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Situating Honorcide By: David Solway
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, November 18, 2008


The subject of “honor killings” is gradually becoming a matter of public controversy these days. The incidence of these crimes appears to be rising although the response to them is ambiguous and vacillating. There is little doubt that something alarming is happening—and has been happening for a long while—and that what we are really witnessing is a form of culture-specific violent behavior. But the general tendency among Muslim spokespeople and social activists is to average out these tragic events as part of a garden variety social phenomenon that is statistically inevitable.

When 16 year-old Aqsa Parvez of Mississauga, Ontario was strangled by her father for refusing to wear the hijab, Shahina Siddiqui, president of the Islamic Social Services Association, dissembled the murder as “the result of domestic violence, a problem that cuts across Canadian society and is blind to colour and creed” (National Post, December 12, 2007).

On the following day, a spokesman for the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations was quoted in the same newspaper, informing us that “Teen rebellion is something that exists in all households in Canada and is not unique to any culture or background.”

For Sheikh Yusuf Badat, Imam of the Islamic Foundation of Toronto, “It wasn’t about Islam” but merely a question “of parenting and anger management”; and Mohammed Elmasry, president of the Canadian Islamic Congress, whitewashed the killing as a “teenage issue.” Mohhamad Al-Navdi of the Canadian Council of Imams, while regretting the slaying of the young girl, responded by stressing “the duty [of parents] to convince their kids that this [the hijab] is part of their culture.”

The real crime, apparently, was not the actual killing, but the “failure” of the parents to inculcate the proper religious ordinances and to control the adolescent tendency to domestic revolt. Sheikh Alaa Elsayed of the Islamic Society of North America Canada agreed: parents should teach their daughters “to do the right thing” (National Post, December 14, 2007).

What these authorities do not tell us is that, in the Muslim tradition, a man’s honor is constituted by his possession of the three Z’s: zar (gold), zamin (land) and zan (women). It is when his possession of the latter is perceived as compromised that he will often resort to the extreme act, which is regarded as the legitimate disposal of his property. Teen rebellion is not the issue here; honor killings are.

Canada has been largely spared such atrocities relative to many other countries. The toll in Germany, for example, officially stands at 48—though even as I write, a 49th honor killing has been reported in which 16-year-old Morsal Obeidi was stabbed to death by her brother on May 15, 2008. 280 “honour crimes” have been recorded in Denmark, although, according to a state prosecutor, the number is certainly far greater (Politken, October 11, 2008).

In whatever country they occur, such honor killings, as is common knowledge, are found far more frequently among one particular religious and ethnic group than any other, and it is pure cozenage to affect otherwise. Honor killings may also be cross-gendered, a fact generally ignored by the media. Germany has recorded several cases of non-Muslim men murdered for being in relationships with Muslim women.

The reverse is also true. In October 2007, a young Polish girl, Lidia Motylska, was murdered in Leeds, England, by an Iraqi immigrant, Abobakir Jabaril, who objected to her dating his Kurdish flat mate and restored the honor of his faith by strangling, stabbing and slitting her throat “from ear to ear” (Yorkshire Post, November 13, 2008). Naturally, the male, Muslim half of the relationship, Ajeem Jabarridia, was never in any danger.

But what has come to be known as “honorcide” is only the tip of the iceberg, the most visible manifestation of the Islamic ethos. The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) in Britain has calculated that as many as 17,000 women of the Islamic persuasion are subjected to “forced marriages, kidnappings, sexual assaults, beatings and even murder by relatives intent on upholding the ‘honour’ of their family”—35 times higher than the official figures (littlegreenfootballs.com, February 11, 2008). Children as young as 11 are regularly repatriated to their “home countries” to enroll in madrassas where they are indoctrinated in the fundamental tenets of their faith or contracted to be married. Young women who object or who eventually leave such loveless marriages are often in danger for their lives. But Muslim spokespeople have consistently tried to shift the blame away from their own culpable community onto society at large.

Such chicanery is on conspicuous display in a letter written by McGill University Engineering Professor Ehab Lotayef to the Montreal Gazette (January 4, 2008), which exposes better than any etiological analysis ever could the pathology at work in the practice of self-delusion. While “cringing” before the specter of Muslim violence, Lotayef assigns the blame for such unfortunate episodes to “the failure of a community and the society at large to provide healthy ways for individuals, especially those belonging to minorities, to express their frustration in a healthy and productive manner.” We need to understand that the teenager who firebombed a Jewish school in Montreal “might have felt frustration toward the indifference of society to the death and suffering of Palestinians at the hands of the Israeli army…”

Oddly, no Muslim school has been firebombed by Jewish teenagers who might have felt frustration toward the indifference of society to the death and suffering of Israeli civilians at the hands of Palestinian terrorists. Lotayef’s reasoning is so flawed as almost to defy commentary. As for the murder of Aqsa Parvez, well, “we have to look deeper, at parenting skills and experience in dealing with conflict.” It is “society at large” which is responsible, for it “encourages Aqsa and her peers to disobey their parents…” Killing your daughter, then, may be readily accounted for and perhaps even to be expected: a combination of poor parenting skills and social indifference explains everything.

