Mukhtaran Mai`s Human Rights


 Mukhtar Mai meets Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mr. Shaukat Aziz.

Mukhtaran Mai, a victim of tribal and caste wars in Pakistan has grabbed the attention of leading human rights activists in the US as well as in London. So intense is the voice of human rights activists that the State Department official Christina Roca also expressed her anguish over the decision of the government of Pakistan to restrict Mukhtaran's travel to the U.S.

In 2002 a traditional council in a small village in Pakistan ordered, the 33-year-old Ms. Mai be gang-raped because her younger brother allegedly had relations with a woman of a higher status.

After a public outcry over Ms. Mai's treatment, a provincial court put 12 men on trial for the rape, including the head of the local council, and six were sentenced to death. But earlier this year, another court overturned five of the convictions and reduced the sentence of the sixth man to life in prison. The 12 men were subsequently re-arrested on order of the Islamabad government but were freed in early June 2005.

Ms. Mai meanwhile was placed under house detention and told she could not travel abroad, apparently because officials believe her personal accounts of the ordeal could harm Pakistan's image.

This case exposes an aspect of Pakistan's social reality and must be condemned, but when such cases are selectively exploited by government officials and special interest groups for political purposes, it also exposes a hypocrisy that must also be taken to task.

Three years ago, several Muslim women of Gujarat were gang raped by fanatic supporters of the Bhartiya Janta Party led by Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Even though the evidence was overwhelming, yet neither the human rights activists in the West nor the State Department expressed the much needed outrage. On the contrary, the then BJP leadership was given a heroic welcome in Los Angeles when the Museum of Tolerance invited the then deputy leader of the Party to talk about human rights. 

The tragic case of Mukhtaran Mai is one of thousands not only in Pakistan but all over the world. In a world where a rape is committed every 30 seconds and a gang rape is committed every 10 minutes, the cries of the State Department and the human rights activists appear to be questionable.

Why are they raising this issue now? 

The answer is not too difficult. It is not their concern for the victims of rape as their commitment to their own agenda that has brought them in the forefront. If they were serious about her case, they would have allowed the judicial process to take its full course before deciding any action specially in a situation when the highest executive authority of the country himself stood by her and assured the nation that justice shall be done.

By bringing her to the US or to the UN, they were not helping Mukhtaran but promoting their own agendas. What was done to her was inhumane and Un-Islamic? The feudal and tribal system that promotes this kind of action must be challenged because who knows how many Mukhtarans have been living in the agony of harm done to them. By exposing her to a society where there is a growing anti-Islamic environment the activists are primarily serving their agenda to humiliate those who stand for Islam or Pakistan.

How many a times, rape offenders in the US have walked free after the jury trial and how many a times the rape victims have to leave their towns and work places to save them selves from humiliation. Yet one hears little from the so called human rights activists about the victims. 

If they were really sensitive to the sufferings of rape victims or the despicable practice of honor killing, they would have joined those groups of Pakistani women and men who have been working tirelessly at the grass root level to ensure that criminals are brought to justice. They would have worked with religious institutions demanding that violence against women and weaker segments of the society must be confronted from places of religious guidance. 

The real purpose appears to be somewhat different than what is stated. There are groups within Pakistan and outside of Pakistan that are keen to destabilize Pakistan politically. Some have not forgiven Pakistan for going nuclear. Some suspect Pakistan harboring and promoting anti-Israel feelings. Others want to see Pakistan disintegrated rather than become a model of "enlightened moderation". Still some others want to see political chaos in the country to allow outsiders to achieve their political agenda. Within the Bush administration there exists a group that believes that by embarrassing the government of Pakistan on issues such as this, they can twist the arm of President Musharraf to win some key concessions. 

Perhaps the best course at present is to persuade the President of Pakistan to personally intervene in this matter and urge the Supreme Court to give its ruling as quickly as possible. However, what is even more important is that a high-powered tribunal consisting of persons with outstanding credentials both in terms of knowledge and integrity, be formed to monitor violence against women in all walks of life and to prosecute those who are responsible for such crimes. 

Women's rights in Pakistan or anywhere else cannot be left at the mercy of political agents who use them to serve their own goals and agenda. Rape victims must not be left at the mercy of those whose interest is determined on the basis of their political philosophies or ideologies. Unfortunately there are thousands of Mukhtarans in our world. We must not allow the opportunists to exploit them further; emotionally and politically. It is time that people who sincerely believe in the rights of victims of rape and violence in Pakistan stand up and talk about the real agenda. The government of Pakistan's sincerity in helping the victims will be judged on the level of support it offers to such genuine groups.

 

Dr. Aslam Abdullah is the editor of the Muslim Observer, director of the Islamic Society of Nevada and director of the Muslim Electorates Council of America (MECA).


