3 Nov 2010

Ending gender apartheid and misogyny only way to cure cancer of 'honour killings'

National Post - Canada July 24, 2009

How to cure the honour killings ‘cancer’

Tarek Fatah, National Post | Opinion

Almost as soon as news broke that the murders of three Afghan-Canadian teenage sisters and their father's first wife in Kingston, Ont., were possible "honour killings," some in the Muslim community reacted in the most predictable fashion: defensiveness and denial.

Instead of voicing outrage at the murders, two Muslim callers to my CFRB radio show in Toronto slammed me for raising the subject, and suggested I had some hidden agenda. "This has nothing to do with Islam," said one caller, despite the fact no one on the show had, to that point, even mentioned the word "Islam," let alone accused the religion of sanctioning honour killings.

The callers were not alone. The head of the Canadian branch of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) told the CBC more or less the same thing - that the story was unrelated to Islam, which apparently does not permit honour killings.

They are both right and wrong. It is true that Islam's holy book, the Koran, does not sanction honour killings. But to deny the fact that many incidents of honour killings are conducted by Muslim fathers, sons and brothers, and that many victims are Muslim women, is to exercise intellectual dishonesty. At worst, it is an attempt to shut off debate.

When Mississauga, Ont., teenager Aqsa Pervez was killed, everyone from Mullahs to so-called Muslim feminists claimed it was not an honour killing - even though there were allegations she had run afoul of her family for socializing with non-Muslim friends and not wearing a hijab. Critics then charged that to refer to the murder in such words was to be an anti-Muslim bigot. Humbug.

As I said, it is true that the Koran does not sanction such murders, but man-made sharia law, which has been falsely imputed divine status, does allow for the killing of women if they indulge in pre-marital or extra-marital consensual sex. This is precisely why so many progressive and liberal Muslims have opposed the introduction of sharia law in Canada.

There is no denying that Islam, in its contemporary expression, is obsessed with women's sexuality, and considers it a fundamental problem. The hijab, the niqab, the burka and polygamy are all manifestations of this phobia.

The mullahs and the mosque leadership may deny their role in ensuring that Muslim women are second-class citizens within the community, but the place they reserve for women in the house of God, the Mosque, reveals their real conviction. Other than one mosque in Toronto, not a single other is willing to let Muslim women sit in the front row. They are sent to the back, or behind curtains, or pushed into basements or balconies, for they are considered not as our mothers or daughters and sisters, but as sexual triggers that may ignite male passions.

Honour killings take place because some Muslims have been convinced by their mullahs that the burden of their family's honour and their religion is vested in the virginity of their daughters and sisters. Most mullahs acknowledge that according to sharia law, a woman who has consensual sex with a man outside marriage deserves to be lashed in public or stoned to death by an Islamic State or an Islamic court. Don't these Islamists see how this interpretation can be taken as a license by men to take the law into their own hands?

Not until Muslim clerics and imams seriously abandon their notion about women being the possession of men will we begin to address the cancer of honour killings, which take more than 5,000 lives in South Asia and the Middle East alone.

The underlying mentality is a problem in virtually all parts of the world. In October 2006, for instance, an Australian imam of Lebanese descent, the country's most senior Muslim cleric, triggered outrage when he described women who dress immodestly (in his view) as "uncovered meat" who invite sexual attacks. Sheikh Taj Al-din al-Hilali, the so-called Mufti of Australia, condemned women who, he said, "sway suggestively," wear makeup, and do not wear the hijab.

Until 2007, only men had translated the Koran and interpreted it. That's because the very idea of a woman translating the holy book offends Islamists. Consider, for example, the reaction to the first-ever translation by a woman - Laleh Bakhtiar's The Sublime Quran - two years ago.

Mohammad Ashraf of the Canadian branch of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) - the same gentleman who this week told the CBC that there was no provision for honour killings in Islam - told The Toronto Star that he would not permit The Sublime Quran to be sold in the ISNA bookstore. "Our bookstore would not allow this kind of translation," he said. "I will consider banning it ... This woman-friendly translation will be out of line and will not fly too far."

What had Laleh Bakhtiar done to deserve the punishment of having her translation of the Koran banned from ISNA's Islamic bookstores? Her fault, in the eyes of Islamists, is that she believes the Koran does not condone spousal abuse, as claimed by Islamists.

If a woman's translation of the Koran is banned from an Islamic bookstore, what is available at such places. At one Toronto bookstore, the title of a gaudy paperback screamed at passersby: Women Who Deserve to Go to Hell. The book, which is also widely available in British libraries and mosques, lists the type of women who will face eternal damnation. Among them are:

  • "The Grumbler ... the woman who complains against her husband every now and then is one of Hell."
  • "The Woman Who Adorns Herself."
  • "The Woman Who Apes Men, Tattoos, Cuts Hair Short and Alters Nature."

