Sunday September 26, 2021

Time to do Right

July 29, 2021

They say not to write in anger. In this case, it’s just not possible. Islamabad is reeling after the gruesome murder of a beautiful young girl called Noor Makadum at the hands of a disturbed privileged monster, Zahir Jaffer. Everyone who knew Noor tells that she was a kind person who loved animals. She always saw the best in people and went out of her way to make them feel good. So imagine, the last thing this precious girl saw was this wicked man’s hateful hideous face. It leaves our belief system shaken. We ask ourselves, why did this innocent soul have to meet her end in this manner? It’s not fair. One cannot even begin to fathom what Noor’s parents are going through. How her father found the strength to speak to the public and demand justice for his daughter shows how resilient the human mind can be. May God be with him and his family. They should know that Islamabad and the rest of the country is with them. Our collective thoughts and prayers will get Noor the justice she deserves.

This case wreaks of negligence, privilege, and misogyny. The farce organization called ‘Therapy Works’ where Zahir the murderer was a counsellor, needs to be torn down. Digressing briefly, just stop and think about that. Zahir Jaffer, who has had a history of violent outbursts leading up to this murder was allowed to become a counsellor. As per reports, he was deported from the UK for rape. If that doesn’t make your blood boil, what will? How can a society take such a cavalier attitude towards mental health? In this day and age, there is absolutely no excuse for such criminal negligence. Sweeping volatile behavior under the rug cannot be acceptable. When the dust settles, we must demand proper centres with certified counsellors. There is a huge void in the market, and it needs to be filled on an urgent basis. We need help, now more than ever.

Coming from a privileged background myself, it is clear that people from a certain social class can wriggle their way out of trouble. Ask yourself, how many people do we know that have been involved in hit and run car accidents while inebriated and have gotten off scot- free? Far too many. Zahir Jaffer’s family and their wealth helped protect the dangerous criminal. He was free to openly operate in society because of his family's influence and privilege. It is reported that after his arrest, Zahir was telling reporters that he was an American citizen and wanted a lawyer immediately. Hearing that makes the stomach turn. It’s just gross. It’s time that we put the fear of God in the privileged community. Let us know that we cannot get away with crimes willy-nilly.

Finally, the inherent misogyny in our society. We must take collective responsibility, and do everything in our power to change the narrative. Rather than preaching to others first, it is always better to start with yourself. Make a conscious effort to change the way we speak and act. Realize that men can never truly understand how women feel, especially when it comes to sexual violence. The thought of being overpowered, and then the eventual surrender. No man will ever understand that kind of fear and anxiety. Listening, rather than interjecting to make it sound more “rational.” There comes a time when one just needs to shut up and listen. Most importantly, calling out bad behavior! Easier said than done of course, however it is crucial to make demeaning misogynists feel small. When we laud or ignore toxic behavior, it breeds a culture of intolerance and humiliation.

After the murder, we found that some of the questions that were being asked by both men and women were either irrelevant or had subtle undertones of victim blaming. For example, wasn’t Noor aware of the boy’s condition? Why did she go to his house? The questions we need to ask are:

1. Why did the boy’s parents leave him unsupervised if they knew about his violent proclivities?

2. Did his family and friends turn a blind eye to his erratic behaviour?

3. Why was he allowed to become a counsellor given his history?

Nothing will bring Noor back to her parents. That gut wrenching feeling will never leave them. With that said, they should know that their daughter has awoken our conscience and forced us to redress our thought process. We are all in deep shock, but when it wears off, we need to make concerted efforts to make a difference, in and outside our homes. This is what nation building is all about. Let us work together to become more aware and compassionate. Let us be truthful and upstanding in our actions, rather than social media. Let Noor be our guiding light and our source for good. Let her be the new spirit of Islamabad.

Rest in Peace Noor. May there be beautiful cats and dogs wherever you go. (The writer is former editor of Blue Chip Magazine)