Saturday, November 15, 2008

Is the term "honour killing" racist?

A fascinating article in the National Post today addresses the question as to whether the term "honour killing" is racist and Islamophobic. The article begins:

It is the grizzled face on a Wanted poster that usually catches the eye, but as the FBI realized late last month, the words matter, too.

In its initial poster seeking fugitive Texas cab driver Yasser Abdel Said – sought for the double homicide of his teenaged daughters – the bureau said he disapproved of their dating non-Muslim boys and stated that they were murdered "due to an ‘Honour Killing.'"

Though family members speculated that the father's Islamic belief motivated the crime, the use of the phrase "honour killing" incensed the local Muslim-American community, who argued that the accused's religion should not be linked to the double homicide, which left his two daughters dead in the back of his taxi.

After a public outcry, the FBI struck the offending words three weeks ago.

A Bureau spokesman explained that unlike a hate crime, there is no legal definition of an honour killing. "It's not our job to label this case anything other than what it is, what is from a criminal perspective," he said, apologizing that the writer did not see "the misunderstanding" the wording would create.

The girls' great aunt, however, was not satisfied." Everyone knows this is an honour killing," she told "But even our law enforcement and the FBI succumb to the pressure?"

Whether these kinds of crimes take place in Texas, Europe or even in Mississauga, Ontario – where the father and brother of teenager Aqsa Parvez will soon appear in court charged with killing her last December – the term itself is already on trial, a topic that speaks to the extreme hair-trigger sensitivities of multicultural balance.

(Read the rest of the article by clicking here.)

The issue in debate is whether these killings are solely examples of domestic abuse in which religion had no role, or whether they were influenced or even motivated by the killer's religious beliefs. It seems to me, however, that how one answers that question is influenced very little by the actual facts. It is clear that these are cases where religion played a major role in justifying abusive behaviour that resulted in these girl's death. To say otherwise is to close one's eyes and pretend that something doesn't exist because you don't want it to exist.

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