Related posts from similar topics:


Disclaimer
The opinions expressed herein, through this post or comments, contain positions and viewpoints that are not necessarily those of IslamiCity. These are offered as a means for IslamiCity to stimulate dialogue and discussion in our continuing mission of being an educational organization. The IslamiCity site may occasionally contain copyrighted material the use of which may not always have been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. IslamiCity is making such material available in its effort to advance understanding of humanitarian, education, democracy, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, and such (and all) material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml If you wish to use any copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

  22 Comments   Comment

  1. Sanaa from USA

    I ask, what could those who "have an agenda against Pakistan and Islam" get by bringing Mukhtar Mai to the US? The author suggests they would "malign the image of Pakistan and Islam." The truth is, we make ourselves look bad when we insist on making up conspiracy theories instead of condemning what actually happened. The author is guilty of double-speak; he encourages challenging the tribal system, but is against publicly criticizing it. How else does one begin to challenge a concept? Perhaps he can give us some suggestions?

    Do you think that this case would have been taken as seriously as it has in the courts in Pakistan had it not been for the international media attention it has receieved? Most likely not. It is unfortunate that as Muslims we can't force change in our community ourselves, and must rely on international pressure to force attention on issues such as these that would otherwise be buried away.

  2. B.SINGH from USA

    I HOPE THAT SOMEONE CAN MAKE PRESIDENT UNDERSTAND WHAT IS GOING ON UNDER HIS NOSE. I AM SURE THAT HE PROBALY DOES KNOW THE FACTS BUT HE IS PUTTING IT UNDER THE RUG AS TO SAY BECASUE HE DOESN'T WANT HIS COUNRTY TO GET A BAD IMAGE. I SAY THE COUNTRY HAS A BAD IMAGE AND HE SHOULD DO WHATEVER HE CAN TO HELP THE MUKHTARAN MAI'S IN PAKISTAN. WHAT HE IS DOING IS UNJUST AND THAT PRESIDENT THAT WE HAVE IN THE US IS INVITING HIM TO GIVE HIM F-16S. WHY DON'T PRESIDENT BUSH ACT LIKE A DECENT HUMAN BEING AND TELL MUSHARAFF THAT HE NEEDS TO LET MAI VISIT THE USA. MUSHARAFF NEEDS TO THINK ABOUT HIS OWN COUNTRY'S WELL BEING BEFORE HE VISITS THE US TO OBTAIN F-16S FROM A MAN WHO SENT INNOCENT MEN AND WOMEN TO IRAQ TO FOR WHAT....EVEN BUSH DOESN'T KNOW. I SAY BUSH AND MUSHARAFF ARE THE SAME IGNORANT MINDED IDIOTS THAT PEOPLE HAVE TO DEAL WITH. AND THE JOKE IS ON THE PEOPLE OF PAKISTAN AND THE USA BECAUSE THESE WERE THE IDIOTS CHOSEN BY ANOTHER BUNCH OF IDIOTS TO PROTECT THEIR COUNTIRES BUT WHO ARE INSTEAD PROTECTING THEIR OWN ASSES FROM HUMILIATION. I AM UNAWARE IF MUSHARAFF HAS DAUGHTERS...WHAT IF HE DID AND THE SAME THING THAT HAPPENED TO MAI HAPPENED TO HIS CHILD..WHAT WOULD HE DO THEN? HE WOULD PROBABLY MOVE HEAVEN AND EARTH TO FIND THE CULPRIT BUT THEN AGAIN HE MAY KILL HER TO RETAIN HIS HONOR.

  3. Hudd from Great North

    Before being followers of Muhammad,pbuh, we Muslims are humans. I remember the words of Mahatma Ghandi, "I love Christianity, I love Islam, but if I failed as a Hindu, I failed as a human." Same could be said of Islam. Whoever fails as a Muslim, fails as a human. What I read in this article is a most disgusting relic of pre-Islamic tribal practices of which every decent Muslim should be ashamed in Pakistan and honestly try to arrest this kind of atavism.

  4. ISyed from Canada

    Assalamalakum,

    As far I know there are many Islamic groups in Pakistan, they have all the power and weapons, their members blow them self in mosques for Islam, how about first providing justice to people at grass root level (as promised in Islam). Why they are muted, Is it because even this so called Islamic groups are run by those tribal leaders ?

    I am sure there are many good Muslims live in Pakistan, why don't a decent brother come forward and marry this women, she deserve this, this will not only give her required protection from any kind of exploitation by NGO's but it will also clam down the critics of Muslims.

    Brothers is time to act.

  5. Br. Orhan from Australia

    Assalaamu 'alaikum wr wb,

    Rape in all its forms is a gross violation of basic human dignity and honour. If those animals practised Islam, they would have been far removed from such actions. As a man, I am for the severest punishment of any form of rape (by death)... even if committed by Muslims!!!

