FATAH: Pakistan’s lioness Asma Jahangir will never die

Originally on The Toronto Sun

File 3715

In this June 14, 2017 file photo, Pakistani human rights activist Asma Jahangir speaks to The Associated Press in Lahore, Pakistan. Jahangir died of a heart attack in the eastern city of Lahore on Sunday, Feb. 11, 2018. She was 66.K.M. Chaudary / AP

For over 40 years the lioness of Pakistan stood alone, surrounded by a snarling pack of hyenas circling her for the kill. But they never dared come close to Asma Jahangir whose stare alone used to send many a jihadi and military general packing with tails tucked between their rears.

Then on Sunday Jahangir passed away as a result of a cardiac arrest.

Few in Canada or the U.S. know of this iron lady who was a feminist in the true sense of the word, not like the pussy-hat wearing fashionistas obsessed with their sacred alliance with the most right-wing regressive forces of Islamism, exemplified by the hijab of Linda Sarsour.

Asma Jahangir didn’t ever wrap her head in hijab, the flag of misogyny that has enamoured so many white women of privilege. She knew the piece of cloth represented Islamic radicalism.

Only 66, she was also the UN Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran. While most Pakistanis, Indians and Iranians were shocked at the news of her death, Islamists of the region rejoiced.

A comment on Pakistan’s Herald Tribune newspaper by one Osama Tariq epitomized the celebratory atmosphere among her Islamist enemies. Tariq wrote: “We finally got rid of her. She was the worst enemy of Islam and Pakistan.”

It didn’t stop there. Mehreen Sabtain, a news anchor on the country’s Bol TV network, mocked Jahangir as gay and a traitor. She tweeted: “Where are we heading as a nation, now traitors are hero-worshipped & our bikaoo [sell-out] media glorify them on TV screens! The fag fought for fame for rest of her life by always lashing at saviors of state.”

But the lioness, even in death, left the wolves in agony. 

Mullahs gossiped in glee that no matter what Jahangir did in life, after her death her body would end up in their hands. This, because burial ceremonies are a monopoly of mosque-run cemeteries, and Islamic traditions (not the Quran) forbids women from being present at funerals.

The plan was to bar her Canadian-educated daughters, female followers and non-Muslims who she often represented, from the ceremony in which they could then insult her through insinuations mumbled in incomprehensible Arabic prayers. 

Not so easy ayatollah. Asma Jahangir would not go quietly.

Friends and family of Jahangir turned the tables by inviting the harshest critic of the Islamist establishment, Haider Maududi, who ironically is the son of the founder of the radical Jamaat-e-Islami (a Muslim Brotherhood sister group in the Indian subcontinent) to conduct the farewell prayers and rituals.

Not only did an anti-Islamist lead her funeral prayer on Tuesday, but for the first time anywhere in the world, women of all ages joined the mixed-gender prayer, standing shoulder to shoulder with men in the front row — scores of them, some in the traditional Indo-Pakistani head cover ‘dopatta’, some even bare-headed, but not a single woman in hijab.

The impact of this funeral will be felt for ages, breaking a 1,000-year-old Islamic ruling that says the female presence at funerals is prohibited, as it may lead to ‘temptations’ among the men.

Asma Jahangir was from my generation. I was just out of prison when I first heard of her, daring to climb over the wall of a military-appointed governor in Lahore to place a black flag of dissent. 

Farewell, sister. Some have described you as Joan of Arc, but the truth is, you are our very own ‘Liberty’ leading the people, as depicted in Delacroix’s masterpiece in 1830. You will never die.