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Perhaps The Brits Were Too Tolerant
Mary Ann Sieghart writes in the London Times on July 20, 2006 of an "honor killing" of a girl in England named Samaira Nazir. Nazir's own brother and cousin cut her throat and stabbed the 25-year-old girl repeatedly because she wanted to marry a man of her choice. Her father was reportedly involved in the attack:

The details were particularly horrific. Her mother stood and watched as she was murdered — how could any mother do that? Her two nieces, aged just 2 and 4, were forced to witness their father stabbing her, close enough to be spattered by her blood — how could any parent do that? She screamed for help and neighbours saw her blood-soaked arm emerge briefly from the front door, but their attempts to intervene were rebuffed.

Samaira Nazir

Of course, grotesque acts of violence happen in all countries. The West is not free from sin. But what sets this type of murder apart is that the perpetrators believe that what they are doing is morally justified. In another (dis)honour killing in 2001, Faqir Mohammed stabbed his daughter 20 times in the head and stomach. He told police: “According to the law it was not right, but according to religion it was right.”

Of course, many Muslims will be horrified by that remark; they see honour killings as positively un-Islamic. But it is peculiarly galling for Westerners constantly to be dubbed “immoral” by Muslims, to be treated as if Muslims occupy the moral high ground while the rest of us swim in a sewer of moral decadence. In fact, many Muslims’ attitudes to the women in their families, even if they fall short of violence, are to most of us deeply immoral.

Ever since slavery was abolished, it has been considered morally abhorrent for one human being to own another. It is just as morally abhorrent for a father, husband or brother to behave as if he owns an adult woman. He has no right to determine whom she marries, what she wears on the street or how she chooses to live her life. He certainly has no right to kill her.

Yes, there are flaws in the Western liberal world, too. But it is not as if we are strikingly more tolerant of activities that Muslims consider decadent. Non-Muslim Britons have roughly the same attitudes to licentiousness as do Muslims. Some 54 per cent of Britons find public displays of drunkenness unacceptable, according to our recent poll, along with 57 per cent of Muslims. And only slightly more Muslims (29 per cent) than the general public (21 per cent) say the same about women wearing low-cut tops and short skirts.

Broadly, with only a few exceptions, ours is a law-abiding society in which we tolerate difference and get on with our lives while trying to behave well towards each other. So why, in that case, are Muslims so negative towards us? We hear a lot about Islamophobia, but to judge from a survey conducted by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, British Muslims are far harsher on the rest of us than we are on them — and they are far more critical of us than are Muslims living in Germany, France or Spain.

Pew gave both Muslims and non-Muslims a list of positive and negative characteristics and asked which applied to each other. Between half and two thirds of British Muslims claimed that Westerners were selfish, arrogant, violent, greedy and immoral. Even Pakistanis living in Pakistan were less likely to say this than British Muslims, and German, French and Spanish Muslims had a markedly less jaundiced view of Westerners.

Meanwhile, British non-Muslims were among the least likely of all Westerners in the countries surveyed to attribute those negative characteristics to Muslims. We were also among the most likely to say that Muslims were devout, honest, generous and tolerant.

It is both remarkable and heartwarming that non-Muslim Britons are prepared to be so open and appreciative to a community that has such a censorious view of us. For if anyone deserves to have a grievance, it is surely non-Muslims whose generosity is not being reciprocated. Forget Islamophobia for a moment: why does no one ever complain about Britannophobia?

Posted by aalkon at August 11, 2006 8:41 AM

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I live in London and one thing that always amazes me is that most British articles on this subject completely ignore the endemic racism British Asians have faced for decades. People - from all walks of life - who'd never think of saying the "N-word" still casually use "Paki this" and "Paki that" in polite conversation. And how many council seats did the British National Party pick up in elections in May? Ten? Twenty?

Sure, honor killings do happen - rarely - and there's a tiny number of "radical fundamentalists" out there, but Islamophobia is the new stick with which to beat Asians over the head. Really. Look at British attitudes towards Isreal and the Palestinian issue. You think they're any more far-sighted when it comes to dealing with Muslims?

Posted by: kevin_m at August 11, 2006 5:33 AM

I really can't accept that "paki" is the equivalent of "nigger". "Nigger" is a calculated insult, but "paki" is just a contraction, no more insulting than "brit" for "briton".

On the main thread, though, "honour killings" are revolting. All religion is dangerous nonsense but Islam has got to be the most dangerous of all.

Posted by: Stu "El Inglés" Harris at August 11, 2006 7:23 AM

"Nigger" is a calculated insult, but "paki" is just a contraction"

"Nigger" is a term of endearment in some contexts. And "homo," which is "just a contraction" for "homosexual," is a calculated insult in other contexts (such as a gay-bashing incident). I don't see why "Paki" couldn't be equally hurtful and offensive.

This news item was horrifying. Those poor young women.

Posted by: Lena at August 11, 2006 8:08 AM

It all depends on the context. "Paki" can indeed be a contraction, but it can also be insulting, depending on how it's said, and by whom. Same with "froggie", "yankee", "kraut", "jap",... you name it. Some people just don't get that.

Posted by: LA Frog at August 11, 2006 10:10 AM

Back to the story:
It's a horrific crime, yet not uncommon. There are similar cases in France, the Netherlands and Scandinavia (to name a few) -- where fundamentalism is growing fast amongst poorer, socially and racially ostracized populations in search of meaning and recognition.

It's pretty scary because local governments don't do anything to solve the problem -- through integration or law enforcement. They prefer to ignore it as long as it remains within the limits of dedicated ghettos. But it's just a ticking time-bomb that's not going away; and it's metastazing. It's not enough to arrest a family for crimes such as the one described above, or to track potential terrorists. The problem needs to be addressed at the root.

Beside this lack of much-needed action, I agree that Western democracies are too lenient in the name of individual freedom. As a serial expat, I take the view that immigrants must abide with the local rules of law (which doesn't mean they should relinquish their own culture or identity). The onus is on the immigrants to adapt and integrate -- not the other way round. If they can't accept that, they should return to their home country -- or be sent back.

[ps: let's not forget that there are plenty of moderates, happy to live in the West and to embrace its values -- and that there are plenty of native radicals promoting the extreme right...and left]

Posted by: LA Frog at August 11, 2006 10:11 AM

>ps: let's not forget that there are plenty of >moderates, happy to live in the West and to >embrace its values -- and that there are plenty >of native radicals promoting the extreme >right...and left

Yeah, there's always someone who's quick to make that point. So let's just keep an eye on the news and see whom the next atrocity comes from. Because I've got $20 that says it'll be a Muslim.

Posted by: joe at August 12, 2006 9:37 PM

> here's always someone who's quick to make that point.

And I'll make it again; and again; and again. Fundamentalism of any kind is a self-defeating proposition.

> see whom the next atrocity comes from.

Define "atrocity"... I see plenty of it around--and not just from Muslims.

But I agree: we'll get hit by Muslim fundanuts again, no doubt -- the "rules" of asymmetric war. Who started it? Nobody is totally guilty or totally inoocent in this, and it's about time we take a serious hard look at what breeds so much hatred.

Posted by: LA Frog at August 12, 2006 11:38 PM

My life's been basically bland today. More or less nothing seems worth thinking about. My mind is like an empty room. I've more or less been doing nothing to speak of. Not much on my mind recently.

Posted by: Sten9617 at January 30, 2007 9:12 PM

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