I just watched 'Murdered By My Father' on the BBCiplayer. It's about an honour killing where the father ends up killing his daughter, Salma, for having a boyfriend despite being matched to a young man whom she never chose to marry. Of course there's more to it but I would highly suggest watching it.
I have been aware of honour killings since I was little. It's not a new phenomenon. I'd heard of incidences happening in India, once where a young lad was found in his farm well dead because of being sweet on a girl from the same village. And I even heard about them here, where the in-laws burnt their daughter-in-law for wearing western clothes outside (yeah, I know), despite growing up away from the Asian community. Perhaps it's just my family- I doubt that- the incidences weren't discussed as being something evil- in fact it was always as almost something to be justified in a way- most of the time it was blamed on the girl for bringing shame. Whatever the girl suffered- it was explained away as punishment for her own wrongdoing. It was discussed as gossip, people delighted in someone else's downfall- as if the girl's family were at fault; the remaining siblings would be 'written off'; the entire family would be outcasted; small trivial things would be blamed such as the mother working instead of mothering. It was something that I was threatened with as a 'if' I ever did anything to bring shame or as my father put it- 'cut his nose', he would kill me. It nearly happened to me when I ran away and it was something I only narrowly escaped. Though the reasoning behind my near honour death was very different to the one portrayed in the film, it still held a lot of similarities. Mainly the aftermath- I had guilt trips from my paternal grandma to go back, Salma got the texts. Thankfully I refused, regrettably she fell for it.
Whilst watching the film, I kept wondering when the father's mask would slip, and out would come the anger that you can just lurking under the surface. The reality of the sex scene at the wedding is pretty unrealistic. Those aunties at the wedding would have smelt a fishy situation a mile away. The actor who played the father was amazingly good at portraying the character, it was easy to see the undertones. I watched through it, didn't skip despite worrying for the girl, just because I wondered how it would lead up to the inevitable ending, and afterwards some thoughts came to mind.
Okay, so, I thought it was way too downplayed; the whole affair was too sedate and perhaps because it was a film for non south asians to watch. I apologise it that sounds a bit bad. I also wonder how much damage this will do the muslim communities, it's not just a muslim issue. It happens in other South Asian communities too. I feel that because of what's currently happening in the world, another culture may have made a bigger impact. It would have been nice for muslims to not be seen as bad people for once by the BBC (just listen to Nihal on the BBC Asian Network). Because of this, had they chosen another culture, it would have come forth as more shocking and just as realistic.
I wasn't that shocked by it as I thought it would be, sure the murder is just horrible. Now, because I know and have heard of girls/ women being burned alive, perhaps it wasn't as bad. It doesn't mean that I think that honour killings aren't horrific. I still remember an incident that I was told about 12 years ago and it has stayed with me ever since. I spent 3 years trying to get a regional level Black and Minority Ethnic organisation to make awareness of honour killings it's top priority. They didn't listen. So back to the film, making non-asians aware of the issue of honour killings is very important. But if it doesn't shock me and other people from the South Asian community then how will that make a difference? Perhaps it was an awareness film, but even if it was also to shock or shame people, would it even work? Shame is a complicated concept, in that there's no one way to bring it onto the family. Perhaps I have lived outside the community too long as what I did find shocking was the father's friend telling him that Salma doesn't need an education- that it'll make her too free or give her ideas.
I also felt that perhaps there should have been more of an emphasis on the fact that it's the pressure of being judged and shunned by 'the community' that can have a huge role to play in some incidents. Sharam/shame is such a massive concept in South Asian communities- often only linked to the actions of a female. The father refers to the shame his daughter has brought to the family. My mother won't accept my own personal choices because she's scared of what her community will think. The community has a huge part to play in this film and in honour killings, and I believe that it's true ugly side wasn't shown enough. Some people will kill, others will disown or simply brush the shame under the carpet. Shame and honour together can have devastating results.
I remember asking my grandma what would have happened if I was a boy and ran away from home? She told me she would have broken my bones. But we both knew that she was lying.
Until next time,
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