Is It OK to Talk About Muslim Honour Killings Now?
It seems we cannot talk about Muslim “honour” killings in our new, cowardly PC society without fear of being labelled an Islamophobe. But then Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy comes along with a documentary film about one particular attempted murder and calls it, A Girl in the River: A Price of Forgiveness, and it is nominated for an Oscar (UPDATE: It won). When Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif watches it and then says that there is no honour in murder and the law must be changed to disallow this, the rest of us can certainly open up about this blight in Muslim society.
If family honour is a legitimate moral compass, it becomes possible for Muslims to murder their teenage daughters and sometimes their sons without remorse. (This does not mean that I get how they actually do it.) More specifically: girls and gay boys are killed to reset family honour to default; in other words, to the level it rested at before the defilement and humiliation that comes with homosexuality, on the one hand, and with any of a number of apparently major or minor culturally decreed sins committed by a girl, usually within a real or imagined sexual context, on the other hand.
How does a parent set upon a daughter or a son, a child she suckled at her breast, a child he proudly sat high on his shoulders. How? I think such a thing is possible only when something else is held dearer. And in the case of too many Muslims, that thing appears to be social standing and group conformity. In Muslim society, according to Obaid Chinoy, the individual has no value except as a means for sustaining or improving family and community stability. If a given individual is seen as a threat to stability, that individual must go!
Laws seem to have little, if any, effect and we can find examples of honour killings in many countries of origin: Egypt, Jordan, Afghanistan, and more, as well as in countries to which they immigrate, such as Canada, and the UK. Nobody can seriously claim that the Muslim immigrants to Western countries are unaware of the laws against murder even if such laws are rarely applied to honour killings where they come from.
But Don’t Other Ethnic Groups Commit Honour Killings?
Sikhs and Hindus may also condone honour killings in their native Asia but, in addition to other differences between them and Muslims, they rarely import the practice when they immigrate to Western countries, according to Phyllis Chesler. Chesler also argues that attempts by academics to conflate Muslim honour killings with those found among other traditional groups or to consider honour killing as just another form of domestic violence, are both in order to avoid being seen as Islamophobic this dilution prevents serious academic examination of the issue. The importance of this cannot be overstated:
Islamic gender apartheid is a human rights violation and cannot be justified in the name of cultural relativism, tolerance, anti-racism, diversity, or political correctness. As long as Islamist groups continue to deny, minimize, or obfuscate the problem, and government and police officials accept their inaccurate versions of reality, women will continue to be killed for honor in the West.
Social Versus Legal Measures for Prevention
Obaid Chinoy claims that laws, even if effectively applied to offenders, will not make a dent in the scourge in her native Pakistan. She suggests that the government might be more successful in eliminating honour killings if it were to initiate socioeconomic measures that would reduce the dependence of families on the absolute obedience of all its members. She writes:
Honour killers kill because they think they are preserving the system, saving the sisters who did not run away. To overcome honour killings, a robust state must take the place of the family in providing basic guarantees of security against debilitating losses; until it does so, the cruel elimination of those who wish to make their own choices will continue.
The flaw in this argument, however, is immediately evident when we consider the cases of honour killings in the West, where families do have access to government social services that can cushion families to some degree in times of catastrophe. No, the problem is not economic but cultural – if the good marriages of unmarried children are ruined because of the shame brought on the family by an “unruly” sibling, the problem is cultural. The solution, therefore, is also cultural.
The government can make a strong statement by honouring the law and not the “honour” killer. Education and religious institutions need to also devise and administer programmes to gradually change attitudes in such a way that a balance between individual needs and family-community ties is maintained. Currently family is everything and the individual is nothing, but the opposite is not healthy either.
The Corollary: The Suicide Terrorist
Perhaps the suicide terrorist is equally but differently tied to the phenomenon of honour killings. If the killing of wayward daughters and gay sons restores a family’s lost honour, then sending teenage or young adult sons out to offer themselves on the sacrificial altar of martyrdom provides their families with honour and status they could probably not have otherwise attained. I cannot claim to know if this is true or not, but it seems to answer one thing I have long found curious: why, if being a shaheed is so marvelous, have the sons of terrorist leaders never been sent on suicide missions? I wonder if the parents of those so sacrificed have ever dared asked themselves this question.
If the parents had no part in sending their sons to be suicide terrorists, they sure put on a good show of proclaiming pride for the act in the mourning tent. While I hope that this is just a show carried out from fear of reprisals at the hands of a vengeful and insane leadership, I can only recall one pair of parents whose eyes betrayed their statements of pride and I do believe they would have preferred to be left alone to mourn in peace and in sincerity.
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I cannot imagine the degree of mind control required to compel a parent to do something so contrary to the normal parental instincts to protect their offspring. Excommunication and shunning should really be punishment enough for spitting in the face of culture and tradition. Certainly we Jews know about that from within our own community as we hear of families who sit shiva over the child who came out or who married out. But murder? Premeditated murder by a father or brother or uncle, usually with the implicit or explicit agreement of the mother? That is something I just cannot get my head around. I pray for the day when that will be true for every living being on Earth.
The implications of Honour Killings Re Prospects for Peace
If a people can fathom members of a family killing another member of the family in the name of “honour”, can they really make peace with another people? After all, “honour” is bound to be injured in normal interpersonal interactions and especially in times of conflict.
Clarification: Religion Versus Culture
Many of us are quick to call something “Muslim” when there is no basis for that something in the Quran (or so I have been told). This may be true of the issue of honour killings that may be more culturally based than Islamic based. A point that must be taken into consideration is the fact that in Indonesia, the Muslim country with the highest population, there is no evidence of honour killings. However, we must also take into consideration, I think, the fact that many Muslims themselves do not distinguish between culturally based and Islamic based practices or beliefs; it is the job of Muslims to sort this out if they expect the rest of the world to understand that. I submit this article for discussion with respect and in the anticipation of discussion.