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January 21, 2004

Mother kills raped daughter to restore 'honor'

I could hardly believe this story:

Raped by her brothers and impregnated, Rofayda Qaoud refused to commit suicide, her mother recalls, even after she bought the 17-year-old a razor with which to slit her wrists.

So Amira Abu Hanhan Qaoud says she did what she believes any good Palestinian parent would: restored her family's "honor" through murder.

Armed with a plastic bag, razor and wooden stick, Qaoud entered her sleeping daughter's room last Jan. 27...

..."She killed me before I killed her," says the 43-year-old mother of nine. "I had to protect my children. This is the only way I could protect my family's honor."[Seattle Times, again thanks to Andrew Sullivan, if "thanks" is the word]


Read the full article, if you have a strong stomach.

Frankly I'll take Dead White Male culture anyday. It isn't actually Dead White Male culture anymore, or course, having been pivotally informed by the Women's Suffrage Movement and the likes of Martin Luther King, though its zygote was dominated by white males for many centuries.

No, what goes by that label has become an engine for learning how to improve people's lives. The real engine is not the culture itself, but the representative democracy system that is at its heart. That is something new on the face of the Earth in the last few hundred years, and it is an innovation arguably more powerful and important than all the technology that has emerged in the same period.

Due to our democracy people can speak their minds without fear, and ultimately move the culture ahead, by means of the constitution that directs the engine, toward greater freedom and compassion for all. Yes, of course, there are terrible iniquities in our world. But merely 150 years ago, many of us in the United States were slaves who could be beaten with a whip at the master's whim. Fewer years ago than that, half the population didn't have the right to vote. Now all adults have that right, women are serving in the Senate and as governors of their states, and it will not be too many more years before one is President. (Britain, of course, has already had Margaret Thatcher.)

Things are not perfect by any means. For instance, our President believes that gays should not be entitled to be married, when it is perfectly obvious, religiously-rooted prejudice aside, that they should have that right as fully as straights do. But that will change. It is completely inevitable. Bush's views on that will eventually be swept away by the tide of our process.

Such changes are never easy. For example, in the U.S. (though not in many other countries operating under a representative democracy), a civil war was necessary to free the slaves. But a process existed which encouraged the necessary ideas to emerge and grow until such a world-changing struggle could occur. The Civil War's purpose was not to free the slaves. But if the ideas weren't extant and well-accepted by most people in the North by the time the war occurred, the slaves probably would have remained slaves.

We have quite some distance to go. But the velocity of forward movement, taken in historical terms, is extremely impressive.

That is why I have come to believe that DWM culture is inherently superior to the fundamentalist Islamic one that is pitting itself against us. Many believe that all cultures equally valid, and that one shouldn't judge another. To do so is arrogance, they say.

But I see our culture as an engine for learning how to improve people's lives and the opposition as an engine for repressing any kind of change, including changes that improve people's lives. That's not a matter of taste or style. That's a fundamental moral difference.

The article quoted above ends:

"My mother did this because she does not want us to be punished by people," Fatima explains with a shy smile. "I love my mother much more now than before."

January 21, 2004 in Current Affairs | Permalink

Comments

Hi,
I have come across your site while folowing links from the spamassasin site to read about the great minds behind such a nice product. But, I needed to clarify something about my religion, mainly your take on the article related to the honor killing.
Speaking from a muslim prespective, I agree with the statement:"That is why I have come to believe that DWM culture is inherently superior to the fundamentalist Islamic one that is pitting itself against us.".The reason why is that fundamentalist is an adjective that you used to describe that culture/religion you are conflicting with. The main stream Islamic culture is also in confilict with this culture you are describing.
If you study a little about the Islamic civilization, you will find that we are not the barbarians that rape and kill, in contrast our civilization is much more advanced ethically and morally than what certain clutures within the religion manifest.
So, when you speak about certain incidents, try to put them in prespective. If honor killing is performed in Pakstine, Palstine or any country that has a majority of the population practising Islam, that is still not a reason to blanket the Religion with assumptions and generalizations...We are more than 2 billion people with different languages, cultures, traditions, some of these countries have up to 60 % illiteracy. So it's fair to attribute such practises and extreme human behavior to ignorance and other factors rather than blame it on Islam. After september 11, it became real easy to traget Islam amd muslims everywhere and try to bash as much as one can the sacred religion. I have noticed that when a jewish, or christian person commits something bad we only attribute the bad actions to them as persons, However, if that person holds a muslim name, then we have to qualify his name with his religion. So , if it is john, then we say(the media):" John did this bad thing..end of story, but if it's a Mohammed, then we explain:" Mohammed the muslim did this bad thing........and at the end of the story we remind people that hey this is the muslim guy that did it...". Totally unfair...But God says in the Koran:" They want to extinguish the "Nour" light of Allah with their mouth "by blowing air", and Allah is continuing his "Nour" light
in spite of the unbeleivers.
Regards,
PS: I still admire your work with spamassasin.

Posted by: Aziz at May 6, 2005 8:47:48 PM

Thanks for commenting on my post.

