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Perspective:
HONOR KILLINGS
IN AMERICA & ABROAD

The images were horrific.

A young Muslim Pakistani woman's disfigured hands, raised in supplication after Salat were displayed for the world to see in a BBC documentary. Her horrific punishment was meted out for "dishonoring" her family.

A young man in Jordan described how he recited the Quran as he strangled his sister to death for "dishonoring" the family in a similar documentary broadcast on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).

A program on honor killing was also aired on ABC in the United States the same week as these two documentaries.

"Honor killings" occur after a woman "disgraces" her family. In the BBC and CBC documentaries, the dishonoring took different forms.

These images are straight from the Muslim world: Pakistan and Jordan. Another example of how sick, cruel and barbaric Muslims are towards their women. Or not?

In the CBC documentary, which I did see, a clear distinction was made verbally: "honor killing" is not an Islamic practice. One of the women interviewed also mentioned this. This is a cultural one. It was even mentioned there are Jews and Christians in Jordan who engage in this sick practice.

But that doesn't absolve journalists from being labeled "anti-Islamic". While it is a step forward from the hateful programs of a few years back that would ignorantly claim such practices were condoned by Islam, such "disclaimers" aren't the solution.

A journalists' responsibility doesn't stop with saying, during a news production, look at this disgusting, barbaric practice, buttressing the documentary with shots of mosques, veiled women, people praying and reciting the Quran and then, almost as a side note, verbally mentioning, or getting one of the pieces talking heads to say, it has nothing to do with religion.

It's kind of like cigarette advertising and packaging. You know, that beautiful, elegant package, the pretty woman in the ad, beckoning you, seducing you, telling you, smoke, smoke, SMOKE .

Create the illusion through repetition, make it a mantra, let it fill up someone's head and once you've got them in your grasp, only then tell the truth in fine print.

And that's supposed to absolve tobacco companies who sell these sick, fatal drugs to people.

So culture, not Islam is to blame, some of the media is now telling us.

The aftermath of such programs often takes the following course:

  1. Accusations fly: "You Muslims, you treat your women like (fill in the blank-something negative of course)", your coworker, classmate, teacher, or even boss argues.
  2. Muslim women are pitied.
  3. Muslim men are reviled.
  4. Both elicit disgust: what kind of a sick religion do you follow.

But it's not my religion, it's some sick people, you say? "Well all I saw was you people praying and your covered women", your peer or coworker may say. "You Muzzlims are (fill in the blank-negative, of course)".

Hopefully, it ends at that. In some cases, the hate leads to death threats, mosque and home vandalism, and physical harassment.

Yes, honor killings are a reality for some people in the world. This is a practice that we as Muslims know is not Islamic, and which we must condemn as those who are required to stand up for justice (Quran 4:135), whether we are Pakistanis, Jordanians, or Muslims from anywhere else.

But the latest media focus on the practice reminds me of the outcry over female genital mutilation a few years ago. Initially, this was labeled an Islamic practice. Later, perhaps realizing their ignorance, journalists came to the truth: it's cultural, not Islamic. A practice found not in every nook and cranny of the Muslim world, but in parts, where it's practiced by members of other religions too.

Highlighting the negative of Muslim and nonwestern societies in general is not something done randomly by the media.

In his 1987 book Television Culture, John Fiske notes that in general, Third World countries are only mentioned in the news when something tragic or conflictual takes place. They are presented as places of natural disasters, famine, social revolution and of political corruption. These events are considered the rule, rather than the exception.

Fiske adds that news stories about the Third World confirm Westerners' sense that western democracies are the only civilized societies, which provide the basics of life for everyone, are stable, and governed fairly and honestly.

If networks would really like to tackle the issue of the abuse of women by family members or intimates, they don't have to spend thousands of dollars lugging expensive crews and equipment to the Muslim world. They can travel to almost any part of America.

Consider the following from the US Department of Justice, General Statistics:

  • Every 9 seconds, a woman is battered.
  • In 1992, the US Surgeon General ranked abuse by husbands and partners as the leading cause of injury to women aged 15-44.
  • Up to 50% of all homeless women and children in the United States are fleeing domestic violence.
  • Yet, there are nearly 3 times as many animal shelters in the United States as there are shelters for battered women. And lest we forget, this is happening in a country where the president has seen fit to violate his marriage vows in a most disgusting abuse of power and exploitation of a young woman. Yet polls reveal that he still maintains support from many Americans.

Given these facts, would anyone dare argue that there is something inherently wrong with these Judeo-Christian Americans? Or with American culture as such?

