Friday, February 20, 2009

Honor Killing, Muzzammil Hassan and Aasiya, Protecting Feelings, and Common Sense

Honor killing is out of the news - for today. Muzzammil Hassan, founder of Bridges TV and prominent member of Orchard Park's Muslim community, is still in jail. It seems that beheading your wife is illegal in America.

If you read traditional news outlets, like The New York Times, you've learned that a Pakistani-American's decapitation of his wife is not an honor killing. Never mind that she shamed him by filing for divorce. And kicking him out of 'his' house.

Honor Killing, Image, and Common Sense: A Review

I wrote about honor killing in North America, and how traditional news media handle it, yesterday, in "Muzzammil Hassan's Beheaded Wife No Honor Killing - Move Along" (February 19, 2009).

Since this post continues an idea from "No Honor Killing," here's a review of yesterday's post:
  • Not All Muslims Kill Their Women
    • The vast majority of Middle Eastern families in America don't kill embarrassing wives and sisters
    • Some do
    • The 'Muslim community' and 'Islamic leaders' seem to get defensive as soon as this little cultural quirk is brought up
    • Traditional news media seems to accommodate hypersensitive Muslims
      • This may not be a good idea
  • Editor's Quandary: How to Handle a Prominent Muslim, Founder of Islamic Network; and a Beheaded Wife
    • After the story became international news, The New York Times wrote about
      • "outrage from Muslim leaders after suggestions that it had been some kind of 'honor killing' based on religious or cultural beliefs"
  • No Honor Killing Here: Move Along
    • The New York Times' slant on the story seems to have set the tone for most coverage of Aasiya Zubair Hassan's beheading
  • After the Times: Polite Reticence and (Sort of) Bold Challenge
    • CNN didn't use the phrase "honor killing" at all, in its low-key online coverage of the killing in Orchard Park, New York
    • An op-ed in the United Kingdom's Guardian made a remarkably bold claim, and call to action
      • But insisted that Muzzammil Hassan's beheading of Aasiya wasn't an honor killing
  • There is No Honor Killing: Just Domestic Violence
    • Wajahat Ali's "A wake-up call for the community" boldly suggests that Muslim community leaders should start treating domestic violence as a problem, and stop shielding wife-beaters
      • That's an over-simplification, of course
    • Wajahat Ali also says that we mustn't think about "honor killing:" it's "domestic violence"
  • Defying the Times: Journalists Unchained
    • The Buffalo News defies The New York Times' leadership, by acknowledging that
      • "...Advocates for women — some of them Muslims — have called for the community to acknowledge religious and cultural traditions that stigmatize divorce and heighten the danger of violence in divorce cases...."
  • 'Vilifying the Islamic Faith or Muslims?' No - Trying to Save Lives - Yes
    • A few people with roots in the Middle East seem to regard domestic violence as a culturally-acceptable way of dealing with having a snit
    • I'm pretty sure that many Muslims don't think that flogging or killing their women is a good idea
    • I think Islamic/Muslim/Middle Eastern religious and community leaders could do wonders for the image of Islam and Muslims if they'd make:
      • Fewer claims that honor killings aren't happening
      • A greater effort to spread the word that embarrassing relatives can't be killed in the new country

Domestic Violence and Honor Killing: Not Quite the Same

It's true that domestic violence isn't exclusively in one group.

Even America's cultural leaders, like Rihanna and Chris Brown, are involved. I know: it's all "allegedly" at this point. Their alleged dust-up in the alleged city of Los Angeles is, if what's leaking out is any indication, domestic violence.

It would be unreasonable to claim that Barbadians, Virginians, or American entertainment stars, are particularly prone to domestic violence.

So, why bring up "honor killing" when a prominent member of an upstate New York Muslim community whacks off his wife's head?

Why not just call it "domestic violence," like what apparently happened to Rihanna?
Domestic Violence, Culturally-Sanctioned Domestic Violence: Not the Same Thing
To the best of my knowledge, neither Barbadians, Virginians, nor the American entertainment industry, encourages family rulers to kill relatives who embarrass them, or condones honor killing.

On the other hand, it's hard not to notice the motive behind the murders of: It's also hard to miss the way that 'Muslim leaders' in America rather consistently deny that honor killing exists. And, insist that the phrase shouldn't be used.

The New York Times and its acolytes accommodate this view, by and large, denouncing the use of the phrase "honor killing" and insisting that "domestic violence" is the correctly tolerant, open-minded term. I don't think this is a good idea.

Given the way that Muslim community leaders are said to be 'outraged' at the mention of honor killing, while some Muslim women say it should stop, it's easy to get the impression that, by and large:
  • Muslim men are satisfied with the status quo
  • Muslim women aren't, entirely

Honor Killing: Embarrassing, but Ignoring the Problem Won't Solve It

As I wrote a few days ago, A couple of educated Americans came to an unstartling conclusion: Aasiya Hassan's beheading looks like an honor killing. One of them's Dr. Phyllis Chesler, professor of psychology at the Richmond College of the City University of New York. The other is M. Zuhdi Jasser, founder and chairman of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (he's from Wisconsin).

As reported in a news outlet that doesn't take its cues from The New York Times, the gruesome beheading and display of body parts, and other details, make Aasiya's murder look like an honor killing.

I don't blame the leaders of Orchard Park's Muslim community for being embarrassed. Another dead Muslima doesn't make them look good.

Denying that there's a serious problem probably isn't the best idea, though. Americans, by and large, don't approve of killing women - even if they embarrass their menfolk, or get fed up and leave.

