Tuesday, October 14, 2008

CAIR, Yaser Said, and the FBI: Don't Say "Honor Killing"

The Dallas, Texas, CAIR director was right about one thing. Muslims don't have a monopoly on jealous husbands and crazy fathers.

" 'As far as we're concerned, until the motive is proven in a court of law, this is [just] a homicide,' Mustafaa Carroll, the executive director of the Council of American-Islamic Relations in Dallas, told FOXNews.com.

"He said he worries that terms like 'honor killing' may stigmatize the Islamic community. 'We (Muslims) don't have the market on jealous husbands ... or domestic violence,' Carroll said."

Who Said it was an Honor Killing: A Reality Check

It wasn't the FBI that called Yaser Abdul Said's murder of his two daughters an honor killing. It was the girls' great-aunt.

"The girls' great-aunt, Gail Gartrell, says the girls' father killed them both because he felt they disgraced the family by dating non-Muslims and acting too Western, and she called the girls' murders an honor killing from the start."

But it's the FBI's fault for calling the murder of Sarah and Amina Yaser Said an honor killing. After almost a year of investigating the case.

Because it might make Muslims look bad. Excuse me. Not Muslims. It might make "the Islamic community" look bad.

I'd have been a trifle more sympathetic with the CAIR director, if the FBI had made an accusation with flimsy evidence, like the comic-opera cases of Richard Jewel and Steven Hatfill.

In the case of Sarah and Amina, it was the better part of a year before the FBI would concede that their great-aunt was right.

And now, they're criticized for stigmatizing the Islamic community.

Honor Killings: Yes, They're Real

Like it or not, a number of Islamic countries have an ancient tradition of honor killing. I think that honor killing is more of a cultural thing, than part of Islam.

Pakistan's Islamic Party went a step further. They say that honor killing is against Islam.

The problem is that quite a few people don't make fine distinctions between cultural traditions and Islamic teachings.

Some of them are people who come from places where a father is expected to kill his kids if they don't act the way their great-great-great-grandparents did, or make him look bad some other way,

And some are their new, non-Muslim, neighbors.

The United Nations seems to think that honor killings are real, and a problem, too.

"The United Nations estimates that 5,000 women are killed worldwide every year in honor killings — mostly in the Middle East, where many countries still have laws that protect men who murder female relatives they believe have engaged in inappropriate activity. A U.N. report includes chilling examples of such cases."
(FOXNews (October 14, 2008))

Given the United Nation's quite non-Islamophobic behavior ("United Nations Treats Islam More Equally Than Other Religions" (October 3, 2008)), I'd say if a United Nations agency claims honor killings are a problem, they just might be.

Just a Homicide, Domestic Violence, and Honor Killing

I think that there's a difference between:
  1. Someone who shoots a convenience store clerk during a robbery
    • He (it's usually a man) doesn't have anything against the victim, personally
  2. An out-of-control guy who kills his kids or his wife because he feels like it
    • He (rarely, she) attacks that particular victim because of a personal relationship
  3. A man who believes that he's supposed to kill members of his family when they don't act the way people do in the old country
    • He attacks that particular victim because of a personal relationship
      • And because he believes it is his duty - as well as being personally convenient
The differences become particularly important, when #3's old neighbors would have supported his action, and many of his new ones don't.

Some Muslims Don't Like to Hear "Honor Killing" - and I Can't Blame Them

I sympathize, in a way, with Muslims who don't like to hear the phrase "honor killing." It's a bit of an embarrassment right now. Islam, the religion, is very closely associated with the Middle East. In fact the king of that quintessentially Middle Eastern country, Saudi Arabia, likes to be called "Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques," which connects the House of Saud and Saudi Arabia quite closely with Islam: and vice versa.

So, it's easy to assume that the Saudi way is the Islamic way. And the Saudi way of dealing with the world is rather, well, a tad out of touch with the post-18th century world:
  • A Saudi cleric said that women should use only one eye at a time
  • The Chairman of the Saudi Supreme Judicial Council declared open season on network owners whose networks are "immoral"
    • He's also an Islamic cleric
    • That judgment was a fatwa, issued in his role as a cleric
And that's just some of what hit international news in the last month.

Between Al Qaeda in Iraq having established beheading as a typically Islamic practice, and Saudi cleric/judges saying that it's okay to kill network owners, Islam has some rather serious public relations problems.

And honor killing is one of them.

Ignore Honor Killings: Maybe They'll Go Away

It sounds like a nice idea: Don't talk about honor killings. When a Muslim father kills his daughters because they weren't being Islamic enough, point out that non-Muslim fathers kill their daughters, too.

I don't think this is a good idea.

The CAIR director said, "We (Muslims) don't have the market on jealous husbands ... or domestic violence," which is true enough. But, although honor killing is, in a way, a form of domestic violence, having the weight of tradition and contemporary societal support makes it different.

Think about it this way. Say that a husband in Kansas City killed his wife. After some investigation, law enforcement called it a case of domestic violence. Then the director of HAIR (Husbands Against Incendiary Rhetoric - an imaginary advocacy group I just made up) in Kansas City said that they shouldn't call it domestic violence, because that might stigmatize the husband community.

HAIR has a point, sort of. Some people think that all men, husbands in particular, abuse women. But that's no reason to avoid calling a case of domestic violence, "domestic violence."

I think that the Islamic Party of Pakistan has the right idea: Say that honor killings happen, and say that they're against Islam.

Related posts: In the news: Related posts, on tolerance, bigotry, racism, and hatred.

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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.