The recently reported beheading of a woman by her “moderate Muslim” husband near Buffalo, N.Y., was an honor killing. (I posted on it here.) She had left her husband, and he was bent on restoring his honor. (He was also just bent, period.) As we refuse to discriminate between would-be immigrants based on such notions as belief in basic rights for women, religious tolerance, or tolerance in general, we will be increasingly plagued by the barbaric customs of primitive cultures.
For instance, soon after we started this blog, Ann posted on blood feuds among Albanians in their native country, and wondered if they would bring their feuds here. And they have, at least in one instance.
Honor killings seem to be pervasive in the Muslim world, and this quaint custom has definitely been brought to the United States in a big way. (See our previous posts on honor killing here.) I want to point out a report by Phyllis Chesler in the Spring issue of the Middle East Quarterly titled “Are Honor Killings Simply Domestic Violence?”
The answer, of course, is that these two things are not the same, and Chesler reports on her study of more than 50 honor killings in North America. It’s worth reading the whole thing, but she provides this handy chart which summarizes the differences.
Table 1: Differing Characteristics of Honor Killings and Domestic Violence
|Honor Killings||Domestic Violence|
|Committed mainly by Muslims against Muslim girls/young adult women.||Committed by men of all faiths usually against adult women.|
|Committed mainly by fathers against their teenage daughters and daughters in their early twenties. Wives and older-age daughters may also be victims, but to a lesser extent.||Committed by an adult male spouse against an adult female spouse or intimate partner.|
|Carefully planned. Death threats are often used as a means of control.||The murder is often unplanned and spontaneous.|
|The planning and execution involve multiple family members and can include mothers, sisters, brothers, male cousins, uncles, grandfathers, etc. If the girl escapes, the extended family will continue to search for her to kill her.||The murder is carried out by one man with no family complicity.|
|The reason given for the honor killing is that the girl or young woman has “dishonored” the family.||The batterer-murderer does not claim any family concept of “honor.” The reasons may range from a poorly cooked meal to suspected infidelity to the woman’s trying to protect the children from his abuse or turning to the authorities for help.|
|At least half the time, the killings are carried out with barbaric ferocity. The female victim is often raped, burned alive, stoned or beaten to death, cut at the throat, decapitated, stabbed numerous times, suffocated slowly, etc.||While some men do beat a spouse to death, they often simply shoot or stab them.|
|The extended family and community valorize the honor killing. They do not condemn the perpetrators in the name of Islam. Mainly, honor killings are seen as normative.||The batterer-murderer is seen as a criminal; no one defends him as a hero. Such men are often viewed as sociopaths, mentally ill, or evil.|
|The murderer(s) do not show remorse. Instead, they experience themselves as “victims,” defending themselves from the girl’s actions and trying to restore their lost family honor.||Sometimes, remorse or regret is exhibited.|
Chesler also provides charts with the names and particulars of some of the victims of honor killings here and in Europe. She points out:
The problem the West faces is complex. Muslims, Sikhs, and Hindus view honor and morality as a collective family matter. Rights are collective, not individual. Family, clan, and tribal rights supplant individual human rights.
The overwhelming number of honor killings are among Muslims. She also reports that
…accusations of Islamophobia stymie discussion and policy formulation when policymakers seek to address problems occurring among Muslim immigrants. Still, there are legal interventions underway in Europe, home to between twenty and thirty million Muslim immigrants and their descendents, as opposed to perhaps four million in the United States and Canada. Honor-related violence is, therefore, more visible in Europe than in North America. In 2004, Sweden held an international conference on honor killing, calling for “international cooperation” on the issue.
And there have been conferences and efforts in France, Britain and Germany. Here,
U.S. law enforcement has made tremendous progress over the last forty years on issues related to violence against women. However, there are not yet any shelters for battered Muslim, Hindu, or Sikh girls or women who fear that they will be murdered for honor. A regular shelter for battered women does not specialize in honor killings, nor are there any provisions for foster families—Muslim or otherwise—who can protect girls targeted for murder by their biological families. Critics would oppose any such intervention, however, as a form of cultural oppression, for many victims may have to forfeit their identities in order to remain alive.
There’s much more of interest. One more thing: She warns that in enlisting the help of Muslim groups, authorities have to be very careful not to use radical groups who will encourage law enforcement to ignore honor killings as a cultural practice that should be respected.
Update 2/24/09: See my later post on the feminist denial of honor killings.
Update 2/25/09: Phyllis Chesler has a great article at FrontPage Magazine summarizing reactions from Muslims and feminists about the beheading and the controversy over whether it was an honor killing or not. It is so packed with information that I can’t summarize it; read the whole thing.
Update 2/27/09: My post, Beheader said headless wife can’t reach paradise, gives additional evidence to link the beheading to Islam and honor killing.