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The mind of an honour killer

07 October 2016

Look who’s talking: the Archbishop of York on the front of last Friday’s Daily Mail

Look who’s talking: the Archbishop of York on the front of last Friday’s Daily Mail

THERE was an excellent bit of reporting from Kathy Gannon, the AP’s veteran Pakistan correspondent, on an honour killing in a Lahore slum, which I have not seen any of the papers here pick up. I don’t think I have ever read a better, more penetrating, and less sentimental piece of journalism about an atrocity.

“Rajhu says he loved his sister, a quiet young woman who had never before rebelled against her family. He gave her a chance, he says; he demanded that she swear on Islam’s holy book, the Qur’an, that she would never marry the man. Frightened, she swore she wouldn’t.

“‘I told her I would have no face to show at the mill, to show to my neighbours, so don’t do it. Don’t do it. But she wouldn’t listen,’ he says.”

The sister slipped off, with her younger brother, and married the man she loved. He had converted to Islam, but in the eyes of her family, and of her brother’s workmates, he was still irredeemably stained with Christianity. So Rajhu beat his younger brother until he confessed he had been a witness at the wedding ceremony, and then he spent a week brooding on the horror of the situation.

His sister was living at home, in the hope that this would reconcile the family to her situation, but she phoned her husband every day. His workmates were delighted at how easy it was to tease him about the situation.

“Rajhu remembered the taunting. His anger grew.

“‘I could not let it go. It was all I could think about. I had to kill her,’ he says. ‘There was no choice.’

”On Aug. 14, Rajhu got his gun. Tasleem was sitting with her mother and her sister on the cracked concrete floor of their family kitchen.

“‘There was no yelling, no shouting,’ he says. ‘I just shot her dead.’

Jehangir, the husband, fled town the same night. Someone shot up the homes of the Christian community from which he came. Rajhu’s father sides entirely with his son. “He is angry that his son killed his sister for two reasons only: the young man is in jail and no longer earning nearly $200 a month, and his family, spread throughout Pakistan, will soon learn of Tasleem’s indiscretions.

“‘My family is destroyed,’ he says, his voice rising. ‘Everything is destroyed only because of this shameful girl. Even after death I am destroyed because of her.’”

Is there perhaps some kind of psychological law which says that self-pity rises with the degree of guilt? The emotion would very well be explained as an evolutionary mechanism to work against the promptings of conscience.

In any case, the story makes a backdrop to the Daily Mail, which picked up on a statement from the Council for Ex-Muslims that “Young Muslims who abandon their faith face violent retaliation and abuse from their families.” This is pegged to an ITV documentary to be broadcast next Thursday.

 

THE Archbishop of York managed to get most of the front page in the Mail for saying that the Calais “Jungle” camp was a product of the Schengen passport-free zone. Rather less factually, he was also quoted as asking: “Given the ability and the number of British ships we’ve got, why aren’t they patrolling the coast around Libya to stop people getting into boats?’”

The answer, of course, is that we no longer have the ability, or the ships, to do any such thing. Meanwhile, it’s worth noting the shift in usage of “trafficking”, which used to have connotations of slavery, or at least of moving people against their will. That made “trafficking” a bad thing, and this badness apparently persists even when the migrants very clearly want to move to England.

Be that as it may, the Mail pronounced: “His extraordinary intervention will be seen as a rare example of a senior churchman stepping directly into political territory.” Mail readers live in happy ignorance of anything else any church leader might have said about the migrant crisis.

 

I WAS greatly struck by the Trump campaign’s reactions to their man’s defeat by Hillary Clinton in the first debate, which was to attack her for her husband’s infidelities. His supporter Rudy Giuilani was reminded that he had his own history of such indiscretions. He told the interviewer: “Everybody does. You know, I’m a Roman Catholic and I confess those things to my priest.”

Trump, his campaign manager, and Giuilani have had ten wives between them — not a lot by Old Testament standards, but, you might have thought, still enough to put off the “family-values” voters. You might, in that case, have been thinking wrong. The last poll I saw had 80 per cent of white Evangelicals supporting Trump.

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