David Calling

The David Pryce-Jones blog.

Cultural Dishonor


Mitt Romney lately made the very obvious point that Muslims are held back by a culture that keeps them bound in past customs, some of them really harmful, and blocks modernizing. It is election time, so critics tried to make out that he should not have said it. Such critics would do well to reflect on a case of honor killing in Britain.

Farzana and Iftikhar Ahmad came to Britain from a remote village on the northeast frontier of Pakistan. They brought with them a view of the world so limited that it may properly be called inhuman. In this culture men do what they please. Mr. Ahmad married a Danish woman and had a son with her before abandoning them. He saw nothing wrong with being an adulterer, a bigamist, and an absent father. Settling with Mrs. Ahmad in Warrington, Cheshire, he had four daughters. Again, in this culture, women are held to embody the honor of the family and the community, their marriages are arranged, and any sign of independence on their part brings shame. This is wiped out by an “honor killing,” a not very satisfactory euphemism for murder.

One of the daughters, 17-year-old Shafilia, had English friends, wrote poetry, wanted to be a lawyer; in other words, was Westernized. Shafilia asked the police and social workers for protection, but they turned a blind eye. One day in 2003 Mr. and Mrs. Ahmad held her down on a sofa, and Mrs Ahmad, her mother, said, “Just finish it here.” They suffocated her by stuffing plastic bags down her throat. The other daughters watched. It has taken until now to bring the Ahmads to court, a process which of course the Ahmads charged was “racism.” The judge put his finger on the crime with the words, “an expectation that she live in a sealed cultural environment separate from the culture of the country in which she lived was unrealistic, destructive and cruel.” He sentenced both Ahmads to life imprisonment.

I may be wrong, but I can find no outcry against the practice of honor killing. An independent member of the local Police Authority, Salma Afzal, herself another Muslim, flatly gave a figure of 10,000 honor crimes a year, but even more flatly went on, “We don’t know how many women disappear.” The authorities, the human-rights throng, the columnists and do-gooders, apparently have no intention to push for preventive action, but are willing to wait out these killings and with luck then punish the killers. This is a domestic microcosm of the much larger clash of cultures brought upon the whole world by the likes of the Iranian ayatollahs and the Muslim Brothers whose intention is to kill everyone outside their Muslim culture.


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