My role model Irshad Manji has a new post up on feminism, honor crimes, and the freak show that is Mel Gibson: How Mel Gibson Might Educate My Feminist Friends. It is difficult to excerpt.
Via Jezebel, we have the story of Noor Almaleki at Marie Claire, who was killed last year by her father for failing to uphold his Iraqi patriarchal honor. This is one of those “honor killings” in which “honor” means that men’s self-respect is held between women’s legs, and a man’s ability to maintain that “honor” is more important than a woman’s ability to have a life.
The author at Jezebel, Irin, as well as some commenters, are asking what the difference is between Islamic cultural honor killing and Western intimate violence which sometimes culminates in murder. At first glance it may look like the sort of mindless cultural relativism that tends to get Irshad Manji up on her badassed soapbox, but after reading the Marie Claire article, it’s not a bad question. The way Noor’s parents stalked and terrorized her after she moved out sounds a lot like the way many abusive men, coming from more liberal cultures, control their wives and girlfriends when they try to leave. But Noor wasn’t getting this abuse from her boyfriend or husband. She was getting it from her parents. I think that’s the primary difference between Western misogynist violence and Middle Eastern control of women. So-called “honor killings” by men from Islamic cultures can be attacks on their wives, but are more often directed at daughters and sisters. These are men whose culture encourages them to view their daughters and sisters as property which must be controlled, and the sight of that property refusing to accept that control makes these men feel personally attacked.
Whereas in Western cultures, even abusive men tend to expect a certain level of independence in their daughters. I’m not saying that Judeo-Christian-secular American men never kill their daughters, but when they do, they don’t have a culturally-sanctioned rationalization handy like Faleh Almaleki has for his actions. In Western misogyny, it’s the wife or girlfriend who needs to walk a tightrope to avoid violence. Then you may ask if this is a meaningful difference, and actually, I think there is an important distinction to be made here. The difference is in the culture of marriage.
Afshan Azad, the lovely actress who plays Padma Patil in the Harry Potter films, has apparently been the victim of an attempted murder by her father and brother.
The BBC doesn’t say anything about motive and doesn’t utter the words “honor killing,” but ultimately, it doesn’t really matter whether People is correct in reporting that the Muslim family guys tried to kill Afshan because they didn’t approve of her dating a Hindu man. I’m with Sam Harris on this one: any man who is willing to kill his daughter or sister to maintain family honor obviously does not love her. Any man who’s willing to kill his daughter or sister (or wife, or any family member) for any reason other than that she was about to kill him or someone else, obviously does not love her. Abdul and Ashraf Azad do not love their daughter and sister, and if it was their religion or culture (as if the two are discreet entities) that drove them to attack her, then that religion/culture is opposed to love.
That’s not the part that makes me shake my head, though.
HOW FUCKING STUPID do you have to be to try to kill your daughter/sister who happens to be a famous film actress? Afshan has appeared in extremely popular, internationally distributed films, and she didn’t have a major part, but it was enough of a part that a lot of people know her name and recognize her face, and if she suddenly disappears or turns up dead, people are going to notice and the constabulary is going to take an interest in the case. Does misogyny turn your brain to packing foam? What in the shit did you fuckheads expect to happen?
Irshad Manji has an excellent new post up on the limits of multiculturalism.
“All cultures deserve respect,” I relentlessly hear from students. Anything else isn’t just racism; it’s unthinkable. Therein lies the rot.
We’ve stopped thinking. And, in the process, we’ve stopped feeling for those who tell us that they need to escape their cultural caves, or risk death.
She is referring to the case of Aqsa Parvez, the victim of an honor killing by her father and brother in 2007. If there’s an ideal example of a culturally contingent practice that creates a challenge for multiculturalism, honor killing is an excellent candidate.
I’m younger than Ms. Manji, but probably older than most of her students. I’m part of the generation that was indoctrinated with multiculturalism from a very young age. The ideas we were taught were basically things such as: People from different cultures do things differently from you and yours, and this is not a bad thing. Rather than react with hostility to something outside of your experience, seek to understand it first. “Different” does not have to mean better or worse.