Saturday, June 28, 2008

Ah, religion, what would the world do without it? Chapter 2, Honour killings.

Honour killings are not Islam, they are barbarism, according to Steve Rockwell, an imam in Toronto (see story at this site).

The columnist who wrote this, and included a number of similar claims by Muslims, took it at face value; i.e., if Muslims say that it is not Islam, then he will print that. There is a sense in the Canadian mainstream media that Muslims get too much bad press and this type of story appears mainly to balance the equation.

I think I would not be too far off the mark if I were to suggest the columnist knows very little about Islam, and if he had not been trying to use his print pulpit to “balance the cosmic scales of justice”, might have consulted with other spokespersons to get a balanced view of the subject.

This response of Rockwell and others was provoked by the news that the brother of Aqsa Parvez, the 16-year old girl who was strangled to death in the Greater Toronto Area, has now been charged with first degree murder. Aqsa’s father had already been charged with murder, and had recently had that charge upgraded to a first degree category (meaning the murder was planned and deliberate, not a spontaneous act).

The allegation in the media, from interviews reporters conducted with Aqsa’s friends at the time of her murder, is that she was the victim of an honour killing because she was refusing to wear the hijab and other traditional Muslim garb when outside the house. She was supposedly fighting with her family over these matters.

If these facts are true, then this would be Canada’s first recorded honour killing. There have been honour killings in the United States and a number of them in West European countries.

When Aqsa’s murder was first in the news I scanned a great many letters to editors from Muslims all saying the same thing: this sort of thing ought not to be laid at the door of Islam. It was tribal, or it was “cultural” or, as depicted by the outrageous Dr. Mohamed Elmasry of the Canadian Islamic Congress, it was just the normal teenage daughter-father fight one might expect in any family.

For balance, I would say I saw a similar thing coming from a columnist in the Sun chain of newspapers urging her readers not to put any significance to the fact that Catholic trustees on the Toronto District Catholic School Board were stealing from the public purse. Her argument was that their kleptocracy was outside of their religion, so bracket the religion and put it aside as an issue in this case.

My response to that is simply this, if the whole point of having a separate school system based on religious grounds is not to provide a superior moral grounding (in Catholic eyes, that is), then the taxpaying public is being cheated out of education dollars needed to provide two costly competing systems instead of one simple school system for all. Her argument wasn’t helped by the fact that the Toronto Archbishop wrote a stinging letter claiming that the trustees had stained Catholicism. In short, one must ask oneself what is the point of religious training if not to prevent public servants from stealing the public’s money?

There is an online explanation of honour killings by the BBC at this site. It talks about how it is prevalent in the “South Asian” and “Middle Eastern” communities. Not once does it say the words Islam or Muslim. It does mention how a girl was stabbed to death by her father Abdullah over her western dress and her Christian boyfriend.

Since the article does not tell us why the religion of the boyfriend should be objectionable, I suppose we can speculate that her father was simply a murderous raving atheist. God knows, there are plenty of those walking around.

That last sentence was an oxymoron in case you missed it.

Near the end of this most PC piece we get some slippage:

Ram Gidoomal of the South Asian Development Partnership has campaigned for years for people to open up and turn in those who get away with justifying honour crimes.
He has consistently called on leaders in mosques, temples and churches to do more…

If honour killings have nothing to do with religion, why badger these folks about it?

I would go along with the assertions that honour killings are more culturally understood than religiously defined except that cultures are bred by religion, nourished by it, and continually informed by it. You cannot simply bracket religion as being an unimportant context to be ignored.

I joked earlier about atheist honour killings, but the fact remains that all honour killings occur amongst people who practice one of the traditional religions. It is also true that most of these reported killings are committed by persons who come from very ordinary walks in life. In short, they are not Koranic or Biblical scholars. They are simple people who were taught some religious precepts, and, if they keep up their attendance at their various houses of worship, continue to be fed the doctrine. Furthermore, almost every instance of an honour killing is the result of a male (father, brother, uncle, cousin) attacking a female; sometimes mothers join in to support the males.

Could there be something in the religious texts that would give these South Asian and Middle Eastern cultures the idea that males have some right to dominate women, and give some women the idea that they should be submissive to such males?

That is simply a rhetorical question in case you missed it.

The Koran, Hadith, Old Testament and New Testament are rife with misogynist and male dominance pronouncements. Maybe the culture would improve if the religion were improved.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

When I conducted a nationwide attitude and opinion survey on dishonor killings in Jordan, one of my findings was that over one in five people there believe Islam tells them they must avenge affronts to family honor through murder. Islam says no such thing, but the fact that so many people erroneously believe it does is a problem.

Ellen R. Sheeley, Author
"Reclaiming Honor in Jordan"