Were the Shafia women victims of Islam?

Is religion to blame for the deaths of the Shafia girls? If society was to get rid of Islam, would there be an end to honour crimes?

In the wake of the guilty verdict in the Shafia trial, there has been no shortage of condemnation. Child support services, teachers, and the police have all come in for criticism. But a chorus of journalists have rushed to cast judgment not only on the murderers, but on the Muslim religion the family professes.

Sweeping blame on Muslims

Take National Post columnist Christie Blatchford, who writes:

If it's a fair generalisation that some Afghans have learned to say whatever they think their listener wants to hear, if it's true that there is what's called ‘permissible lying' in Islam (it's called al-Taqiyya, and means the concealing or disguising of one's beliefs, feelings or opinions to save oneself from injury), none of it quite explains the Shafias.”

She neatly attributes the murderous duplicity of the convicted Shafias to their ethnicity and religion, en route to saying that they seem to have surpassed the typical stereotypes.

Perhaps we should conclude that they are simply more Afghan and more Muslim than most? Blatchford’s swipe at “al-Taqiyya”, as a refuge for liars, is simply fatuous: the concept is about holding on to one’s faith in the face of persecution, by overtly denying it if necessary (rather like Galileo “admitting” the world is flat).

Then there's Ezra Levant in the right-wing Toronto Sun, claiming the Shafia family murders are indicative of a “war on Muslim women”. He blames 90 per cent of honour killing on the bullying “extremist Muslim” male. While Levant qualifies the word “Muslim” with “extremist”, many Canadians may wonder if there is any other kind, given the negative media coverage.

Honour killings” are merely the most extreme form of the drive to control women and ensure they remain the subservient property of men. This drive manifests itself in a range of practices from female genital mutilation and wife-beating, to social customs that ensure women are unable to support themselves economically. Those who benefit from a social order in which they have absolute primacy, will attempt to maintain the status quo through fear and violence. As a result, violence against women, including honour killing, is found in many different communities.

Violence against women around the world

It was only weeks ago that headlines were filled with the sad case of Jaswinder Kaur Sidhu, a Canadian Sikh girl whose family is suspected of having her murdered for marrying a rickshaw driver.

And before we start condemning people with more melanin in their skin as inherently more patriarchal, we should recall that the linking of female sexual behaviour with family honour has a long pedigree in “western” societies as well.

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