Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Honour killing? More like dishonourable homicide ...

A recent article on the popular website by columnist and lawyer Rafia Zakaria is well worth reading.

Zakaria provides a sharp analysis of the discovery in late June of the remains of 20 year-old Banaz Mahmod Bakabir Agha, an Iraqi Kurd . Her body had been cut into pieces and hidden in a suitcase. A court later convicted her father and brother for her murder.

Zakaria holds back no punches. She asks some tough questions which Muslim organisations and law enforcement officials should be asking ...

Banaz's case illustrates how a host of factors can come together to allow such grotesque honour crimes to occur. Archaic and misogynistic cultural beliefs, on the one hand, reduce women to objects of ownership and control, whose family members have no qualms in obliterating them for imagined sins against tradition. On the other is a host foreign culture suspicious of a ghettoised and economically disenfranchised Muslim minority, and hence slow to provide protection. Banaz had repeatedly asked the police to provide her with protection and even given them a list of three people whom she believed would try to kill her, to no avail.

Finally, also blameworthy is the persistent silence of the Muslim Council of Britain, and other Muslim groups who jump to organise protests when Muslim women are denied the right to wear niqabs but choose to ignore their plight when they fall prey to the brutality of their own families.

The collusion of all of these factors, the low priority given to Muslim women's freedom by their own cultural tradition, their host nation and ultimately their religious community are all to blame in the Banaz case.

Zakaria sums up the absolute immorality of such homicides as follows ...

There is nothing that can mitigate the horror of an innocent life taken at the behest of the very people that were responsible for bringing it into the world. At the most primary level, a crime which involves a father killing his own daughter, whose only mistake was to choose her own mate, should evoke the deepest disgust in every human heart. But the Banaz case is also an indictment against the religio-cultural confusion becoming increasingly symbolic of West-European society in the twenty-first century.

Immigrant communities, Muslim or otherwise, have to address this crisis. Law enforcement officials also need to be reminded that domestic violence doesn't become less serious just because the victims are 'foreign'.

© Irfan Yusuf 2007

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