I think you have a point here because I grouped the culture that led to that honor killing together with the culture that is at war with us, and they are undoubtedly different things.

The culture that is at war with us is that of "Islamism" as defined in the essay linked to here and in many other places as well.

The culture that led to the honor killing is probably more akin to the Christian fundamentalist culture that led to Jonestown (another example where parents killed their innocent children) than it is to Islamism. Another, particularly strange example, if one could consider rabid belief in Hitler and Nazism to be another kind of fundamentalism, might be Dr. and Mrs. Goebel's killing of their own children in Hitler's bunker at the end of WWII.

I think the reason I linked the honor killing with fundamentalist Islam rather than with fundamentalism in general is that right now, today, in our era, it seems that fundamentalist Islam is particularly virulent in causing people to kill and die for their fundamentalist beliefs. But certainly Christian fundamentalism has been just as guilty in other times, particularly if you consider the Crusades.

But I think that was shortsighted of me.

Gary

Posted by: Gary Robinson at May 7, 2005 7:23:43 AM

But I see our culture as an engine for learning how to improve people's lives and the opposition as an engine for repressing any kind of change...

But this is also true of Christian fundamentalism, which is most definitely part of Dead White Male culture. The way I see it, all cultures lie somewhere on a continuum between completely fixed and completely mutable at any point in history. The ideal, superior society would be one that stays fixed when things are going well, doesn't make drastic changes during temporary downturns, but can make them when necessary. Its clear then, that the Muslim world is slower to change, the US is faster, and perhaps Europe is even more rapid, but plenty of people argue that Europe was too quick to embrace secular humanism and is now in decline, and that the US will eventually go down the same path. I don't really believe that, but I do think that the measure of a culture is how well it can achieve that balance relative to the current situation.

But part of that situation is the history of the culture's life-cycle, which is filled with randomness. A few seasons of drought, a potato famine, a chance invasion at a bad time or a few years delay in developing certain technologies could mean the end of your culture. How will our now superior culture fare against peak oil, global warming or a bit of a nuclear holocaust? The difference between playing CivIII and real life is that we really don't know the limits to how drastically our situation can change. Our situation changes, the rate of change of our situation changes, and the extent and limits of change are also constantly changing, so it seems premature to declare victory.

Even if we can claim that our culture is superior, it is only superior in the context of the conditions that it came out of. Its a lot like the evolution of plant life. A particular species may be the most successful, having evolved to capitalize on the conditions of its environment, but perhaps not as much when transplanted to foriegn climates. If DWM culture is superior, why has it failed at penetrating the Muslim world in the last 1500 years or so of such close physical proximity? If you say that Islam has heavy counter-measures, doesn't that mean that Islam is the superior culture? There are many mosques in the west, but very few similar outposts of the West in the Middle East.

Posted by: Mike at Jun 6, 2005 8:11:29 PM

"But this is also true of Christian fundamentalism, which is most definitely part of Dead White Male culture."

When I think of DWM culture, I don't include Christian fundamentalism any more than I'd include Islamic fundamentalism. When I talk of DWM culture, I mean the secular, democratic aspects. Yes, there are a lot of dead while male Christians. But that's just not what I mean. Maybe there could be a better term for what I mean.

"If DWM culture is superior, why has it failed at penetrating the Muslim world in the last 1500 years or so of such close physical proximity? If you say that Islam has heavy counter-measures, doesn't that mean that Islam is the superior culture?"

By superior, I don't mean "able to quickly overpower competitive cultures." A lot of cultures are hermetically sealed in the sense of promoting dogmatic, unthinking belief in some particular meme complex. To the degree that people are convinced to actually have such a dogmatic, unthinking belief, they simply won't entertain other ideas. So in the sense of being impermeable, such a culture may easily be "superior" to DWM culture, which encourages people to think for themselves, and therefore leaves them susceptible to being swayed by seductive (though very possibly extremely unhealthy) alternatives.

When I use the term "superior" in regard to DWM culture, I mean in the sense that it is the most effective engine the world has for learning how to improve people's lives.

Posted by: Gary Robinson at Jun 6, 2005 9:09:56 PM

Here's an article describing something which appears to be very similar to the act noted in my original blog piece, but this time, it's the legal system doing it: Iran to hang teenage girl attacked by rapists.

Horrible. If the story is true, two girls were attacked by three men and one defended her self with a knife and one of the men died. In the U.S., if the facts were agreed upon, this would clearly be self-defense. In Iran, the girl is to be hanged.

The article also mentions an earlier case: "In August 2004, Iran’s Islamic penal system sentenced a 16-year-old girl, Atefeh Rajabi, to death after a sham trial, in which she was accused of committing 'acts incompatible with chastity'."

I think this kind of thing weakens the point made in Aziz's comment (above). If the legal system is doing it, how strongly can the case really be made that "The main stream Islamic culture is also in confilict with this culture you are describing"?

Posted by: Gary Robinson at Jan 11, 2006 11:13:40 AM

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