Monday, May 09, 2005

Honor Killings of Women- Lying about them in order to save them

I am a member of several discussion lists, one of which is concerned with women and Islam. Recently someone there posted a review of a book about "honor" crimes committed against women in the West Bank. For those interested in the review, it skewers the book, marketed as a true story by a woman who underwent horrible torture and mistreatment, as being basically completely made up. The evidence the reviewer marshalled to prove her point was pretty damning. The book was riddled with inconsistencies and falsehoods that anyone who had lived in the West Bank or even had a very basic knowledge of Arab culture would recognize.

Now, this discussion list is pretty progressive, and people on there are very feminist and all of them are horrified by "honor" crimes and loudly denounce them and try to fight them in various ways, such as doing Amnesty letter-writing campaigns and similar things to fight the medieval practice. I have been a member of the list for several years.

A new person to the list, however, seemed to think that a critical review of the book was a whitewash for the practice of honor killing, and stated the following amazing idea:

"I did say that it does not matter whether it is true or not and I
am not going to take that back. The point and the main aspect of
the story was the matter of "honor killing" and the treatment of
women. So, what if she glaring mistakes in reference to important
matters of area and the Palestinian people, for all you know the
story could have been written by someone here in the U.S. who has
never set foot in the Middle East, but to dwell solely on her
mistakes and ignore the plot and meaning of the story then "honor
killing" will remain an hidden secret."

I read this statement over and over again. She really is saying that a book full of lies is supposed to be read without noticing the lies and instead merely focusing on its polemics, or else "honor" killing has no solution.

Are there a lot of people out there that think lying is OK in order to get people involved in an issue? Why is the truth not just as OK, or more OK? I want to say more about this but it will take some thought. There is just so much wrong with the idea that I am unsure of where to start.


Zwack said...

Lying about something in order to gain support for your point of view is wrong.

If the book was a work of fiction to raise the awareness of an issue then that is fine as long as it is marketed as a work of fiction. It can even have comments about "While this is a work of fiction, similar events are happening frequently..." and then go on to give statistics.

If it is a work of fiction presented as fact it could be the fault of the publishing company, but it is still wrong.

Either presented your case using facts or fiction but don't confuse the two. If you have to then it will make people think that the problem is not as big or as real as you claim. After all, if you had a real case then you wouldn't have made one up.

Just my 1p (about 2 cents these days)


Julaybib said...


I am concerned about these kind of fictions because 'honour killing', though abhorent, is a truncheon used against to denigrate Muslim cultures. There isn't an anthropological word for misogynistic killings in the US and Europe (where femicidal murder is still widespread).



Zwack said...


I don't know anything about "Honour Killings", but in the US/Europe most murders of women are called "murder". There are moral/legal guidelines against them, but they still happen. There is no Western culture that I am aware of (I'm not saying that there isn't one, just none that I have heard of) where killing a woman is considered acceptable (with the exception of Living Wills which instruct medical personnel to withhold treatment under certain circumstances)

"Spousal abuse" is possibly related and is also not generally culturally accepted. It does happen in the West, but there are campaigns to try and stop it and organisations to help the victims. There are also campaigns against Child abuse. I don't know how prevalent any of these crimes are in any part of the world, but I would disagree with them anywhere.

The term "Honour Killings" implies that in order to protect your Honour/Family name/Good standing then you HAVE to kill the victim. It sounds from the post by Anna as though the practice of "Honor Killings" are culturally accepted at least in some places. I don't know if this is the case. I would imagine that countries where women are treated as second class citizens (can't vote, are "bought and sold" by means of a dowry, can't do what they want, when they want,...) are more likely to allow crimes against women, as women are considered as property of the men.

This doesn't say anything about their religion but merely about their society. The Promise Keepers are a Western Christian organisation who believe that the man is head of the household and should tell his wife what to do. They sound to me like they might encourage the same attitudes. Not that they explicitly do so, but if the man believes that it is his job to order his wife around and she objects then it could lead to violence in the wrong circumstances.

I don't know enough about the religious arguments for "honor crimes" to be able to say that Islam engourages them or discourages them. There may be dissent in the opinions held by different people. Personally, I find Religious Fundamentalists of most religions to be terrifying and the excesses committed in the names of every religion to be equally abhorrent to me.

The Ten commandments explicitly state "Don't Kill" but most people of the book seem to ignore that. Most "Christians" seem to forget that Jesus Christ said to "Love one another" was more important than the Ten Commandments. Neither of these are ambiguous statements. I don't know what Mohammed, Peace be upon him, said on the subject, but unless he told us to ignore the ten commandments and Jesus then at the very least he would be against killing and pro tolerance (turning the other cheek, loving one another).

While I doubt that Islam says anything in favour of "Honour crimes" I would still object to any society/culture which considers them acceptable but not on the grounds of Religion (unless the Religion itself promotes "Honour Crimes") but on the grounds that the Society/Culture itself is promoting the "Honour Crimes".


Anna in PDX said...

Z, your comments are interesting, but to me it is kind of pointless to juxtapose two different cultural treatments of women and proceed to say this one is better than the other. The honor killing issue is a very complex one, but so is the issue of how women are treated in a western context. It's not a contest as to which is better- I'd rather see it as a call for us to improve the situation on whatever front most directly concerns us (which means, if you live in the West and understand women's issues there in depth, it's better suited for you to stick to Western women's issues - and if you want to help non-Western women, try finding some non-Western grassroots groups to support). I'd like women to be respected and not objectified, both in the West and the East.

WitNit said...

I've posted Carnival of the BabeWits #1, which links back to this post. Hope the title doesn't seem to "objectify" women.

Kactuz said...

What else to expect from a religion that clearly states you can beat your wife, not to mention "kill the infidel where ever you find them". Please don't give me that "out of context" crap. Of course, we all know that Mohammud was a big-time slaver, a man that killed, took people as slaves, sold them and took their women to his bed. That pretty much explains why the Islamic world is what it is. No wonder all Muslims want to come to the West. Sorry to be rude; these words are harsh but true. When Muslims start treating women and other religions as equals in those countries where they dominate, I won't have to leave theis kind of post, and Muslims will not have to pretend they are peaceful or tell lies about what the Koran says to the PC infidels. Well, I have probably worn out my welcome here, so I'll go. Kactuz

Unknown said...

Some years ago at the height of the feminist accumulation of surveys, there was one that was referred to in the House of Commons. It was claimed this showed over a million women had been sexually assaulted. There was quite a fuss and it proved impossible to get the authors to publish their work or even a lot of their "methods" but it was learned that the survey had originated in a Rape Relief group in a Prairie city, the persons questioned had been those who contacted the Shelter, and those who did for any reason were "encouraged" to do the survey by visiting them at home (up to 4 times). The age range was 15 to 85 (this is in an area where much of the population is or is derived from recent immigrants) and when the authors finally admitted to the definition they had used, sexual assault was any unwanted contact including a kiss, or a push as on a crowded bus. The large resulting figure was due to multiplying the "sample" and the result of that was that they had more Indian women assaulted than was the Indian women population, at the time. There was quite a controversy and one of the standard defences of this statistical rubbish was that assaults on women needed to be brought forward into public attention, so it did not matter that the study was garbage.
The feminist organizations went right on using this fraud for years.