Phyllis CheslerA Family Conspiracy: Honor Killing
New English Review Press, 2018
Reviewed by Cheryl Gatesworth
June 25, 2018 - San Francisco - CA - PipeLineNews.org - Phyllis Chesler is a well known human rights activist, particularly in the field of women's rights; a prolific author, and a fearless foe of political correctness. She is, in addition, a Psychology Professor Emeritus at City University of New York [CUNY]. One of her books " An American Bride in Kabul " was reviewed on this web site [January 29, 2014] and told the story of her experiences as a young bride in the 1960's married to a Muslim man and brought to her husband's home - harem might be a more appropriate word - in Kabul.
Ms. Chesler's latest book, " A Family Conspiracy: Honor Killing " will not disappoint her readers. It is a compilation of articles she has written for anti-jihadist web sites from 2009 through 2014 and deals with honor killings of Muslim girls and women in the West. Ms. Chesler frequently uses the term femicide, a totally appropriate label for the honor killings she describes. As programmed by the media, most feminists will incorrectly conflate honor killings with domestic violence, thus muddying the already murky waters of Islamic apologetics. They will compare Muslim honor killings to incidences of domestic violence, thus burying the unique nature of sacralized Islamic violence against women and the danger they pose to American Muslim women who feel that they are safe because they live in a free country.. The media too are guilty of systematically blurring the unique nature of Muslim honor killings and often either fail to report them or, in accord with their style cards, treat them as domestic violence.
As the author points out, honor killings are usually family conspiracies, not the spontaneous consequence of anger on the part of the perpetrator. The courts will seek to punish domestic batterers, while in Muslim culture those who engage in honor killings will be not only free from punishment: they are often celebrated. A Muslim family that does not punish a woman's act of shame, real or perceived, will lose face. This will impact not only the parents and the
girl/woman accused, it will affect the social standing of all the family members and the "disgrace" will almost certainly lead to the inability of the victim's brothers and sisters to secure their own marriages.
In Muslim countries, which have shown to be in fact tribal, a female is born into an inferior status and her fertility becomes - from the time of her birth - the property of her family. In a society absent the concept of individual rights or the rule of law, and with an honor versus shame value system, the burden of proof is continually on the female to act in such a manner that she not only avoids transgressions, but the appearance of them. Therefore even ambiguous concepts such as "becoming too Westernized" are often the basis of an honor killing.
Ms. Chesler points out that more than 90% of honor killings world-wide are committed by Muslims against female Muslims. Hindus and Sikhs also honor kill in their lands of origin but only very rarely when they live in the West. The former may kill for violations of caste norms. Muslims in the West bring their culture with them; even generations that are born in the West do not totally assimilate if they view assimilation as being in violation of their creed.
Muslim Brotherhood groups such as the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) will describe honor killings as a holdover of ancient tribal practices that do not originate in Islam. This overlooks two key aspects of Islam. Mohammed was a warlord and tribal leader. Islam as locked-in today was perfectly suited for the culture of his time, the seventh century. Culture is fluid - Jews and Christians at one time stoned women for adultery - but eventually they were able to cast off the past and inspire classic modern liberal societies. Mohammed took ancient tribal practices and gave them the sanctity of Allah’s blessing, thus freezing them in time. Also Islam in its foundational documents cannot separate church (mosque) and state and could not and did not benefit from any Enlightenment or Reformation, thus insuring its absolute rigidity.
Following are two examples of honor killings in the West cited by Ms. Chesler.
On New Years Day 2008 in Dallas,Texas two teenage girls were murdered in an honor killing committed by their father. Sarah and Amina Said were shot to death by Yasser Abdul Said, an Egyptian immigrant who worked as a taxi cab driver. After much domestic abuse by their father, including sexual assault and seeming indifference by their mother, the sisters tried to escape. They were lured back by their mother, Tissy (Patricia), who held out the promise of a reconciliation. She led them to their death. Tissy Said's religious background is evangelical Christianity, but it is not known whether she formally "reverted" to Islam as a result of her marriage. After the death of her daughters and the disappearance of her husband, Tissy went on to live with her son, Islam. Some of Sarah and Amina's female relatives on their mother's side, particularly their great aunt, expressed outrage against the murders, gave interviews and would not be silenced, risking their safety in addition to violating the rigid norms of political correctness.
On February 12, 2009 in a suburb of Buffalo, New York, Muzzammil Hassan killed his estranged wife, Aasiya, by beheading her. Her transgression, one-of-many no doubt, was that she had obtained a restraining order against him that had forced him to leave the home they shared. Mr. Hassan was a successful businessman whose latest venture was an attempt to bring an understanding of Islam to the American public by forming "Bridges TV." This was an English language Islamic television network that sought to combat Islamophobia and anti Muslim prejudices resulting from ignorance of Islam. Actually, maybe that is just what he did.
Ms. Chesler's book is of great value not only because it is an interesting and informative read. It belongs with other books on human rights that are encyclopedic in scope.