    There are too many victims of rape all over the world (increasing ever so rapidly in the U.S.A.).

    The governments that are in charge must put a stop to this animalistic act, before the harms to society cannot be controlled!

    Wassalaamu 'alaikum wr wb

  6. Kamal Karim from Malaysia

    Yes, it is true that certain foreign elements might have use this case to condemn Islam or an Islamic ccountry. Nevertheless, I am more concern of the the fact that this kind of horror is still quite rampant in Pakistan. The act against Mai is absolutely unacceptable. She is a victim, and should be treated as one. Justice must prevail no matter what and Pakistani government must do it quickly

  7. abdulazziz from usa

    Salaam-

    How Shameful!

    Kufars from the West have to give us lessons on how to treat our women!

  8. Samriti from USA

    I think the issue here is violation of rights of a woman, which is totally despicable and unequivocally unIslamic. Why should the name of Islam be maligned because the people, who claim to follow it, so unashamedely not follow it? Just think what would our dear Prophet (peace be upon him) would have said of such a tribal sentence. Why on earth do these tribes have to claim that they are Muslims if they continue to follow such unIslamic practices even now. For the sake of Allah, stop maligning Islam by your deeds oh Muslims!! Also we should learn the lesson that the US is taking advantage of our inability to protect and deliver justice to our women. We ourselves are giving them this golden opportunity. If the gunahgars (culprits) weredealt with a heavy hand by the govt. of Islamic Repulic of Pakistan, US would not have dared open its mouth. The author should also be beware that comparing the rape victim to "many others who have shared here plight" does not do her any good, if not make the culprits look less monsterous. Yes, there were scores of human rights violation in Gujarat, but lets start with raising our voice of one, rather than subduing the case because many other are also awaiting their justice. Justice will be served on the Judgement Day for everyone InshaAllah!!

  9. Mohammad from USA

    The campaign to punish the rapists has nothing to do with parading the rape victim through the cities of UK and USA. If justice is the purpose, the rights groups should be making a trip to Pakistan to presuure the Government into punishing the rapists, not bringing the victim to the US/UK. Why don't we fly over some of the thousands of women who are raped in the US/UK to Pakistan

  10. billal from U.S.

    I'm sorry to say that I just heard about this injustice. I grew up in Pakistan and take a lot of pride in the thing which are done correctly in that country but I guess it was a long time ago and I was very young things have changed obviously for the worst.

    What doesn't make any sense to me is how these people were sentenced to death and then set free. As for as I am concerned and every Muslim on the face of the earth who has a mother, sister and or a daughter this should be completely UNISLAMIC. And dr. Abdullah I very much appreciate the wide knowledge of current affairs you possess but blaming the human rights groups for concentrating on our faults should be like a sigh from Allah (SWT). How are we going to lead by example if atrocities as such take place in our own backyards? We should be concentrating on how we can fix these UnIslamic acts in a Muslim country effectively and aggressively.

    And now to the person who is directly responsible.

    "General Musharif" you should be ashamed of yourself the daughters of the Islamic nations take pride in the security of her Mujahidin brothers of being protected from all harm foreign and domestic.

    Where were you when she needed you?

    And where is her justice just in case you want to come up with the excuse of you can't keep an eye on every single thing that happens under your Command?

    I am nobody you may never have to answer to me but what are you going to say when you meet your creator???

    Islamic rules under sharia are very clear you should be held responsible for such actions under your command pay attention to your people instead of worrying about pleasing the western "Superpower".

  11. Tom Watson from USA

    This is crazy - it's an apology, and buys into the Musharraf "image of Pakistan" argument. Yes, Mukhtar Mai is one victim in a world of victims - but she is a powerful symbol, indeed, a leader - a real leader, not a military leader - for justice. It is Mukhtaran Bibi who breathes life into the Land of the Pure, and is an extension of its independence movement of the 1940s. (Yes, this is a liberal American view, I admit).

  12. SHAFI from pakistan

    I think what these bad people have done they should be punished by law.other should not teach us lesson of human right.Those who r involved in human right voilation how they can crying for human right voilation.if some thing is wrong it should be corrected by law.America should correct it own record of human right in Iraq and Afghanistan.

  13. nisa from asia

    personally, i think all rapists should have been stoned to death. even minimally, (only if he's single) he should've be flogged 100 stripes in public & shamed for the acts he has done for the rest of his life. the rapists in this case, for me, should have been given the death penalty.

    but modern laws seem to love rapists. these modern laws are merciful to rapists, but what about the victims? is this true justice? i'm saying for all laws that only gives, what 15 years or so, for raping. the victim's scar is for the rest of her life!

    anyway, it's not a mystery if people who hate Islam wants to shame Islam. but when muslims themselves let me down, by bringing no Islamic justice to the victim -- yes, to me that is indeed shameful. muslims should feel ashamed, not because of the western accusations, but for us not implementing our own islamic laws...

