Zainab Amin‘s parents always did what they could to show the Almighty their loyalty. A few weeks ago, the couple were on a pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia when news reached them that back home, in Kasur, Pakistan, Zainab had gone missing. The girl’s mother, Nusrat, sunk to her knees in the Prophet Mohammed’s mosque in Medina, and prayed harder than she ever had before:
“Oh God, keep Zainab safe and protected. Oh God, I have come to your door like a beggar. Oh God, please do not send me away empty-handed.”
But God, as is his wont, didn’t listen. Five days later, Zainab’s broken, sodomized body was found in a local garbage dump, caked in blood, semen, and fecal matter.
She was seven years old, and she was the thirteenth underage victim of a serial killer who, police say, has now finally been apprehended.
Presumably, the other twelve families prayed just as hard, and certainly as ineffectively, for the safe return of their children.
It’s striking how news reports of the recent events in Kasur are shot through with religious faith, and how none of those references cast religion in a halfway positive light. People prayed for Zainab and the other victims, but Allah didn’t care enough to save 13 children from an unimaginably savage, agonizing end. In death, Zainab became a blessed martyr, but surely all those who loved her would’ve preferred that Allah had spared her such an honor.
Also, parents of earlier victims had tried to spur the police into action, but detectives replied that finding the killer was in God’s hands. Inshallah, they kept saying, Arabic for “God willing” — and an excuse for doing nothing. Based on what the police learned, officers now say they’ll be better prepared when, “God forbid,” children go missing again, but of course God didn’t forbid, and he won’t lift a finger next time either. This is, after all, the same God who chose inaction a few years ago, when 280 Kasur-area children were repeatedly raped and filmed by members of the largest pedophile ring Pakistan has ever known.
Finally, as Abdul Sattar of NPR’s Islamabad bureau points out, in conservative Islamic countries, it’s shameful to talk about rape and sexual abuse. That means that many devout families sweep such matters under the rug, perpetuating the problem and letting rapists walk free, rather than risk the wagging tongues of their religious cohorts.
According to Pamela Constable in the Washington Post,
Child abuse [in Pakistan] is common but rarely reported, and sex education is too controversial for public schools. Rape victims are often charged with adultery and jailed, and tribal councils — part of a traditional parallel justice system — have sentenced women and girls to be raped as retribution for forbidden dalliances or elopement committed by their male relatives. …
Witnesses often refuse to testify, police are discouraged from investigating, and courts routinely free accused abusers. … [I]t was not until two years ago that sexual abuse of minors was made a criminal offense.
And just by the way, Allah the Mighty, the Merciful, also looked the other way when Lama al-Ghamdi was tortured, sexually mutilated, and killed by her father, a prominent Saudi scholar and a regular TV commentator on issues of religion and morality. Lama was five years old and had been taught to pray fervently.
What, do you reckon, could account for God’s stony deafness? Religious believers, keep Occam’s Razor in mind, and take all the time you need.