muslim cleric in chicago addresses domestic violence; fails to cite honour killings

The following is the text of a sermon delivered in a Chicago mosque where domestic violence within the Muslim community, a particular issue of concern is addressed. The Imam speaks directly of the brutal murder of the wife of moderate Bridges t.v. founder Hassan and condemns this brutal act connecting it to the increasing level of domestic violence within the Muslim community. Although he attempts to expunge his Muslim community of violence, he fails to address the fact that this form of violence is specific to Islam in the form of honour killing. He does however make reference to this term at the end of the sermon.

There can be no doubt that cultural aspects play a significant role in these murders. Domestic violence in western culture, as haenous as it is, rarely results in death in comparison. Honour killings however, portray a much different scenario. These killings are often premeditated with the compliance of family members and are sanctioned as a cultural and religious restoration of a good, family name. The shame of a woman’s illicit act, whatever it may be or however it is perceived by family, extended relatives and community, combined with the will to restore the honour of family forms a toxic mix of sanctioned violence. This is a recurring theme in these murders.

For many western apologists of Islam both Muslim and non-Muslim alike, it is a difficult if not impossible task to equate the slaying of a woman with Islam. But the Quaran itself in the absence of any central authority, is open to a multitude of interpretation, with every crackpot misogynist weighing in on the instruction and edict on the value of a woman’s life.

Guest speaker at the Chicago mosque Hesham Hassaballa states; ” Domestic violence may well indeed trancend race, culture, colour and religion. It is a scourge that contaminates very society and socioeconomic status. It is a stain on the human condition and to blame Islam for it is totally unfair”. I agree with him. It is a scourge, but what the good Imam fails to recognize or if he does recognize fails to address, is the import of sharia, and it’s religious and cultural sanctioned deficit for women. Honour killings are simply not the same as domestic violence crimes. Violence against a woman is a criminal act, yet an honour killing holds the separate component of religious and cultural relevance, a relevance inherant to Islam often excused by the community and swept under the cultural relativist carpet.

I presume the Imam at the Chicago mosque did his best to dissuade the wife beaters and any would be honour killers in his congegation to re-think their wayward ways and to seek the guidance of the prophet muhammed and Allah. I’m also certain that this same Imam believes that there is no difference between domestic violence and honour killing. But many, including myself, are growing weary and impatient with half-hearted lectures and weak proclamations; we now insist on the direct denouncement of sharia and it’s refusal as a legitimate form of counsel and religious edict. Denial is indeed deadly, Mr. Hassaballa.  Until a strong denouncement is made and sharia rejected, honour killings will continue to masquerade as domestic violence.


8 Replies to “muslim cleric in chicago addresses domestic violence; fails to cite honour killings”

  1. Putting aside all claims about abstract notions of “honor”, I argue that men victimize and abuse women in their communities entirely in order to sustain their dominance within the social system. “Honor”-based violence/ so called ‘honour killings is thus implicitly gendered, and it is therefore merely one form of violence against women.

    (Source: Gill, A. (2009) “Honour” Killings and the Quest for Justice in Black and Minority Ethnic Communities in the UK, Criminal Justice Policy Review).

    Dr Aisha Gill, Roehampton University, UK

  2. I agree that there is domestic violence perpetrated both against and by women in the Americas. Honour killings however are systemic in Islamic cultures and yes, it is the cruel acts by men against women to maintain control and dominance which was the entire point of the article.

  3. Woh lots of wide point missing altogether here. One very common logical fallacy is to confuse the exception with the rule. One could say this is a form of cultural relativism. All people are potentially violent. Culture A criminalizes violence and hence its an exception to the norm while culture B advocates violence and makes it the norm. To be case specific, Western cultures while not free of femicide or attacks on women because they are women, are rare and more importantly, it is a criminal offense and a pariah act. Abuse and control of women is a central dogma within Islam. Killing to restore honor to a family within Islam is not only not criminal but often celebrated after a fashion. It is also a great deal more common. In western societies if a woman is raped, the rapist is hunted and if found guilty is well punished by the culture laws and governments. In Islamic states a woman may go to jail or even be killed for bringing dishonour to her male relatives. To be clear, killing of women is a crime in non islamic states and is not in Muslim ones. This distinction is unsubtle and crucial in any similar discussion. Please read Phyllis Chesler on this she does a fantastic job of detailing this issue as well as chronicling numerous examples of same. Search this blog for her and you will find many recent and excellent articles.

  4. May I suggest a reading of the following which address the issue of cultural relavitism and nature and prevalence of so-called ‘honour’ killings. I wonder how many cases of violence against women failed to be adequately prosecuted and redress provided for victims of gendered forms of violence in ‘Western’ societies. Of course I agree that the machinery of ‘justice’ is problematic in Islamic countries in ensuring women’s rights are protected but there is also evidence of failure to protect women in non- Muslim societies too.

