The Truth about Honor Killings?
June 11, 2009 2:03 AM   Subscribe

I am looking for some truth about honor killings...and some insight or clarification rather on Obama's agenda concerning Islam.

I am not that well read or educated. I don't have the patience for print and can't sit through a news program without feeling ill and switching it to a 30 Rock rerun. However, I am a googler and a stumbler by trade. I stumbled upon a website called atlas shrug

by blogger Pamela Geller today and read page after page about "Honor Killings" that are happening as we speak, right here in my home state of Texas. I was baffled and bewildered and outraged. As I read on I discovered that Ms. Geller is a conservative, right wing, "anti-feminist" in her own words). She goes on and on about Obama and his worldwide Muslim conversion etc. When I googled "honor killing" to find out more, all the sites were conservative, talking about how the leftists are letting the muslims get away with murder for fear of being called racist etc. So I am just a little confused as to why the conservative right has latched on to the "honor killing" tragedy and is there some truth to Obama's preoccupation with Islam?
Let me end with saying that regardless of her political affiliation Ms. Geller's blog about honor killing was an eye opener and whether she is using it as a ploy to push her conservative agenda or not, this is a horrible horrible epidemic and I am shocked I haven't heard more about it. I had not heard of the killing of those two texas teenagers until tonight. Lewisville is practically in my backyard. But wherever is it, It needs to be addressed as a serious and horrific issue
posted by madmamasmith to Law & Government (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You're getting a bit confused.

- Obama is not a Muslim.

- As the President of the US, Obama represents all of us -- Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, agnostics, atheists, and everything else. This is a change from the past 8 years, so it's a bit startling at first. It will take us all some time to get used to everyone being represented by their elected officials.

- As the President of the US, Obama must meet, talk with, and have diplomatic relations with, Muslim countries. It's part of his job. Bush also talked with Muslims. All US Presidents do this.

- There is not an epidemic of honor killings in Texas. Honor killings in the United States is very rare. Honor killings are not religious; they are cultural. That is, not all Muslims believe in it, and some people who are not Muslims do. You and your neighbors are safe in your homes.

- If you do not read much, Pamela Geller is not a great source for news. Does this look like hard-hitting presentation of facts? If your time and interest is limited, I recommend using a different source for your news.
posted by Houstonian at 3:01 AM on June 11, 2009 [18 favorites]

(And before the Texas-bashing starts, please note I'm a Texan too. Texas is diverse.)
posted by Houstonian at 3:09 AM on June 11, 2009

Hey, Houstonian put things really well. Someone who does this:

"She goes on and on about Obama and his worldwide Muslim conversion etc. "

is probably not going to be a good source for factual, well-reasoned reporting.

You seem to be looking for two things: information about "honor killings" and information about Obama and Islam. Houstonian had some good info on the former. As for the latter, it's important to getting one thing straight: Obama isn't a Muslim. Never has been. This is simply factually untrue. What's more, a writer's treatment of this assertion is a good index of their credibility. If they are harping on accusations that he's a "secret Muslim" or (to cite another popular rumor) that he's not a US citizen, they have about as much merit as sources that try to tell you that NASA faked the moon landing.

With all the commentary available in the online universe, one thing that can be very helpful and illuminating is to start with what historians call "primary documents." If you'd like to know more about Obama's stance toward the Muslim world, you can start by reading or listening to his recent speech in Cairo -- the whole thing, not just snippets excerpted by bloggers with agendas. Not surprisingly, some folks with views similar to Geller have been mining this speech for evidence that Obama's a Muslim. See above.

I love the internet, but its multiplication of the sources and accessibility of media means that we -- both as consumers of information and as American citizens -- have to evaluate our sources carefully. You don't have to be "well-read" or "educated" to do this. You just have to be curious, judicious, have a healthy dose of skepticism and look for tangible, reputable evidence rather than rhetoric or accusations.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 3:53 AM on June 11, 2009 [2 favorites]

You've received several substantive answers already, but I want to add that Geller is batshitinsane. She is one of the "birthers" who believes that Obama is lying about his American citizenship and has devoted a huge amount of blog space to escalating claims and dubious "experts". One of her most cunning theories: it seems plausible that Malcolm X was Obama's real father. (See the discussion at Balloon Juice here. It includes a link to the post in question.)

