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The term ‘honour killing’ is ‘racist’, and should be banished, say Canadian Muslims

IN 2007 Canada decided to set aside funds for a campaign to investigate and combat the growing number of killings of mainly Muslim women in the country.

Until recently, religio-cultural violence – universally known as “honour killings” – were virtually unknown in the country.

According to this report, only three known victims were killed between 1954 and 1983. But since 1999, 12 women have died in honour killings.

Click on cartoon for a horrifying account of an honour killing of three Muslim women in Canada in 2009.

Click on the illustration for a horrifying account of an honour killing of three Muslim females in Canada in 2009.

Every year, according to United Nations reports, 5,000 women worldwide are killed for reasons of “honour” that relate to matters of modesty and obeyance, though most experts maintain the numbers are far higher. And the number of victims of honour violence, which can involve beatings, acid attacks, or locking a woman in her home, is literally incalculable.

In the UK alone, more than 3,000 such honour crimes occurred just in 2010, according to a study by the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organization (IKWRO). The vast majority of those crimes, the organisation states, were committed by Muslims, though Sikhs and Hindus have also been known to commit honour-related crimes.

But Canada’s efforts to stop this phenomena is being opposed … by Muslim women! They are claiming that the term “honour killing” is racist, with many speaking out against the government’s new focus on these crimes.

One outspoken opponent is Itrath Syed, who is pursuing a PhD in Islamophobia in Vancouver. She said:

When women of colour are killed, we ask these larger questions around their culture. We ask what’s wrong with their entire people – their culture, their religion – instead of a particular person.

Writing for the Investigative Project, Abigail R Esman said:

What is so tragic about this remark is not just the half-dozen or so ways in which it is patently untrue, but that it seeks to nullify the horror that is honour violence, to deny the profound distinctions between honor crimes and other forms of domestic violence and femicide.

And she pointed out:

What Syed really was referring to was religion, not race. Or rather, the implication that domestic abuse in Muslim families is related to Islam, and that Muslim families are therefore treated differently than everybody else. It’s a common accusation, and an ongoing question: are honour crimes culturally-based, or founded in interpretations of the Koran?

It’s a bit of both, according to Carla Rus, a psychiatrist in the Netherlands who specialises in working with victims of both domestic abuse and honor violence.

Honour violence involves a kind of ideology, which you don’t find in domestic violence. In [Islamic] cultures, where church and state are not separated, it’s difficult to distinguish whether honour violence comes through cultural or religious motives – culture and religion are inseparable in those cases.

Esman pointed out that understanding how dramatically honour violence differs from other domestic abuse is, however, critical – a point that the recent Canadian funding aims to address, as do similar efforts in the UK and the Netherlands.  As Phyllis Chesler, author of the landmark study, Worldwide Trends in Honour Killings, has noted:

Westerners rarely kill their young daughters, nor do Western families of origin conspire or collaborate in such murders.

Similarly, domestic abuse in Western families does not involve brothers murdering their sisters, as happens in cases of honour killings. To the contrary, siblings most often protect one another.

Moreover, Esman emphasises, while domestic violence may relate to a man’s sense of self-respect, reputation, or “honour” among his peers, it does not – despite what some Muslims argue – reflect his sense of religious honour or his sense, as patriarch, of responsibility for his family’s perceived insults to his god.

Yet it is precisely this mindset which incites much honour-based violence and murder – and not only on the part of the father or husband. Frequently, religious devotion and patriarchy places pressure on other family members – siblings, aunts, uncles, spouses or even mothers of a victim – to commit the act, often under threat.

That fact underscores two other critical points that opponents to Canada’s focus on honour killings apparently do not wish others to see – or perhaps are too culturally blinded to see: Ordinary domestic violence is nearly always spontaneous, while honour violence (and especially honour murder) is almost always calculated, often planned out over time through numerous family meetings. And the horrific reality is that, these women simply have nowhere to run: no mothers who will shelter them from the husbands they are trying to escape, no sisters or brothers to protect them from their fathers – no one. (Indeed, the sisters and brothers are often recruited to assure a girl hiding from her family to come home, that all is forgiven. But this assertion is almost always a ruse; once she returns, the child is usually killed within days.)

