Phyllis Chesler’s scholarly study of honor killings continues to be discussed. I referred to it in a post in February, after the New York State beheading hit the news. Now here is an interview of Chesler by Kathryn Jean Lopez of National Review. It begins:
Kathryn Jean Lopez: What exactly is an honor killing? And is it odd for there to be one in, say, New York State?
Phyllis Chesler: The beheading in Buffalo, N.Y., is a hybrid case which involves some features of Western-style domestic violence and a Pakistani-Islamic method of murder. However, in 2004, in Scottsville, N.Y., a Turkish-Muslim woman was honor-murdered, and in 2008, in Henrietta, N.Y., a serious honor murder was attempted by an Afghan Muslim. However, honor killings usually take place in shame-and-honor societies, mainly in the Third World. In the West, such murders are mainly done by Muslims (it is a Muslim-on-Muslim crime), and to a much lesser extent, by Sikhs. Strangers are not usually honor-murdered; only daughters, wives, or sisters are. It is an intimate family crime, a premeditated one, with many warnings given. It is also a family collaboration.
Chesler says that most Muslims deny the connection between Islam and honor killing. But 90 percent of honor killings in the west are done by Muslims, and the vast majority worldwide. In Muslim countries this kind of murder is dealt with very leniently by the state, if at all. And sometimes the response is bizarre:
More progressive countries, like Jordan, deal with the intractable problem of honor-related violence against women and honor killing by locking up the potential victims, often for as long as a decade.
And she continues:
Unlike traditional Western-style non-fatal domestic violence, or Western-style femicide, both of which are considered and prosecuted as crimes, honor killings are traditionally not frowned upon, and the men who restore their family’s honor are valorized.
Muslim leaders invariably respond to honor killings by objecting to anyone implicating Islam in the practice. Lopez asked Chesler what a better response should be. Chesler says the leaders need to change their attitude toward honor killings and condemn it.
Those who commit honor killings — like Yaser Said, who murdered his two daughters in Dallas — must not be sheltered or supported by their families or communities or helped to escape.
… Muslim religious leaders should pledge to found shelters for battered Muslim women who are in danger of being honor-murdered. They must understand that the attempts to honor-kill a “disobedient” or “runaway” daughter or wife will never end until she is dead. Most will require the equivalent of a federal witness-protection program. What may work for non-immigrant and non-Muslim victims of domestic violence (not honor killing/femicide), may not necessarily work for Muslim girls and women.
[And] the good Muslim leaders might start instructing youngsters against the tight control of girls and women and start shaming and shunning such behaviors in their midst.
None of this can happen until Islam itself is reformed.
…the moderate, peaceful, and “good” Muslims need to really wrestle with the Koran and the Hadith. They must help bring 7th- and 8th-century holy documents into the 21st century as other religions have done, namely Judaism and Christianity. Denying that the Koran is barbaric, that it views infidels (Jews and Christians) as subhuman, and that it commands jihad and death to infidels will not help matters.
Leaders within Islam worldwide should work to stop honor killings, says Chesler:
While American-Muslim groups argue, after the fact, that honor killings are pre-Islamic cultural relics, I say: A religion which boasts so many economically wealthy leaders and 1.5-plus billion followers should, by now, have been able to stamp out such pre-Islamic cultural behaviors.
Lopez asks Chesler where feminists stand on honor killings.
Chesler: The good news: I have been working with a number of people who oppose and expose honor killings: Nonie Darwish, Nancy Kobrin, Maryam Namazie, and Douglas Murray in the U.K., Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ibn Warraq, Andy Bostom, Daniel Pipes, David Horowitz, Robert Spencer, and others in the U.S.
But what you are really asking me is whether any of the academic, post-colonialist, postmodern feminists have come aboard, or whether public, Democratic-party feminists have done so. Well, I finally have one NOW feminist ally. Marcia Pappas, the president of NOW-NYS, has been speaking out about the beheading in Buffalo without fearing that what she says will lead to charges of “racism.” We will work together on this issue. I have gradual, increasing support behind the scenes from second-wave feminists, but they are fearful about their funding, careers, even their lives.
And finally, what does Chesler hope to accomplish?
With all due respect to the Obama administration, we may not be able to abolish odious practices in Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, or in Gaza and the West Bank — but we ought to be able to keep them from happening here.
My own opinion is that honor killing is so barbaric that we should cut off immigration from any country where it is practiced, with very few exceptions made, only for those who have shown they are reformers, by deeds as well as words. I mean, of course, Muslim immigration, since honor killing is now practiced all over western Europe. We don’t have to keep out Gordon Brown, Britain’s prime minister, though it would be a good thing if he took more notice of it than he has.
Update: Judge says ‘honour’ crimes have no place in English law. But here’s their dilemma.
The 41 year old father of three Muslim children placed with white foster parents was challenging being refused contact with them.
He also called for them to be placed with a Muslim family, but was refused permission to appeal against the decision of the High Court Family Division.
One of the children had been set on fire by her mother who also tried to burn down their house in an attempt to incriminate her sister-in-law. The sister-in-law was said to have “disgraced” the family because she fled after being beaten and her first child murdered by her husband, the mother’s brother.
The local authority acknowledged that placing the children with a white family was “culturally and religiously inappropriate.” Fortunately, they also acknowledged that if they were placed with a culturally and religiously similar family they may be (i.e. would be) found and harmed. This is a big step forward for a local authority. Some of these enlightened government officials have responded to girls’ complaints about violence in the home by sending a culturally and religiously similar social worker to investigate. You can imagine how effective that is. Very effective for the father; not so much for the girl. But they were probably just responding to the judge’s order. And how I love this judge:
Lord Justice Wall said the activities brought to light by the case had “nothing to do with any concept of honour known to English law”.
He described arson, domestic violence and revenge likely to result in abduction or death as criminal acts of “simply sordid, criminal behaviour.”
An order was made banning identification of the children, aged five, nine and 11, whose parents are both Muslims and originate from families in Pakistan.
This should all sound routine, but it looks like a big step away from accepting that Muslims can follow sharia law in family matters, and a big step toward asserting the authority of British law. Hurray for Lord Justice Wall!
Hat tip: Robert Spencer on Jihad Watch.