(The YouTube videos? Meh. These reflect a blogger who is somewhat more self-obsessed than is typical. Just read other parts of her blog to get a feel for how deeply angry, dishonest and off-kilter this woman is.)
posted by maudlin at 4:36 AM on June 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

In googling "honor killings texas" I'm finding only the case of those two sisters. While that is obviously two too many, it's hardly an epidemic. Also, the police are actively searching for the man on a capital murder warrant, and the FBI has officially classified it as an honor killing. This is one case that happened a year and a half ago. It's appalling and tragic, but no more so than the also-local Darlie Routier case, in which she also killed two of her children.
The conservative right has latched on to this because it hits their hot buttons of tough-on-crime (especially against two lovely girls) and anti-Islam and anti-Obama. They're throwing all the mud they can at him, hoping some of it sticks. They're playing on people's fears in the hopes of gaining political power. They're not trying to actually do anything to stop honor killings, either here or abroad (where it is a much larger problem) -- they're just fear-mongering.
posted by katemonster at 5:25 AM on June 11, 2009 [3 favorites]

I would also like to add that it's pretty hypocritical to be both anti-honor killings and anti-feminism.
posted by emilyd22222 at 5:47 AM on June 11, 2009 [2 favorites]

There are several reasons why any sane leader of the US government would be particularly concerned over Islam.

There are several conflicts (Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel/Palestine), where the US has been deeply involved, where one side is mainly Muslim, and that side ends up worse off.

This means that there are a lot of Muslim people out there who don't trust the US. Many people think that the US wants to force its culture and values on other countries, when those countries already have their own culture and don't want a new one. If you have met Americans who are worried that Muslims will impose their values on America, just imagine how worried people in Muslim countries might be that Americans will do the same!

All these things have suddenly become more important to Americans now we know that some fanatical Muslims are happy to blow American people up in protest, and that Iran may be developing nuclear weapons.

So it's very important right now for the leader of the US to be concerned with what Muslim people think, with what happens in Afghanistan and Iraq, with American Muslims and what they think, and so on. This is all about the current state of world politics - not about what Obama himself believes in.
posted by emilyw at 5:47 AM on June 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Just as a note, as well, I have found conservative bloggers, generally, to feel no obligation to be bound to facts or do research before posting anything. So any blogger who writes about an "epidemic" from that side of the aisle, I would generally believe to be lying, misguided, or at the very least exaggerating to make a point. I refuse to give folks like this the click-credit, but I'd imagine her blog has no links to anything that would prove her points (because they're untrue) - and I won't believe any claims made without factual support. So before you worry about an epidemic of anything, especially one blogged on by conservatives, I'd suggest looking up your local (city/state/county) crime statistics (or health, or whatever the scare is) and see if there's any evidence. Those things are usually available without too much wading - and you can look at the numbers without needing 30 minutes of text.
posted by mccn at 6:17 AM on June 11, 2009

This is typical right wing fear mongering. Read above, you are safe.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 6:48 AM on June 11, 2009 [2 favorites]

Try googling 'honour killings' using the British spelling of 'honor'. There you will find the information you want, esp on the Internation Campaign against Honour Killings site. Honour killings happen in all countries and are generally not an epidemic. If you want a real horror show, try looking for information on missing women and dowry murders in India which just might be called an epidemic if the reports are true.

Nthing the Obama is not a Muslim, it's anti-woman and just plain confused/confusing to be anti-feminist and anti-honor killing, and that bloggers like this are batshit insane and/or out to incite violence against Obama any way they can. Especially nthing the cultural aspect of honour killings. The Western equivalent is killing your wife and her lover when you catch them in bed. That's part of the folklore of Western culture, and used to be an acceptable reason for commiting double homicide in some parts. Imagine if Western countries were judged on this aspect of our culture alone.

From my Canadian leftie perspective, Obama's reaching out to the Muslim world (a peculiar term, much like reaching out to the members of the alliance of French speaking countries) is nothing more than dealing with the world as it is, not as some preset notion prefers to see it (read right wing Bushies.) I'd advise taking what you've read with a very large grain of salt and carefully checking the political affiliations of bloggers to get an idea of what motive, if any, can be ascribed to their postings.
posted by x46 at 7:14 AM on June 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Obama's reaching out to the Muslim world (a peculiar term, much like reaching out to the members of the alliance of French speaking countries
This is a good point.
posted by goethean at 7:57 AM on June 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

One way to gauge how extreme Geller is, is to note that she's being rejected by more mainstream conservative blogs like Little Green Footballs (who's pretty conservative as is); and in return she's accusing LGF of not being conservative anymroe. In this particular case, it's because of her affiliation with and open support for a Belgian Fascist Party.
posted by fatbird at 8:18 AM on June 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Also, re: honor killings. Aside from the already stated point that these are cultural, not religious, there's a kind of racist subtext in the term. In America, fathers have gone insane and killed their daughters for disgracing the family by getting pregnant or behaving in ways that would seem to contradict their Christian religious upbringings. It's a tragedy, but it's no more an "honor killing" than when a Muslim does it . . . and guess what, you never hear it described that way, do you?
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 11:48 AM on June 11, 2009 [3 favorites]

if someone uses ayn rand as their blog name, you can probably disregard.
posted by nadawi at 2:11 PM on June 11, 2009 [2 favorites]

Dee Xtrovert - the reason the killing of daughters/sisters/wives for shaming the family gets a special name when it refers to communities rooted in islam is because the killings are often supported by their norms and sometimes laws.

when a hick kills his daughter in kentucky, the neighbors, cops, preacher, and judge don't agree with him.
posted by nadawi at 2:19 PM on June 11, 2009

Dee Xtrovert - the reason the killing of daughters/sisters/wives for shaming the family gets a special name when it refers to communities rooted in islam is because the killings are often supported by their norms and sometimes laws.

