Honor killings and “crimes of passion”

Cinnamon Stillwell on Islamic “honor killings” in North America:

Feminist groups such as the National Organization for Women, which put out an occasional press release decrying honor killings, need to make combating this practice as high a priority as defending choice and railing against “glass ceilings.” Instead, it is a precious few who are telling it like it is when it comes to the oppression of women in Muslim culture. Ironically, many of them are on the right side of the political spectrum or, like author, blogger and activist Phyllis Chesler, have been cast out of the leftist-dominated feminist movement for speaking the uncomfortable truth.

As I have noted previously, the challenges posed by the Muslim world are the next frontier for women’s rights and all those interested in advancing such goals will have to rise to the occasion. It is up to every one of us to speak out where, not only women’s, but human rights are in question. Young women’s lives are at stake.

Full Story: SF Gate.

(via Trevor Blake).

I agree, but I’m curious just how common a problem “honor killing” really is. There have been a few high profile cases recently, but how common is this in the west compared to other similar killings committed by men of other religions (or who are not religious at all)? Also, do Islamic men really get off easier because of “multiculturalism” than other men or women convicted of similar crimes?

Although it’s not true that it’s legal under Texas law to kill your wife if you catch her with another man (though it was legal until 1974), it’s allegedly true that these men often get off light, often with only an involuntary manslaughter charge. Not just in Texas, but in many states. I’ve had trouble finding more up to date information on the subject than this 1994 story in the New York Times.

Very late update: According to this weakly sourced article:

The Department of Justice statistics suggest that approximately one-third of intrafamilial killings are done by women, and that more than 50 percent of murders of children by a parent are done by the mother. Nevertheless, when it comes to wiping out an entire family, fathers lead the pack, with adolescent sons next on the list.

and:

Despite the differences among these scenarios, there is a common profile of men who have killed their wives and children. Most are white males in their 30s or 40s who react badly to stress and who view their families as extensions of themselves. They typically use a firearm or knife that they have owned for some time. Often they’re depressed or intoxicated. Invariably they’re described as controlling and quite dependent on their families being what they envision, and believing that they are the only ones who can fulfill the family’s needs.

8 Comments

  1. According to a U.N. estimate in 2000, there are approximately 5,000 dishonor killings per annum globally. The majority of them occur in Arab/Muslim countries and in Arab/Muslim immigrant communities elsewhere. Most of us who work in this area believe that estimate to be on the low side. And these crimes are actually on the increase.

    It is difficult to gather accurate data on dishonor killings. This is, in part, due to the very nature of these crimes (i.e., they go unreported, they are disguised as accidents or suicides, the family lies to people about the missing person to give the impression she has, for example, emigrated). There are also reasons why governments that lack accountability and transparency would not want to count and/or report these crimes accurately, if at all. And, in the West, they are a fairly recent import, so few police departments are even trained to recognize them, let alone keep separate statistics on them.

    And, also, crimes of passion have occurred throughout time and across cultures. These occur in Arab/Muslim countries, too, but are in addition to dishonor killings.

    Ellen R. Sheeley, Author
    “Reclaiming Honor in Jordan”

  2. Thanks for the info, though my question is more about how honor killings are treated in the west in comparison to the murder of spouses or children by other groups. Sounds like it’s too new a phenomena to really say?

  3. Earlier dishonor killings in the U.S. have just been tried as all other murders. There is no reason to believe it will be different in the recent suburban Chicago and the suburban Dallas cases.

    The case of Aqsa Parvez in suburban Toronto is being tried as second-degree murder. I don’t know why the prosecutors aren’t trying it as first-degree murder, but I hope there are some darned good reasons.

  4. Klintron: “I?m curious just how common a problem ‘honor killing’ really is.”

    Is any number other than zero acceptable?

  5. “Is any number other than zero acceptable?”

    No. But if we are to believe that these killings are in some way different from other murders committed in the United States, I would like to know more.

    It’s far easier to demonstrate, as you Trevor have done numerous times, that religion fails prevent bad behavior. It’s also easy to demonstrate that religion is often used to attempt to justify bad behavior after the fact. It’s far more difficult to prove that it CAUSES bad behavior.

    Some people would have us believe that certain types of music and violent movies and television cause school shootings. The truth is that school shootings are extremely rare, and are less common since the Columbine shootings. On the other hand, the audiences of the music, movies, and television in question reach are very large. So we can conclude that very few people who listen to these types of music or watch violent shows commit school shooting (or any other violent crime for that matter). It’s easier to conclude that violent people like violent movies.

    So I ask: is it more common for Muslim men to commit “honor killings” than it is for any other group of people to kill their children or spouses? Also, are religious men more likely to kill their children and spouses than secular men? If so, what we can we conclude from that, and what can we NOT conclude?

    I think we can conclude that the specific religion of the Followers of Christ Church is to blame in the case that you wrote about for Key 64. But it’s still a large jump from there to making the case that religion causes bad behavior.

    One way in which religion differs from entertainment media is that people are often raised to believe that religious texts are real but are taught that movies and television are not real. Society at large tends to reinforce these notions, by either pushing a specific religion on people or at least by refusing to tell people that their religious texts are bullshit. So we’re not comparing apples to apples here, but I think these questions should be asked.

    Also, to go back specifically to honor killings I’m questioning how different this really is from Christian or secular crimes that are similar, and how the law treats each case.

  6. “So I ask: is it more common for Muslim men to commit ‘honor killings’ than it is for any other group of people to kill their children or spouses? Also, are religious men more likely to kill their children and spouses than secular men? If so, what we can we conclude from that, and what can we NOT conclude?”

    Muslim men, Christian men, Buddhist men, Shinto men, atheist men. Which commits the most honor killings?

    Religious men and atheist men. Which are the prisons of the world full of?

    We can conclude that (1) atheism and violence against women are nearly mutually exclusive when compared to religion and violence against women, and (2) some religions are more violent toward women than others.

    US law is generally forgiving of Christian Scientists who refuse their children simple medicines and thus allow their death, but US law is generally unforgiving of vegans who refuse their children simple nutrients and thus allow their death.

    Sharia law – now there the difference is very clear. Nations that go by Islamic law allow women to be killed without penalty. The US is not a sharia nation.

  7. “Muslim men, Christian men, Buddhist men, Shinto men, atheist men. Which commits the most honor killings?”

    When a Muslim man kills his wife, it’s called an “honor killing.” When a non-Muslim man kills his wife it’s called a “crime of passion.” NOW says that 4 women are killed in domestic violence per day. How many of these are killed by Muslim men and how many are killed by others? How many are killed by non-theistic men? I would like to know if murdering ones spouse and/or kids is a “Muslim thing” or just a “male thing.”

    “Religious men and atheist men. Which are the prisons of the world full of?”

    Religious men and atheist men. Which are the world full of? There are more religious men in prisons, but there are also many more religious men. Do religious men and women commit crimes disproportionately to their numbers? And do some religions commit more crimes than others? I suspect this is the case, but I have no statistics to back this up. Looking at prison numbers muddies things, because many people convert to religions in prison.

    “Sharia law – now there the difference is very clear. Nations that go by Islamic law allow women to be killed without penalty. The US is not a sharia nation.”

    True. What would the US be like if we allowed women to be killed by men without penalty?

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