Sunday, October 25, 2009

Dishonourable Report on "Honour Killings"

The Guardian website has a long (2400-word) report from its sister publication The Observer about so-called 'Honour Killings", in which Muslim men murder their womenfolk for a perceived hurt to the honour of the men.

The "news" part of the article is the claim that the British authorities are no longer willing to give the perpetrators or their society any leeway, having decided that in the UK, protection of life is more important than cultural norms, and if the two collide, the sanctity of life is the value that won't change.

So far, so good.

As you'd expect, however, the article does its best never to articulate what the problem really is: a MUSLIM cultural norm. I'm not saying murdering one's daughter or sister is something any Muslim would do, or that Sharia always advocates it, because that's certainly not the case. There must be some intersection between Muslim mores and something else, perhaps different causes in different contexts. Nor is it true that the only women ever murdered by their menfolk are Muslim. Still, having noted those obvious clarifications, it wouldn't hurt to add that the phenomenum is a deadly malaise of Islam, not of humanity in general.

The article tries its best not to say this. In it's first half, it touches the problem only once, with this quotation from a politically correct police officer:
"This crime genre transcends every nationality, religious faith or group,
nor is it unique to the UK, every country in the world has honour-based
violence. But we want to make it clear that people can come forward to us; they
will be believed."
A statement which is, of course, not true. Or at best, it's extraordinarily misleading.

Near the bottom of the article, a British Muslim women says the dire words:
"Those who are lagging behind now are the religious leaders. They may pay lip
service to change but they have networks and contacts and they are not trying to
change anything. Sharia courts are letting Muslim women down and I am sorry to
say that the British government is turning a blind eye to these courts. We have
civil laws that cover every individual; none of these religious courts provide
the same rights and protections for women."

Yet the very next paragraph balances her statement:
Irfan Chishti, a leading imam in Manchester, said the phenomenon was so
secretive that it could be hard to identify who was at risk: "It is not an
Islamic issue, it's more of a tribal tradition that cuts across several faiths,
but I can say categorically that it is not acceptable.
Yes, the Imam would be the right person to tell us about honour murders in other religions - which, we note, go unmentioned by name.

We're then treated to this mishmash of wishful thinking combined with demonstrably false sociobabble:
Honour-based violence can be a socioeconomic issue. Experts say there is a strong correlation between violence against women and issues such as inequality
between men. In deprived communities where men are struggling to
earn a living they can feel subordinated and lacking in respect, and so try
to get their authority back by dominating anyone below them, usually
women... Confusion in immigrant communities where people feel adrift in a
new culture and try to anchor themselves to the past is a key factor, says
Haras Rafiq, a former government adviser on faith issues and the co-founder
of the Sufi Muslim Council. "Religion becomes infused with cultural
practices and honour takes on an overinflated importance," he said.
Right. Honour killings, as we all know, are an eternal part of immigrant communites - especially in immigration countries such as Pakistan and Syria!
In Pakistan the practice of honour killing – called karo-kari – sees more
than 10,000 women die each year. In Syria, men can kill female relatives in a
crime of passion as long as it is not premeditated. It is legal for a husband to
kill his wife in Jordan if he catches her committing adultery. Crime of passion
can be a full or partial defence in a number of countries including Argentina,
Iran, Guatemala, Egypt, Israel and Peru.

The mention of Israel, of course, is pure Quatsch, as the Germans say. Nonsense. Yes, there are cases in Israel where Arab men murder their women in honour killings, but the law regards this as murder, not crimes of passion, whatever those are.

I don't know about Argentina.


Dimitry said...

To be fair, the honor killings are, in fact, more cultural phenomenon than it is religious. Unfortunately, most of the cultures engaged in it are Muslim. Richard Landes calls such cultures honor/shame cultures.

Dimitry said...

To be fair, the honor killings are, in fact, more cultural phenomenon than it is religious. Unfortunately, most of the cultures engaged in it are Muslim. Richard Landes calls such cultures honor/shame cultures.

Victor said...

Yaacov, having a bit of experience with this, the issue is not so much Islam, but local tribal culture, which predates Islam. In some ways, Islam is an invading force, no longer foreign, but still secondary to tribal law in much of the Arab world.

Fabián said...

I am not a lawyer, but as an Argentinian, I think she is talking absolute bollocks.

BTW, Argentinians have no problems regarding "crimes of passion" as an aberrance and "honor killings" as a religious barbarism almost only found in Muslim Asia and Africa. We are in average much more civilized than people in any Muslim country.