Not until the leadership of the Muslim clergy takes steps to end gender apartheid and misogyny will they be taken seriously when they say, "honour killing" is not permitted by Islam. They cannot have it both ways: proclaim women as the source of sin as well as deserving of death for consensual sex, and then claim the men who carry out the death sentence are acting against Islamic law.

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New York Times - July 25, 2009

Not a Victim, but a Hero

Nicholas D. Kristof/The New York Times Assiya Rafiq, right, in front of her mother, Iqbal Mai.


MEERWALA, Pakistan

After being kidnapped at the age of 16 by a group of thugs and enduring a year of rapes and beatings, Assiya Rafiq was delivered to the police and thought her problems were over.

Then, she said, four police officers took turns raping her.

The next step for Assiya was obvious: She should commit suicide. That’s the customary escape in rural Pakistan for a raped woman, as the only way to cleanse the disgrace to her entire family.

Instead, Assiya summoned the unimaginable courage to go public and fight back. She is seeking to prosecute both her kidnappers and the police, despite threats against her and her younger sisters. This is a kid who left me awed and biting my lip; this isn’t a tale of victimization but of valor, empowerment and uncommon heroism.

“I decided to prosecute because I don’t want the same thing to happen to anybody else,” she said firmly.

Assiya’s case offers a window into the quotidian corruption and injustice endured by impoverished Pakistanis — leading some to turn to militant Islam.

“When I treat a rape victim, I always advise her not to go to the police,” said Dr. Shershah Syed, the president of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Pakistan. “Because if she does, the police might just rape her again.”

Yet Assiya is also a sign that change is coming. She says she was inspired by Mukhtar Mai, a young woman from this remote village of Meerwala who was gang raped in 2002 on the orders of a village council. Mukhtar prosecuted her attackers and used the compensation money to start a school.

Mukhtar is my hero. Many Times readers who followed her story in past columns of mine have sent her donations through a fund at Mercy Corps, at www.mercycorps.org, and Mukhtar has used the money to open schools, a legal aid program, an ambulance service, a women’s shelter, a telephone hotline — and to help Assiya fight her legal case.

The United States has stood aloof from the ubiquitous injustices in Pakistan, and that’s one reason for cynicism about America here. I’m hoping the Obama administration will make clear that Americans stand shoulder to shoulder with heroines like Mukhtar and Assiya, and with an emerging civil society struggling for law and social justice.

Assiya’s saga began a year ago when a woman who was a family friend sold her to two criminals who had family ties to prominent politicians. Assiya said the two men spent the next year beating and raping her.

The men were implicated in a gold robbery, so they negotiated a deal with the police in the town of Kabirwala, near Khanewal: They handed over Assiya, along with a $625 bribe, in exchange for the police pinning the robbery on the girl.

By Assiya’s account, which I found completely credible, four police officers, including a police chief, took turns beating and raping her — sometimes while she was tied up — over the next two weeks. A female constable obligingly stepped out whenever the men wanted access to Assiya.

Assiya’s family members heard that she was in the police station, and a court granted their petition for her release and sent a bailiff to get her out. The police hid Assiya, she said, and briefly locked up her 10-year-old brother to bully the family into backing off.

The bailiff accepted bribes from both the family and the police, but in the end he freed the girl. Assiya, driven by fury that overcame her shame, told her full story to the magistrate, who ordered a medical exam and an investigation. The medical report confirms that Assiya’s hymen had been broken and that she had abrasions all over her body.

The morning I met Assiya, she said she had just received the latest in a series of threats from the police: Unless she withdraws her charges, they will arrest, rape or kill her — and her two beloved younger sisters.

The family is in hiding. It has lost its livelihood and accumulated $2,500 in debts. Assiya’s two sisters and three brothers have had to drop out of school, and they will find it harder to marry because Assiya is considered “dishonored.” Most of her relatives tell Assiya that she must give in. But she tosses her head and insists that she will prosecute her attackers to spare other girls what she endured.

(For readers who want to help, more information is available on my blog at: www.nytimes.com/ontheground.)

Assiya’s mother, Iqbal Mai, told me that in her despair, she at first had prayed that God should never give daughters to poor families. “But then I changed my mind,” she added, with a hint of pride challenging her fears. “God should give poor people daughters like Assiya who will fight.”


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The National Post - Canada July 29, 2009

Honour killing is not 'domestic' violence

by Barbara Kay | National Post columnist

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 hard-boiled 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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