Gay rights

An open letter to Muhammad Ejaz, serial killer of gay men in Lahore

Lahore police have arrested a serial killer who lured his victims through a gay dating website and killed them in their own homes. As the man gives interviews to the media from his prison cell, saying he wanted to remove the evil of homosexuality because of the child abuse that destroyed his life, a Pakistani queer rights activist writes him an open letter.

Dear Muhammad Ejaz,

I never thought I'd be writing this open letter to someone like you, but it is one of those moments when it becomes one's responsibility to speak up.

You might be surprised to see me use your full name here. I even wish I had a photograph of your face to shame you publicly. After all, we live in a society where the media conveniently flashes pictures and names of victims of atrocities, while showing utmost concern over maintaining confidentially of horrendous criminals like you. I will refuse that privilege to you.

In the last two months, you murdered in cold blood three men who were living independently in Lahore. You sedated and poisoned them and broke their necks. Even as the police and media were treating these as usual murders, your actions sent a shock wave in the underground gay subculture of Lahore. Rumors spread like wildfire of an ongoing gay hunt as all the deceased men were active on popular gay social networking websites and apps and the community knew them. The rumors were confirmed when a news channel, Samaa, showed a sensational programme last weekend that seemed to have been sponsored by you. We saw you brazenly confess to the killings. You described how you established contacted with them over a dating site and lured them. You denied the police's allegation that you had sex with them before killing them.

I want to respond to some things you said on that show. That is important for me because I am part of the "kachra" (garbage), the word you used to describe gay men.

Firstly, you said that you hate us because we are gay. Would you be kind enough to tell me if have you ever tried reading anything on homosexuality beyond the bigoted twisted lies society told you? You said you discovered the gay dating sites popular in Pakistan through a Google search. Did you ever bother to Google search and read about homosexuality – the scientific scholarship or alternative religious views about it? If you had, the course of your life and the lives of those who were ruthlessly murdered by you, might have been different.

Instead, you chose to hunt down and kill gay men after having sex with them and satiating both your lust and your childhood trauma. Once again, Google search wasn’t on your mind when you were making associations between homosexuality and child sexual abuse.The difference between homosexuality and child abuse is not rocket science. Child sexual abuse is an unwanted sexual activity perpetuated by an adult, over a minor. There is no consent involved in it. Homosexuality involves sexual as well as romantic relationships between two consenting adults. What happened to you when you were a fifth grader was child sexual abuse, not homosexuality. The guy who molested you was a paedophile, not a gay man. How could you not have been more thorough in your search for the truth?

Actually I am not surprised by your selective attention because mostly people don’t bother to investigate beyond what they are told. It requires more mental effort than simply hating people and coming up with devious ways of killing them. We react only to re-affirm our social prejudice. That is why many are hailing you as a hero and saviour of society and I am anticipating that they will turn you into an icon, just like they did to Mumtaz Qadri, the man who assassinated Punjab governor Salman Tasseer for speaking up against blasphemy laws.

The only thing that makes me sorry for you is that when you faced child abuse and told your parents about it and they registered a police case, you did not get justice because the accused man was politically influential. How is it that you did not blame the corruption and nepotism of such a criminal justice system? Why was the police not the object of your ire? Why didn’t you avenge yourself by standing up against the ones specifically responsible for the abuse you faced?

If you had known better you could have worked against child sexual abuse, spreading awareness and empowering children, breaking the social silence over it. You not only missed the opportunity to do that, you gave in to the same system by becoming a murderer, answering injustice with injustice.

You thought that your actions would instill fear of death in us. Community members initially panicked. Some existing online forums and groups were deleted. But you forgot our undying resilience which has motivated us since childhood. We have been bullied, abused, kicked, mocked, shoved, taunted, punished, violated. All our lives, we have been told by the zealots of this heteronormative society that we need to change, or live in shame for being who we are, live in constant fear of being discovered and to remain guilty of what we do. What we have faced has been more fearful than death.

Perhaps I need to thank you Ejaz, for sacrificing the lives of three people to unwittingly break Pakistan's silence over homosexuality. Our lives and deaths are now part of the public narrative. You will rot in jail but we will rise again from the collective shame, fear and guilt that you have brought upon us. We will still talk, meet, hold hands, exchange hugs and kisses. We will make love, unapologetically. We will continue to hope, believe and work for building a society where education and dialogue will change social prejudice.

We may be in mourning for now, praying for our departed brethren who became victims of your hatred and bigotry. Yet, as Maya Angelou said, “You may write me down in history/ With your bitter, twisted lies,/ You may trod me in the very dirt/ But still, like dust, I'll rise.”

Yours fearlessly,

Hadi Hussain

(Hadi Hussain is a queer rights activist in Lahore.)
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