The Terror Journal

A Journal on Terrorism and Genocide

Islam and Honor killing of women

IslamIt has been my privilege to know and to work with Dorchen Leithold who is a fearless, tireless, driven, and heroic champion of womens’ rights. I remember Dorchen back in the days when we were both anti-pornography activists. She then became an anti-trafficking activist which she still is. We have participated in many important demonstrations, conferences, and memorial services over the last forty-plus years. Dorchen went on to become a lawyer. She is now the director of legal services for battered women in New York City (Sanctuary for Families) and has, Sojourner Truth style, literally rescued and saved the lives of many a woman.

We now have a genuine disagreement about whether or not Islam plays a role in domestic violence and honor killings, including in the recent horrific beheading of Aasiya Z. Hassan in Buffalo. Dorchen thinks not, I think there is a profound relationship that we deny at our own peril and to the detriment of Muslim girls and women.

With Dorchen’s permission, I am now publishing our recent correspondence. This is how people, including feminists, might consider sounding when they disagree with someone. Instead of cutting each other off, or writing each other off, here is one example of how a civilized disagreement might sound.

Our exchange is rather long. Dorchen said I could publish it as long as I did not change or edit anything she wrote. I have now added some material of my own in order to frame this dialogue and to respond to her last letter. I will run this in two parts. Stay tuned tomorrow for our second and final exchange.

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On February 14, 2009, I published my first piece about the Buffalo beheading. On February 16, 2009, Middle East Quarterly (MEQ) published my study “Are Honor Killings Simply Domestic Violence?” Thereafter, between February 17th and February 27th, I published an additional five articles on the subject. Dorchen is on my mailing list and so she received every article. Late on the evening of February 28th, Dorchen, in a carefully composed letter, responded to me at length. She is a very busy women and the fact that she sat down and did this speaks volumes.

Dorchen has been nothing if not kind and respectful towards me and yet–I could not help but note that she only wrote to me after I had praised New York State NOW President, Marcia Pappas, for her dissident stand on the Buffalo beheading and had challenged National NOW President Kim Gandy’s party line position on the subject. Perhaps Dorchen kept hoping that I would stop writing on this subject or perhaps that I’d change my point of view. When that did not happen, she clearly felt obliged to write. Obviously, I feared that Dorchen had been asked, even urged, to write on behalf of others. I asked her about this. She said she was speaking for herself. Ultimately, it does not matter. What matters is the exchange of these ideas and how we are modeling a civilized way of communicating.

In my MEQ study, I recommend that we work with those mullahs, Islamic organizations, and individuals who are genuinely pro-woman, anti-domestic violence, and anti-honor killings–but that we must differentiate between such Muslims and those who will say the “right” thing on these subjects, (usually after an honor killing has taken place), but who have no intention of doing any of the hard and serious work against violence against Muslim women.

From her first letter, dated February 28, 2009, it is not clear whether Dorchen read my study or is aware that I mention one of her own cases in it. Without quoting her name, I wrote: “A number of feminist lawyers who work with battered women have credited pro-women sheikhs with helping them enormously. Sheikhs (mullahs, imams), should publicly identify, condemn, and shame honor killers. Those who resist doing so should be challenged.”

Source: Pajama Media


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