Common Word, Common Lord

In the Name of God: The Extremely and Eternally Loving and Caring

I was so very pleased to see “A Girl In The River” win the Oscar for Best Documentary Film (Short Subject). The film tells the story of Saba, an 18-year-old girl who was brutally attacked by her father and uncle because she married someone against their will. In an interview on NPR, which will air on March 7 (the same day the film will air on HBO), director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy told Steve Inskeep:

Saba was engaged to a young man and she wanted to get married to him. The family was okay with it, but the uncle was not. He decided she should marry someone else. Bravely one morning, Saba ran away from home to a local court and got married. Her father and uncle came to her in-laws’ house and said, “Let us take her back to our home, and then you come take her honorably so neighbors and society don’t look upon us as a family that has been shamed.”

But instead, they put her in a car, took her to a wooded area, beat her for a long time before shooting her, put her in a gunny sack, and threw her in a river. She miraculously survived.

In a year where diversity (or lack thereof) in Hollywood and the Academy was the talk of the town, it was wonderful to see the Academy recognize not only this film, but also shine a spotlight on the horrific practice of (dis-)honor killings. In fact, according to Ms. Obaid-Chinoy, the Prime Minister of Pakistan has vowed to change the laws in Pakistan as a result of this film:

The prime minister came out and said that he wanted to work on the issue of honor killings, and he has since then met with me. He has spoken with members of his political party to plug loopholes in the law. He’s saying that there is no place for honor killings in Islam, and we must make that clear to everybody.

If this law passes, the honor killings will be a crime against the state. A lot of things can go wrong [in trying to get this law passed]. But if three or four people go to jail, the fifth person will think twice before shooting someone in his family.

This is truly wonderful. This barbaric savagery known as (dis-)honor killings is a stain on the fabric of the societies – Muslim or otherwise – in which they occur. As a father who lost his daughter, I am utterly shocked that this man could actually try to kill his own daughter. He told the Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy:

Yes, I killed her. She’s my daughter and I wanted to kill her. I provided for her. How dare she defy me? How dare she go out without my permission? And I am ready to spend my entire life in jail because this is something I did for my honor, the honor of my family. She has shamed us.

Truly disgusting. He is the one who shamed his family, not his daughter. He is the one who has brought dishonor on his family, not his daughter, by this horrific crime. He is the criminal in this case, not his daughter, who will forever live with the trauma of almost being killed by her own father. And even though she may have been pressured to forgive him, he will not escape Divine Justice:

And do not think that God is unaware of what the evildoers are doing: He but grants them respite until the Day when their eyes will stare in horror (14:42).

Thank you very much, Academy, for doing an enormous service by recognizing this film. Thank you, Ms. Obaid-Chinoy, for making this film and telling this story. And, most of all, thank you, Saba, for your tremendous courage in telling this story for all the world to see. God bless your ways forever. Amen.

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