Asma Jahangir – in death, as in life
Zahra Hayat attended the funeral of Pakistan’s bravest citizen. In her moving account she narrates the ‘beautiful subversion.’
As I walked into the stadium for Asma Jahangir’s funeral, I initially couldn’t spot any women. I hesitated, and tried to remember the logistics of death: do women even attend public funeral prayers? What if they asked me to leave? Then quickly, sanity returned. Would Asma Jahangir be having these thoughts? Never; she would charge right in.
So I channeled her, then, as I know I will many many times after today, stood up a little taller, and walked in. And of course, there were so many women. Many were lawyers. A sense of solidarity. We asked each other where the women’s enclosure was, expecting any minute to be directed away from where her body was kept, to a separate female enclosure. There was none. Of course.
As we crowded around the front, women and men, announcements began about starting the namaz, and again, we expected to finally be told to step back and form lines behind the men. But instead, the men were asked to move to the back, and the women called to the front.
We prayed like that, standing next to some men, in front of others. No one objected. It was beautiful, so fitting.
I should’ve known — how could the woman who charged alone, quite literally, into all male bar rooms, courtrooms, into all sorts of hyper masculine spaces, countenance that the women who came to say farewell to her, their hero, be shunted to the back?
Such beautiful subversion, in death as in life.
Farewell, Asma. Rest in power.
The author is a lawyer, and is currently a PhD student in Anthropology at UC Berkeley.