"Barring polygamy, you will break up with every person you date minus one." - Yellow
Question #21802 posted on 01/02/2006 3:01 a.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

I was reading an article on FoxNews.com (http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,179701,00.html) and I had some thoughts from it.

Why are men in those countries so disrespectful to women? How could "honor" be so much more important than the life of your own child?

The most disturbing of this was the last paragraph of the article: "Hundreds of women are killed in Pakistan every year, many by male relatives, after they are accused of staining their families' honor by having affairs or marrying for love without family consent."

What are you thoughts on all of this?

- First Tenor

A: Dear First Tenor,

While Fox News touts its ability to be "fair and balanced," they seem to purposely leave out "nuanced and well-researched with adequate analysis." Funny... that seems to counteract both "fair" and "balanced."

The issue of "Honor Killings" is a very tough cultural problem arising in cultures with strong Hindu and Muslim backgrounds. In many countries where Islam is mixed with low human development, honor killings are a huge issue. They are prevalent because of low development and education; they are hard to deal with because of religious and social ideas that perpetrators use to justify their acts.

The principle of Honor Killings arises from a traditional attempt to honor the women of Muslim society. According to tradition, women carry with them the honor of the family, and were generally honored and protected members of the family. In most Muslim households, the women are still very much in charge of the operations of the house. They are powerful players in the family government. They are just not in the spotlight.

Over years of cultural and economic stagnation, many people in the Muslim world have misinterpreted the Qur'an and traditional writings of Islam concerning women. Wheras many Muslims (I would even say most Muslims) continue to Honor women as the pivotal point of the family, there are some who have used this position to isolate and abuse women.

The line of thinking seems to be this:
1) Women and their purity carry the honor of the family (which is VERY important in most eastern cultures, we must remember that).
2) Therefore, men can do whatever they want... sex, drugs, rock and roll. Consequences don't apply to men becuase they control the consequences.
3) But, if a woman commits adultery or does something else to violate her purity and/or the family's honor, it is a huge problem.
Some men think it is easier to kill the woman than have her actions shame the entire family.

It is a classic example of deleting the problem taken to the extreme. It is the same principle that leads a woman who had consensual sex to elect to have an abortion... she wants to delete the problem rather than face the consequences. Yes, they are different situations, but the principle remains the same. The sin comes in the inability to deal with inevitable consequences of free choices.

To answer your question, many cultures do hold the honor of the family above the lives of any individual member of that family. Such sense of honor is common in Eastern and Asian cultures. Such is what caused Japanese businessmen to jump off buildings when their companies posted a loss.

As we continue here, let us also take a look at Pakistan itself. How developed is Pakistan? Let's use some statistics (most of these come from the CIA World Factbook, which is the great repository for all factual knowledge about the world... very useful). Here are some excerpts:

Degree of Disease risk: high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A and E, and typhoid fever
vectorborne diseases: dengue fever, malaria, and cutaneous leishmaniasis are high risks depending on location
animal contact disease: rabies (2004)

Nationalities:
Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashtun (Pathan), Baloch, Muhajir (immigrants from India at the time of partition and their descendants)

Languages:
Punjabi 48%, Sindhi 12%, Siraiki (a Punjabi variant) 10%, Pashtu 8%, Urdu (official) 8%, Balochi 3%, Hindko 2%, Brahui 1%, English (official and lingua franca of Pakistani elite and most government ministries), Burushaski, and other 8%

Literacy Rate:
total population: 48.7%
male: 61.7%
female: 35.2% (2004 est.)

Per Capita GDP: $2,200 (PPP)

The UN Human Development Report puts Pakistan at number 144 out of 175 countries, in the LOW range for Human Development (defined by life expectancy, educational attainment and adjusted real income).


From those statistics you will notice that Pakistan is a developing nation. Health conditions are very poor, education is also very low, the country is filled with a diverse and multi-lingual population who do not tend to agree on most issues (only 8% of the population speak the official language of Urdu). The average person only makes 2,200 dollars in a YEAR. Despite what our good friend Pervez Musharraf (the current leader of Pakistan, please read "friend" with an aire of sarcasm) says... Pakistan has some huge social issues to deal with. Honor killings is a symptom of a greater disease.

What is the point of this? We cannot always impose our moral high ground on people who know nothing else. Anywhere in the world where the population is uneducated, people are susceptible to weird superstitions and beliefs (anyone who has served a mission among poor foreign populations should know this all too well). Yes, honor killings are wrong. But, there are some underlying issues that need to be addressed in country before we can start attacking them on higher moral issues.

While I'm glad news organizations bring such issues to light, they do it with such a critical and high-brow self-righteousness.

Personally, I am more disturbed by the one or two Honor Killings that happen in Jordan (which I consider to be a much more progressive country than Pakistan) each year. I'm even MORE concerned by the idiot men in this country who beat their wives into submission or death. There is no underlying honor in spousal abuse... there is some underlying honor in a Muslim's attempt to preserve his family honor.

So, we must be careful when trying to impose our own moral standards on other peoples without understanding underlying causes. In the world of 24 hour news cycles, the four major news organizations are just desperate for a quick sound-byte. Few organizations try to understand a problem before reporting on it. Why bother? (At least, that seems to be what they think).

Now that I've rambled on this subject for so long, how do we deal with this? The Gospel of Jesus Christ invites us to teach people the value of their lives. Such enlightened people then work to change their surroundings. Men and Women are able to grow out of their uneducated state and learn to function in a stable society. So, from a religious perspective, it would be wonderful to teach then the Gospel.

However, in the meantime, we are able to do charitable things to help people and improve education through secular channels. Governments have the ability to legislate conditions. NGOs can also go in and make a one-at-a-time difference in peoples lives.

What can YOU do about it? I've said it before and I'll say it again: through the Church Humanitarian Services. The church has made it INSANELY EASY to help people around the world. Through Fast Offerings and donations to the Humanitarian Relief funds YOU can help improve someone's life. As people gain an education and some level of economic dignity, they will be more likely to cast off their corrupt traditions and become a great people. So, go out right now and give some of your money to a greater cause. While you're at it, think about giving some of your time and talents as well. You can do so right now by clicking here.

Thank you for bringing that forward. I hope some of these ideas have given you a broader perspective on the issue and will make you a more proactive and analytical consumer of the news.

That is all.

Horatio.