And, although in a sense "honor killing" is an extreme form of domestic violence, it also seems to be a practice that's promoted or at least condoned in some parts of the world. Strident insistence that the phrase "honor killing" not be used, along with what appears to be failures to educate newcomers about what's allowed in the new country, does not make Muslims in America and Islam look good - and doesn't keep Muslim women alive.

Orchard Park Police: Investigating a Crime, Not Protecting Feelings

I don't envy Orchard Park's police. They've got a homicide to investigate, that involves a group of people who can make their lives - and careers - quite unpleasant.

My hat's off to Orchard Park's Police Chief, Andrew Benz. From the sounds of it, he isn't letting misguided multiculturalism get in the way of a police investigation.

"Asked if the murder is being probed as an honor killing, Benz replied, 'We've been told that there's no place for that kind of action in their faith, but I wouldn't say that there's anything that's being completely ruled out at this point.' " (FOXNews)

You Mean, Educated, Intelligent, People Think Honor Killing Exists?

I'll grant that "Islamophobia" - an irrational, unfounded fear of Islam - is real. And, it isn't limited to "confused and uneducated Americans. On the other hand, I don't think that research that may embarrass some Muslims is necessarily "Islamophobic."

Not even if it relates to a beheaded woman in upstate New York.

Psychologists, and even some Muslims have said that Aasiya's murder looks like an honor killing.
Aasiya's Decapitation and Honor Killing: A Psychologist's View
" 'The fierce and gruesome nature of this murder signals it's an honor killing,' said Dr. Phyllis Chesler, an author and professor of psychology at the Richmond College of the City University of New York. 'What she did [file for divorce] was worthy of capital punishment in his [Muzzammil Hassan's] eyes.'..."

"...Chesler, who wrote 'Are Honor Killings Simply Domestic Violence?' for Middle East Quarterly, said some Muslim men consider divorce a dishonor on their family.

" 'This is not permitted in their culture,' said Chesler, whose study analyzed more than 50 reports of honor killings in North America and Europe. 'This is, from a cultural point of view, an honor killing.'

"Chesler said honor killings typically are Muslim-on-Muslim crimes and largely involve teenage daughters, young women and, to a lesser extent, wives." (FOXNews)
Aasiya's Decapitation and Honor Killing: A Muslim's View
The non-Muslim psychologist's conclusion is backed up M. Zuhdi Jasser. He's the founder and chairman of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy. He said: " 'She expressed through the legal system that she was being abused, and at the moment she asked for divorce, she's not only murdered — she's decapitated.'..."

"...Jasser said he was concerned that Aasiya Hassan suffered such a barbaric death after she and her husband were seen as a couple focused on bettering the 'Islamic image' in the United States.

" 'The most dangerous aspect of this case is to simply say it's domestic violence,' ...." Jasser said. (FOXNews)
Aasiya's Decapitation and Honor Killing: Let's Not Talk About it
Not everybody sees eye-to-eye with Chesler and Jasser.

"...Rabbi Brad Hirschfield, a producer and host for Bridges TV who worked alongside the Hassans, said 'now is not the time' to debate the cultural and religious context of the murder that appears to be an honor killing inspired by Aasiya Hassan's desire to divorce her husband.

" 'There will be time for that later,'.... 'I will only say to those who leap to the conclusion that this kind of thing is intrinsic to Islam, ask yourselves if you think that drunkenness is intrinsic to Irish Catholics, or cheating in business is to Jews?' " (FOXNews)

Hats off to Hirschfield: invoking Irish Catholics and Jews is a good rhetoric.

On the other hand, although Chesler said " 'Islamist advocacy groups continue to obfuscate the problem, and government and police officials accept their inaccurate versions of reality, women will continue to be killed for honor in the West....' " "Islamist advocacy groups" and "Islam" aren't, I hope, the same thing.

And it's a little hard for me to believe that M. Zuhdi Jasser thinks that honor killing "is intrinsic to Islam" - even if he is from Wisconsin.

I think it's about time for 'Muslim community leaders' to start worrying less about their bruised sensibilities, and more about Muslimas' lives - and how their denials make Islam look.

Islam, Muslims, and Honor Killing: Deciding What to Defend

Muslim women are being killed by Muslim men: because the men are in a snit about something. Back in the old country, the men were expected to act that way.

American law and custom says this isn't right. Quite a few Muslims who don't live in America agree: including Pakistan's Islamic Party, which said that honor killing is not right according to Islam.

Honor killing probably has more to do with a Middle Eastern culture that was ancient when Abraham had children, than what The Prophet taught a few thousand years later. On the other hand, a comment on an earlier post claimed that "orthodox Islam" "doesn't condone 'honor killing', but it does decriminalize the act of parents killing their children" - and has citations to back up the claim. On the other hand, the comment is from that prolific writer, Anonymous.

Generalizing is Dumb - So is Denial

I don't think it's right - or sensible - to assume that, because a few cultures where almost everyone is a Muslim practice honor killing, all Muslims accept honor killing. Much less that Islam itself says 'if your wife makes you feel bad, kill her.'

On the other hand, between a rising body count, and demands that "honor killing" not be mentioned, "honor killing" does seem to be an embarrassment that some Muslims desperately want people to ignore. That doesn't, in my opinion, make the 'Muslim community' look good. And, keeping honor killing a little community secret probably won't help save lives.

The way I see it, when it comes to "honor killing" and the Muslim community's apparently sensitive feelings, this would be a good time for 'open minded' people to take a deep breath, and think very carefully about exactly what they are defending.

Related posts: News and views: Views and background: Related posts, on tolerance, bigotry, racism, and hatred.

No comments:

Unique, innovative candles

Visit us online:
Spiral Light CandleFind a Retailer
Spiral Light Candle Store


Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.