We've talked in class about ethical relativism and the practice of honor killing. To help explain what honor killing is and how it's viewed in some Islamic cultures I found this article, in a post from the archive. It discusses the practice of honor killings and the social pressures placed on families to carry them out. It sounds, quite frankly, pretty depraved. Here's part of it:
The murder of women to salvage their family's honor results in good part from the social and psychological pressure felt by the killers, as they explain in their confessions. Murderers repeatedly testify that their immediate social circle, family, clan, village, or others expected them and encouraged them to commit the murder. From society's perspective, refraining from killing the woman debases her relatives. Here are five examples:
A Jordanian murdered his sister who was raped by another brother. The family tried initially to save its honor by marrying the victim to an old man, but this new husband turned her into a prostitute and she escaped from him. The murderer confessed that if he had to go through it all again he would not kill her, but rather would kill his father, mother, uncles, and all the relatives that pressured him to murder and led him to jail. Instead of killing his sister and going to jail, he said he should have "tied her with a rope like a goat and let her spend her life like that until she dies."
An Egyptian who strangled his unmarried pregnant daughter to death and then cut her corpse in eight pieces and threw them in the toilet: "Shame kept following me wherever I went [before the murder]. The village's people had no mercy on me. They were making jokes and mocking me. I couldn't bear it and decided to put an end to this shame."
A 25-year-old Palestinian who hanged his sister with a rope: "I did not kill her, but rather helped her to commit suicide and to carry out the death penalty she sentenced herself to. I did it to wash with her blood the family honor that was violated because of her and in response to the will of society that would not have had any mercy on me if I didn't... Society taught us from childhood that blood is the only solution to wash the honor."
A young Palestinian who murdered his sister who had been sexually assaulted: "Before the incident, I drank tea and it tasted bitter because my honor was violated. After the killing I felt much better... I don't wish anybody the mental state I was in. I was under tremendous mental pressure."
Another Palestinian who murdered his sister: "I had to kill her because I was the oldest [male] member of the family. My only motive to kill her was [my desire] to get rid of what people were saying. They were blaming me that I was encouraging her to fornicate... I let her choose the way I would get rid of her: slitting her throat or poisoning her. She chose the poison."
These testimonies are in line with the analysis of 'Izzat Muhaysin, a psychiatrist at the Gaza Program for Mental Health, who says that the culture of the society perceives one who refrains from "washing shame with blood" as "a coward who is not worthy of living." Many times, he adds, such a person is described as less than a man.
In some cases, the decision to commit the murder has a quality of being deputized. In the case of Kifaya Husayn opening this article, the victim's uncles actually appointed her brother to commit the crime on behalf of the family. The murderer in the fifth case cited above felt obliged to commit the crime as the eldest male of the family.
Murder has its intended social effect, permitting the family to regain its original social status. The murderer in the fourth case cited above went on to tell how almost ten thousand people attended his sister's funeral; once she was dead, society again embraced the family.
There are those who say that what's wrong for us is not necessarily wrong for people living in other cultures and that we shouldn't judge other cultural practices. I wonder if they'd say that after reading the above. Some ways of life are better than others and some cultural and moral values are better than others. Any culture which encourages, or even condones, the slaughter of young rape victims or, for that matter, the killing of any young girl for any imaginable reason, is sick. It's a culture of death.