Lotayef’s conclusion? Cultural problems “can be fewer and less serious if we learn to listen and to accept one another,” though how this will prevent another Aqsa from being strangled by her father or another Hatin Surucu from being shot by her brothers remains unclear. (Those who have not heard of the Hatin Surucu affair, which sparked outrage in Germany and led to a long-overdue re-evaluation of immigration policies and multicultural platitudes, have their newspapers to thank.) And so a cultural atrocity is painted over with a thick coat of self-exonerating clichés.

Islamic apologists will insist that honor crimes have nothing to do with the Faith itself and are not even mentioned in the Koran. Indeed, they will contend, as did Farah Khan, an organizer of a feminist/race-relations conference in Toronto on November 11, 2008, that calling such murders honor killings “is both racism and Islamophobia” (National Post, November 15, 2008). The argument is clearly disingenuous since such killings are demonstrably embedded in Islamic culture and occur far too regularly among believing Muslims to be pretended away as instances of widespread domestic violence common to every social stratum. There is nothing that resembles open season on daughters in society at large.

But, to be fair, it is not only Islamic apologists who have learned how to take evasive action; apologists for Islam have proven equally adept. In the tragedy of Aqsa Parvez, the secular Left and purveyors of the multicultural mantra have adopted an alternative route to avoid having to face up to unpleasant truths: silence. Even the FBI has cowered before the dictates of political correctness and spinelessly proscribed the phrase “honor killings” from its lexicon, preferring instead to regard Islamic filiacide from a broad, criminal perspective. Scarcely a word of reproof or even acknowledgement has been uttered by the otherwise megaphonic feminist sorority, paragons of sistered living, or printed in leading left wing blogs and publications such as CounterPunch, Daily Kos and The Nation, among a host of others.

The established press, too, may be complicit by suspending adequate coverage of such events. How many people have heard of Dallas, Texas resident Yaser Abdel Said who, some three weeks after the death of Aqsa Parvez, murdered his two teenage daughters, Sarah and Amina, because they dated unapproved boys? How many people know that Mrs. Said is in danger for her life for not having prevented her daughters from dating infidels or that the young American boys who tried to intervene remain in hiding? Why have we heard so little about the honor killing that took place in Jonesboro, Georgia on July 6, 2008, Pakistani immigrant Chaudhry Rashid strangling his daughter for planning to leave an arranged marriage? According to Ajay Nair, Associate Dean of Multicultural Affairs at Columbia University, such killings are an “anomaly,” a “problem” of “domestic violence” that “cuts across all communities” (AOL News, July 7, 2008).

Such events, apparently, have nothing to do with Islamic culture and do not merit undue media attention. Once again, we are meant to suppose, an unaccommodating society and poor parenting skills are wholly responsible for such misfortunes. One chapter of Phyllis Chesler’s The Death of Feminism would correct this misimpression. Chesler compiles a lengthy list of such grisly honor killings, not only in the Muslim Middle East and in the European Muslim immigrant communities, but here in the towns and cities of the United States and Canada. She gives page after morbid page of such traumatic instances, many of which have not been reported in the press, sensibly concluding “that shame-based honor murders are not the same as western domestic violence and that Islamic gender apartheid is not the same as western gender inequality.”

In an article for FrontPageMagazine (November 12, 2008), Chesler points out that “Western-style batterers” generally act alone and rarely kill their daughters; honor killings, to the contrary, target daughters and are often family collaborative acts. Tarek Fatah, former head of the Muslim Canadian Coalition and the recipient of Islamic death threats for his libertarian views, agrees: “Domestic abuse is usually a dispute among partners. Child abuse is different [and] bears little relation to the common arc of a domestic dispute” (National Post, November 15, 2008).

Let us make no mistake about this. Pluralism and formulaic tolerance notwithstanding, to deny what is so vividly obvious is to lie outright.


David Solway is the award-winning author of over twenty-five books of poetry, criticism, educational theory, and travel. He is a contributor to magazines as varied as the Atlantic, the Sewanee Review, Books in Canada, and the Partisan Review. He is the author of The Big Lie: On Terror, Antisemitism, and Identity. A new book on Jewish and Israeli themes, Hear, O Israel!, will be released by CanadianValuesPress this fall.


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