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Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Honor Killing? Part 2

 Picking up from last week’s article, allow me to continue on this topic of Honor Killing.

There is a story that came out in the news in the past week of an Afghan family living in Canada that was tried in the Canadian court system for the murder of their three daughters and the father’s first wife. Their crime? The teenage girls, ages 19, 17, and 13 were, killed because they dishonored the family by defying Islamic rules on dress, dating, and socializing.” The other woman, the first wife, allegedly was killed because she was unable to bear him any children.

The homicides were committed by the parents and their 21-year-old son in 2009. According to the UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund), the conservative estimate of the number of women and children killed each year in honor killings across the Muslim world is 5,000. This number is disputed by others who suggest the number is more likely four times as many! That’s the equivalent of wiping out a town the size of my town, Ripon, plus a few thousand more, every year just to satisfy some perverted and distorted sense of honor.

There is an ongoing argument within the Muslim world as to whether honor killing is part of their belief system, and whether it is substantiated in the Koran. There are any number of opinions on the topic, but one thing is clear: It is a contagion within Islam. And there does not seem to be any way of reversing this despicable activity against women and children.

How is it that any parent could bring themselves to the point where they can justify murdering their own flesh and blood for any cause short of the offspring being a pathological killer. Even then, there must certainly be a check in the spirit in committing the child to death.

So what is honor? One of the many definitions is “somebody’s good name or good reputation.” I think most of us understand this definition for what it is. The individual’s actions are what determine their reputation, and thus their honor. So, a man who has held a worthy reputation within his community then acts out of character, or commits some act that cast a negative light on his life, he has sacrificed his reputation. Something that is nearly impossible to regain.

In the case of this story of the Afghan family in Canada, the father who sanctioned the murder of his first wife and three daughters had this to say after the verdict convicting him, his second wife and son, of murder: "Even if they hoist me up onto the gallows ... nothing is more dear to me than my honor." This is where I am at a loss. Does this man truly believe he has somehow purged his family name and reputation by killing the offenders? Sadly, the answer is “Yes.” In this twisted, perverse way of thinking that literally goes back more than a thousand years, honor killing has staked its place in the warp and woof of the Islamic belief system and culture. Those of us in Western cultures are appalled by such barbarity. And to think that with the influx of Muslims into North America there is a concerted effort to introduce Sharia law, making it acceptable along with our Constitutional law. Such a possibility flies in the face of rational thinking.

In the book, The Arab Mind, by Raphael Patai, he addresses honor in a section of the book that at least helps understand why Arabs in general, and Muslims in particular, have such a view on honor. Mr. Patai has not written this book to defend Arab thought or behavior, but to give us an insight in the way these folks think. He says, “Much has been written on the subject of honor (sharaf) among the Arabs. What has not been emphasized . . . is that there is a strong correlation between honor and group survival, that which strengthens the group and serves its interests; while shameful behavior is that which tends to disrupt, endanger, impair, or weaken the social aggregate.”

The man, as head of the home in the Muslim household, feels compelled to protect and preserve his honor within the family and within the tribe. “Asabiyya implies boundless and unconditional loyalty to fellow tribesmen. ‘Be loyal to thy tribe,’ sang a bard; ‘its claim upon its members is strong enough to make a husband give up his wife.’” This expresses the essence of the belief system among Muslims that is so deeply imbedded in their ethos. It is an irrevocable code.

Honor must be maintained or regained. “Cost what it may, one must defend one’s public image. Any injury done to a man’s honor must be revenged, or else he becomes permanently dishonored.”

Patai gives this hypothetical example of the loss of honor. "If a woman loses her honor, this causes her menfolk to lose theirs, which causes them to lose their dignity, which, in turn, causes them to lose their dignity, which in turn, causes them to lose their self-respect. What then can a man do? . . . The folk mores had their traditional remedy: her menfolk (brothers and father) must kill her. By killing her they demonstrated for everybody to see that they had cut off the offending limb from the body of the family, thus enabling the body to recover and survive.”

It remains to be seen whether we in America will allow such a belief system to become part of our laws. If we do, willingly or unwillingly, America will be no more.

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