No Honor

Kathryn Jean Lopez, National Review Online, July 12, 2006

Samaira Nazir was brutally and needlessly murdered. The 25-year-old in Southall, England, was killed in April of last year by her 30-year-old businessman brother—all in the name of “honor.” He stabbed her, cutting her throat in front of his young children, ages 2 and 4.

Samaira had turned down family arrangements for marriage and ultimately fell for another man, an Afghan her family said was from the wrong—lower—caste. As a prosecutor put it, “It would appear she lost her life for loving the wrong man.”

Her brother, appropriately, has been found guilty of murder, and is facing the prospect of life in prison. And the good news, if it can be called “good,” is that you’re reading about Samaira and her story. Her name lives on and makes headlines. And in her memory, we’ll keep any veil from covering the next time this happens—until, finally, there is no next time for these “honor killings” that are anything but honorable.

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Honor killings, to be honest, are hard to write about—in part because they are so brutal. No one really wants to read that Samaira’s blood splattered on her young nieces as they were made to watch, authorities believe, the perverse execution—including her escape attempts. (Neighbors reported seeing her dragged back into the family home by her hair.) But what makes it even more difficult is the sense that the honor killings we know about may be the tip of a horrific iceberg.

You see, honor killings sometimes (possibly most often) go completely unreported: Murders will be disguised as suicides, and no one outside of a particular family will know what really happened. Some will be killed and never found. In Jordan, just a few weeks ago, three bodies were found in makeshift graves outside Amman—three sisters, killed 12 years ago by their brother (again, on their father’s orders) for “immoral behavior.” The family told anyone who asked that the girls had left the country.

As the free world wages an international war on militant-Islamic terrorism, nations like Britain and Denmark need to confront this far more domestic form of terrorism. And it is Muslims who face a special challenge, as word of these honor killings spreads. As many honor killings involve Muslim families—they need to make it clear that they will not tolerate these atrocities, often committed in the name of Islam.

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Denounce them not just for the sake of those who died; the Samaira Nazirs and Ghazala Khans, who can’t tell their own horrible tales; denounce them also for the “lucky” ones like Noor Jehan, a 14-year-old Pakistani girl who was shot five times by her cousins (by order of her father) because she wouldn’t submit to her arranged marriage. She told reporters, “They thought I was dead but . . . somehow I got courage to come out of that ditch.”

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