Jo Cox – A Tribute to Fallen Women

I came to London over a week ago and just a few days later, heard the dreadful news that MP Jo Cox had been killed in a brutal stabbing and shooting on the street just outside her office, as she was campaigning for Britain to stay in the EU. I thought I’d escaped political violence coming here from Karachi, but it’s fair to say that everyone here has been completely shocked by Cox’s violent assassination.

Hardly a year ago, we were in the same place after Sabeen Mahmud had been assassinated on the street. Sabeen wasn’t a politician but she was, like Jo Cox, a woman who stood up for what she believed in, a woman with a grand heart, and a woman whose message of peace and tolerance will live beyond her life. Cox’s murder on June 16th brought it all back to me, and then June 20th was what would have been Sabeen’s 42nd birthday. And today, June 22 was what would have been Jo Cox’s 42nd birthday. Yesterday, June 21, was Benazir Bhutto’s birthday. Was it a coincidence that all three women born within days of one another lost their lives to extremist violence?

All these questions roiled in my mind, and then this morning we heard yet more terrible news: the famous Pakistani Sufi qawaali singer, Amjad Sabri, had been assassinated in Karachi. Sabeen’s heart would have been broken had she been alive to see this: she loved qawaali and her 42nd birthday was commemorated with a qawaali at the Second Floor.

This was more than coincidence. This was the universe telling us that peace, tolerance, love, and hope have to be defended. But how? By guns, bullets, bombs? Or by a demonstration of our unity in the face of those who seek to divide us?

Not a British citizen, but a person touched by how we are all connected by invisible threads that keep getting pulled to the point of pain, I wanted to stand up and be counted. So this is how I found myself going to Trafalgar Square to pay tribute to Jo Cox, but also to Sabeen, and Benazir, and Amjad Sabri, and all those good people who were taken away from us because they were peaceful and had big hearts.

At least a thousand, or maybe two, showed up with the same intent as me. We stood, lifted placards, bowed our heads in silence, clapped, laughed, danced, held hands, and cried as so many speakers, musicians, and singers came to the stage. Brendan Cox, Jo’s widower, made a speech. He cried throughout. But he said, “Isn’t it amazing that something that was done out of hate has resulted in so much love being shown today?”


Gillian Anderson recited a beautiful poem by Dorothy Oger who wrote it in the wake of the Brussels attacks.

For love

I shall stand for love,
Even with a broken soul,
Even with a heavy heart.

I shall stand for love,
For the world is wounded.
Not just my little piece of land,
Where I am mostly safe,
Where I am mostly well,
But our world, everywhere
Every day.

I shall stand for love,
Because we need more light,
Not more deaths,
Not more power,
Not more bombs.

I shall stand for love,
So that our children are safe
So that our friends are sheltered
So that our borders are open.

I shall stand for love,
Even with a broken soul,
Even with a heavy heart.

Dorothy Oger
Brussels, 23rd of March 2016

GillianJo Cox was a particular (and I think one of the only ones) supporter of Syrian refugees and the citizens of Syria, facing bombings and rapes and shootings every day of their lives. Therefore Raed Al Saleh of the Syrian White Helmets/Syrian Civil Defense came and laid a white helmet upon the 42 white roses that had been put down in tribute by interfaith leaders from the Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, and secular humanist communities.




Malala Yousufzai spoke movingly about her “sister Jo” and said, “We had something in common: I, like Jo, am short. You can see I have to stand on a step to reach the podium. But Jo taught us that even a small person can be a giant.”malala



The rest of the tribute – a song sung by Lilly Allen, a video tribute from Bono, Bill Nighy quoting Robert Kennedy, children from Jo’s son’s class singing “If I Had a Hammer” – was all overwhelmingly perfect. The hour went by faster than a lifetime. I wish I had better words to describe it. But I will never forget it.

And I’m imagining Jo, Benazir, and Sabeen sitting up there somewhere being serenaded on the beauty and perfection of the Truth by Amjad Sabri. It’s the only image that makes me smile in the midst of all these tears.




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