By Shavana Abruzzo
Against its will, and piece by grubby piece, the Free World is being acquainted with Islam’s dirty laundry. Fanaticism and suicide bombings aside, another time-honored rite is making a wrong debut in western society – to the tune of an estimated 5,000 global incidents a year – at a time when industrial, technological and philosophical revolutions are compelling other, newer, civilizations to promote a better understanding of life. A month into 2008, news of ‘honor killings’ – fatal punishments for females, judged to have soiled the reputations of their families by reputed rebelliousness – have reached these shores with the deaths of two sisters from Dallas, Texas, who were found shot in a taxicab on New Year’s Day, allegedly by their Egyptian-Muslim father, who objected to them dating. One week later in Amman, Jordan, a man who was charged with the grisly slaying of his 30-year-old daughter because he, too, suspected her of dating, bragged to cops that he had “cleansed” his family’s honor with the parricide. A month before, in December, a teenaged Pakistani-Canadian girl was fatally strangled by her Muslim father, who confessed to authorities that he was driven to the dark deed because his daughter had refused to cover her head with a hijab. Those of us familiar with Muslim culture know too well about the gruesome reality of honor killings, which are sparked by the remorseless ire of a male-dominated society and ignited by its holy scriptures that suggest men rebuke, isolate or beat their headstrong women into submission (Quran 4:34). Wherever in the world they are, Islamic societies and their governments fashion their laws, morals and behavior codes on an unyielding interpretation of their holy book, giving rise to the unhappiness, despair, apathy and uprising currently making its blot here, there and everywhere. While some western cultures, including those in Brazil and Ecuador, also resort to honor killings, such reprisals are far too rampant – and revered – in Muslim, Hindu and Sikh societies, where heartless tribal customs are deemed obligatory and lawful. The United Nations Populations Fund judges Pakistan – with 500 honor killings committed there, annually – to be the leader in the vile, centuries-old custom that is still continued by Hindus in Bangladesh and India, Shiites in Iran and Saudi Arabia, and Muslims in Morocco, Turkey, Indonesia, Somalia, Kenya and just about anywhere else they live. The morbid list goes on: In 2004, 17-year-old Shafilea Ahmed’s body was discovered decomposing on the bank of a river in South Cumbria, Great Britain, shortly after she told a government social worker that her Pakistani parents had beaten her, threatened her with an arranged marriage and taken away her savings. One year later, Hatun Surucu, a 23-year-old Turkish-Kurd living in Germany, was gunned down by a relative while waiting at a Berlin bus stop because she was “too western.” The root of the problem is well articulated in a January article in the Yemen Times, entitled, “There must be violence against women,” in which the author concludes with the plea, “Dear readers – especially women – don’t think that I hate or am against women; rather, I simply mean to preserve the morals and principles with which Islam has honored us.” (www.yementimes.com/article.shtml?i=1117&p=community&a=6). Need more be said? In Great Britain, where an estimated dozen honor killings are committed each year (who knows the real figure?), the British government has become so familiar with the eastern world’s shenanigans that it has established a Forced Marriage Unit to protect girls and women from the deadly influences of their own mores. The un-murdered seek a final exit – suicide. As a young girl growing up in South London, I discovered that the Pakistani-Muslim community made its share of headlines in dealing with its troubled teenagers, who dared to spurn the ultra-supervised lifestyle that monitored their minutes and seconds like clockwork and carved out their lives down to the last detail. One of my classmates in junior high school, “Soraya,” was a Muslim immigrant, whose family, true to its ethnicity, tried to disavow British society, whose ways it judged as being wayward and unacceptable. One day, Soraya arrived at school with a sad face. She told us that her parents had arranged a marriage for her to a 35-year-old man in their native Pakistan, whom she would not meet until their wedding day the following year, when she would leave her family and live with his in the “Land of the Pure.” We all rallied around our inconsolable friend, encouraging her to rebel. “Do what you want, that’s what I do with my mum and dad,” suggested one British girl, at which the Pakistani girls amongst us rolled their eyes and sighed over Soraya’s destiny because they knew it would soon befall them, too. In the coming months, the girl fell into a deep depression, while her oblivious family delighted about her impending marriage, elated that the eldest of its four daughters was being married off and, therefore, leaving only three headaches behind, for a boy was a blessing and a girl a curse. Soraya fell behind in the studies she had always excelled at. She told us there was no point in continuing them if she was getting married and relocating to the wild, lawless frontiers of her homeland to live and procreate with a stranger amongst strangers. At morning assembly, one day, our headmistress’s sorrowful words moved the packed school auditorium to a hush as, tearfully, she broke news of Soraya’s suicide. “We must reserve our thoughts and prayers now for her family at this very distressful time,” I recall her saying while the Pakistani girls rolled their misty eyes heavenward. E-mail“A Britisher’s View” at BritView@courierlife.net. All letters become the property of Courier-Life Publications and are subject to publication unless otherwise specified; please include your name, address and daytime telephone number for verification.