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Welcome to my blog. Here I share my successes and failures along my journey to becoming an anthropologist. My most prominent interest anthropologically are the new approaches to handing food security/healthy eating in the US, particularly in urban "food deserts". I enjoy the Anthropology of Tourism as well; combining food and tourism has scholarly promise. My other interests which have converted into anthropological hobbies of sorts include converts to Islam, diaspora of Muslims, and MENA in general. I also have some interest in historical archaeology.

I welcome comments, discussion and even respectful debating. I will however keep discussions to a respectable level. I reserve the right to ban anyone from this forum.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Honor killings

I just read an article for my college class regarding honor killings in the Middle East. I have been aware of these for quite some time. I am familiar with how prevalent they are in Jordan and Pakistan (S. Asia) but how prevalent are they in the Gulf states? I hope someone call help me on this. Here is the exact posting I did for class. It is not supposed to be this long but....I could not help my wicked self. :) Is this an Islamically accepted practice?

It should come as no surprise that I chose article 28, ‘Arab Honor’s Price, A Woman’s Blood’ to comment on for this assignment. I have known about this issue for many years and I continue to be disgusted by actions men take upon women who make personal choices about their body. That said I know there are many cases where women do not make those choices and are made for them through rape. The article itself was written from a male point of view, which is quite different than many articles or writings on this topic that I have encountered. Many write about the facts of a specific honor killing case that happened. Obviously, we rarely hear from the women themselves unless they survive and make it to a free country to tell their story. Regardless, the article was well written and gave me some more insight into the Eastern male mind with regards to this practice.

From the start of taking introductory classes in anthropology, we, as anthropology majors are taught about ethnocentricism and for good reason. To be an anthropologist, it is imperative that we suspend as much judgment about other culture’s practices lest we could have skewed research. However, I will take exception to issues regarding human rights. Does that make me a poor candidate for a future as an anthropologist? I hope not.

Dr. Joseph Martos, a retired professor of Philosophy and Theology (who happens to be my uncle) wrote a discourse titled, ‘May God Bless America: George W. Bush and Biblical Morality’. In this book, among other things clearly distinguishes civil rights from human rights. Many lay people use these terms interchangeably and then meanings are not clear. According to Dr. Martos, “Civil rights are those rights that citizens have, and they are granted by law.”(2004:135) A good example would be The Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s; African-Americans fighting for their civil rights to be treated as equal citizens. In contrast, “human rights, unlike civil rights, are those rights that all human beings have, and they are given (as the Declaration of Independence says) by God. Such rights are unalienable, that is, they cannot be taken away, although they can be violated.” (2004:135) He continues to explain in detail what human rights are. One of those examples is the right to life. (2004:135)


Countries within the Muslim world (Middle East and South Asia) do not give their citizens many civil rights and they continually violate human rights. Although I love the Muslim people and am fascinated by the region, I am also saddened by the justifications men give to violate the rights of their citizens, in particular women. In my view, just like Iraq may not understand or accept the concept of a Democracy because they are a tribal culture, they are very slow (if at all) with regards to letting go of the “tribal mindset” and continue to not reassess old customs that violate human rights by questioning their validity. How we, in the West help those who are suffering is a question that has yet to be answered.


The West hears about the negatives of the Muslim world on a daily basis so it is of no surprise to me that they would have the idea that all families commit such acts like honor killings. However, I read a wonderful book titled ’Standing Alone in Mecca’, by Asra Q. Nomani. Briefly, the book is about a Muslim woman of Indian descent who grew up in the USA and, as a writer for the Washington Post, had to travel to the Muslim region for stories. She had an affair with a Pakistani man and a child became of that union. She discussed the issue with the late Daniel Pearl and his wife while she struggled to make a decision (the man left after hearing about the pregnancy). She called the USA to tell her parents. With 10,000 miles separating them, she felt safe. Her parents, an educated pair, welcomed her back home with open arms. She is raising her son as a single mother, almost unheard of in the Muslim world. She then took her son to Mecca in KSA for Hajj. While it is difficult to compare her parents (educated and exposed to the West) with those in illiterate villages, educated Muslims in England and other Western countries report the “disappearance” of women from the Muslim population.

To close, I will mention that in my own view, this is not a case of educated vs. uneducated. It is much more complex than that. I would love to possibly study this further as my career develops.


References Cited:

Martos, Joseph J. 2004 May God Bless America: George W. Bush and Biblical Morality Tucson: Fenestra Books

2 comments:

Joanne said...

One of the things that makes it much more complex is that 'honour' killings are by no means limited to Muslim communities: they are common in India, and have been committed in the Catholic Mediterannean and Eastern Europe within living memory. Italy only removed a law permitting 'honour' killing in 1980. I believe that the common factor here is not religion, but the familial control of marriage.

Anthrogeek10 said...

Joanne,

Your completely correct. Regardless, the article focused on the Islamic faith, like many do. I find that sad because, like you said, it is not just a problem within Islam.

anthrogeek10