrities engage in provocative behavior and men are accused of “misogyny” for criticizing them, but any woman in an Islamic nation who attempts to emulate such behavior risks consequences far more serious than sexist jokes. Qandeel Baloch had 43,000 Twitter followers and more than 700,000 on Facebook, the BBC reported, and used her social-media presence to spark outrage. In June, she posted selfies posing with an Islamic cleric, Mufti Abdul Qavi, and told Pakistan Today the conservative Muslim scholar was “hopelessly in love” with her. That publicity stunt may have led to her murder three weeks later:

Waseem said he killed his sister due to her social media activities, which included a series of risque video posts with the prominent cleric, Mufti Qavi.
Qavi was suspended from the Ruet-e-Hilal Committee in the controversy following the video posts.
Speaking to Geo News today, Qandeel’s mother accused Mufti Qavi, her daughter’s former husband Ashiq Hussain, and a man name Shahid of being involved in the murder.
She claimed her son Waseem carried out the murder on the advice of Mufti Qavi, and that the cleric “provoked” him into killing Qandeel. She claimed Waseem was also in contact with Qandeel’s former husband Ashiq Hussain.

Pakistani blogger Ahmed Ali reacted to her death:

Rebellious. Irreverent. She was a jester figure in the court of public approval and approbation, staking out a claim in territory not meant for respectable, shareef women. . . .
Hers will be spun by our conservative media into a cautionary tale of risk/risque assessment: a prudential, risk-averse guide listing things not to do if you want to stay alive as a (Muslim) woman. So we return to a caricature of that age old weighty question of the trade off between liberty and security. Apologists will say she was her own biggest security risk, conveniently ignoring that nothing she did, and no sort of expression anyone undertakes, should ever warrant concern for one’s fundamental safety. It is the year 2016. . . .
Always that askance aslant consideration of the woman’s background; tacit suggestions of her own complicity in inviting death by asphyxiation. Many in our press are obituarizing Qandeel as a woman who shouldn’t have been killed despite her ways. Aw. Thanks. That’s kind. Charitable. Just what her brutalized body and soul need right now. . . .
The news is on right now and they’re constantly saying: ‘Ghairat ke naam qatal kur diya’ (‘they killed her in the name of honour’). It’s being repeated over and over. . . . By constantly repeating the motive of notional honour, you’re reinforcing that honour and ratifying it; you are ceding it further ideological ground. This is the net reverberative effect, at least. It has become a national soundbite. . . .

You can read the whole thing. The kind of violent terrorism by which Islamic law is enforced — and especially what that violence means for women in  Islamic countries — is something Western feminists do not want to recognize as a legitimate concern in politics and policy. You are an “Islamophobe,” feminists screech, if you call attention to the honor killings, clitoridectomies and other methods by which Islam oppresses women, not accidentally, but deliberately and with at least tacit sanction of Muslim religious leaders. That this brutality can and does come to the West via immigration is attested by the Pakistani “rape gangs” in England, as well as the sexual attacks that have terrorized women in Germany.

Being a critic of both feminism and Islam, and certainly not a fan of the narcissistic “selfie culture” that Qandeel Baloch represented, I perceive an irrepressible conflict between these contending forces. The Christian, the conservative and the libertarian — we each have different perspectives on the challenge to the West presented by Islamic culture and sharia law. The Christian, like the Muslim, deplores the gratuitous exploitation of sexuality that Qandeel Baloch symbolized. The conservative views “girl power” as a decadent expression of egotistical selfishness. The libertarian defends the exercise of free expression, including the right to criticize expression we do not like. It is our liberty, more than anything else, which radical Islam threatens. And women have a greater reason to fear Islam, for it is their liberty which Islam would most curtail.

We cannot defend our liberty by silencing critics of Islam — or by silencing critics of feminism, or by silencing criticism of celebrities. As I keep saying, however, Feminism Is a Totalitarian Movement to Destroy Civilization as We Know It, and by trying to limit freedom of expression feminists are the unwitting allies of radical Islam. The “progressive” allies of feminism are not going to protect American women from radical Islam. One reason so many women voted for Donald Trump is because they understood that Hillary Clinton — who left four Americans to die in Benghazi — was not the kind of leader who was determined to defend our nation against the terrorist menace that is growing ever more deadly:

Two Pakistani men have been accused of cutting their 40-year-old sister’s eyes out “with a sharp knife” and chopping off her feet, marking the latest high-profile “honor” killing in the Muslim-majority country where such murders are on the rise and many go unreported. . . .
Pakistan’s independent Human Rights Commission has revealed that “honor” killings of women have increased by nearly 20 percent in the last few years, from 869 in 2013 to 1,096 last year, adding that most of the victims were shot but also attacked with acid.

In a country where this kind of violence is routine, the murder of Qandeel Baloch may have been shocking, but it wasn’t really surprising.



2 Responses to “‘Girl Power’ and Honor in Pakistan: The Unsurprising Death of Qandeel Baloch”

  1. News of the Week (November 27th, 2016) | The Political Hat
    November 27th, 2016 @ 3:29 pm

    […] “Girl Power” and Honor in Pakistan: The Unsurprising Death of Qandeel Baloch Fame is a dangerous commodity, and shockingly cheap in the Internet age of DIY social media, where young people can become minor “celebrities” on the basis of YouTube videos and Instagram accounts. […]

  2. Did Romney the Scold Land Conway in Trouble? | Regular Right Guy
    November 28th, 2016 @ 1:46 pm

    […] ‘Girl Power’ and Honor in Pakistan: The Unsurprising Death of Qandeel Baloch […]