Monday, September 08, 2003
A warning: the post linked below has a very graphic photo of a horrifically mutilated woman. I am not joking here: if you are not strong of stomach, or have children nearby, please do not click the link.

Venomous Kate writes about the unspeakable abuse women face in Arab and Muslim societies, and puts together quite a disturbing list (links at Kate's site):

  • A 16-year-old girl who was raped by her brother and had her throat slit by another brother to protect his "honor."
  • A 7-year-old little girl's father believed she'd been raped, so he beheaded her to protect his family's "honor". An autopsy revealed the girl was a virgin.
  • Two sisters, ages 20 and 21, seen talking to men who weren't members of their families, were killed by their axe-wielding brother and cousin at a matter of "honor."
  • A 17-year-old girl who became pregnant after being raped by a friend of her father, the same father who - with the help of his son - killed the girl with 8 gunshots. It was a matter of "honor."
  • A girl who refused to enter an arranged marriage and chose her own partner, killed by her father for the "shame" she'd brought him and the loss of his "honor."
  • A 25-year-old Jordanian woman who had a boyfriend and was stabbed 12 times by her father to avenge the family's "honor." (He received a 3-month sentence for the crime.)
  • A 19-year-old Jordanian woman who received gifts from and ate with a man was killed by her brother over the family's "honor". He received a 6-month sentence.
  • A 13-year-old Turkish girl who talked to boys on the street and ran away from home, stabbed and beaten to death by her father to salvage the family's "honor."
  • A 15-year-old girl who ran away from the 35-year-old husband selected for her, killed by her brothers who threw her off of a bridge for the "dishonor" she'd brought.
Kate does a perfectly fine job of dispelling the bullshit that these "men" needed to protect their "honor," so I don't need to do it again. But something else bothers me here, too: what these "men" were capable of in the name of their "honor." A brother capable of raping his own sister is horrific enough on its own, but that another brother could actually slit his sister's throat in response, or that a father can shoot or stab his daughter multiple times, or kill a family member with an axe, or that a man can behead his seven-year-old daughter... well, where does one even find the words? In any normal society -- be it a Western city or the most isolated Polynesian tribe -- such a crime would be horror itself, even if the perpetrator was a complete stranger to the victim. Yet here we have innocent, defenseless girls murdered in the most brutal way imaginable by their fathers and brothers, defying the most basic societal laws, the most precious human norms -- violating our most fundamental instincts, for crying out loud! -- and what punishment do they get? What justice is meted out by those guardians of Islamic morality, who will cut off your hand for stealing a falafel, and execute you for displaying a crucifix?
Under the existing [Jordanian] law, people found guilty of committing honour killings often receive sentences as light as six months in prison.
I suppose we should give some credit to the not-totally-insane Jordanian leaders who were trying to pass a law that would at least, like, you know, actually punish these savage Manson-wannabe child slaughterers. But it turns out they are a minority:
Islamists and conservatives opposed to the new law said it would encourage vice and destroy social values.
Just to recap: we are talking about a society where brothers murder sisters, fathers butcher daughters, and husbands mutilate wives beyond recognition, on mere suspicion of being raped. (I can barely wrap my mind around this concept, even as I type these words. It sounds like some horror novel co-written by Dante and Jonathan Swift, with post-editing by Edward Albee.) And yet we have these supposedly-educated members of the Jordanian freaking parliament who seriously worry that punishing such vivisection will "encourage vice and destroy social values"! That such people could exist is already beyond absurdity, but that they make up a majority of the parliament, in supposedly one of the most "progressive" countries in the region...

You know that canard we always hear about Islamist extremism being only perpetrated by "a few individuals"? That the majority of inhabitants of the Arab/Muslim world are "like us," with similar beliefs and values? Well, if that's true, how does one explain this absurdist horror? How is it that so many fathers and brothers can even fathom killing anyone -- much less their own daughters and sisters -- so brutally? And more importantly, how can this abomination be so common that these "men" not only get off with a slap on the wrist, but actually have people defending their actions? If these are just "extremists," why isn't their mainstream society punishing them for all it's worth? They come down hard on petty thieves, but child-killers go free? To call this "savagery" is to insult every primitive tribe that ever existed.

I don't know what percentage of Arabs or Muslims are capable of such murder, but clearly it is unacceptably high, and the number willing to defend the practice is likewise appalling. I don't know what to do about it, but I do know that "global dialogue and understanding" aren't going to work here: we can have no common ground with a "man" who beheads his own child, or the "scholar" who defends and rationalizes the murder. Nor can we take the chance that such "men" will ever have the means and opportunity to do us harm -- I am not interested in being at the mercy of "men" who can cleave their cousins or cut the throats of their sisters. The Muslim world had better get over its case of recto-cranial impaction and fast -- because I shudder to think what we'll have to do if it does not.


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