Which is precisely why funding for, and attention to, understanding and preventing honor violence is so very critical, not only in Canada, but everywhere in the West. It is why women – and especially Muslim women – should be welcoming it, even demanding more.

She concluded:

And yet, countless Canadian (and other) Muslim activists and apologists remain far more devoted to shaping public vision of their culture – even if it means disguising the truth – than to protecting the lives of their Muslim sisters. In some cases, they may go so far as to contend that the very notion of ‘honour killings’ is a ‘Western propagated myth’. Indeed, one Muslim women’s advocate, Rubaiyat Karim, told Women’s e-News that, ‘Immigration policy can be very inclusionary and preach the language of multi-culturalism. But if we really want to talk about multiculturalism, we need to address the Orientalist mentality of government’.

She’s wrong. What we really need to address is the refusal of some Muslim families to advance beyond medieval and barbaric religio-cultural practices – and to stop excusing them when they don’t. Not to do so is to abandon thousands of women, not just in Canada or the United States, not just in countries like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, but in every country, every city, every town across the world. We cannot let that happen.

 

69 Responses to “The term ‘honour killing’ is ‘racist’, and should be banished, say Canadian Muslims”

  1. Rudolf Sidhu says:

    I think the word “honour” is pretty much used in a sense of mockery here, so it’s fine I think since it points out the irony within the religion :P

  2. Julian says:

    To all of you who have tried to insinuate that Islam (and no, I am not myself a Muslim) as a whole is intrinsically violent or barbaric because of the existence of this practice, let’s do a little math:

    1.6 Billion Muslims worldwide

    UN estimates approximately 5,000 “honor killings” worldwide annually.

    Do a little long division…

    And voila. “Honor killings” constitute approximately 0.000003% of all Muslims.

    But yeah, let’s call them “Muslim murderers” just like we call the KKK “Christian vandals.”

  3. Jonny Roberts says:

    The way that Islam is presented to most of the world, they are still living in the dark ages, 1,500 years behind the west.

    However, that is NOT the way it is represented in the Koran.

    As with Christians, who can’t agree on anything and there is 6,000 sects of the faith all claiming to be the right way, who do we believe.

    More wars, persecutions, killings have been done in the name of Christianity than all other religions combined.

  4. Tommy says:

    I guess Canadian muslims don’t read their koran or follow muhammed

    In Sura 18 (the cave) Moses meets Khidr and asks permission to follow him
    koran 18:66….Mûsa (Moses) said to him (Khidr) “May I follow you so that you teach me something of that knowledge (guidance and true path) which you have been
    taught (by Allâh)?

    Then follow three scenarios of which we will concern ourselves only with the unprovoked murder of a young boy

    18:74…Then they both proceeded, till they met a boy, he (Khidr) killed him. Mûsa (Moses) said: “Have you killed an innocent person who had killed none? Verily, you have committed a thing “Nukra” (a great Munkar – prohibited, evil,dreadful thing)!”

    18:78…(Khidr) said: “This is the parting between me and you, I will tell you the interpretation of (those) things over which you were unable to hold patience.

    18:80…And as for the boy, his parents were believers, and we feared lest he should oppress them by rebellion and disbelief.

    18:81…”So we intended that their Lord should change him for them for one better in righteousness and near to mercy

  5. Gaëlle says:

    A PhD in Islamophobia? You’ve got to be kidding. I hope that in this university you can also graduate in Christianophobia, Judeophobia, Buddhismphobia, etc. Otherwise it would clearly be racist -since Islam is now a race (Trevor Blake asks a very good question).

  6. barriejohn says:

    The reason why “honour killing” is more prevalent amongst Muslims is that Islam dehumanizes women. As I have said above, this attitude is codified in the Koran.

    http://www.islam-watch.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=874:is-muslim-honor-killing-islamic&catid=73:brahmachari&Itemid=58

  7. jj says:

    Michael R Laird After reading this article , I believe that all democratic countries should declare War on Islam and Muslims. The Muslims in this country can either agree to be deported or be placed in camps, like the Japanese were in WW2. This crap has gone long enough, soon there will be no more Freedom of speech or anything else. We will have an Islamic World and neither you nor I, our children, our Grandchildren will ever know the taste of freedom !

