Honour Killing: An apt description of a murder with cultural overtones or an inherently racist term? Craig Offman
It is the grizzled face on a Wanted poster that usually catches the eye, but as the FBI realized late last month, the words matter, too.
In its initial poster seeking fugitive Texas cab driver Yasser Abdel Said -- sought for the double homicide of his teenaged daughters -- the bureau said he disapproved of their dating non-Muslim boys, and stated that they were murdered "due to an 'Honour Killing.' "
Just this week in Toronto, advocates from a range of feminist, domestic violence and race-relations groups held a news conference to denounce media reports that categorized the murder of Aqsa as an honour killing.
Critics argue that the term is inherently racist and distracts the conversation from the main issue: domestic violence. But others argue that gagging the discussion by making this topic off limits is counterproductive, undermining a community's ability to acknowledge this particular abuse and eradicate it. The debate raises questions about whether any consideration of what motivates crimes like this is unfair and even culturally biased, or whether, instead, it is critical to gaining an understanding of motive.
Honour killing is the phrase used to describe a crime committed by male family members who feel that their spouses, daughters or even sisters have brought shame to a home. It typically targets spouses suspected of infidelity or even being the victims of sexual assault. Young women sometimes can be victimized if they are seen as embracing outside cultures.
Women's rights advocates, academics and religious leaders say that such crimes point to a much wider, pervasive problem: the patriarchy. When there is white-on-white violence, they say, we do not ascribe Christianity or Judaism to the incidents....