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Honor Killings: The Epidemic that Isn’t

My previous article describes how anti-Muslim bigots use young Muslim murder victims as props in their campaign of hate.  Sensational headlines, haunting photographs, and lurid tales of cold blooded murder are indispensable tools in their campaign to vilify Islam.   This campaign is bolstered by a set of core themes that are reinforced through tireless repetition.

Islamophobes portray honor killings as a special kind of evil that is unique to Islam, and greatly exaggerate the prevalence of these crimes.  Atlas Shrugs, Jihad Watch, and Frontpage Magazine rarely miss an opportunity use the phrase “Islamic honor killing,” which has joined “creeping sharia” and “stealth jihad” in an endless parade of misleading slogans and catchphrases.  All of these themes converge in paranoid conspiracy theories about Muslims taking over and imposing barbarism in the Western world.

Most of their arguments depend on casual acceptance and do not stand up to scrutiny.  With the help of some grade school math, relevant facts, and a healthy dose of global context, it is fairly easy to set the record straight.

The term “honor killing” was not coined by Islamophobes, even though it serves their agenda well.  Many human rights organizations track honor killings as a subcategory of homicides or femicides (killing of women).  For our purposes, that’s a good thing because it allows us to refute the idea of widespread honor killings using statistics from credible sources.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates there are 5,000 murders classified as honor killings each year worldwide, and they are not all perpetrated by Muslims.  To put that into perspective, consider that the World Health Organization says there are over half a million annual homicides in the world. Using basic math, we can conclude that honor killings make up less than 1% of all murders.

If 1% of the world’s Muslims perpetrated an honor crime each year, we could project at least 1 million incidents.   The number is far lower, and leaves 99.99% of the Muslim population innocent of this crime.  Why should all Muslims be indicted for the actions of a negligible minority?

Pamela Geller says, “over 90% of honor killings worldwide are Islamic,” and Robert Spencer quotes the exact figure at 91%.  Spencer links to an article on the Middle East Forum as the source of this statistic. This is an anti-Muslim propaganda site founded by Daniel Pipes, and the article there is authored by Phyllis Chesler, who is yet another rabid Islamophobe.

Chesler quotes the same estimate of 5,000 annual honor killings worldwide, but she says the true number is “much greater.” “Definitive or reliable worldwide estimates of honor killing incidence do not exist,” she concedes, yet she is somehow certain the the number is much greater.

She cites a study of the media throughout her article, which found, “there were 100 victims murdered for honor in the West, including 33 in North America and 67 in Europe.” Taking her study at face value, do you think 33 honor killings constitutes an epidemic?  Stinging insects kill more than 40 people each year in the US, which is more than the number of honor killings Chesler reported over the course of her study for all of North America.  Chesler says, “to combat the epidemic [emphasis mine] of honor killings requires understanding what makes these murders unique.”

In the US, an estimated 1200 women are killed by their spouse or partner each year.  Chesler herself states that, “In the non-immigrant West, serious domestic violence exists which includes incest, child abuse, marital rape, marital battering, marital stalking, and marital post-battering femicide.” Yet for some reason, she feels it is more important to focus on the unique nature of honor killings than to address the broader issue of violence in her own country.

To her credit, Chesler does not blame honor killings on Sharia, nor does she say these crimes are religiously sanctioned in Islam. Instead she resorts to blaming them on Islamic culture. The Director of Human Rights Watch says that honor killings cut across cultures and religions, and that dowry deaths and crimes of passion have a similar dynamic.

Dowry killings actually outnumber honor killings, and they are on the rise. Women with insufficient dowries are murdered or driven to suicide in what are often disguised as kitchen accidents. For this reason they are sometimes called “bride burnings.” In 2008, there were over 8,000 dowry deaths reported in India alone.

Murders for crossing caste boundaries are also similar to honor killings in that they are a cultural inheritance, victims are usually killed by their own family members, and the crimes are often endorsed or encouraged by village-based caste councils. The caste system is outlawed, but it remains entrenched in parts of India and Nepal, neither of which has a Muslim majority.

Honor killings also share features with other forms of femicide outside of the Middle East and South Asia.  Just a 10-15 minute drive from El Paso, Texas, USA, there is a border town in Mexico called Ciudad Juarez. Over the last two decades hundreds of women have been kidnaped, brutally raped, tortured, and murdered in Juarez, and the perpetrators remain free.  Femicides in Mexico have nearly doubled from 1,085 in 2007 to 1,926 in 2009.

There were nearly 700 murders of women in neighboring Guatemala in 2010, and 1,110 reported cases of femicide in Honduras between 2008 and 2010.  Of the cases in Honduras, only a 211 made it to court, and a mere 4.2% resulted in a conviction.

High rates of homicide and femicide also plague many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.  In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, rape is used as a weapon of war in a systematic pattern of destruction that has claimed an estimated 2 million victims. The conflict in the Congo has resulted in more deaths than the conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Darfur (Sudan) combined.

The United Nations says, “The brutality and scale of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo almost defies imagination.” Over five million people have died in the last 10 years in what 60 Minutes described as a “War Against Women.

Imagine the photos Geller could harvest for “Islam’s Gruesome  Gallery,” featured on her website Atlas Shrugs, if only this were an Islamic country.  Since the overwhelming majority of the people in the Congo are Christians, these crimes don’t receive the spotlight on anti-Muslim hate sites.

How can anyone genuinely interested in the rights of women ignore the situation in the Congo? Even if Islamophobes could substantiate their claims that honor killings are exceptionally barbaric and unique to Islam, that would not be a justification focusing on them exclusively.

True human rights activists don’t discriminate among murder victims.  All major human rights organizations address honor killings in context, and they do not promote these crimes as a way to spread fear and hatred toward Islam.  Islam also takes a universal approach, likening the killing of one human being to the killing of the entire human race (Qur’an 5:32, 6:151, 17:33).

In her book proposal for Stop the Islamization of America, Geller described herself as, “One of America’s foremost activists for human rights and freedom.” If she were sincere, she would give up her vicious campaign against Islam and join us in the struggle to end violence against women from all cultural and religious backgrounds.

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  • Rizwan

    Mr. Spencer is doing a great service to the human race by running the Jihad Watch website. For the sake of balance perhaps it would be pertinent for someone to set up a website CRUSADE WATCH providing the total number of victims of Crusades since 9-11, USING THE SAME CRITERIA that Mr. Spencer uses. /sarc off

  • Abdul-Rahman

    Also on claims regarding an increasing in “honor killings” in Turkey they are also sensationalistic Western mainstream media claims that have little to no source to back them up (these claims suspiciously just happened to coincide with the post-Flotilla atmosphere of Turkey drifting away from their former alliance with the Zionist entity to standing in opposition to the Zionists to some degree. And the heavily Zionist controlled mainstream media in the West just happened to bring out these claims against Turkey then! Again an odd “coincidence” I think).

  • Abdul-Rahman

    The vast majority of the claims about supposed “honor killings”, something which of course Islam condemns to start with, are completely baseless and sourceless! Again as this article showed the right wing, Islamophobic fake talking point of “90% of honor killings” are supposedly “done by Muslims” is completely WITHOUT any valid source WHATSOEVER!!! It is simply a fraudulent claim made up by the Islamophobic, hatemongering liars Daniel Pipes, Pamela Geller (who was infamously involved with a fraudulent, organized crime linked car dealership! and Phyllis Chesler.

    As for the UN’s “estimates” and claims they are also largely sourceless and simply “guesses”! Not a very valid source, also even defining what is a supposed “honor killing” rather than just any other type of domestic violence that sadly happens in far too many families around the globe of all different backgrounds (ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic status, etc) is pretty much impossible and a pointless effort. And again even the UN’s claims (that obviously as this article mentioned make it clear that its not just among Muslim majority communities that these small amounts of incidents even happen) still have no solid source behind them.

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  • Sir David ( Illuminati membership number 5:32) Warning Contains Irony

    If Mrs MacBeth really cared about women she could look closer to home to find women abused . Here for example

    600 hundred women are dead . Its a crime she can being it to a wider attention

    Yes Pam I am talking to you now Prove you actually care rather than being a hateful spiteful Bi@@@ who cares only for her own ragged skin

  • Anticipated Serendipity

    Geller & Co. don’t give a rat’s arse about women’s rights. Does it seriously seem plausible that people who hate Muslims/Islam care about the rights of Muslim women? The author of the MEF article couldn’t link honour killings to Islam or Islamic law so she went on and invented “Islamic culture” and blamed honour killings on that. It just shows how truly un-Islamic the practice is.

    What is happening in the Congo is horrible and I’ve read of girls as young as four being raped by having objects ranging from sticks, guns and bits of glass inserted into them. The stories coming out of there will cause you to lose faith in humanity and it is tragic the way this is largely being ignored by the Western media and the world in general. Geller & Co. are only interested in the fame and fortune Muslim bashing will bring them (and they obviously hate Muslims), being a genuine human rights activist doesn’t pay as well as Muslim bashing does.

    I’d say one of the reasons we get so much shit for honour killings is b/c it is ignored by the Muslim countries in which it is a serious issue: Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, etc. There are some Arab countries that have a law that states a rapist will not be punished if he marries his victim. How sick is that? Ironically it’s derived from the Bible and yet it’s Muslims rather than Christians implementing it.

    The article contains a lot of tu quoque. Women being killed by their husbands/domestic partners aren’t the same thing as honour killing. The 5,000 honour killings a year are just that: honour killings. The 5,000 doesn’t include women killed by their partners and if the latter group were included the number would be higher especially considering how cheap female life is in some Eastern cultures. Are there stats in the US on the number of daughters killed by their fathers? Or the number of sisters killed by their brothers? Because for the most part, that’s what honour killings are. Has it occurred to anyone that the number of honour killings is low b/c the number of girls/women willing to risk engaging in behaviour that would attract an honour killing is likewise low? Domestic violence isn’t treated lightly nor is it seen as acceptable in Western culture. Honour killings aren’t seen as crimes by a large portion of those belonging to certain Eastern cultures where Islam is the dominant religion. Islamists in the Jordanian parliament saw a proposed law to outlaw honour killings as a threat to “our family values”. They weren’t talking about abortions, gays or divorce here they were talking about that good old family value that says daughters who step out of line are fair game for murder. The issue isn’t only the number of honour killings; the issue is the fact that these killings are seen as justifiable by millions of people worldwide. There are some parts where if a girl is murdered the village silently endorses it and most of the villagers would have had the same punishment meted out to their girls/women if she had similarly violated the unspoken “honour code”.

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  • Although I have no argument with the tenor and goals within this article: as a serious researcher into HBV it is vexing to see persons using the phenomenon for their own aims, I’d like to make a comment about the figures. The UNPFA estimate for ‘honour’ killings is over 10 years old now, and most activists, not just Phyllis Chessler, agree that the figure is an underestimate. The reasons for this are many: as ‘honour’ killings are collective and premeditated crimes, there is plenty of opportunity for families who commit such crimes to provide alibis for each other and arrange for the disposal of the corpse, amongst other strategies to evade detection. Where honour killings are acceptable, authorities may turn a blind eye to suspicious deaths. In one case a victim of an ‘honour’ killing was recorded of dying of ‘old age’ in a coroner’s report. She was 25.

    Due to community support, there may be no information about the nature of a suspicious accident or suicide so it may not be investigated or recorded as a crime. These are all complicated by the invisibility of girls in official statistics: in some rural communities, the birth of girls is not registered – and boys may only be registered in time to get them the documentation they need to start their education.

    While I quite agree that there is no way HBV can be considered an epidemic in the US, it could well be considered so in certain parts of the world. Today, the Kurdish Globe reported that 25 Kurdish women were killed for ‘honour’ in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq just one month. Given that the KRI has a rather lower population than London, and that the UK as a whole has around 110 domestic homicides of women per year, this is a very high level of violence. A report from a domestic violence charity serving Middle Eastern women in the UK suggests 10% of their cases are related to the risk of HBV. My concern is that blowhards using the issue to suit their own ideology might obscure the fact that there may well be a need for certain specific protective measures for women from vulnerable groups to be developed in the States, as they have been in Europe and Scandinavia.

  • Sahira

    Out of curiosity what does Islam say about honour killings? Can sombody offer a difinitive answer? What is the correct punishment for sex outside of marriage, and the punishment for wives that commit adultery? Knowing the correct answer would allow me to defend the Islamic point of view more affectively. Many thanks.

  • Sir David ( Illuminati membership number 5:32) Warning Contains Irony

    Or hope for her I should say as well

  • Sir David ( Illuminati membership number 5:32) Warning Contains Irony

    Can I just say how kind it was for Halal Pork to say something that was
    a) supportive
    b) readable
    c) not just repeating the same old same old

    Maybe there is hope for him after all 😉

  • NassirH

    Yet another loon affiliated with Spencer and Geller calls for the mass murder of academics, liberals, journalists, and Muslims. These clowns are getting increasingly unhinged.

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