Recently, there has been much discussion in the media over the use of the term “honor killing”. Is the term racist? Does it implicate Islam for killings that are not religiously sanctioned? Are “honor killings” really domestic violence that is no different from domestic violence that occurs in every society?
The National Post published a feature this past weekend that looks at these questions. The story itself was balanced, getting a variety of viewpoints and presenting the issue in a balanced rather than sensationalist manner. So to the National Post I give kudos.
However, while reading the article I couldn’t help but notice Tarek Fatah’s comments:
“For all these lefties who have formed alliances with Islamists, I accuse them of racism of lower expectations,” said Tarek Fatah of the Muslim Canadian Coalition.
Mr. Fatah believes that honour killings should be viewed as sui generis crimes. “The courts must recognize the unique nature of the crime. If honour killings are not mentioned and defined in the Criminal Code, it will allow apologists of this crime to continue to deny its existence.”
He said the case of Aqsa, for example, who allegedly was entrapped by family members and killed in her house last December, was something that bears little relation to the common arc of a domestic dispute.
“Domestic abuse is usually about a dispute between partners. Child abuse is different, and [the Aqsa case] is about a girl who did not want to cover her head and did not want to live in the lifestyle imposed on her by her brothers and fathers,” Mr. Fatah said. “We also know that one of the brothers didn’t want to live in these conditions and he left home. But did they kill him?”
There are so many disturbing things said in Mr. Fatah’s statements. The first is the idea that people who abhor the term honor killing are “Islamists” and the dismissal of non-Muslims who abhor as “lefties”. He shows little respect for people who see honor killing as a problematic term and instead of debating the position resorts to ad hominem and sensationalist attacks that add nothing to the discussion. Would it have been that difficult to discuss whether or not honor killing is a racist term?
Then to make it worse, he accuses his opponents of being racist and borrows from a term from President Bush “the bigotry of lower expectations” replacing bigotry with racism. Again, one has to wonder why Mr. Fatah feels the need to attack people who don’t agree with his position in such a sensationalist manner.
What really upset me about Fatah’s argument however is his “definition” of domestic abuse. Mr. Fatah believes that honor killings are different from domestic violence, but his reasoning rests on the wrong idea of what domestic abuse is. Fatah says that domestic abuse is usually about a dispute between partner. One has to wonder if Mr. Fatah has ever taken a course on the family, taken any Women’s Studies courses or at least read a book on either. Domestic abuse is about much more than a “dispute between partners.” It is about a desire to control. Additionally, domestic abuse or more appropriately, the intimate terrorism that resulted in the death of Aqsa Parvez and is the domestic abuse that we commonly think of, is rooted in patriarchy. So domestic abuse, which can also include child abuse, is about much more than a dispute between partners.
Thus, I ask how Mr. Fatah’s distinguishes between Aqsa Parvez’s death and domestic violence that occurs in Canada. Does the distinction ultimately come down to the ethinicity and religion of the perpetrator and victim? More importantly I ask whether Mr. Fatah can speak about this issue in a manner that is informed and non-sensationalist? If Mr. Fatah wants to help women, including Muslim women, then this will be necessary whenever he speaks about “honor killings” or domestic violence.