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Honor killings

Posted by Richard on September 9, 2010

I've often defended the superiority of Western Civilization and the values of Reason and the Enlightenment against the prevailing liberal dogma of "multiculturalism" — the misbegotten insistence that all cultures are equally valuable and worthy of respect. Nothing proves my point more forcefully than Robert Fisk's four-part series, "The honour killing files," in The Independent this week. Part one begins thus:

It is a tragedy, a horror, a crime against humanity. The details of the murders – of the women beheaded, burned to death, stoned to death, stabbed, electrocuted, strangled and buried alive for the "honour" of their families – are as barbaric as they are shameful. Many women's groups in the Middle East and South-west Asia suspect the victims are at least four times the United Nations' latest world figure of around 5,000 deaths a year. Most of the victims are young, many are teenagers, slaughtered under a vile tradition that goes back hundreds of years but which now spans half the globe.

Fisk goes on to provide a lengthy catalog of specific examples of honor killings, mostly from the Middle East, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, but some from the West. Read it. Steel yourself and read the entire gut-wrenching, horrific, and disturbing thing. Then, if you can, read the other three parts and related stories (linked in part one). 

Then ask yourself if all cultures are really equally valuable and worthy of respect. 

To understand the belief system in which such barbaric acts are not just defensible, but natural and noble, you have to understand the difference between shame cultures and guilt cultures. An excellent introduction is Dr. Sanity's 2005 essay, "Shame, the Arab Psyche, and Islam." ShrinkWrapped's 2006 post, "Guilt vs. Shame," is also worth reading. 

In his series, Fisk goes to pains to point out that honor killings aren't exclusively a Muslim phenomenon, and that's true. There are other shame cultures besides Islam, and it predates Islam in the Arab culture. Although, as Dr. Sanity pointed out, "it is only in the fairly recent history of Islam (e.g. in the last century) that Islam appears to have fully embraced the subjugation of women under the guise of 'protecting' them and preserving honor." Interestingly, that's about the same time period over which modern Islamofascism (Wahabbism/Salafism) came to the fore.

It's telling, too, that this most barbaric manifestation of shame culture has followed Islam around the globe — wherever Islam went, it brought this vile Arab tradition with it. And those that adopted Islam embraced honor killings as well.

It's also clear that the vast majority of honor killings around the world are by (and of) Muslims. Fisk dug up a Sikh example here and a Coptic one there, but almost every horrific story he relates is about Muslims. 

It's often been said that not all Muslims are terrorists, but almost all terrorists are Muslims. The math of honor killings is similar. Not all Muslims are misogynistic, murderous barbarians, but almost all misogynistic, murderous barbarians are Muslims. 

Make of that what you will. What I make of it is that not all cultures are equally valuable and worthy of respect.

UPDATE (10/9): It's natural for shrinks like Dr. Sanity to focus on the personal, psychological aspects of shame. But I want to emphasize something that's hinted at, but not focused on, by Dr. Sanity and ShrinkWrapped (and that's true of other discussions of shame culture I've looked at).

I think the critical point to understand about the difference between the two kinds of cultures is that a "shame culture" focuses on people's perceptions, while a "guilt culture" focuses on objective reality — what is the truth? Did you do that bad thing, or didn't you? What is reality?

Some discussions of this issue suggest that "guilt cultures" are somehow the consequence of Judeo-Christian values. I don't think that's true (although there is a vague, indirect connection, via St. Augustine, Aquinas, etc., leading to the Enlightenment). A culture's advancement from shame-based to guilt-based is a consequence of its embracing of reason and objective reality, and its abandonment of faith, whim, and perception. 

That's why Western "guilt cultures" produce more scientific advancements, innovations, patents, etc., in a single year than "shame cultures" have produced in more than a millennium.

Reason works. Objective reality exists. Until you recognize these facts, you're a primitive barbarian. And you're of no consequence to the rest of us, except to the extent that you represent a threat. 

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6 Responses to “Honor killings”

  1. Hathor said

    Perhaps I’d buy that argument if slavery had not been an issue during the founding of this country and lynching including women had not been as prevalent as the Nazi concentration camps. These were not some aberrations of a few, but as a result of the human trait to feel superior.

