Until seeing this video I’d never heard of Veena Malik. Turns out she’s a big name in Pakistani entertainment. In this clip from a local talk show, she gets severely criticized by your typically tolerant Islamic cleric, but doesn’t back down at all. In fact, she stands her ground courageously and wins the argument easily. But that may not be the end of the story.
Though as I said she wins the argument very easily at least to Western eyes, I suspect that for Malik, the fallout from this interview is only beginning. The cleric set her up to be a victim of a so-called “honor killing” in the way he approached their discussion.
Here’s how Amnesty International defines honor killing.
So-called honor killings are based on the belief, deeply rooted in some cultures, of women as objects and commodities, not as human beings endowed with dignity and rights equal to those of men. Women are considered the property of male relatives and are seen to embody the honor of the men to whom they “belong.” Women’s bodies are considered the repositories of family honor. The concepts of male status and family status are of particular importance in cultures where “honor” killings occur and where women are viewed as responsible for upholding a family’s “honor.” If a woman or girl is accused or suspected of engaging in behavior that could taint male and/or family status, she may face brutal retaliation from her relatives that often results in violent death. Even though such accusations are not based on factual or tangible evidence, any allegation of dishonor against a woman often suffices for family members to take matters into their own hands.
The cleric sets her up deftly, without calling for her to be killed outright. A couple of minutes into the clip, the cleric says that her son won’t be able to look at her glamorous pictures in her presence, or in the presence of her father or brother. Why bring them up? In fundamentalist Islam, fathers and brothers are responsible for defending a family’s honor. If a woman behaves in an un-Islamic way or is seen to do so, her close male relatives have the responsibility to bring her back to proper behavior, or to kill her if she doesn’t acquiesce. The cleric accuses Malik of a few crimes, then brings her male relatives into the conversation. Her refusal to back down or confess to any wrongdoing is, to the cleric at least, a conviction. She’ll need to watch her back. I would suggest that she move to the United States, but aside from the fact that she shouldn’t have to do that, emigrating will not be enough to guarantee her safety.