Media can add flavour to any bland topic simply by sprinkling it with a dash of Islamophobia and it becomes trending news. In the case of a recent honour killing in Pakistan, the media chose fo blame #Religion while turning blind to the vile social norms that are at the root of such crimes.
Who was Qandeel Baloch?
Untill a few minutes before her death, she was an actress, morning show host, the subject of memes and some abuse (which she considered complements). She was a social media sensation, followed by practically a million people, famous for uploading provocative content on her social media accounts. She even promised a strip dance to celebrate Pakistan’s T20 world cup win, earning herself a lot of followers and a lot of hate..
Days before her murder, in the holy month of Ramadan, she starred in a racy music video causing huge backlash and a demand to ban the video. Ironically she was, as she put it, coveted in private and vilified in public.
Qandeel-A victim of patriarchy
According to her ( Fauzia Azeem then), she was forced into a marriage with an uneducated man at 17. He abused her and prevented her from completing her education and accomplishing her dreams. In absence of family support the only option left to her was running away.
She ran away, completed her education, and took up several jobs before ending up in showbiz. Although her husband has trashed all of that, she maintained that she did everything ‘bold’ in the industry merely to ‘avenge’ the patriarchal setup for women who suffer like her.
The (dis)honour killing of Qandeel
Qandeel was killed by her own brother. Clearly influenced by the society he lived in, he saw his sister's actions as a challenge to his perosnal and family honour and with societal pressure mounting from allsexist quarters, he avenged the loss of honour with her death..
In a patriarchal society like Pakistan, men have set norms which they expect their women to abide by and when that does not happen, it is seen as a challenge to their honor. Qandeel belonged to an orthodox family that could not handle her showbiz presence, especially when, in societies like these, women are regarded as family honor and men their protectors.
Blaming Islam for Qandeel's murder
The basis for blaming religion for Qandeel's murder seems to be her selfie with a religious cleric, that cost him his job. It would be naive to think that such a minor occurence could be the prime motivation for her murder when she had already asked for police protection even before the incident, as she had been receiving death threats.
Qandeel had become a subject of revenge not because of her unIslamic social media posts and videos, but because she started to touch sensitive social subjects like women’s rights. Because hey! It is third world baby, and you don’t take advices from the one you take exhilaration from.
Thus it was patriarchy's hurt ego and not religion that is to blame for her death.
After her death, three views have emerged. One is calling her a hero, a new voice of Pakistan, woman who defied norms and spoke against patriarchy and misogyny in Pakistan. A second view is celebrating her death and calling her a disgrace that needed to stop. The third view believes that she was not a good role model to follow, but murdering her was surely not the answer.
Ironically, most media is simply blaming Islam for such cases of violence, instead of addressing the underlying social issues of the third world, which Islamic social institutions have been trying to reform for the past millenium.
In fact, honour killings exist across religious communities. Hindu and Sikh killings in name of religious cast or Jewish honor killings are not unknown to the world. It is clearly unjust to blame any religion for such crimes, more so Islam, when the Islamic tradition clearly prohibits all forms of mob justice and violence, while recognizing only those punishments which are legally administered by a judicial system after due process of law.