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The deadly cost of ‘honor killings’

Human rights
By MARY ANN SORRENTINO  |  July 16, 2008

On New Year’s Day 2008, in Lewisville Texas, teenage sisters Sarah and Amina Said were shot to death in a taxi — allegedly by their Egyptian Muslim father, a taxi driver who was charged with the murders and who remains at large.

The reported motive? The girls had dated non-Muslim boys.

A month earlier, across the border in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, 16-year-old Aqsa Parvez was strangled to death by her Pakistani father, for refusing to wear the hijab or head scarf. She was also “guilty” of changing into Western clothes once she got to school.

On July 6, Sandeela Kanwal, 25, was strangled to death in Atlanta, allegedly by her father. Two months earlier, Kamwal had fled her groom in an unhappy arranged marriage and she wanted to divorce. Father and daughter had not spoken since.

These four women were victims of so-called “honor killings,” which are not sanctioned by Islam’s holy book, the Koran, but tolerated and criminally overlooked in many Muslim countries. The United Nations Population Fund estimates that 5000 such killings occur worldwide each year, though they are vastly underreported.

These crimes reflect a view in extremist Islam of women as disposable objects. They expose a frightening and repulsive subtext of Americans apparently unwilling or unable to leave barbaric practices behind in the “old country.”

While many American Muslims are working to build bridges with non-Muslim neighbors, “honor killings” feed a national distrust of Islam, still simmering since 9/11.

Though Islamic religious law does not sanction the killing of women in cases such as these, it breeds misogyny too extreme to respect logic, reason, and compassion, forbidding women to drive cars or to speak to a male stranger without severe punishment.

When primitive patriarchal dominance subjects intelligent, educated, and reasonable women to the whims of sometimes-uneducated, -unreasonable and -fanatical males, the consequences can be criminal. The women, at their peril, will rebel, and the men will react in the extreme.

Ironically, in fanatic Islamic circles, the murdered victim is disgraced as the one who brought shame to the family, while the male murderer is defended as the injured party.

A history of physical and/or sexual abuse in such cases is not uncommon. And though Mrs. Said fled to another state with her daughters, her husband’s fixation — the Dallas Morning News reported on his belief that Western culture “was corrupting the chastity of his daughters” — made murder more likely than a successful escape. Generally, mothers and siblings in these instances do not go to authorities, or file charges at any point.

American justice cannot tolerate misogynistic violence, or death in the name of misplaced “honor,” any more than it can allow parents to leave unwanted female children on a hill-side to die, as did the ancients.

The embrace of “hungry masses yearning to breathe free” is the promise of one famous lady to all comers — male and female. Those who cannot accept equality under US law must be prosecuted to the fullest extent.

  Topics: This Just In , Crime , Murder and Homicide , Shootings ,  More more >
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