Friday, August 13, 2010

Honor killings

Gul and Begum Wazir, from Alum Rock, Birmingham, were reportedly shot after a planned marriage between the couple's daughter and their nephew in Pakistan fell through. Mr Wazir and his family had travelled to the village of Salehana in north Pakistan, which is sometimes referred to as Little Birmingham because of its strong ties with the Pakistani community in the West Midlands.

This is the latest of a long litany of beatings and murder in the name of honor. Harry Potter star, Afshan Azad, was badly beaten by her father Abdul Azad, and his son Ashraf attempted honor killing because of her relationship with a Hindu man.

November 2, '09: Noor Almaleki is dead; run over by her Muslim father for being too "westernized". She lingered for days.

Police in Kingston, Ontario, charged three Montrealers, Mohammed Shafia, his wife Tooba and their 18-year-old son Hamed with mass murder of three of the couple's teenage daughters, including their eldest child, Zainab, 19, and Rona Amir Mohammed, a 50-year-old woman who was Shafia's secret, first wife.

A 15-year-old schoolgirl allegedly murdered for falling in love told her boyfriend that she had been 'tortured' by her father. She was alleged to have been killed by her father Mehmet Goren, after he consulted with his brothers, over her relationship with Halil Unal. A week later Goren plunged an axe into Mr Unal's neck in a desperate bid to restore his family's honor.

A Muslim asylum seeker was sentenced to life in prison after killing his German-born wife because she was 'too independent'. The 27-year-old Kurdish man, identified only as Onder B, was found guilty today of stabbing his wife in the eyes, beating her with a billiard cue and then running over her in his car. His mother-in-law had once told him to be 'strict' with her strong-willed daughter, Mujde - who was also Onder's cousin. On New Year's Eve 2008 he stabbed his 18-year-old wife Mujde 46 times and beat her with a billiard cue. And because she was 'already so disfigured from the stabbing and beating that she would hate me for the rest of her life,' he got into his car and ran over her body several times.

Mohammed Shafii, Hamid Mohammed Shafii and Tooba Mohammad Yahya have been charged with four counts of first-degree murder and four counts of conspiracy to commit murder in Kingston, Canada. The victims were his three teenaged daughters, Zainab Shafia, 19, her sisters Sahari, 17, and Geeti, 13 and a woman originally believed to be their aunt but later found to be a second wife of Shafii, Rona Amir Mohammad. All were found in the family's Nissa Sentra, submerged at the bottom of a Rideau Canal lock near Kingston, Ont. In an interview, Diba Masoomi - a woman described as Mohammad's sister - said that Mr. Shafia "believed his daughter had dishonoured him and the family by having a romance with a young Pakistani man in Montreal."
Shafia first married Mohammad in either 1979 or 1980, and then married Yahya in the late 1980s. Both marriages took place in Afghanistan, where it is legal for a man to have more than one wife. The girls were not allowed to go out alone, neither to the cinema nor to meet friends and they were not able to dress freely. Mr. Shafia often criticized the influence of the Western culture on his family since they were not living in an Islamic country anymore.

A terrified wife who predicted her cheating husband would kill her, was stabbed to death by him just days after he was freed in a legal blunder. Sabina Akhtar, 26, went to police in fear of her life after Malik Mannan subjected her to a string of vicious beatings. The taxi driver was jailed for life today at Manchester Crown Court after being convicted of her murder yesterday. He will serve a minimum of 17 years. Speaking outside court, Ms Akhtar's family accused the Crown Prosecution Service of negligence. Her uncle, Reaz Talukder, said his niece would still be alive if her husband had been charged after being arrested for a second time.

Alright, I think you get the picture. But don't think that this is just a Muslim thing. The clash between Western and Islamic culture has highlighted the problem, but it is not the fault of the Koran that this state of affairs exists. The concept of honor will be familiar to all who fought against the Japanese in the Pacific in World War II. It would have been dishonorable for any Japanese soldier to surrender; hence the needless slaughter of a beaten foe. The only reason that it was necessary to drop nuclear bombs on Japanese cities was because of the Japanese sense of 'honor'.

How about those in Britain and France who fought duels because their 'honor' was affronted? And crusaders who went to the Holy Land in order to protect the honor of their God.

Honor killings are common in the Basque country, in Sicily, and especially in Latin America, but of course we are more familiar today when the killer is called Mohammad, Hamid, Masoomi or Shafiri. But supposing we came across a run of honor killings with perpetrators called Turner, Martin or Smith?

Back in the nineteenth century Kentucky was a pretty lawless state. The area of Harlan county in the Appalachians had been settled by eight families in 1819 and between 1860 and 1900 there were more than a thousand murders in the area. Most were down to family feuds, which didn't really stop until the 1930s. The settlers had come from northern Britain, to be precise, the borders between England and Scotland, and even there they had a reputation for feuding.

We have this report from a newspaperman who was called to jury service on one such murder trial in the Twentieth Century. The case before the jury concerned an irascible gentleman who lived next door to a filling station. For several months he had been the butt of various jokes played by the attendants and miscellaneous loafers who hung around the station, despite his warnings and notorious short temper. One morning he emptied both barrels of his shotgun at his tormentors, killing one, maiming a second permanently and wounding a third.

When the jury was polled by the incredulous judge, the reporter was the only one who recorded his vote as guilty. as one of the others put it, "He wouldn't have been much of a man if he hadn't shot them fellows."

What is even more remarkable is an experiment reported by Malcolm Gladwell in his book, Outliers, from the University of Michigan. The experimenters staged a confrontation for psychology students to see how they would respond to an insult. They found that students who came from that part of Kentucky reacted in an aggressive manner while Northerners laughed it off. The culture of honor that originated in the British borderlands in the Eighteenth Century, still persisted in modern day America. Is there any hope for Middle Eastern immigrants?

Perhaps there is. The historian C John Sommerville has shown how Christianity has changed those honor-based cultures of northern Europe in which pride was valued rather than humility, dominance rather than service, courage rather than peaceableness, glory rather than modesty and loyalty to ones own tribe rather than respect for all. This is not the Christianity of the Crusades and the Inquisition, but the Christianity of the Christ who said "Whoever wants to be first must be the servant of all."

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