Sunday, November 23, 2003
I am going to try to keep this post civil. It'll be hard, but I will try.

A few days ago Knight-Ridder reported on yet another horrific honor killing, this one by a Palestinian mother against her own daughter:

ABU QASH, West Bank - Rofayda Qaoud - raped by her brothers and impregnated - refused to commit suicide, her mother recalls, even after she bought the unwed teenager a razor with which to slit her wrists. So Amira Abu Hanhan Qaoud says she did what she believes any good Palestinian parent would: restored her family's "honor" through murder.

Armed with a plastic bag, razor and wooden stick, Qaoud entered her sleeping daughter's room last Jan. 27. "Tonight you die, Rofayda," she told the girl, before wrapping the bag tightly around her head. Next, Qaoud sliced Rofayda's wrists, ignoring her muffled pleas of "No, mother, no!" After her daughter went limp, Qaoud struck her in the head with the stick.

Killing her sixth-born child took 20 minutes, Qaoud tells a visitor through a stream of tears and cigarettes that she smokes in rapid succession. "She killed me before I killed her," says the 43-year-old mother of nine. "I had to protect my children. This is the only way I could protect my family's honor."
A mother, telling her own daughter to commit suicide, and when the daughter refused, taking 20 minutes to kill the poor girl -- against the pleas of her husband and Palestinian crisis counselors. All for the "crime" of being raped. Then this "person" (using the term very loosely) actually has the gall to whine and make herself out to be the victim. To me, this is textbook depravity. Conrad the Gweilo agreed, and used some very strong language (though still insufficient to describe this horror; I'm not sure English is adequate to the task).

OK, so case closed, right? Nope, some post-modernist jackass named nyx wades into the fray, and immediately starts lecturing the simpliste Conrad about his silly cultural snobbery:

While I personally grieve at the death of the child, I believe that the mother is equally a victim of social conventions and beliefs. Richard calls this ‘hard-wired irrationalism’ here; but what is rationality to begin with?
Well, it's good to know nyx "[grieves] at the death of the child," but she didn't die of leukemia or an auto accident. She was murdered, in cold blood, by her own mother. Grief is not the only appropriate emotion here. But then, like a good deep-thinker, nyx goes all pomo on us: "what is rationality...?" Yes, truly this situation is a philosophical conundrum.
It would probably — but I make no assumptions/presumptions here — have been entirely rational in the mind of the mother to have killed the daughter, in order to, as the article mentions, protect the rest of her family.
Good Lord. Never mind that even her husband disagreed -- how can a human mother actually manage to kill her own innocent child? This violates every human instinct, never mind notions of morality. To even be able to consider such a thing "rationally" -- that is, in cold blood -- requires levels of depravity that would impress Charles Manson. And to sit there and rationalize it away after the fact with dimwitted first-year-philosophy questions, well, that requires a moral obtuseness of truly inconceivable dimensions.

If one mother can do this to her own child, imagine the kind of physical and social violence that would have been visited on the entire family if the matter of her child’s incest were to become public.
You've gotta love expressions like "social violence." What the hell does that mean? I have no idea. Probably some reference to the family being the subject of nasty rumors, and that most horrid of Arab fates, humiliation. Of course, apparently having everyone know you killed your own child is preferable to people knowing your child had been raped. Either this is false, in which case the mother is simply off-the-wall nuts, or it is true -- in which case Arab society truly is degenerate at its core. Oh, sorry, I must never say that, lest I should practice "cultural snobbery."

For nyx, though, this continues to represent quite the dilemma:

It might be possible to describe, and even condemn, her actions as ‘hard-wired rationalism’, cold utilitarianism — for the ‘greater good’ and the ‘welfare of the majority’ — but irrationality? Where does one draw the line?
I'd say once you are mutilating your own daughter to death, you're way past the line. But I guess I lack nyx's sophistication on the matter. Speaking of which, nyx continues to engage in his Aristotelian musings:
Similarly, if you were to then absolve the mother from blame, and decide to make the society that promoted. . . such actions the scapegoat, then deal with this. One accepts that in the Western conception of rights, the abrogation/violation of one individual’s rights by another is a crime, and can justifiably be punished by a consonant violation of the criminal’s rights.
I'm not absolving the mother from blame, but the society she lives in is not a "scapegoat" -- that would imply that it's blamed unfairly. The society Mrs. Qoaud lived in is most definitely at fault for espousing the values that justified this senseless slaughter. But Mrs. Qoaud is likelwise guilty for valuing such mores higher than the life of her own child. At the very least, she knew there was a conflict, but she chose to resolve it in favor of this bullshit Arab notion of "honor."

