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"Honor Killing" Comes To America

Right-wing media loves to ask, "When it comes to denouncing the oppression of Muslim women, where are the feminists?" Well, here we are.
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First tribal Arabia. Then Africa. Next, South Asia. After that, Europe. Last year, Canada. Now, America. "Honor crimes" have arrived in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

On the outskirts of Atlanta, a South Asian man has been charged with killing his daughter. She reportedly wanted to leave her arranged marriage. But under the code of "honor" -- an ancient cultural tradition by which hundreds of millions of contemporary Asians, Africans and Arabs live -- divorcing your husband means shaming your entire family. That's an act of "dishonor." And that's a crime worthy of severe punishment, including death.

The catchy phrase for it is "honor killing." When CNN's Situation Roombroadcast the story earlier today, anchor Suzanne Malveaux cut through the semantics. "In this country," she said, "it's called murder." Amen, sister.

If the perverse phenomenon of honor crimes is new to you, I urge you to learn more about it. Let me be your guide.

To demystify the tradition of "honor," I've blogged about the case of a Saudi gang-rape victim here and here.

If anyone tells you that these indignities don't happen in the West, check out my TV interview about Aqsa Parvez, the Muslim-Canadian teenager whose father has confessed to strangling her for the sake of his family's reputation. In all but name, that's an honor killing.

I've also blogged about how progressive non-Muslims contribute to such injustices. In the name of showing cultural "sensitivity," they often tolerate the intolerable. Read this commentary.

For more analysis of why we should challenge power abuses, even when they take place in societies other than our own, click here and here.

Finally, what can you do to help end honor killings? Three ideas:

1. Support legislation introduced last year by Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas). Get more information here.

2. Join the International Campaign Against Honor Killings. They're doing terrific work.

3. Stay tuned to this blog. That's because an organization with which I'm a scholar -- the European Foundation for Democracy -- will soon be launching an effort to raise awareness about honor crimes. We also aim to change public policies, foreign and domestic, to promote human rights for all. I'll say more about that effort in the coming weeks.

Later this month, I'm heading to Washington, DC to speak at the annual conference of the National Organization of Women. Right-wing media love to ask, "When it comes to denouncing the oppression of Muslim women, where are feminists?" Here we are.

Now that I've answered their question, allow me to ask mine: Will neo-cons ditch the crass politicking and help feminists get the word out that honor killings must stop?

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