No, of course not. A history of abuse and violence in families, socioeconomic factors and jealousy on the part of husbands and boyfriends are just some of the explanations given for the abuse of women, especially wives and girlfriends in America.

Walk into a women's shelter that is not targeted to a specific ethnic or cultural group, and you will find women of all races, colors, and of course religions.

The abuse and killing of women for alleged honor crimes is not Islamic.

Nor is the abuse of women inherently as "American as apple pie".

What do you think? Is the media coverage of honor killings in the Muslim world fair? Or do you think there's a lack of balance? Let us discuss it at Violence Against Women:

By Samana Siddiqui

Also See Statistics on Violence Against Women in America



Your Comments

Faye , Cohutta - wrote on 8/21/2010 6:17:53 AM
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Comment: Religion and culture are seperate but are woven together. Further, you will not find any Christian pastor defending domestic abuse. Quite the oposite. In America we have a right to our opinions and that includes the right to have the opinion that Islam is a barbaric religion of ignorant people who believe it is right to fly a plane into the WTC or kill their daughter because she dishonored her family.


0heyitisi, Rockford, IL - wrote on 8/16/2010 10:45:30 AM
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Comment: I am so glad that this issue is being discussed. I confess that I have not read the Koran except a few sutras here and there as the occasion indicates. I do not wish to make judgements here, as that is the work of God alone, for only He knnows peoples' hearts. What I hear about what is happening in Europe, has happened in Lebanon in and around 1975, (read Because They Hate, by Brigitte Gabriel,a woman born in Lebanon, (published by St Martin's Press, 2006) ) and could happen here. Consider radical Islamists coming over our borders (northern and southern) with the hordes of drug pushers and other criminals- not to mention poor Mexicans who really want to get a life or escape the violence in Juarez, etc.)while the onl y one trying to stop it is the good governor of AZ (kudos!) What I would like to see is more of sites like this and more moderate Muslims coming out vocally and otherwise against Islamism, FOR protecting our borders, more dialogue between the Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities-even friendships developing. It appears to me at least in my area there is little, if any, of that sort of thing happening. Incidentally, what would you, if you are a Muslim father, do about your child marrying out of the faith? I invite your comments. Thank you.


judy , sant monica - wrote on 8/7/2010 5:06:07 PM
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Comment: good article. Recently, there is a growing drumbeat about 'the threat of Islam' against the US. It's engendering and fueling unthinking bigotry and feeds on ignorance. It's the reason why the US is at war in Afghanistan and Iraq, with a danger of more such atrocities. This kind of propaganda is typical of hate propaganda that's been used throughout history, the demonic stereotype caricature that unfortunately large numbers of people embrace. Currently, the Afghan war is looking bad to the public. I believe that's why we are hearing more and more of these bigoted stories, such as the recent Fox report on "Islamic honor killings" about one case where a disturbed man who happens to be Muslim (nominally, not practicing religion) kills his daughters. This is presented as if it's a growing trend, yet with no other examples to offer. But the effect of the report (which came out a year or two or more ago and is now being trotted out again to try to re-stoke American fears of Islam so they will continue to support the ongoing wars that will not ever be won or finished) will be to influence more ignorant people to embrace hate and fear.


Chasity, Summerside - wrote on 7/28/2010 6:32:11 AM
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Comment: I believe that in just a very few years Canada will become a sorry country run by Muslims...We are allowing them to take away our rights and beliefs. We can't display our christian beliefs because we will offend them, yet they can practice theirs? we are turned around...Even a young girl of 12 believes that if she falls in love with a non-muslim boy she will be killed by her father.. Take down your flags they offend the muslims. Don't talk about Jesus, it offends Muslims, Let them wear something that won't allow you to identify them. How do we know who is hiding under the Burka. How do we know it is not a disquise to keep a criminal hidden...Let them live like canadians in our country..If they want to live here then let their women live free in our country..When in Rome do as the Romans do..When In a free country (soon not to be free) Live like a free person..Shame on canada for allowing such changes to our free country


Maria Ahmad, Dundee - wrote on 1/6/2010 3:16:06 PM
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Comment: what you have done is really good it could make a difference. Jim Indiana Soz but there is a difference between Islamic governments and ISLAM the religion. You should knw dat. These are men that like to have women under there control who are very egotistical otherwise if the reverse happened to them it would be seen as barbaric. Islam does not say at all not even one verse says to kill a person because somebody claims that they are shameful or have ashamed there family's. In Islam there has to be four witnesses of GOOD CHARACTER to claim in a proper ISLAMIC court that they have commited something AGAINST THE LAW of ISLAM (unfortunatley there isn't one) but Im sure if you go to a well known Islamic scholar they can answer your question. (Sorry about any spelling mistakes as I'm only fifteen)