Oh, and incidentally: the idea that killing a person is a crime, for which you would be punished by having your own rights violated, is not exactly unique to the "Western conception of rights."

Sometimes this may be death — and even on this issue, there is no universal rejection of the death penalty as an inhumane punishment. The incest arguably abrogated the rights of the family to live freely, and safely, in their own society, violated their freedom from fear, from persecution, from murder. Under such circumstances, perhaps the daughter was not necessarily the ‘criminal’ — though it is arguable that she could have possibly been a consensual participant. . .
Dear. . . God. Excuse me while I get my jaw off the floor, and try to wrap my mind against what may possibly be the most thoroughly revolting "argument" I have heard or read this week. This nyx jackass, on reading of a teenager raped and then slaughtered, actually has the indecency to suggest that perhaps she was a willing participant in getting raped by her brothers. (Yep, that's totally worth the risk of dishonor and death, right?) What's his evidence for this? He's got none. But hey, when you are trying to prove your sophisticated open-mindedness, spitting on the victim is just part of the process, right?
— yet still my rudimentary understanding of the Western paradigm of rights would suggest that the removal of this threat to the rights of the majority — in the same way that the war on terrorism, or criminal law, is intent on removing a similar threat to a larger majority — would be in line with the spirit of the law: to protect one’s rights.
Wow, killing your raped teenage daughter is siimilar to conducting a war, see. It's all about protecting one's rights. When nyx calls his understanding of rights "rudimentary," he is flattering himself rather highly. (And I love this "Western paradigm of human rights" phrase. Like the right to life is just one viewpoint among many. Killing your child: not really good or bad, just depends on the paradigm you follow. Sophistication through amorality -- how inspiring.)

The lecture concludes thus:

This is not an argument for cultural relativism, though in my mind that is another valid argument that could be made. This is an argument against cultural presumptuousness, and the crime of demeaning other cultures and societies by virtue of one’s own ignorance, and self-righteous bloody enthusiasm.
That nyx is a relativist is fairly obvious and unsuprising. But the irony of warning against self-righteousness while lecturing Conrad on his attitude is clearly lost on this poor would-be philosopher. And truly Conrad is the bad guy here, committing "the crime of demeaning other cultures and societies" because of his "ignorance." If only Conrad knew more about Arab society, he wouldn't judge a child-killing bitch quite as harshly as he has. His simplisme is showing, see. Sophisticated people never themselves be blinded by simplistic binary notions of right and wrong. Silly Gweilo.

Needless to say, Conrad was unimpressed nyx's attempts to rationalize the indefensible, especially his swipe at the victim:

Finally, not content that the hapless girl has already been victimized twice, the blogger proceeds to smear her by describing her in a manner that makes her appear to be a participant in incest, rather than the victim of a forcible rape by her own brothers. Truly despicable. I swear to God, after reading the post, I feel like I need a shower.
I'd say that was pretty kind, but Nyx, not content with the hole he has dug himself into, gets all intellectually puffed up and proceeds to dig further:
The girl has been described as ‘hapless’ and ‘poor murdered’. Was she? Do you know that for a fact? I for one am not so willing to commit to so absolute a judgment of the situation, far removed and very much the armchair blogger here. If you don’t know better, stop polarising this situation into black and white; the ‘hapless’ girl against the ‘evil’ and possibly ‘demented’ mother/society.
The article as written seemed pretty clear to me: girl gets raped, then killed by her own mother over the course of 20 minutes. Silly us -- we don't think getting raped is a justifiable cause for being killed, and we don't try to introduce our own asinine "theories" that maybe this poor teenager had been asking for it all along. But wait:
I am not suggesting that the mother is innocent. She did murder her daughter, and, in doing so, violated one of the most sacrosanct of all rights: the right to life. By my arguments on how she was practicising values inculcated into her from birth by society, I am merely suggesting — as opposed to stating unequivocally — that she is possibly a victim of society as much as her own daughter.
Well, then, what the hell is it? If the mother acted on her own demented beliefs, then she is a nothing more than a child-killing two-legged animal. If she was acting on what are accepted values in Arab society -- and she was -- then the society she lives in is thoroughly warped. Which is exactly what Conrad said earlier, and that got him the criticism of being a "cultural snob." Imagine that: he had the Eurocentric chauvinist arrogance to condemn a pervasive notion that a raped woman should be killed.

