After Salman Taseer's Death

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
Jan. 18 2011 11:38 AM

After Salman Taseer's Death


Salman Taseer, governor of Pakistan's largest province, was murdered earlier this month when he was shot by one of his own guards, who was apparently enraged at Taseer's defense of a woman accused of blasphemy under a controversial Pakistani law. What happened within hours of Taseer’s death, when his body was still shrouded in the Pakistan flag and his coffin had yet to be lowered in the graveyard of the martyrs, shocked and confused me as a Pakistani. Religious leaders from all across the country chose to condemn Taseer and congratulate the murderer. Facebook fan sites for the assassin were set up within hours of the killing, and lawyers offered free services for defending the guard in court.


There is a mosque located a stone's throw from my office, and the men who work with me often head there to offer prayers on Friday. This mosque is affiliated with a religious organization whose leaders urged Muslims not to attend Taseer’s funeral or to express regret over his killing.

A few days after the funeral, I put on a loose-fitting shalwar kameez, covered my head, and stepped into the dimly lit interior hall where men offered prayers. It wasn’t time for the afternoon namaz yet, so the room held only a few men silently reciting the Quran in a corner. I wanted to ask the religious scholar who heads the mosque how anyone could express joy over a murder of a politician whose only fault was speaking his mind on a controversial law.

The head of the mosque wore glasses and had a circular slightly depressed mark on his forehead. In Islam, the mark is considered a sign of great piety: It’s believed that it is created only after thousands and thousands of prostrations before Allah. Taseer’s murderer had a similar mark on his forehead.

I sat in front of the mosque leader and waited for him to look up from the pages of the Quran he was reading. "How can anyone be happy at the murder of our governor?" I asked. "He was an enemy of Islam," the scholar answered with composure. "He was siding with those who had insulted our prophet."

When I was growing up in Lahore, convent schools were the most sought after educational institutes in the city. And being invited to a Christmas party was chic. Children, both Muslims and otherwise, would wear Santa costumes just because they were cute, and huge Xmas trees would adorn shopping malls and hotels.

But now being a non-Muslim is a crime in Lahore. Aasia Bibi, the Christian woman accused of blasphemy, has sworn that she did not insult the prophet, but the court has still sentenced her to death. Taseer was killed for stating that he thought Aasia was innocent. And my husband believes I am insane for even daring to write all this. To be honest, I only dare to do so because I know this post is being published in English, and mullahs probably don’t read Slate .

Photograph of Pakistani Islamists burning a poster of Salman Taseer by Arif Ali for Getty Images.


Justice Ginsburg’s Crucial Dissent in the Texas Voter ID Case

The Jarring Experience of Watching White Americans Speak Frankly About Race

Here’s Just How Far a Southern Woman May Have to Drive to Get an Abortion

The Most Ingenious Teaching Device Ever Invented

Marvel’s Civil War Is a Far-Right Paranoid Fantasy

It’s also a mess. Can the movies do better?


Sprawl, Decadence, and Environmental Ruin in Nevada

Space: The Next Generation

An All-Female Mission to Mars

As a NASA guinea pig, I verified that women would be cheaper to launch than men.

Watching Netflix in Bed. Hanging Bananas. Is There Anything These Hooks Can’t Solve?

The 2014 Kansas City Royals Show the Value of Building a Mediocre Baseball Team

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 20 2014 1:50 PM Why We Shouldn’t be Too Sure About the Supposed Deal to Return the Abducted Nigerian Schoolgirls
Oct. 20 2014 2:16 PM Even When They Go to College, The Poor Sometimes Stay Poor
Oct. 20 2014 2:19 PM A Procedural Rule Could Keep Gay Marriage From Ever Reaching SCOTUS Again
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 1:10 PM Women Are Still Losing Jobs for Getting Pregnant
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
Brow Beat
Oct. 20 2014 2:39 PM Gwen Stefani Does Her Best Rihanna Impression on New Song
Future Tense
Oct. 20 2014 1:51 PM Will Amazon Lead Us to the Golden Age of Books? A Future Tense Event.
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 20 2014 11:46 AM Is Anybody Watching My Do-Gooding? The difference between being a hero and being an altruist.
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 10:23 AM Where I Was Wrong About the Royals I underestimated the value of building a team that’s just barely better than mediocre.