Tuesday, February 17, 2009

It Looks Like an Honor Killing: Islamic Network's Founder and American Law

A couple of educated Americans came to an unstartling conclusion: Aasiya Hassan's beheading looks like an honor killing. By some standards, Muzzammil Hassan had every reason and right to kill his wife: she was going to divorce him.

The two Americans are Dr. Phyllis Chesler, professor of psychology at the Richmond College of the City University of New York; and M. Zuhdi Jasser, founder and chairman of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (he's from Wisconsin).

Short version: details, including the quite gruesome beheading and display of body parts, make Aasiya's murder look like an honor killing.

Defending Islam, or Defending Honor Killing?

I don't think that ignoring an issue and hoping it'll go away is a good idea. Muslim women are being killed by Muslim men, because the men are in a snit about something. And, back in the old country, the men are expected to act that way.

This isn't right. Not according to American law. And, according to quite a few Muslims, including Pakistan's Islamic Party, it's not right according to Islam.

Honor killing, along with some other weird customs and ideas that show up in places like Sudan and Saudi Arabia, seems to have 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.

I'm sure that the idea of "honor killing" is an embarrassment to some Muslims. (I've written about this before.) But, it doesn't seem to be quite as directly related to Islam as some 'whiter-than-thou' American bigots and the occasional misguided Muslim might think.

Remember what Pakistan's Islamic Party said: 'Honor killing is against Islam.'

Jumping to Conclusions is Dumb: No Matter Which Way You Go

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.'

I also think that some 'sophisticated' Americans, in their zeal to defend another 'oppressed minority,' should take a deep breath before speaking, and think very carefully about exactly what they are defending.

Related posts: Views and background:


Anonymous said...

Orthodox Islam (as defined by the consensus of the 4 major schools of Sunni Islamic law) doesn’t condone “honor killing”, but it does decriminalize the act of parents killing their children (“Reliance of the Traveller”, o1.2(4) (pages 583-4) and o3.12 (p. 587)). (It’s clear to me that Islam co-opted instead of rejected this pre-Islamic 7th century cultural practice.)

Orthodox Islam does condone physically disciplining disobedient wives (“Reliance of the Traveller” m10.12 (bottom p. 540-2)), based on Koran Surah 4:34. The non-Muslim Dawood’s translation of 4:34 is “beat them”, Indian Muslim Ali’s is “spank them (lightly)”, the “(lightly)” an insertion that’s not in the Koran, and the translation by the Muslim Ansari of Mawdudi (an Islamist) is “beat them”. (Mawdudi makes it clear (via his note on the Surah) that the force should be just what’s needed to stop the disobedience.)

This wasn’t an “honor killing” in the true sense of a father/brother/uncle killing a girl who had “shamed” him/the family.

But Islam is a huge perp here (sorry to disagree with you), and to deny that is just denial.

Brian H. Gill said...


I'm not familiar with your source, but you could be right.

However, I'm not quite as deeply in 'denial' as you may think.

Islam seems to be a belief system that's heavily dependent on the pre-existing cultures of 'Islamic' countries. The Islam of Sudan isn't quite the Islam of Saudi Arabia, and both seem to be quite different from the Islam of Indonesia, where honor killing doesn't seem to be part of the mix.

Muslims I've corresponded with assure me that honor killing isn't an intrinsic part of Islam, and I'm inclined to assume that they believe that.

Under the circumstances, I'm not quite as willing to condemn Islam as a whole for honor killing and related customs - particularly considering the stand taken by Pakistan's Islamic Party.

On the other hand, Islam does seem to have some issues to deal with.

More recent posts on this general topic: "Muzzammil Hassan's Beheaded Wife No Honor Killing - Move Along" (February 19, 2009), "Honor Killing, Muzzammil Hassan and Aasiya, Protecting Feelings,and Common Sense" (February 20, 2009).

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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.