The lioness thwarted the wolves

Tarek Fatah on Asma Jahangir’s final victory over the angry Islamists.

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.

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.

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.

As Tarek says at the end – Farewell, sister.

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