Muslim myth # 1431: women are respected in Islam.
Acid attacks are one of the most brutal forms of Islamist violence. They are also on the increase. These vicious assaults are not designed to kill, rather they are fashioned to maim and disfigure the victim beyond recognition so that they are left to live their lives in a constant state of shame, ridicule and rejection. Survivors are left with vivid memories of the attack and are forced to adapt to lifelong psychological distress, acute anxiety and fear, knowing that their attacker(s) will most likely be set free, able to return to repeat the abuse as he sees fit. Eighty percent of acid attack victims are girls and women and of that number, 40% are under the age of 18.
The Islamic Republic of Pakistan has the second largest Muslim population in the world after Indonesia. A conservative nation ruled by sharia, it should come as no surprise to anyone that it is also one of the countries with high incidents of acid throwing along with Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Iran, India and among the Muslim Chan in Cambodia. Pakistan has little legislation against such violence. Article 209 of Iran’s constitution states that a woman’s life is valued only half as much as a man’s, leaving women ripe for violent sexual, physical and psychological abuse, social ridicule and harassment. They in turn are further victimized by a legal system void of equality under the law deeming them little better than cattle. Iranian courts do not provide women any protection from abusive husbands. The plight of the Iranian woman is depicted in the story of this woman:
” I was married at the age of 12, and I had my first child when I was 13. My husband was unemployed and we fought all the time. We never applied for a divorce because I was afraid of losing my child. Finally one night, he poured a bucket of acid over my body and I was completely burned. When I rushed to the sink to flush my face and body, I realized he had shut off the main water supply. I was taken to the hospital. My operation was held up pending advance money for the surgery, and permission from my husband to operate on my face. My mother sold all of her valuables to provide the money. My husband said he would only permit my operation if I contested to not seeing my children for the rest of my life. Finally, with the hospital’s pressure on the family court, they allowed me to receive the operation on my face and body”.
Not only are limitations on the lives of women legalized in Iran, Pakistan has very limited legislation protecting women from such deliberate, horrific abuse. The Telegraph U.K. runs an article ” Pakistan’s acid attack victims pin hope on new laws”, which illustrates the campaigning of activists who are pressuring for change to the already inadequate laws to prevent such attacks. A law was drafted, but is held in limbo due to opposition from a hardline Islamist senator. (Interestingly, one of the comments following the article was made by an upset reader who seemed not in the least bit concerned with the story, but rather decided to chastise the Telegraph for including the photo).
Islamic countries aren’t the only hot spots for honour crimes, of which acid tossing is only one tactic. Anywhere radical Muslims settle, trouble is bound to follow. Nor are men immune from such vile assaults. Last February, the BBC reported that a Pakistani man had been sentenced to 20 years in prison by a French court for setting fire to his ex-girlfriend because she refused to marry him. Chahrazad Belayani was set ablaze on the street in the Paris suburb of Neuilly-sur-Marne and suffered third degree burns to 60% of her body. Amer Mushtaq Butt had meticulously planned the attack in an attempt to restore his honour.
In December of last year Nadeem Badash wrote in The Guardian U.K.:
‘Just the thought of having acid hurled in your face or poured down your throat is enough to send shivers down the spine. Even more worrying is that this sickening practice is becoming increasingly evident in Britain, leaving victims with permanent scarring, blindness and a lifetime struggling with shame’.