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Burned Alive for $47


Eid al-Adha, the Muslim feast commemorating Abraham’s sacrifice of his son Ishmael, was Tuesday. Muslims frequently give special gifts (eidi) to those they love on such festive days, but in Muhammad Aslam’s home in Faisalabad, the great day came and went and Aslam had no eidi for his wife. In fact, she recounted later, he ignored her completely for the rest of the week. But that turned out to be the least of her troubles.

The following Friday, Aslam’s wife had made plans to go shopping with some of her friends, women from the area. She accordingly approached Aslam and made bold to ask him for eidi of 5,000 Pakistani rupees – that is, $47.13.

She didn’t get it. Instead, Aslam jumped up, seized her by the hair, and began beating her. Not content with the damage he could do alone, he called his brother, Muhammad Akram (no explanation is given in the Pakistani news item for the brothers’ identical forenames and different surnames). Akram, says the news report, “caught her by the arms while Aslam threw kerosene oil at her. They then set fire to her clothes.”

The poor woman is now in critical condition, with severe burns over 55 percent of her body. Pakistani police are hunting for Akram and Aslam, who fled the scene. But even if they are caught, the underlying problem will remain: Muhammad Aslam’s wife was the victim of entrenched and religiously sanctioned culture of violence against women, which still remains, and will victimize many, many more women.