  2. rgcombs said

    You know, when I wrote that post, I thought to myself that if someone challenged me, it would almost certainly be by equating the ”sins of the present” of the “guilt cultures” with the ”sins of the past” of our own culture. Thanks for proving me correct.

    We were all barbarians ”in the past” (by “we” I mean human beings in general, not those of us alive and reading this today). Some of us have advanced, some of us haven’t (see my update to the post).

    As I’ve explained countless times before (and thus you should know), chattel slavery was ”universal throughout human history in all cultures” until the values of Reason and the Enlightenment took root, and it was for the first time in human history ended, first in Britain and later in the U.S.

    It still exists today, but only in a few Islamic states. Saudi Arabia didn’t formally outlaw slavery until the 60s under international pressure, but compelling evidence suggests that that was merely a legal fig leaf, and there are many Asian and African slaves in Saudi Arabia today. The same is true of other Muslim states.

    Several Muslim-Americans have been accused or convicted of keeping slaves in this country (including at least this one).

    So don’t pull this moral equivalence crap on me. The values adopted by the Western World (those that embrace Reason and the Enlightenment) are responsible for the ”’abolition”’ of slavery throughout the world for the first time in human history. Except for those places and peoples that cling to their anti-reason, shame-based, barbaric beliefs.

    BTW, you aren’t really trying to equate the number of lynchings in the US during the early 20th century with the 6 million people murdered in Nazi concentration camps, are you? That would be a contemptible attempt at moral equivalence, indeed.

  3. Hathor said

    No I wasn’t equating lynching to the Holocaust, but evil is evil and the morality of peopl who did such deeds is the same.

    You totally missed the point as it appears that you can not conceive that in the next few minutes of History it may not be the Islamist, It may well be those 21th westerners who “want to take bake their country” that may perpetrate some horrible act of violence. In fact that kind of violence continues every day. Thinking somehow that one is above it all can lead to the kind of arrogance that produces mass murder. Its something about humanity. Western civilization has not ascended and you are not among the angles.

  4. rgcombs said

    Oh, wow. First, you equate the barbaric acts committed ”today” in the guilt cultures with the barbaric acts committed ”in the past” in Western nations. Now, you equate those barbaric acts with the “mass murder” that you ”predict” that people like me ”might” commit in the future.

    Well, thanks for making your position clear: We 21th westerners” are guilty of both the sins of the past and the sins you ”imagine” we’ll commit in the future.

    Meanwhile, the very real and horrific atrocities being committed today — ”every day” — by the savages you defend are apparently of little interest to you. Did you even read any of Robert Fisk’s series?

    Sad. Very sad.

  5. Hathor said

    What is sad that is that you think the acts of terrorism committed on this soil, by non Muslims is somehow ancient history. You were alive when these acts of barbarism where happening and it didn’t seem to effect your thinking then or now.

    It is because it was so called white Christians who committed these acts? They get a free pas because they are product of Western Civilization? They considered them patriots too.

  6. rgcombs said

    Night riders and KKK members ”were” barbarians. They certainly weren’t the “product of Western Civilization” — their values and beliefs completely ”rejected” the values of Western Civilization. And you have to be completely ignorant of what those values are to believe otherwise.

    Furthermore, their barbaric acts shocked the majority of Americans even at the time. Yes, they had the support of pockets of like-minded barbarians in the South for a time. But even that support had faded by 50 years ago or more.

    I’m talking about differences in ”culture.” The thoughts or acts of isolated individuals aren’t relevant to that issue.

    In certain cultures today, the murder of a 14-year-old girl for daring to become pregnant after her father rapes her is generally considered perfectly justified, even noble, behavior. The law, religious leaders, and public opinion all defend and support such atrocities.

    Can you point to any similarly abominable acts that the law, religious leaders, and public opinion all defend and support in this country (or any country generally considered as “Western”)?

    We have progressed and become more civilized. Others have not. Shame on them. And shame on you for refusing to see the difference.

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