    Japan has the right idea. They don’t let them move into their country

    .islam is a crime against humanity

    islam is the most racist religion on the planet

    ISLAM: THE RELIGION OF GENOCIDE PERSPECTIVE: THINKS THE SPANISH INQUISITION WAS BAD The religion of genocide: More people are killed by Islamists each year than in all 350 years of the Spanish Inquisition combined

  8. […] IN 2007 Canada decided to set aside funds for a campaign to investigate and combat the growing number of killings of mainly Muslim women in the country. Until recently, religio-cultural […]  […]

  9. Mark Moore says:

    Maybe Muslims should ban honor killings instead of banning the use of the word.

  10. remigius says:

    We got science now, bitches!!

    wanderingwacky, totally agree. And kudos on the Jesse Pinkman reference :)

  11. barriejohn says:

    jj: soon there will be no more Freedom of speech or anything else.

    Well, not if we follow your ideas!

    One bright light at the end of the tunnel: the Islamists kill far more of each other every year than they do infidels.

  12. remigius says:

    I believe that all democratic countries should declare War on Islam and Muslims. The Muslims in this country can either agree to be deported or be placed in camps, like the Japanese were in WW2. This crap has gone long enough, soon there will be no more Freedom of speech or anything else. We will have an Islamic World and neither you nor I, our children, our Grandchildren will ever know the taste of freedom !

    No. No, and thrice no!

    First of all, most of those muslims you mention are UK born citizens. They have a right (a birth right) to be here.

    Sending them to another country would only enforce a sense of alienation, and just put the problem in another place.

    We need to encourage the education of all future generations, whether from a Judeo-Christian background, or Islamic. We really need to teach our youth, and yes muslim kids are our youth, about all religions, and about non-religion.

    It is the current ideology of faith schools that is exacerbating such a sectarian future that you so fear.

    If only our government could see clear to implementing a program of non-sectarian, but comparative, religious education, with the common goal of universal recognition of rights for all, regardless of creed, colour, or sexual orientation.

    Then, and only then, will we begin to address the problems facing us.

  13. Graham Martin-Royle says:

    @Remigius: Yes, yes and thrice yes!

  14. barriejohn says:

    Don’t hold your breath:

    http://www.ilfordrecorder.co.uk/news/news/al_noor_muslim_primary_school_could_move_into_redbridge_council_s_hands_after_feasibility_study_1_2926535

    “Family of faith schools” my arse. There’s more bollocks in that article than you’d find in a Falcon video!

  15. georgina says:

    And again – the idea that wife beating wass a crime and some wives needed protection from their husbands was ignored for years; classed as ‘Domestic disturbance’ by the police and as sexism by the general public.
    Parents beating their children, men raping their daughters. All things that ‘just could not happen’ so were ignored.

    Ignore it and it might go away is a very normal, and childish, reaction to ugliness. Confront it and fight it is the mature adult reaction. In’shalla is the muslim reaction.

  16. wynde says:

    Interesting article. However…”Canadian Muslims” say the term should be abolished, but how widespread is this attitude? Only a couple people are quoted. And the article reflects a common misunderstanding of domestic violence – that it is spontaneous (i.e., based in rage, alcohol, or some other condition of the moment). Nothing could be farther from the truth – domestic abusers plan, plot, and entrap their victims just as honor killers do – and western cultures implicitly support their doing so. It’s a disservice to victims to pretend otherwise.

  17. AgentCormac says:

    Yet more misogyny from the wonderful world of islam – this time a threat from the religiot lords and masters who run the theocratic dictatorship known as Saudi that any of their women who take part in a planned mass driving protest will face ‘undisclosed’ punishments. How can such a large an prosperous part of the 21st-century world still be in the hands of 12th-century tyrants? Baffling.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-24658753

  18. haveittodayray says:

    Attention all parents and grandparents. Read this.
    http://wp.me/p2GpDB-ai