On honour killing– writers, experts and readers weigh in

Since news broke of the tragic Kingston Locks Ontario, honour killings, several articles have been written related to the story and on the broader issue of honour killing itself.  They continue to pour in to a variety of newspapers across the country. Here is a small sample of what has been written:

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This first article written by Marian Scott describes the marked difference between honour killings and domestic violence.

Honour Killings are distinct experts say: from The Vancouver Sun, Gazette.

A distinct kind of violence: experts

Honour killings described as different from domestic violence

By MARIAN SCOTT, The Gazette July 25, 2009

Honour killings are distinct from other kinds of family violence – and to say so does not discriminate against minorities, say two experts on the phenomenon.

“Analysis of more than 50 reported honour killings shows they differ significantly from more common domestic violence,” Phyllis Chesler, emerita professor of psychology at City University of New York, says in the spring edition of Middle East Quarterly.

In her analysis, Chesler acknowledged that her position runs counter to many Muslim advocacy organizations that say honour killings have nothing to do with Islam, and that it is discriminatory to distinguish them from other forms of domestic violence.

The main difference between the two types of crimes is that honour killings are rooted in patriarchal values, while domestic violence generally has no such social justification to resort to, said Amin Muhammad, a professor of psychiatry at Memorial University of Newfoundland.

Muhammad, the author of a 2008 study on honour killings in rural and tribal areas of Sindh, Pakistan, said honour killing is the murder of a person, usually female, perceived to have brought shame on the family, often by engaging in illicit relations with men, Muhammad said.

Chesler wrote that victims of honour killings might have refused to cover their hair, faces, or bodies; worn makeup; chosen friends from another religion; dated; pursued an education; refused an arranged marriage; asked for a divorce from a violent husband; or married against their parents’ wishes.

Police in Kingston said yesterday they are pursuing allegations the slayings of four women from a St. Léonard family were honour killings.

Mohammad Shafia, 56, his wife Tooba Mohammad Yahya, 39, and their 18-year-old son Hamed are each charged with four counts of first-degree murder and four counts of conspiracy to commit murder.

The bodies of the couple’s daughters daughters Zainab, 19, Sahari, 17, and Geeti, 13 – and that of Shafia’s first wife, Rona Amir Mohammad, were discovered last month in a car submerged in the Rideau Canal, near Kingston.

A sister of Rona Amir Mohammad is reported to have told investigators that Shafia believed Zainab dishonoured the family by having a romance with a young Pakistani man in Montreal.

A neighbour has reported that Zainab briefly ran away from home a few months ago.

Chesler noted that honour killings:

– are committed mostly by Muslims against Muslim girls and women.

– are committed mainly by fathers against daughters in their teens and 20s.

– are carefully planned.

– may be perpetrated by multiple family members.

– are committed because the victims has “dishonoured” the family.

Muhammad said honour killings claim the lives of some 5,000 women and girls each year, according to United Nations statistics.

In Canada, more than a dozen women have died in honour killings in the last decade, Muhammad said, warning that the frequency could rise because of the immigration of people from countries where the practice exists.

He noted that even in countries with a history of honour killings, such as Pakistan and Afghanistan, the phenomenon is illegal and considered wrong by the majority of citizens.

“It is in keeping with the mindset of certain groups,” he said. “Many of the people even from the same country would not share that belief system.”

Muhammad said immigration officials should be trained to screen out immigrants whose attitudes toward women put them at risk of committing honour killings.

He added that police and social-service workers should receive sensitivity training to identify warning signs.

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© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette
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This second letter to the editor is written by Dr. D. Liepert of the Muslim Council of Calgary. from Mississauga.
  • July 31, 2009

Letter of the week

Dear Editor:
By framing the deaths of Zainab, Sahar and Geeti Shafi and Rona Amir Mohammad so quickly as honour killings, an unproven allegation that flags the tragedy with religious overtones, the media and the Kingston Police are exploiting what may end up having been a tragic accident and missing an opportunity to condemn the greater issue of domestic violence.
Domestic violence occurs with horrid frequency in every race, culture, creed and country around the world. The 2001 report on family violence by the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics reported that when a child or youth is killed, family members are most often to blame. StatsCanada added in 2005 that while seven per cent of women and six per cent of men end up being victimized by their partner, women are twice as likely to be injured or killed.
Although it has lately become associated with the Muslim religion, honour killing crosses every racial, religious and cultural line.
It’s worth noting the Shafi family was not conservatively religious in their Islamic practice. However, even if they had been, their Muslim faith should have prevented family violence.
Every culture struggles with gender relations and parenting, and religion has often been abused to justify abusing the rights of others. However, none of us have the right to hold our heads high until we acknowledge that our honour never gives us the right to abuse another.
No religion on earth condones taking another’s life in anger.
The Shafi family has been torn apart. Whether it was a tragic accident, a murder, a murder-suicide or an honour killing, we should honour their memory by striving to find out why, and by making sure it doesn’t happen again to someone else.
Dr. David Liepert
Muslim Council of Calgary

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This article was submitted to the Calgary Herald, written by Naomi Lakritz.

