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Belen Fernandez
Belen Fernandez
Belen Fernandez is the author of The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work, published by Verso. She is a contributing editor at Jacobin Magazine.

Honour crimes and Islamophobia

By adopting honour killings as a pet topic, Zionists and other right-wing forces seek to "delegitimise Muslim society".
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 11:51
Robert Spencer's purported attempt to contribute to "the global struggle against religious intolerance and totalitarianism" is an example of hypocrisy in the extreme [EPA]

On December 11, the University of Rochester in western New York state will host an event "[t]o shed sorely needed daylight on the complex issue of honour crimes in our community". 

Organised by an assistant professor from the Rochester Medical School's Psychiatry Department, the event will consist of various discussions with "community leaders, academics, members of law enforcement agencies, legal professionals and health providers" and will feature an Arab Israeli keynote speaker from "an organisation that works to end honour killings in Israel". 

The "complex issue" requiring psychiatric attention appears even more complicated when we consider that honour crimes don't seem to constitute an overwhelming problem in the community. Though it could be argued that this is simply because sorely needed daylight has yet to be shed on them, it is worthwhile highlighting the ease with which daylight can be manufactured. 

For example, when teenager Faheem Abdul Jaleel apparently stabbed his female cousin in a Rochester suburb in June 2011, the anti-Islamic vanguard headed by the preposterously influential commentator Pamela Geller wasted no time in decrying an "attempted honour killing", based entirely on the ethnic connotations of the perpetrator's name. 

Also in 2011, NPR reported that the Muslim community in Buffalo, New York, had been "fighting the stereotype" of honour killings since a spontaneous misdiagnosis in the press regarding the 2009 murder of a Muslim woman by her husband. 

As is meanwhile quite clear from domestic violence and homicide statistics among the 99 per cent of the US population that is not Muslim, such crimes generally take place independent of Islam. 

Israel's non-criminal killing of Arabs 

By adopting honour killings as a pet topic, Zionists and other right-wing forces seek to delegitimise and even criminalise Arab and Muslim society in general. 

Consider an August 2012 essay in the neo-conservative FrontPage Magazine asserting an "Arab cultural and Islamic propensity of violence toward women". 

The author characterises the fatal stabbing of a 27-year-old Palestinian woman by her husband as a "death sentence which tragically has been shared by a long and ever-expanding list of Palestinian women and girls". He does not care to explain why it is not also tragic that an even longer expanding list of Palestinian women, girls and all other varieties of human beings happen to share the fate of obliteration by Israeli munitions. Nor does he delve into what this might indicate about Israeli cultural propensities or those of Israel's preferred ally and automated teller machine

Without downplaying the obvious tragedy of honour crimes, we must ask why it is that we are supposed to be horrified by the idea that "in the past two years, 25 [Palestinian] women have been subjected to honour killings" but not by the fact that 1,400 Palestinians were wiped out in three weeks during Operation Cast Lead. 

 UK parents found guilty of honour killings

FrontPage claims that, although "honour killings have long been a staple byproduct of Palestinian society", the world's foremost anti-Israel institution - that is, the UN, which nonetheless somehow manages never to enforce resolutions against the Jewish state - has deceitfully implicated non-Palestinians in said byproduct: 

"Not surprisingly, for some, this pervasive [Palestinian] violence has been laid at the feet of the usual suspects, namely the Israelis. This scapegoating was summarily expressed in a 2011 report by the United Nations Economic and Social Council which blamed harsh economic and social conditions created by the Israeli 'siege', an occupation which has led to high levels of poverty, unemployment and, thus, 'violence, within families'." 

The article's allegation that "in Muslim countries throughout the Mideast, South Asia and Africa... men more often than not treat women little better than livestock" is meanwhile followed by the suggestion that "[c]hanging that dismal equation will take more than just a cultural revolution". This seems to prescribe further state violence as a means of ending individual violence, which is itself often inextricably linked to state violence in the first place

Islamic imperialism and mind control 

Conveniently located to one side of the article on the FrontPage website is an advertisement for another stellar example of scapegoating: A pamphlet entitled, "Islamophobia: Thought Crime of the Totalitarian Future". 

Penned by FrontPage founder David Horowitz and co-conspirator Robert Spencer, the pamphlet promises - for a mere three-dollar donation - to explain how Islamophobia is an invention of the Muslim Brotherhood and to expose the UN's role in the Brotherhood's project to "destroy the American civilisation from within" by criminalising criticism of Islam.

Lest doubts remain that Islamophobia is anything but a disease afflicting the authors themselves, the summary of the essay posits a pattern of "Islamic imperialism" in the West. Apparently, the Islamic empire is being erected on the foundations of valid complaints of Western anti-Muslim discrimination rather than, say, ubiquitous military bases and the exploitation of humans and resources that characterises other better-known forms of imperialism. 

The summary also denotes as a "notable opponent of Islamic terror" the late Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci, whose anti-terror efforts included vows to explode a mosque slated for construction in Tuscany and hysterics over the reckless American policy of permitting persons by the name of Mustafa and Muhammad to study chemistry and biology at university despite the threat of Muslim-waged germ warfare. 

Clearly, Horowitz and Spencer's purported attempt to contribute to "the global struggle against religious intolerance and totalitarianism" is an example of hypocrisy in the extreme. However, endeavours such as Rochester University's symposium on honour killings can prove similarly problematic, providing as they do a venue for the incubation of racist and paranoid delusions and the targeting of a single religious group that has already been disproportionately subjected to civil rights violations by the New York Police Department

The participation of law enforcement officials in the Rochester gathering would seem to underscore the probability that the "shed[ding] of sorely needed daylight on the complex issue of honour crimes in our community" will merely function as an exercise in further communal division. 

Belen Fernandez is the author of The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work, released by Verso in 2011. She is a member of the Jacobin Magazine editorial board, and her articles have appeared in the London Review of Books blog, Al Akhbar English and many other publications.

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The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

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