    Again see:

    Gill, A. (2009) “Honour” Killings and the Quest for Justice in Black and Minority Ethnic Communities in the UK, Criminal Justice Policy Review.

    Dr Aisha Gill, Roehampton University, UK

  5. Dr. Gill,

    Your concern for the wellbeing of women is commendable, and I’m sure that everyone posting here shares it.

    Yes, it’s certainly true that “men victimize and abuse women in their communities entirely in order to sustain their dominance within the social system”. This occurs in all cultures throughout the world.

    But the big question — the “elephant in the room”, as it were — is whether the incidence of honor killings and other forms of violence against women is disproporionately higher in Muslim countries.

    Unfortunately, I’m afraid it is. My wife and I have accumulated reams of data on this topic over the years, and there is overwhelming evidence that being a Muslim increases a woman’s chance of being victimized by gender-based violence by 50%-100%.

    A summary of a symposium by the psychiatrist “Shrinkwrapped” a couple of years ago:

    “Frontpage magazine had a symposium [ ] several days ago which explored the psychology behind an epidemic of rapes by Islamic youth in Europe. Symposium: To Rape an Unveiled Woman is long and often somewhat opaque in the participants reliance on technical language; however, some real nuggets shine through. Several participants made the point that the child rearing and family structure of the Islamic families in Europe (and throughout much of the Muslim world) tend to foster the development of emotionally stunted and immature boys/men. Much was made of the high incidence of spousal abuse, pedophilia, and perverse sexuality. Among the most chilling of the insights was the recognition that the families of the rapists did not see their sons as having done anything wrong and felt that the women universally deserved their punishment for behaving immodestly.”

    And from a UN report (pdf) on Lebanon (pp. 2-3):

    “The following United Nations Development Program’s Human Development Reports’ annual statistics represent milestones along Lebanese women’s regressive path back into the oppressive dark ages. These statistics show the extent of the progress and development Lebanese women were able to achieve before their country’s religious resurgency and their quantifiable losses since the latter. In 2000, Lebanon ranked 101st out of 175 countries in the human development category, with a human development index of 0.791. The human development index has regressed considerably in the past 18 years, decreasing from 0.84 and a rank of 41 in 1982.”

    There is much more information along these lines if one does a bit of searching on the topic.

    You may argue that these appalling statistics are “due to culture”, but what is Islam if it is not a culture?

    And why do the cultures of Muslim communities throughout the world — in Detroit, Toronto, London, Berlin, Cairo, Riyadh, Islamabad, Chittagong, Jakarta, and Sydney — share these characteristics?

    Why do Muslim men commit so many more violent acts against women than their Christian, Jewish, Hindu, and atheist counterparts?

    These are hard questions, but if we are to be honest with ourselves we must not flinch from asking them. The statistics do not lie: to be a female Muslim is to put oneself at a greater risk.

    Do you deny these facts? If not, is there a reason why you would prefer not to contemplate them?

  6. In Pakistan, a Muslim country with a Shari’a constitution, the abuse of women is thought to be between 80 and 90%. All too often, a cheap divorce can be had by purchasing a dollar’s worth of acid and throwing it on a sleeping wife. She dies after several agonizing days, and her murderer-husband (or mother-in-law) is not prosecuted.
    In fact, the communal abuse of women as a way to retaliate or maintain control of women is par for the course. The story of Mukhtar Mai is a a case in point. From a post I did in June 2005:

    The opening chapters of her story are not that different from many tragedies for Muslim women. Shari’a law allows families to sacrifice women for debts of honor and she [Mukhtar Mai] was thus designated by the village to stand in for a trumped-up charge against her brother. It was the middle chapter when she changed the story line. Instead of leaving to commit suicide as she was expected to do she was met on the road by her father, who covered her nakedness with a shawl and led her home. Through the following days of darkness it was her father and her imam who encouraged her to live, and then insisted that she file charges against her assailant.

    And so it came to pass that instead of skulking off to die, Mukhtar Mai went to court. Her assailants were found guilty and she was awarded compensation. She took the money back to her village and opened two schools, one for boys and one for girls. She named the one for boys after her father.

    You can read the rest here:

    The post has links to previous stories about her.

    BTW, that post was done for Father’s Day. Its point was to show the difference a stong, loving father can make in a woman’s life. The other young woman’s story is equally moving.

    We must be careful not to blame just the men — it is a culture-wide abuse of CHILDREN, not just women. Sexual abuse of boys is quite common — as you can see in Mai’s case — and it is not considered a crime.

    I worked in a shelter for battered women for years. I fought to get better laws passed re safety for women at risk, and education of women for understanding the importance of choices. Never in all those years — even in the case of some of the women I knew who were killed — was there *ever* any acceptance for abuse of others.

    I do not think this can change in Muslim culture until someone is willing to protect the young boys from chronic sexual abuse by older males. That particular depravity is the wellspring of much of the rest of the injustices in Muslim law.

Leave a Reply to Dr Aisha Gill Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *