Honor killing: “Abuses like these are not exclusive to Islam but in no other culture these days are they actually upheld by authorities citing formal tenets of justice”
And yet the denial from Islamic spokesmen in the West is all-pervasive and never challenged by the mainstream media — which only ensures that more women will be victimized. “No More Honor Killings,” by Melik Kaylan for Forbes, January 29:
The news from Bangladesh is that a teenage girl was recently punished with 101 lashes after she was raped and impregnated. Village elders apparently decide such matters in rural Bangladesh where Sharia law prevails. The girl’s family quickly married her off but when the pregnancy emerged her husband demanded a divorce and reparations. So the elders issued a series of fatwas against the girl’s family, fining the father and expelling the family from the village. Oh, and they pardoned the rapist.
You may feel that we have no business worrying about what happens in remotest Bangladesh, but since we are at war on multiple fronts against such people, or rather they are with us, we’d do well to know our enemy. Why do these outrages occur so consistently in the Muslim world, you might ask, and does it tell us some ineradicable truth about the nature of Islam? Abuses like these are not exclusive to Islam but in no other culture these days are they actually upheld by authorities citing formal tenets of justice.
Turn it up, down or sideways, you may find it hard to discern any hint of moral symmetry in the judgment. You may wish to blame it on the universally evident wonkiness of Islamic scriptural law or even the absence of such in a remote village. But let us try for a moment to follow the logic. The girl kept the rape a secret, it seems, because she was terrified. Perhaps her family colluded with her silence. The quickly married husband felt duped. Fair enough. But 101 lashes for the girl whose life was ruined? How about sympathy and support? And by what code of social or divine casuistry do they pardon the rapist? [...]
In Syria, as elsewhere, many conservative Muslims–including women–see any creeping sympathy for rape victims as the beginnings of westernization by stealth, the tip of the iceberg of feminism. In plenty of Muslim countries–Morroco, Yemen, Bangladesh–honor killings are often not punishable by law if they’re deemed “justified,” and not infrequently the rapist benefits from customary codes of mercy in place of the victim. This is especially true where a weak central state gives way to tribal law in remote regions or even in overcrowded and unpolicable urban areas. In some places the problem barely exists–in Iran,for example, and in Turkey outside of the Kurdish areas. But everywhere this central principle applies: tribalism equals Islamic conservativism equals bad news for women. [...]
A strange truth often prevails in such cases: the more innocent the girl, the greater the need to martyr her, for at a certain point appearance is everything–the shame has spread so far and deep that nothing else will suffice but the harshest display of public purgation. One can imagine that in the Darwinian conditions of Arabian life where Islam first prevailed and then was later repeatedly reinforced, by other warrior races from elsewhere down the centuries, right up to Saudi Wahhabism, rumors of females running loose denoted weakness in the tribe. And soon, no doubt, other tribes might begin to probe for those weaknesses–an invitation to disaster. Without going into the nuances of Suras, Hadiths, Fiqh, Adat and the like, we can safely say that a large chunk of Islamic scripture explicitly cites custom and tradition as a perfectly valid, often the only, authority in matters of jurisprudence. It was always done this way, and anyone trying to effect a change is contravening the divine scheme.
Sure there’s a contradiction here, because Islam also teaches that before the Prophet’s message the world lived in Jahilliya, a profane state of ignorance, so what about traditions that Islam inherited? Let us leave such perplexities for the Imams to fight over. In talking about honor killings, we are talking about customs so ancient they predate the scriptural religions of our era, indeed to a time of pagan or animist superstitions. Ancient civilizations often believed that undue attention from the gods invited catastrophe, not least as provoked by the form of a beautiful daughter. The male gods were forever zooming down to copulate with a mortal girl, from which there followed inevitable myriad disasters. Back in the 1990s when I collected an antique textile from the Caucasus, a Kaytak, I took a trip into Daghestan and found that Kaytaks were used to cover the faces of infants in order to keep them from attracting negative attention from the gods. In ancient times there was no greater curse than the arbitrary curse of the gods who suddenly singled you out for ineffable reasons of their own.
And so we get to Islam and the honor killing of innocents. A much older code than Islam is at work here, one that Islam doesn’t entirely repudiate as it tries to accommodate and sanctify tribal tradition. The more innocent the victim, the more she must be sacrificed because the curse is all the more palpably divine for being arbitrary. Muslim conservatives often try to retro-justify the situation by assertions that the girl no doubt behaved lewdly or failed to follow parental rules. Even if true, what law was the rapist following? The answer you will get, literally, is this: He was following the law of nature. He was possessed with desire, spontaneously and irretrievably, couldn’t curb himself, shouldn’t be blamed. In effect, he was possessed by the gods, or the Djinns, and became their instrument. He deserves merciful understanding….