07 July 2008

Honor Killing in Georgia?

There's still a lot to learn about the family of Chaudhry Rashid, the man accused of strangling his daughter to death after she sought to escape an arranged marriage, but this ABC story has the most information of those I've read. It's not quite up to date: court proceedings have been delayed while someone is found to translate English into Urdu for the defendant. The ABC story is probably the most provocative, since it's the only one I've read that characterizes the alleged crime as an "honor killing." My impression was that honor killings were perpetrated when a female family member had been raped, but that's only an impression.

A lot of people are eager to comment on this story, as you can see if you read the comments posted on the ABC site. Readers' remarks reveal predictable hostility to Islam, immigrants, and religion in general. But the Rashid case is really a non-story for the moment. It'll remain a non-story until somebody actually tries to get Rashid off the hook by arguing that his religion or culture made his action a justifiable homicide. In this country, it's more likely that a lawyer will argue that his religion or culture made him temporarily deranged. It's not even clear whether any Muslims or Pakistani-Americans of Rashid's ethnicity (unknown as yet) would consider Rashid's alleged act justified under any reading of Islamic law or cultural mores. Let's not jump the gun until someone actually sticks his neck out.

A question that does interest me involves the status of the victim's marriage. The news stories say that Rashid's daughter had the marriage arranged in Pakistan. I'm not sure whether that means the marriage was actually performed there, or if the unhappy couple was married in the U.S. In any event, let me throw a bottle in the middle of the ongoing American debate over marriage: should the United States extend recognition to arranged marriages contracted for in countries where at least one of the partners isn't necessarily a free agent? If Rashid's daughter, instead of stupidly and fatally appealing to her father, had gone to an American court and asked that it deny recognition to her marriage on the ground (if true) that she had been coerced into it, would she have gotten relief? There may already be an answer to this question, but I'm just thinking on the keyboard before researching the subject, and I'm interested in learning what the readers think about it.

Addendum: A bit of Googling reveals nothing so far in the way of American precedent, but did turn up a British case from 2002 in which the court annulled an arranged marriage on the ground that the bride had been coerced. It's worth noting here that a Muslim rights group applauded the decision, while others pointed out that, even in Muslim countries, arranged marriages are often annulled for the same reason. Conversely, just last month a French court annulled an arranged marriage on the complaint of the groom, who had discovered that his betrothed was not a virgin. This decision created an entirely different kind of controversy.


Brian, aka Nanoc, aka Norski said...

A regional television news service says that Chaudhry Rashad stated that he killed his daughter, because he was angry and she had disgraced his family.

I agree that many blog postings about this little matter are hostile to Islam. However, I think that this may be a case where the sincerely-held cultural beliefs of a non-western resident may be involved.

I'm not particularly surprised that you haven't found references to the cultural angle of this story. Traditional news media is quite reticent about potentially embarrassing details of alternative cultural perspectives.

Samuel Wilson said...

I don't think the murder story really has a cultural angle unless Rashid's lawyers try to make his culture part of his defense, or unless other Pakistani-Americans are foolish enough to defend his alleged actions on cultural grounds. That said, I think you're right that the news media are reluctant to tag Rashid as a Muslim in their early reportage, but I also think that reluctance is reasonable. Until we learn more about the case, no one has any business implying that Rashid killed his daughter because he was a Muslim, as if that was a sufficient explanation.

Evangelicorp said...

Fact is, he DID kill his daughter because he was Muslim. NOT because that's what Islam teaches him but because, as a Muslim, from a Muslim society, he was worried about compromising his macho Mulsim-ness.