Sisterhood’s silence over honour killings deafening

By Naomi Lakritz, Calgary Herald July 29, 2009

All’s quiet on the sisterhood front this week. Too quiet, considering how many horrifying stories about women made the headlines.

There were the alleged honour killings of the three teenaged Shafia girls from Montreal, along with one of their father’s two wives. The father, the mother and the girls’ brother are charged with murder. Then there was the eight-year-old girl in Phoenix whose Liberian refugee family disowned her after she was raped. They claim she had dishonoured the family.

And there was Saudi beauty pageant winner Aya Ali al-Mulla, who won her crown without anyone ever seeing her face; she was draped from head to foot in Saudi Arabia’s traditional black abaya. Pageant officials pronounced al-Mulla, 18, the Queen of Beautiful Morals. She had to pass a bunch of rigorous quizzes on her morality, her obedience to her parents, and other such virtues, to win her title. All of these incidents have as their theme oppression and the quashing of women’s right to autonomy and self-determination, by the males in their milieu. My question is, where are the queens of beautiful morals here in the West?

I checked out the web-sites of the usual suspects. Naomi Klein is busy tooting her own horn with an announcement that her book, The Shock Doctrine, won the Warwick Prize for Writing! (Exclamation point hers). I did a search for “honour killing” on her site and came up with “Your search yielded no results.”

It’s possible that my good old namesake, Naomi, is unclear on the concept of oppression. Klein, who is Jewish, is calling for boycotts of Israel in support of the Palestinian cause whose leaders have declared they want to kill Jewish people. Maybe if she supported the Palestinian people via protesting their oppression by their terrorist Hamas leaders, she’d have a worthy cause.

Then I looked at Judy Rebick’s blog. Like Naomi, she’s preoccupied with flogging her own book, Transforming Power. Her most recent post, dated July 28, is entitled: The Toronto Municipal Strike: Who Do We Get Mad At?

I don’t know who to get mad at about the garbage strike in Toronto, Judy. Living in Calgary, it doesn’t cross my mind that much. But shouldn’t we all be even a teeny bit mad at the way women are being denied their selfhood by the patriarchal environments they live in, be it in Canada, Phoenix or wherever it’s happening?

Judy does have a post from June entitled “Take action in solidarity with the indigenous people of Peru.”

What about a little solidarity with four dead women whose car ended up in the Rideau Canal near Kingston? How about a show of solidarity with that beauty queen in Saudi Arabia who’s obviously a brilliant girl because she plans to go to medical school, but who can’t show her face to the world because to do so might dishonour her family and lead to a fatal consequence?

And is there nary a tear to be shed or a word to be spared for that poor child in Phoenix whose family has tossed her aside like so much trash for something that was not her fault?

Meanwhile, on Rose’s Place, which bills itself as a blogsite for Canadian feminists, recent discussions centred around Sonia Sotomayor, Obama’s birth certificate and U. S. health reform, with Toronto Star columnist Antonia Zerbisias complaining about Muslim-bashing regarding the alleged honour killings.

It is not Muslim-bashing to acknowledge that a crime has allegedly happened in a Muslim family. It is not Sikh-bashing to say that some of the alleged honour killings in Canada in the past few years happened in Sikh families. Shall we just ignore the United Nations Population Fund’s estimate that 5,000 women a year die in honour killings, to avoid casting aspersions on any culture? Shall we pretend it’s not happening in Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey, Morocco and Pakistan, to name just a few countries?

It is so politically incorrect to say that someone who belongs to another culture is doing something wrong, that one must remain silent for fear of muddying the ideals of multiculturalism. Ironically, there seems to be no problem with denouncing Christian culture for decorating trees at Christmas time, or displaying crosses on Remembrance Day, but when members of another culture engage in actual evildoing, we’re supposed to pretend it all just falls under the rubric of domestic violence. Since domestic violence occurs in all cultures, honour killings can be conveniently lumped into that category and we can keep pretending it’s not particular to certain cultures.

