Tuesday, July 24, 2007

In The Name Of Honor

This story has caught the attention of several bloggers.

Much has been made, across the 'sphere, of how moderate Muslims are obliged to condemn this practice, how this practice is another sign of the evil of Islamic faith, and more of...
and then some...

I want to toss this idea in the dung bin where it belongs.

Honor Killing is not, and never has been, a practice of the Islamic faith. If anything, the Islamic holy writings speak against it.

First, let's define the issue.
Honor Killing is the act of murder, usually of a woman, by usually male members of her family or close knit clan, who is believed to have brought dishonor upon her family, usually through sexual promiscuity, but not always.

Though perpetrated in regions where Islam is the prevailing faith, the practice actually pre-dates Islam, is considered a private matter, and in modern times is basically limited to rural tribal areas, or uneducated urban dwellers. It is not, as some may think, endemic to the Muslim world. Indonesia, the most populous Muslim nation, and Malaysia, have no instances of it.

In patriarchal tribalistic cultures that practice honor killing, women and girls are seen as property of the family. And the family honor is it's primary asset. A family that allows dishonor is looked down upon, making it hard for members of the family to conduct business, find jobs, or even to find a suitable spouse. Honor is everything, because usually these families have little else to trade on. Generally, the more educated the family, the less likely honor killing becomes a necessity.
And this is how it is viewed. As a necessity.
And it is illegal in every Muslim nation.

This is a purely cultural practice, predating Islam, and transcending all civil law.
Islam cannot stop it. Civil authorities are near powerless to punish it.

There is no shortage of asshattery committed in the name of Islam. This is not one of them.

And to my neo-con readership: What makes you think we can bring democracy through a gun barrel to a region where 1400 years of Islam and fear of Almighty God have failed to stop honor killing?


Shaggy said...

to paraphrase a world leader:

"Power comes from the barrel of a gun."

Mick said...

Do you deny that these killings are perpetrated by muslims in muslim countries most of the time? Sounds like a arab and persian problem to me.

I never did like the argument of passing off things as "cultural practices"

I have a cultural practice as well. In my culture we kill murderers.

kr said...

and yet, Gino, you yourself point out that these practices are "limited" in "modern times" ... while I think forcing democracy on any people is pretty inherently ridiculous, the decreasing honor-killing trend and the number of Iraqis who turned out to vote imply that the region is in fact open to modern ideas of freedom and political participation

'be nice if we hadn't bungled the process

Nate said...

So Islam as a religion is held faultless despite the fact that it holds cultures in a paternalistic & tribal culture?

I'm not saying that these killings are supported by Islam, but it seems that as an oppressive religion, it has stunted culture at a point where certain atrocities are acceptable.

Gino said...

have a beer, or three.

kr: if so, these modern ideas need to take root on their own. these people: they are not like us. dont expect them to act as if they are.

nate: welcome aboard. how'd you find me?
but a question: do you blame centuries of christianity for the vendetta culture of southern italy and greece? or are these practices a result of societies solving political shortcomings. cultural attitudes dont happen in a vaccuum. they are reactions to various environments, political/social/economic as a way of dealing with them and ensuring survival.

man is a survivor first, before any other 'higher' notions are entertained.
and much of what we fault islam for was standard in christian societies as well at one time.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't find asshattery in the dictionary; is that some Islamic term? :)

I can understand them doing this in their tribal environment in Pakistan or Iraq; but, when they do it in London, that's just insanity.


kr said...

gino, I don't expect them to act like us

I just think it is weird that you make a big point of saying it's a relatively isolated practice because of modernization, and then imply that another cultural modernization is somehow logically impossible because that on-the-decline problem hasn't actually been vanquished

'betrayed husband shoots wife and lover'
King Henry VIII
baby not growing? must be because the mother isn't producing enough milk/loving enough/alert enough/knowledgable enough
autism used to be blamed on mothers, too

we too retain the concept that family "honor" can be defended by killing the wife--we are just more subtle about killing her.

Don't get me wrong, physical abuse and killing are definitely priority number one. I just don't think Mesopotamians are so culturally unique, really, and I think that we are only a couple hundred years out from being just as ugly ...

Gino said...

KD: an asshat is somebody who has their head so far up their ass, it appears they are wearing it as a hat.
asshattery is the action and thought of an asshat.

Gino said...

kr: they've had how many elections now? and how much sectarian voilence is still going on?

arabs have a string of loyalties that are far different from ours.
family,clan,tribe, ethnicity, religion... national identity is far down the list, if it ever makes that list for lack of available space.
law and order are seen as much the responsibilty of the families, internally and tween themselves, as the govt, who's role is to moderate instead of dictate.

the idea of blood money is not practiced here. over there, it is standard way of doing things.

take note: we didnt kill al zaquarie(that bomber/beheader dude) until he went so far he embarassed his family and they revoked their protection.(publically rebuked and disowned) at that point, his blood was free. dead man walking. anybody was free to turn him in without fear of reprisal against their own family.
soon after, we had him.

before then, he was covered under the umbrella of his clan or tribe.

Nate said...

I've been reading "Pushing Back the Frontiers of Ignorance" on and off for a couple of months now. Your comment on this story there caught my attention.
I don't blame the Catholic & Orthodox churches in Italy / Greece for individual deaths in vendettas, but it is without question that they have not had as significant a positive influence on this area as they should, or as much as they have in other areas of the world. The problem with Islam is that there is no state that features Islam as it's prominent religion that has shaken off these barbaric, tribalistic and misogynistic practices. So instead of being an isolated problem, it is an institutional one, especially in light of the fact that a majority of clerics in the east would approve of such practices.

