Wednesday, September 08, 2010

"Honor" Crimes

Every year, something on the order of 20,000 women are raped, mutilated and killed because some male relative disapproves of their boyfriend, hair style or skirt length.

There is a terrifying piece by Robert Fiske, linked above, which is based on a "ten month investigation by the Independent in Jordan, Pakistan, Egypt, Gaza and the West Bank." We aren't quite sure why the investigation was restricted to those places, since the crimes certainly aren't. These days, they occur in nearly every nation.

The subject is of obvious interest to anyone with a shred of human decency. But we are especially interested, just now, by one item in particular: the role of religion in these killings.

As honor crimes have been discussed in the press, a fairly straightforward dialogue has emerged between those who connect them strongly to Islam, and those who vitiate that connection by arguing that they are the product of tribal cultures, not a religion which seeks to place itself over and above tribalism. We can practically hear Terry Mattingly now, demanding examples of honor crimes by non-Muslims, and accusing the liberal press of hiding the religious "ghost" in the story.

For the record, we don't know much about it, and we suspect that very few Westerners do.

So we are struck by two lines in Fiske's article. First:
Men are also killed for "honour" and, despite its identification by journalists as a largely Muslim practice, Christian and Hindu communities have stooped to the same crimes. Indeed, the "honour" (or ird) of families, communities and tribes transcends religion and human mercy.
And then, later:
In Jordan, women's organisations say that per capita, the Christian minority in this country of just over five million people are involved in more "honour" killings than Muslims – often because Christian women want to marry Muslim men. But the Christian community is loath to discuss its crimes and the majority of known cases of murder are committed by Muslims.
These are important claims, and we'd like to know more about them. We're hardly shocked that men are victims as well as perpetrators of honor crimes -- what, after all, was the dueling culture of the European Renaissance? (Yes, we know: duels were consensual crimes. That was true in the eyes of the church, the state, and pretty much everyone except the duellists themselves. In their culture, we suspect that many felt they had no choice at all).

But we are indeed shocked by the claim that in any country, anywhere, Christians may account for a larger per capita number of honor crimes than Muslims. If this is true, and if it can de documented, it might very well change the shape of the dialogue. The question is whether it is true, and can be demonstrated.

We'd be grateful for any solid evidence that readers may know of.

1 comment:

Pastor Joelle said...

No words for how horrible this is. Also another reminder of how many terrible things are done in the name of religion and blamed on religion that are at the heart, about our desire to be God, not to worship God.