It's only a "hick" who does this in America - and presumably by extension in largely Christian countries such as Nigeria, Greece, Ukraine, Armenia - but a community norm when it happens in a so-called Muslim country? I understand you may not perceive your own bias, but why, when my largely peaceful, largely Muslim country was attacked by a largely war-mongering, almost entirely Christian country, did America not call this "a Christian-sponsored terror attempt to commit genocide against Muslims? Why, when a fine doctor in Kansas was murdered was this not called what it was - a terroristic attack committed by a Christian loony according to the "norms" of his community? It's largely because people like to label "the other" with simple tags based on prejudices that they don't feel they need to explore . . . but they're cowards when it comes to doing the same to events occurring within their theoretical sphere of influence. "Honor killing" is not a part of Islam. It's not accepted by the bulk of Muslims. It occurs in the parts of "Muslim world" populated by people cut off from things like basic human rights, literacy, guarantees of even remedial healthcare, nutrition and so on and is rooted in tribal beliefs which existed before Islam . . . people who, in many cases, probably have less of an understanding of their religion than many Americans who live entirely secular lives do of Christianity. So this practice, contrary to what you say, has little to do with Islam at all. Yes, the Devil can cite scripture for his purpose, as Christians say. Most Christians, however, see this (correctly) as part of how anything can be misinterpreted rather than "support" for evil-doing.

Many Muslim countries happen, by sheer coincidence, to exist in places long ruled by tribalism and folk beliefs from the days before monotheism. The fact that these are not lands of plenty for most of the population - and never have been - only slows the acceptance and understanding of what most Americans would consider to be "modern" attitudes about a lot of things, including their own religion. Protestantism - largely unknown in the country I came from - was a big surprise when I started learning about it. People talking in tongues and fainting, handling snakes and whatnot - behaviors that are "norms" in certain places, still. But you won't see me mistaking these weirdo practices as indicative of a whole nation or culture or religion, as you have done.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 5:25 PM on June 11, 2009 [5 favorites]

Obama's election has brought a lot of crazy out of the woodwork. It's good that you sought more information - a lot of the crazy is catching on and gaining traction without otherwise sane folks, because gullible people so often don't bother to do that.

Honor killings require two things to become an "epidemic":
1. Family members that place family honor above the lives of fellow family members.
2. A society where authorities (police, courts, etc), if not actually condoning or sympathetic to the killers and/or to (1), will at least be likely to look the other way.

While you can find families that meet condition (1) anywhere in the world, today in the USA, it is much harder to find (2), which keeps (1) in check almost as strongly as a society is able to. (The other factor in keeping (1) in check is community values that oppose and erode (1))
posted by -harlequin- at 6:24 PM on June 11, 2009

Dee Xtrovert - i understand your passion in this and that you're ranting in general - but i feel i was very careful to say that it wasn't islam and it wasn't all muslims, but that some communities who profess to follow islam have laws that support honor killings.

i do call what happened in kansas terrorism - i do call many of the activities my government is part of terroristic and wrong.

it doesn't change what i said in response to what you said - that when christian fathers kill their daughters it isn't referred to as an honor killing. i was merely outlining why the discrepancy exists. you try to insinuate that the made up american has the support of his community due to their norms, and i say that is utter, unprovable bullshit.

i'd prefer you not lump me in with a bunch of groups you hate. you know nothing of my politics and bias. i have NOT mistook tribal practices as indicative of a whole nation or culture or religion. you have put words in my mouth.
posted by nadawi at 6:36 PM on June 11, 2009

i realize that you can read my original response in a way i didn't intend - let me clarify in case that's where you got your assumptions.

the reason the killing of daughters/sisters/wives for shaming the family gets a special name when it refers to [the specific] communities [that support honor killings] rooted in islam is because the killings are often supported by their norms and sometimes laws.

to further explain my point - i would call any community that supports through laws and inaction the killing of women to protect their honor, honor killings, no matter their religion. when you have a batshit insane person who kills a woman because the family has been shamed and he is immediately arrested, brought to justice, and everyone in his community talks about how wrong he was and how bat shit insane he was - that is a batshit insane person who committed murder. you don't have to understand the tribal history and culture to understand he was insane and got crazy ideas into his head. when you're dealing with the sanctioned idea of killing women for this purpose, there's a lot more that goes into it than just "man, that one dude was CRAZY."
posted by nadawi at 6:44 PM on June 11, 2009

I would also like to add that it's pretty hypocritical to be both anti-honor killings and anti-feminism.
posted by emilyd22222

Why is this? Unless your definition of feminism is simply, "someone who is against honor killing."
posted by ActingTheGoat at 3:48 AM on June 12, 2009

Here's a way to understand honor killings.

