The following observations about “honor killing” were published by the Finnish author and politician Jussi Halla-aho on September 30, 2011. Many thanks to Heikki Polojärvi for the translation.
Some thoughts about honour violence
by Jussi Halla-aho
Recently there were news reports about a Pakistani girl named Kainad Soomro. Four men gang-raped her when she was thirteen years old.
By being raped and consequently losing her virginity, Kainat, according to the local perception of honour, shamed her family. The community demanded that Kainat’s father should kill his daughter, which he refused to do. The family had to flee from their hometown to Karachi, but the harassment has continued there as well.
The honour murder traditions of Islamic countries have been a difficult subject in the Western countries. Any discussion quickly turns to how women are, in fact, oppressed everywhere, the form of oppression only varies.
As if the under-representation of women in the governments of listed stock companies was in any way the same kind of paradigm as a 13-year-old girl being killed for having been raped.
Firstly, it has to be stated that family violence — both abuse and homicides, and attempts at them — are quite evenly shared between men and women [Finnish statistics].
Secondly it must be remembered that usually an act of violence is committed on impulse or while drunk, which is why the perpetrators (both men and women), are usually convicted for manslaughter instead of murder. However, a Pakistani-style honour murder is a deliberate, organised project carried out in cold blood.
The main difference between “honour killing” and “honour murder” is the social acceptability of the deed. A family killing is not considered justified by the society, the killer’s family or friends or, actually, the killer himself. Not a single Finnish family killer walks out of the police station as a free man/woman. Not a single family killer appeals in the court to his sense of honour, or defence of it, or get any reduction of his sentence with this argument. Not a single husband’s, ex-husband’s or boyfriend’s father, mother, brother or sister requires him to defend the family honour by killing his wife, ex-wife or girlfriend.
And not a single Finnish man would kill his 13-year-old daughter for shaming his family by being raped.
Let’s take another look at the Pakistani case. An honour murder is not a freak incident committed by a deranged individual. It is a collective deed. The murderer not only, or even principally, defends his/her own honour, but that of his/her family, kin and community. The community requires Kainat’s father to murder his daughter. Her father is expected to work as the executioner of the community.
In addition, honour murder is a deed attached to a culture, accepted and required by it. It’s a traditional part of it. It’s the traditional solution to the problem generated by a little girl being raped. Because Kainat’s father didn’t follow this tradition he and his family were evicted.
A culture where a) little girls are gang raped b) raped little girls are murdered in order to protect the community’s honour is dark barbarism of such an extent that is difficult for a Western person to understand. Further cognitive dissonance is caused for the tolerantly aware by maintaining their faith in the wonderfulness of the Islamic culture and, in general, the equality of all cultures. That’s why discussion of the actual subject is avoided like the plague, and attention is moved to something that has nothing at all to do with the subject, for example, to the under-representation of women in stock-listed companies, or domestic violence.
All cultures are not equal. A culture where a 13-year-old girl disgraces herself, her family and her kin by being raped, and who therefore deserves to be killed, is not equal to what we know as Western culture.
In order to avoid misunderstandings, let it be added that the evaluation above is targeted towards killing-killing cultures with no regard to their religious status. Everyone can, based on the facts, see if any religion has in any way a higher profile in this respect than others.
These days there are honour killings in Europe as well, because of the past, and present, massive immigration of people in whose opinion killing girls and women who stain the family honour is OK. The subject is not discussed in any way to the extent that it should be, because no-one wants to stigmatise the immigrants and therefore, make their efforts to integrate more difficult. For a multicultural coordinator to shake a finger at these people explaining honour violence to be wrong works about as well as a Jehovah’s witness telling you in a subway entrance that Jesus is coming soon.
It may be that culture and traditions change little by little in Pakistan as well. It may be that the courage of Kainat Soomro and her father will bear fruit. But before this happens it is of primary importance that as few representatives as possible of this kind of culture move into Western countries. If enough move in to be able to form cultural enclaves that contain this dark barbarism, the game is lost.