  14. Kaa from US

    It's amazing how this serious crime has been deflected into some kind of conspiracy theory. She's a victim for God sake and I don't understand how she shoud be placed under house detention, if not for the same political reasons the author supposedly claim. It's a universal problem and people should be able to work together and speak against this despicable act.

  15. Muhammad from USA

    You cannot stop others from scheming and exploiting your weakness unless you act upon it and do something to close the gap.

    All religions condemn such acts. This is not an Islamic issue but a humanitarian issue that needs addressed in an Islamic state (Pakistan being an Islamic state leaves the issue wide open to all kinds of backlash and exploitation against Islam).

    How do you eat an elephant? Bit by bit. The first bite Pakistan needs to swallow is break the Feudal or Tribal system in the country. Teaching Islam is far beyond the issue here. First teach them what humans are.

  16. N/A from USA

    Aplogists like Dr. Aslam Abdullah need to come out of this conspiracy-theory mindset and start being open minded to criticism.

  17. Jenic from usa

    I say please please please brothers start speaking out and protecting your Muslim sisters. Defend them and seek justice for them. Only when our brothers defend us and demand our safety and rights will we be safe. That is better for us that a bunch of media attention around the world. Brothers in pakistan write,call and pressure your government to do something more. Any women is vulnerable and can become a victim even your own sister, aunt, mother or daughter. Keep us Safe!!!!!

  18. altaf from USA

    Salaam

    I think that Dr. Abdullah you should invite the sister to your masjid --- infact all masjids in the US should issue an open and gracious invitation to the sister to speak out about violence against women.

    I understand and to an extent sympathize with the problem of NGO agendas etc. BUT that should not detract from very real injutices. AND we Muslims, Islamic centers all over the US should take the initiative and invite her over.

  19. Amaveral from USA

    Peace be with You...

    It is all well and good to talk about agendas of other peoples, but the fact is that Muslims SHOULD be ashamed that such things happen in Muslim lands. No doubt there is injustice elsewhere, but followers of the Prophet (PBUH) have been far too tolerant of this sort of criminal activity against women. This behavior is

    sinful and must not be tolerated or minimized by Muslim leaders. Stopping this behavior will be harder than finding some way to deflect attention to other parts of the world--but this is the task which must be accomplished by Believers everywhere.

  20. JAVED PARVEZ from PAKISTAN

    I agree with the comments of RIFFAT HASSAN regarding article written by Dr. Aslam Abdullah.

  21. Sameena from US/India

    Mai was a victim of the pre-lslamic tribal structure of Pakistan that is an outgrowth of the ancient racial hierarchy of Hinduism. There are no tribal or racial or caste hierarchies in Islam. Infact, when Mai sought help, she went to her Muslim cleric who supported her. US and others have deliberately ignored this aspect because they wanted to blame Islam when infact in this case Islam came to her rescue from an inhuman tribal custom. this does not mean that Muslims have no work to do. If Islamic orgs in US had invited Mai to speak out against the unislamic practices of tribal Pakistan, then Westerners would not have had a chance to exploit her. THe other thing we need to do is take a close look at racial (i.e. caste and tribal) hierarchy among Indian and Pakistani Muslims. For example, in Northern India, Muslims still believe in a racial hierarchy similar to that of the Hindus. One of my Indian Muslim acqaintances in the US refers to herself as the Kshatriya (she belongs to Shaikh caste) of the Muslim community. WHat kind of nonsense is that? Petty Muslims like her do it for the same reason that Hindus do -- because it is just too gratifying to feel superior to others by virtue of birth alone (that way you dont have to worry about how good/capable/smart a humanbeing you are in relation to others; much less work for you as a humanbeing). But these beliefs attack what is the greatest strength of Islam in India: its egalitarianism. I hope in the future islamicity will give more coverage to casteist attitudes in India. Indian Muslims need to learn a little healthy shame about their casteist beliefs. Such beliefs destroy Muslim unity in India. It also prevents well-to-do Muslims from having empathy for their less well-to-do counterparts (because the latter are considered low-caste by the former). Instead of legitimizing caste system, we Indian and South Asian Muslims should be a shining example to the Hindus of what an egalitarian society looks like.

  22. RIFFAT HASSAN from USA

    It is a very insightful article which raises some fundamental questions on a serious matter.

    Mukhtaran Mai can be a better advocate for Pakistani women who are victims of violence by remaining in Pakistan and continuing her battle for justice in her own society.