Imagine you read a news article about a Christian man who killed his daughter because she did not do what he thought was right. When brought to the authorities, the man says, "I was following my religion. It says in Leviticus 20:9, 'All who curse father or mother shall be put to death; having cursed father or mother, their blood is upon them.'"

Would you believe that all Christians kill their children for disobedience? Or would you believe this man has got a screw loose? This rule is in the Bible, but do all Christians follow it? Of course not.

It's the same with honor killings performed by Muslims. There is this in the Koran: "Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because they spend out of their property; the good women are therefore obedient, guarding the unseen as Allah has guarded; and (as to) those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in the sleeping-places and beat them; then if they obey you, do not seek a way against them; surely Allah is High, Great."

So, if you read that a Muslim man killed his wife and said his actions were justified by the Koran, would you believe that all Muslims kill their wives or children for disobedience? Or would you believe the man has got a screw loose? This rule is in the Koran, but do all Muslims follow it? Of course not.

Many (most?) ancient religious texts have parts that state that women and children are property of the father. This can be seen as a reflection of the times in which they were written. In cultures that still hold to these very old ways, you will see men who dispose of "their property" when they become "spoiled" or "soiled" or generally no longer useful. In all cultures, too, you have crazy people -- people who don't necessarily hold to all the old ways, but do pick through their religious text to support their craziness, and kill their family members while saying that it's allowed or even commanded based on their religious text.

It's terrible when this happens, but it's not an epidemic. Most people are not crazy; most people choose to disregard those parts of their religious text that may be interpreted as a license to kill your family. It's so very unusual that when it does happen, it makes a big splash in the news. If it happened a lot, it wouldn't be news-worthy.

If this really touches you, and you want to make a difference and take a stand, consider the larger issue of violence against women. There are many organizations you can join that try to stop violence against women, but I can think of two off the top of my head. The National Organization of Women (specifically for violence against women in the US) and Amnesty International (violence against women worldwide).
posted by Houstonian at 3:58 AM on June 12, 2009 [2 favorites]

Why is this? Unless your definition of feminism is simply, "someone who is against honor killing."
No, my definition of feminism is a movement that works against things that limit women's access to life choices and benefits because they are women (career woman vs. housewife is the most obvious example, and no, I'm not necessarily using "choice" here to mean abortion) and basic human rights, one of which is the right to live free of violence targeted against you because you are a woman. The crux of honor killings is the male ownership of female sexuality and access to choice. In cultures that support honor killing, when a woman makes her own choices, or when another man infringes on her status as property of another, she is subject to death. See Houstonian's 3rd from last paragraph, it's well said.
posted by emilyd22222 at 4:44 PM on June 14, 2009

Let me just say thank you for your explanantions. I would like to clarify that my fear was never for my own safety but a general concern that if there were so many of these "honor killings" happening not just in Texas but universally, why was I not hearing more about it and what was being done to address it. I do not know how different communities react to such crimes, here in America and else where. And I do worry that maybe they are viewed as separate incidents rather than a deep rooted and shared (between people of similar belief systems) hatred towards women. It seems as if to me it IS an epidemeic ( occurs when new cases of a certain disease, in a given human population, and during a given period, substantially exceed what is "expected": affecting or tending to affect a disproportionately large number of individuals within a population, community, or region at the same time 2 a : excessively prevalent) simply because of the number of them that have occured. I would call rape and murder and muggings epidemics as well. I think to call it anything less would trivialize it.
I understand Obama's need to secure relations with other countries etc and it was my own fear that let me connect the two ideas. (Islam/ Honor Killings) via Obama. I just feel so helpless when it comes to situations like this and wish there was someone/something to blame, so that eradicating that thing would end the suffering of some group of people.
posted by madmamasmith at 4:49 PM on August 6, 2009

That "similar belief system" I mentioned above is the idea that women/people are seen as property. And that a notion of preserving sanctity overrides an individuals right to live their life freely of their own accord. I could attach this to any hate crime, carried out by stranger or family member alike, who commits violence against someone who goes against the malefactor's idea of normalcy or decency.
posted by madmamasmith at 4:57 PM on August 6, 2009

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