Freedom in this country doesn’t come easy. Fatima* was tied up and brutally beaten because she fell in love with a Christian man. She was not only beaten, but also caned, punched, and kicked until she was bruised blue and purple everywhere. She was kept tied up in a dark room without food and water. Nobody heard her cries. Her own mother had abandoned her to the beasts that were doing this to her. Fatima’s only mistake was to fall in a love with a man who did not belong to the same religion as her. She was Muslim, and fatefully, Salman* was not.
Fatima told her family everything she liked about the man she wanted to marry, about the religion she wanted to follow and sought their agreement to do so. However, her family objected vehemently, scarring her emotionally, mentally and physically. Fearing getting killed, Fatima ran away from what she thought was her ‘home’.
She got married to Salman in a church, and was baptised that particular day. But her story did not end there. Her family was out to get her and her husband. Her uncle and her cousin, who belonged to a banned religious political party, registered a case against her for apostasy, which is punishable by death in Pakistan. She was attacked and shot at, and so was her husband. The couple is still on the run.
I met Salman and Fatima while they were trying to seek asylum in a foreign country. They needed a translator who could narrate their story in English to their legal counsellor so that they could have a fair chance to live a peaceful life. I was petrified telling their story; imagine what it must be like living through it.
My voice shook with horror as I narrated their story to the legal counsel. It was as if I was living the torture Fatima endured at the hands of her loved ones just because she decided to follow God – but from a different religion; because she fell in love with a man from a different religion.
When Fatima would pause from sobbing, to regain her strength to divulge her horrifying story bit by bit, I would pause too – unable to breathe – hoping, rather naively, for it to end. But it continued. It continued until she was there begging to be kept safe in a foreign land. All because in her own home, her own family wanted to kill her. Her own countrymen turned against her. All because someone in her family thought they had the right to take her life, because “God intended that to be.”
Is this the kind of security we are willing to provide our children for the choices they make? For the God given free will she practiced? Is this the kind of religious narrative you want in Pakistan? Why is what we learn in school so different from what we apply in our personal lives? Aren’t we taught to be tolerant towards all religions? Tolerant towards other people’s opinions and choices?
So who gave another human being, made of the same flesh and blood that every human on this planet is made of, the right to take a life?
I may be preaching to the choir here, but Islam is a religion of peace. Murdering in its name must stop. Faith should be a personal decision made between man and his Maker. We should be able to practise a faith we believe in following. And we should have laws that protect that choice. Not ones, like the blasphemy law, that encourages religious intolerance such as this. Let’s let God decide who deserves death and who doesn’t. Stop playing God, because last I remember, that in itself is a sin.
*Names have been changed to protect identity.
from The Express Tribune Blog http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/29473/if-she-stayed-in-pakistan-she-would-be-killed/