Nobody’s even mentioned the fact that Mohammad Shafia was living in this country with two wives, one of whom died with the girls. Let’s just pass completely over that form of oppression visited on these two women, for fear of offending someone. With all this walking about on politically correct eggshells, it’s no wonder silence wins out among the queens of beautiful morals.

As Judy Rebick says in another June blog posting: “The revolution will be tweeted or whatever.” Yeah, Judy. Whatever.

[email protected] Canwest.Com

© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald
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And the last, written by Barbara Kay, National Post.

Don’t call it ‘domestic’ violence

By Barabara Kay, National PostJuly 28, 2009

Following news of the arrest last week of Mohammad Shafia, his wife, Tooba Mohammad Yahya, and their 18-year old son, Hamed, for the alleged murder of four female family members, a case exhibiting several earmarks of a culturally motivated crime, I steeled myself for the usual media scramble to deplore all acts of “domestic violence.” I was therefore pleased that Saturday’s Post instead featured plain-spoken anti-Islamist Tarek Fatah’s vigorous denunciation of the practice of “honour killing.”

No doubt ruffling many multi-culti feathers, the fearless Mr. Fatah, a distinguished scholar of Islam and religious hypocrisy’s scourge, categorically stated that “man-made shariah law, which has been falsely imputed divine status, does allow for the killing of women if they indulge in pre-marital or extramarital consensual sex.”

Liberals deliberately conflate domestic violence with honour killing because they feel that making any distinction would “racialize” the crimes, indicting a whole culture. But in order to avoid offending the minority communities in which honour killings occur, they must then “genderize” the practice by force-fitting it into the category of all male-on-female domestic violence.

For theory’s sake — all cultures are equal — they willingly indict an entire sex for these horrific crimes. Clearly liberal ideologues consider misandry a lesser evil than racism (and to many feminists no evil at all, rather an entitlement and a pleasure).

Male-female relations are culturally determined. In reality, for a Western man to kill a girl or woman under his protection for any “reason” at all–let alone her sexual choices — runs so counter to our own chivalric tradition of honour (vestigial as it is), that such rare acts are always linked to psychological derangement. To misrepresent the impulse to murder one’s wife or daughters as a generically male characteristic is a misandric slander, and every bit as contemptible as racism.

Part of the problem lies in the phrase “domestic violence,” which seems to encompass any violence that occurs in a household. And, unfortunately, it is received wisdom in our highly feminized society to believe that domestic violence, like honour killing, is a one-way street: male on female. That’s not the case, but cracking the shell of this unusually hardboiled myth is a thankless task for truth-tellers in the field.

For greater clarity around domestic violence in Canada, we should use the term Inter Partner Violence (IPV), now favoured by many academics in this field. Normative IPV is violence that springs from psychologically troubled people — both men and women — who have problems dealing with intimate relationships, but have no healthy model for resolving them. Many of them have come from abusive backgrounds. Much of IPV involves alcohol, drugs or both, not the case with honour killing. IPV is usually situational and therefore spontaneous, rarely planned in advance like honour killing. Unlike honour killing, too, which invariably involves males killing females, about 50% of IPV is “assortative” — cases where damaged like seeks like — and the partners bilaterally provoke each other.

Canada’s male-on-female IPV murder numbers — about 45 women partners (not daughters) a year, low for a population of 35 million — are directly linked to an important cultural fact: Murdering women, especially their own loved ones, is anathema to healthy Western men. Unlike honour killings, such crimes are universally condemned: They are never validated, let alone encouraged in our institutions or houses of worship; indeed, all abuse of women is abominated rather than tolerated in the general culture.

We must understand above all that IPV and honour killings represent different stakes for society. IPV is not sociologically catchy: Healthy people do not take their intimate relationship cues from the pathological amongst them. Honour killing, on the other hand, is a form of ideological terrorism linked to a particular religious and cultural outlook, an implied threat to other women of what can happen if they don’t toe the party line and an emboldening “inspiration” to their male cultural peers. Like suicide bombing, another culturally induced form of hysteria, honour killing is a sick practice that can go viral if not nipped in the bud.

Cravenly ascribing the problem of honour killings to all men’s nature, which is what we do when we subsume it under the heading of domestic violence, itself misunderstood, rather than acknowledging the specific cultural matrix from which the phenomenon emerges, will only end in more dead innocent girls and women. That seems a rather high price to pay for our liberal elites’ pleasure in dancing to the vivacious gallopade of the multicultural-correctness polka.

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© Copyright (c) National Post
The next court date set in the Kingston Locks murder case is August 6.


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