Muslim Woman, Dhaka - wrote on 12/27/2009 12:04:15 AM
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Comment: Salaam; exceleent article .In US - Every 9 seconds, a woman is battered and they claim Islam treats women bad huh . Yes , Muslim women don't enjoy the rights Allah gave them , it's the fault of Muslim men , Islam must not be blamed for it.


carla, knoxville - wrote on 9/26/2009 11:46:55 AM
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Comment: I think the problem is with men. Men in muslim countries rule and women have no say. As a culture and religion in Islamic countries men are rarely if ever punished for the way they use mental and physical cruelty on their women. More times than not they are praised and revered for such things. In America, yes there is abuse going on, there is still that "man is superior mentality" which has nothing to do with religion or culture, and has more to do with many factors including ignorance and socioeconomic influences. HOWEVER, the difference is as a society and a culture we have EVOLVED to a more civilized mentality and we do not look kindly to such practices. People caught doing such things would be PUNISHED, and unfortunately as with most women in Islamic societies women are too afraid or brainwashed to remove themselves from such abusive relationships. There are women who are waking up though and starting to speak out! In America we have safe places for women to go to in such cases. Do Islamic countries have any such places for their women to escape to? No. Why? Because it is totally accepted and expected. There is no room for their women to defend their actions, all is just assumed, and if a young girl is caught talking to a boy she is automatically a slut. What about the boy? Oh, forgot, men cannot help themselves when "enticed"... poor baby was forced to talk to her. The only shame brought upon a family is their men who think that all men are too weak to control their actions, god forbid a girl stimulates his carnal urges to the point of no control. Even a little bit of skin showing on their ankle will throw men into a total sexual frenzy that they cannot help themselves. But what do you expect from a religion that rewards their men with virgins in the hereafter, you know, because their wife is just a piece of crap. Again, that definitely sounds to me like a problem with men. OH, but wait! A girl gets raped by some weak-minded idiot, and SHE gets 40 lashes because SHE must have done something to make him lose control. What a joke. Men need to start stepping up and taking responsibility and CONTROL for and of their own actions. One more point...these Islamic countries are run and ruled by their muslim religion. For the fringe religions who do these things as well, I believe it is probably not the norm and is more like our country where people who treat their women like crap and claim to be a "Christian" are not practicing their "religion". I hate to burst your bubble, but that is not the norm of christianity at all. Anyone who does such things and says he is a "christian" (also any who bomb abortion clinics, etc.), in this country is doing it simply because he is a pig, not because he is a christian, and evidently not a true christian, just sick and twisted. In Islam though, these actions are completely accepted and backed up by their religion. Moderate Muslims need to reevaluate because it is accepted according to their religion and you either have to stand by it fully or you only have half a religion. I don't think God would allow cherry picking. One more point, any culture that claims men to be superior and women are slaves, that is man made and not of God and I don't care what religion you claim to be.


Jenad, Dearborn - wrote on 8/26/2009 8:32:29 AM
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Comment: This article projects the typical Muslim/Arab "circle the wagons" mentality. Frankly, people are tired of the "look at me, I'm a victim" attitude. It's time Muslims joined the 21st Century and stopped blaming everything on culture. It's all interwoven together and to separate them is like splitting hairs. I recall an honor killing here in Dearborn in the early 1990's.This case gave me pause because I too was raised in the Muslim tradition. A father shot his daughter because he saw her talking with a boy and accused her of having a boyfriend. Some of my relatives attended the funeral and acknowledged that he shouldn't have killed her, BUT, that she knew the risk...Very disturbing.


John Arly, NJ - wrote on 2/27/2003 5:43:24 PM
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Comment: Religion and culture are different but this rant makes the opposite point. It labels countries (Jordan) and hence cultures as " the Muslim world", and at the same time labels criticism of these cultures as "anti-Islamic" attacks on religion. In the U.S. violence against women is both illegal and immoral. In Jordan honor killings are legal under articles 340 and 98 of the penal code. More to the point, the Palestinian Human Rights Monitor(www.phrmg.org/monitor2002/Aug2002.htm) concludes that "educational level and the commitment to religion was not very influential on the issue of honor killing"


Jim, Indiana - wrote on 2/26/2003 1:37:56 PM
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Comment: Really didn't speak to the issue. Yes, there is abuse in America of women. I agree and want to see it changed. I agree that culture and religion are different, but religion is part of culture and if Islam was so against "Honor Killings" why isn't it being stoped by the Islamic governments?


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