Gino said...

actually nate, the practice runs counter to islam. no cleric that i'm aware of condones it.

indonesia is the largest muslim state. and they dont have this practice.

kr said...

A high-ranking Jesuit friend once told me (with amazingly focused anger, actually) that Iraq had huge communities of Christians prior to some Baathist unpleasantness late last century. I think he went so far as to say it used to be a "Christian nation"--but perhaps he was overwrought, because I'd think I'd have heard that somewhere else to corroborate.

There did used to be a significant Christian presence there, though.


Gino, they've had, what, 2 or 3 elections? Weren't we fighting off European overlords until like 1813 or some dumb thing?

Surely, yes, their first allegiance is to their various levels of family groups and then their religion (except for the folks who reverse the two), and of course they have no innate sense of their artificially imposed (by the British) national "unity." But they had a stronger voter turnout than anywhere in the US has for ... maybe ever? ... anyhow, than I've ever heard of (because, you know, I am the most Ancient of Sages ;) ).

Catholicism, read strictly, I'm pretty sure calls for allegiance in this order:
(conflated with Church's Teachings)
Church heirarchy
(local unless specifically contradicted by 'higher' authority)
(personal conscience goes here or above the heirarchy, depending on how "well formed" it is ;) )
secular Govt
(and problems should be solved as locally as possible, per structure of the Church)

Which on paper makes us just as much wingnuts, although nowadays in practice not so much. But 500 years ago ... ? isn't Islam about 500 years "younger" than Christianity?

US govt, in original theory, was supposed to be locally based also, with way less "nationality" than we see (/try to require) nowadays.


I just don't buy it, Gino. These people were right up there with the Chinese and the Europeans on astronomy and physical sciences. The CONCEPT of alphabet came from there, and they were for a long time credited with inventing agriculture (and in any case were among the vangaurd). They even, apparently, were equally capable on pictoral art before the iconoclasts won their war within Islam (they lost in Christianity).

These people are not stupid, although in some ways I think many branches of Islam (like many branches and interpretations of Christianity, and like our gorram public education system, grr) encourages non-thinking.


But, look, though, maybe it's the family thing that might end it eventually.

If family is most important, eventually they will see that it hurts their 2 year olds more to keep on trying to "resolve" their differences with guns/etc., and they will start to reject whichever "teachers" are teaching them to ignore the reality of their children (and their siblings' children and their childrens' children).

As you point out with Al Zaraqui (?sp), the family thing can turn useful: even the families who might be thought most deeply steeped in scary thinking can clue out that change is necessary.

Anyhow, that's my thinking right this minute. I can't get further because I have called up the most horrific picture I've seen from the conflict, and coherence is coming hard right now. (It is a little little girl, about 18 months old, standing and cry-screaming in the light of a US soldier's head-lamp--cry-screaming because she just saw her parents killed--and the silohette(?sp) of the soldier's ground-pointed rifle is the foreground ... my second daughter was 18 months old when that picture came out ...)

Gino said...

kr: i never said arabs were stupid.
but they are more passionate in their loyalties than we in the west.

eye for an eye is excepted practice among families.

my jordanian pal tell this story: the king (of jordan) had a crazy homicidal brother. he would fly off in a rage and kill people in the street(commoners) and the when caught, the crown would pay blood money to the family.

after a while: in a road rage, he pulled a gun, and shot the dude in the next car. this guy was a member of one of jordan's prominent families (oops!).
the family refused the blood money, and insisted on a hanging, or they would take eye for an eye.
this was hussien's crazy brother who was exiled and kept hidden in asylums, and this is why.
the king sent his brother away out of family loyalty to a criminal, and made amends to the victim's family quietly.

the revenge culture is big there. its an expected part of the landscape. law and order, as we know it, is different. very different.
and why executions of criminals take place promptly. blood for blood keeps the peace.

my pal explains: if they dont hang soon, revenge starts. family honor is at stake.
and its the same, whether the family is christian or muslim.
(there is a large christian minority in every arab country except saudi arabia, yemen,and the emirates).

in our country, irish, mexicans and italians, catholics and protestants, dont kill each other over social competition, do they?

Anonymous said...

I agree 'honor' killings originate in culture. Yet countries with Sharia is one of the reasons why it is so hard to bring the murderers to justice.


Gino said...

its hard to get convictions whenever a killer is brought to trial.and when they do, its usually a reduced charge due to 'temporary insanity' type of reasoning.
even arabs who oppose such killing(most do) find it hard to condemn/convict because they sympathise with the killer and his family.

think about it: in our culture, if a man killed his wife's/daughter's rapist, do you really think any jury would give him hard time?

kr said...

in our country, irish, mexicans and italians, catholics and protestants, dont kill each other over social competition, do they?

but 150 years ago we did (Gangs of New York etc.); plus isn't all gang warfare today essentially honor-based/clannish? and much of it is racist

and 300 years ago, Catholics and Protestants were still regularly killing each other, just because of their religious differences ('s why a bunch of Europeans showed up on our east coast)

we share their cultural sources

I don't disagree or agree that Islam is or isn't to blame for where they are at; I don't know enough

I guess my question is, are you arguing that Islam is or isn't contributing to the potential for political sanity (of whatever stripe!) over there?

Anonymous said...

It is more significant in a country or community where forms of sharia are followed.
Please take a look at this wikpedia article on the subject. It explains it better than I can.


Gino said...

trisha, if yer still here, i think i can explain something per sharia and honor killing going together.