Honor Killings in the United States

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Abstract
“Honor Killings” are thought to be a justified way of cleansing an individual or family’s honor, by many Arab Muslims and radical followers of Islam through the murder of women. In Arab culture, where honor is prized and female sexual purity exalted, a family can be cast out if a female member brings shame upon them. “Honor Killings, were once thought to only happen in Middle Eastern countries such as Yemen, Pakistan and Iraq, however there is an increased number of “honor killings” being reported right here in the United States. As individuals immigrate from various cultures and religious backgrounds, traditions and ways of thinking are often brought into the United States. Muslim women are expected to act in a certain manner, and are male family members decide which manner that may be and inflict punishment on those who reject or defy these manners. These radical Islamist believe they are justified in their actions because they are following their interpretation of the Quran- the holy book of Islam. With anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiments already at an all-time high in the United States, “honor killings” may often fuel this racism.

According to the AHA Foundation, a non-profit group dedicated to the eradication of religious or culturally sanctioned violence against women, “Honor violence is a form of violence against women committed with the motive of protecting or regaining the honor of the perpetrator, family, or community. Victims of honor violence are targeted because their actual or perceived behavior is deemed to be shameful or to violate cultural or religious norms. (AHA Foundation)” The exact origins of honor killings are not known, though most of these crimes occur in the Middle East, South Asia, and North Africa. Currently, there is an increasing number of “honor killings” being reported here in the United States. Why are these “honor killings” now being committed here in the United States? Is this a racially or culturally motivated action, if so who is committing such acts? What justification are these perpetrators using to defend their actions?

Although many Americans may think that this phenomenon of honor killings exist only overseas, social service agencies, educators and a growing number of law enforcement personnel know differently. Statistically speaking we have very poor data on honor violence and killings. This difficult phenomenon is difficult to accurately record because many crimes do not get reported and/or are happening in remote areas and are being classified as other crimes. In 2000, the United Nations estimated that approximately 5,000 women worldwide were victims of “honor killings” each year, though experts believe that number is low. (Labi, 2011) Data is especially limited in the United States. No national or state agency attempts to collect data of any kind of honor violence to include murders. If such acts are being committed, why it is not being reported and data being collected one might ask. The answer is very simple. Fear. The very notion that violence and murder are taken the place in the name of “honor” here in the United States is controversial. Many people believe that focusing on such problems will spark and increased anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiment. Evan Misshula, a graduate student at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York stated he “understood a prosecutor’s discomfort at creating a category of crime that seemed to target a certain culture or religion…doing such research could be considered biased.” While it’s important to point out that classifying these crimes may indeed be complicated for law enforcement, victims and their families rarely come forward to even report such acts of violence. “Honor killings” are a culturally entrenched way of thinking. In many radical Islamic cultures women are viewed as a man’s possession, and women do not own their bodies. Women’s sexuality is a commodity and it’s a high value owned by their family,...
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