Phyllis Chesler and I weren’t the only ones talking about “honor killings” in the western world yesterday. So was John Oakley, the host of Toronto’s Number One talk-radio morning show:
John Oakley is seriously entertaining the question of whether Canadian judges should give those who commit “honour” killings a break because they have different “cultural practices” and may not be aware of our norms and laws; defence attorney Lawrence Ben-Eliezer thinks judges should take these differences into consideration because we have “multiculturalism”.
Before we had “multiculturalism”, weren’t we also supposed to have something called “equality before the law”? When I started referring to “the two-tier sisterhood” a few years back, I didn’t realize they’d start planning to formalize it de jure quite so soon.
The Oakley discussion was in reference to the convictions of the killers of Aqsa Parvez, murdered by her father and brother for wishing to live like a North American woman. I wrote about her murder here at the time, and it is instructive to go back and read the strikingly evasive and outright absurd coverage of two-and-a-half years ago in light of this week’s verdict.
These deaths are not the result of sudden outbreaks of violent anger, but the horrific final moments of years of abuse ended often with meticulous planning by the “family” and prolonged suffering by the victim. Yet the American media gave more coverage to Muzzammil Hassan when he launched an unwatched cable talk network in 2004 than when he sawed off his wife’s head five years later.
Yesterday, I was chided by a commentator who thinks Nexis search terms are the bedrock of argument. Okay:
Number of stories in The New York Times referencing Matthew Shepard: 311
Number of stories in The New York Times referencing Aasiya Hassan: Just one
The 311 Matthew Shepard stories include long pieces on the various plays, movies, laws, and other tributes to his memory, and many columnar disquisitions on the significance of his death by A-list Timesmen.
The sole reference to Mrs Hassan is one brief news item – “Upstate Man Charged With Beheading His Estranged Wife” – barely any longer than the news item announcing Mr Hassan’s new cable network, “Start-Up Television Venture Aiming Its Programming At American Muslims”. In the first story, the Times was happy to promote him as an exemplar of “American Muslims”. When he decapitated his wife, he was just another “upstate man”.
Who will speak up for these young women?