“You mean to tell me they shot her for going to school?” Precilla’s disbelief is tangible. “Why?”
“It’s not so easy to explain. They’ve got the Taliban, see? And they don’t believe in equality over there. They like to think of women as uneducated, subservient beings; conveniences to be used at leisure. A woman may be sold, murdered, raped, burnt, disfigured by acid – and they do it in the name of honour and religion.” Gertruida shakes her head. “It’s a male dominated society, so women have become merchandise.
“One must try to understand the basics of Islam in order to make sense of how it commands society to act. There are five basic pillars to Islam: faith, prayer, charity, fasting and the Hajj. The Quran is very specific about this: it states that man and woman were created from a single soul, and therefore equal before God. Then it states, and I quote: And of His signs is this: He created for you helpmeets from yourselves that ye might find rest in them, and He ordained between you love and mercy. So, initially, both Christianity and Islam maintained that man was created to protect woman and love her. In contrast to Arabic custom of the time, Mohammed wrote down that women have rights – he was one of the first to plead for their upliftment. So popular were his teachings about female education, that Fatima al-Fihri founded the first the world’s very first academic degree-granting university. “
“So what went wrong, Gertruida? If the Quran granted women certain rights, and an Islamic woman started the first university, why are women so oppressed under Islam law?” Vetfaan has to concentrate to keep his jaw from dropping. Gertruida’s general knowledge never ceases to astound him.
“The same thing that went wrong with the rest of history. The male ego. Testosterone. The desire to conquer and rule. Most of all wars were fought because of religion or sex or property– cleverly disguised as the quest for justice. In Christianity we have thousands of churches, each proclaiming that they have figured out the correct version of God’s will. They all use the same Bible, but choose to interpret certain sections in certain ways. The Muslims do the same. Islam, like Christianity, isn’t a single belief.”
Precilla still doesn’t understand. “It is difficult to imagine how the order for ‘love and mercy’ between man and wife can be twisted to such an extent that it justifies the shooting of a teenaged girl because she wants to go to school. Something is wrong with that picture.”
“Well, I must say we can’t afford to point fingers at Pakistan, guys.” Sersant Dreyer finishes his beer before going on. “Officially, we had 15,600 murders in 2011/12. Our murders are amongst the most brutal imaginable. One estimate is that there more than one million women are raped annually in our country. The case of the Indian girl that was gang-raped made the world sit up – and rightly so. But what about the situation here? Can we justify remaining quiet in a society that turns a blind eye to these things? “
“Yes, I think the President should get on a podium and clearly say: enough is enough!” There’s a slight tremor is Servaas’ voice. “Rapists and murderers should be put away for life and stripped of all rights. The punishment must be so severe that people will talk about it in hushed tones. The food must be terrible. The work must be back-breaking. No rights to education, medical care, recreational facilities. The President must be so clear about this, so emphatically determined, that criminals would shudder at the thought of a guilty verdict.”
“That’s the sad thing, Servaas. The President won’t do it, and the churches tell people all sins will be forgiven. All religions have at their foundations the existence of a merciful God that rules over the affairs of mankind. They tell us of a loving God, urging us to follow His commands. No matter if you pray in a mosque or a church or a temple– one should leave with a humble feeling, wanting to do what is right, listening to God’s will.
“It takes a girl raped to death in India, or a teenager being shot at point-blank range in Pakistan to make the world take notice. I wonder when somebody is going to say something about Africa?”
“It’s not the countries, my friends.” Oudoom holds up an admonishing finger. “It’s not even the pure ideals of religion. It’s the culture of crime and destruction. It isn’t God’s fault. We embrace evil, that’s what’s wrong. We love horror movies. Children are fascinated by vampires and blood. We love the fact that 007 is licensed to kill. For some ungodly reason, we love destructive entertainment and our children are exposed to violence from the earliest ages. We are experts in perpetuating abuse and conflict. It is a fact that all cultures developed in a cradle of violence. That’s who we are. Not a single society in the world can claim a non-violent history.
“That’s why religion – pure religion – is so important. It holds up a mirror for us all to see who we really are. And only if we are honest with ourselves, will we acknowledge our terrible shortcomings. That’s why we need effective churches and efficient governments. The churches and religions must turn back to God and stop playing power-games amongst themselves. And governments must realise they have a social contract with the population under their care.”
“Well said, Dominee. When do we start?” Servaas seems almost relieved.
Oudoom sighs and rests his chin on his folded arms on the counter top. “The problem, Brother, is not when. It’s where. It starts in the heart of simple people living in shacks, waiting for the ruling party to supply food packets and monthly grants. It starts in the well-to-do houses of successful businessmen and women, realising their empires rest on the labour of others. It starts with ministers and politicians realising they have a contract with society to be just and fair and respected. It starts with a President who has the courage to tell his parliament that he is sick and tired of abuse and crime and corruption.” He fishes out a handkerchief to dab his eyes. “We must stop thinking God will fix everything. We, all of us, have an obligation to refuse to live in a world without love.”
“So, you’re saying…” Kleinpiet raises an questioning eyebrow.
“Yes, Kleinpiet. It won’t happen.”