Nyx continues to whine:

Stop painting me as protesting that the murderess is innocent, and the murdered is guilty. I am merely suggesting that one should not think of the situation in black and white.
Which is exactly the problem. A girl was killed. By her own mother. Over the course of 20 minutes. For the "crime" of getting raped by her brothers. The mother is an evil murdering pile of scum. It is black and white. Attempts to rationalize this behavior by comparing it to the war on terrorism, aside from being laughable, are morally repugnant. But no, no, we must see this in more subtle terms:
Similarly, the argument that the girl didn’t kill herself, therefore it wasn’t deeply inculcated into her that her crime was wrong, is flawed. This is because it assumes that the girl functions like a machine: if (what_i_did == False): kill(self); return 0. Firstly, the girl isn’t placed in the same position of responsibility over the rest of the family in the manner that her mother is.
Well, apparently she is -- as she is expected to die for something that wasn't even her fault!
Secondly, suicide is not as easy as what you make it out to be. Neither should killing your own daughter — and in that, perhaps we can accredit the mother with an act of sacrifice, to save the family. Or we could label the mother as a slightly poor example of motherhood, to have taken her daughter’s life so easily.
Once again, I find myself peeling my jaw off the floor. For the crime of choking her own daughter with a plastic bag, slashing her wrists, and impaling her on a stick, Nyx is not sure whether the mother should be accredited for an act of sacrifice, or labeled as a "slightly poor example of motherhood." Words fail me.
Either way, this does not equate with: mother BAD, daughter HAPLESS POOR INNOCENT OH NO!
Jesus wept, but this guy is a piece of shit. That's -- what? -- the fourth time he spits on the victim? Yes, shame on her for getting raped and then killed. She probably was asking for it anyway. We should sympathize with the mother for making this sacrifice to protect the family from "social violence." Folks, this is what happens when a man believes in nothing: he ends up justifying anything.

Lastly, deal with the argument that the mother was acting not out of sheer murderous intent, but that her actions were a product of cultural/societal forces as well as a desire to protect the rest of her family from a more dire fate.
That's exactly the argument Conrad started out with -- and he condemned the society that generates such forces, at which point nyx accused him of "cultural self-righteousness." But that having been said, no way the mother gets a pass on this: for one thing, the family was not in danger of physical violence, only possible ostracism; and for another, a mother simply shouldn't be capable of killing her child that way. The crime is shocking, and nyx's attempt to show his intellectual sophistication by spitting on the victim and engaging -- despite his protests -- in the worst kinds of moral and cultural relativism, is nothing short of revolting.
One thing I agree with Richard@pekingduck is that increased publicity and exposure of issues like these will help to curb or moderate such cultural/societal-endorsed violence in the future.
Not if there are pea-brained aspiring bien-pensants in the West continuing to insist that we shouldn't condemn them, lest we be accused of cultural snobbery.
But I disagree with the means of doing so: the employment of absolute, almost comic-book sketches of the characters to forward one’s argument. It does not deal justice to the situation, and does not deal justice to the actors involved.
Condemning a woman for killing her daughter, who did no one any harm, is employing a comic-book sketch, and should be avoided. On the other hand, implying that the victim of a rape and murder might have been asking for it, that's truly the path to justice.

Suddenly, I understand Conrad's urge to take a shower.

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