From the “elephant in the room” department comes this little item: As I’m sure you’ve all heard by now, a Muslim TV executive who had started a network to “counter anti-Muslim stereotypes” beheaded his wife.
Beheading takes work, planning, and a very sharp blade (all those pesky bones and tendons would make it a bit of a challenge). It also has a life-changing finality when the victim is your wife. It’s not something you do when you’re a little drunk or mildly upset. Domestic violence can of course include murder, but usually stops short of it. The vast majority of complaints involve lesser violence against a member of the household.
No. This is premeditated femicide of the most degrading sort. Worse, it’s ritualized murder from a culture that has taught men for centuries that women were property to be disposed of as they saw fit.
Domestic violence is depressingly common across all religions and among non-believers. This is another matter entirely. A simple question will resolve it: If you heard on the radio that a man was being accused of beheading his wife, and someone offered you a $10,000 prize to guess the man’s religion, what would be your final answer?
Thought so. So let’s drop all this obfuscating ‘domestic violence’ bullshit, OK?
The Daily Beast remarked:
Why is it that some of the most brilliant feminist minds of our time view the murder of Aasiya through such different lenses? Phyllis Chesler makes detailed comparisons that highlight the differences between honor-killing and domestic violence. Phyllis posits: “If we refuse to understand what an honor-killing is and how it differs from Western-style domestic violence, we will not be able to prosecute honor-killers, grant asylum to those in flight from being honor-murdered, nor will we be able to educate people against honor-killing.”
Meanwhile, the progressive feminists, on the grounds of multicultural relativism, are trying to close down the whole discussion before it begins. The subtext here is that prior to September 11, 2001, it was uncontroversial to subscribe to the notion that many Islamic cultures were misogynistic. But while the right has voraciously spoken out against Islam since then, the progressives have worked just as hard to respect cultural and religious diversity, particularly with regard to Islam. As Violet Socks, co-founder of The New Agenda, wrote earlier this week: “For many commenters on the web, it is apparently impossible to condemn this nightmare without hastening to add that American culture has plenty of its own home-grown brand of misogyny, and it’s therefore ‘intolerant’ to notice the particular lethalness of the honor-shame paradigm in some non-Western cultures.”
This is a pointless controversy. What’s clear is that male violence is perpetrated in both Western and non-Western cultures for a similar reason: Male “honor.” Which for many men is wrapped up in notions of ownership and control of women. For many men, the unforgivable “sin” any woman can commit is to assert her independence. A woman can refuse to “obey” her husband. A woman can refuse sex. A woman can have sex with someone else. A woman can leave the man. Any one of the these “sins” has provided the motivation for countless acts of femicide.
But the torture and beheading of Aasiya Hassan has a particularly Muslim flair to it, and we should be able to say so without dissembling. That’s not to say that plenty of American Christian (or non-believing) men don’t commit unspeakable acts of intimate partner violence. They do.
But failure to connect specific Islamic cultural ideas to the specific consequence of ritualized honor-femicide in this awful case, is a failure to confront the unique brand of “honor-shame” based misogyny in patriarchal Muslim culture.
And one more thing: Let’s stop using the phrase “violence against women.” This obfuscates who is committing the violence. The perpetrator in the overwhelming proportion of instances of “violence against women,” is a man.