“Muslim Honor Killing” of Noor Almaleki & Media Narratives

Noor Almaleki

Noor Almaleki, Iraqi-American, murdered by her father. Why?

This short post does not directly involve China. I’m posting it because one of my reasons for blogging on china/divide is to encourage people who care about “understanding” or “figuring out” China and modern Chinese society to challenge themselves constantly on how they consume information, process it, and derive their conclusions. This is something I personally aspire to, and fail as often as I succeed. Thus, this post directly relates to China.

I want to recommend The Last Psychiatrist‘s latest post titled: “Nobody will understand what went on in this house to drive my dad to this level of insanity”.

I hope you’ll read it in its entirety, several times even.

There’s not much I’m going to say here. There is so much that could and should be discussed after reading that post, but I just don’t know where to start. I wanted to excerpt samples of his post but just about every paragraph offers something that should question predispositions on how we think about controversial issues. His post will discuss Americans, honor killings, Iraq, Islam, and Muslims but his post isn’t about those things. Instead, it centers around:

First Law of Media: offer the reader the opportunity to debate the conclusions, but force him to accept the form of the argument.

Guess I excerpted after all.

We do a lot of debating of conclusions. Hell, I do a lot of debating of conclusions (though also about media narratives). Therefore, it is poignant to be taken one step back and made to question myself on the “form of the argument”. You may have to read the post to understand what that means, and then it should become painfully obvious how related, relevant, and applicable The Last Psychiatrist‘s observations and points in his post are to how we often interpret and approach issues of China, of Chinese people, of Chinese culture, Chinese norms, Chinese behaviors, and Chinese problems, and how we often judge something as “Chinese” or not.

Whether this is new to you or only a reminder of something you learned long ago, I hope you find it as insightful and perspective-changing as I did.


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  1. Syz

    At least for me, don’t apologize for bringing up The Last Psychiatrist. I started reading his stuff because of a mention you gave a while back and ended up blowing three evenings on perusing the archives. His perspectives on framing I agree are invaluable for approaching China issues and almost everything else. Some complain about his overuse of the Narcissism analysis, but it’s actually dead on. If anything the only fault is that sometimes he doesn’t take it quite far enough!

    Anyway, thanks for the connection.

  2. zepplin

    Two in a row mentioning O.J. Simpson Kai Pan! Coincidence?

  3. I object to the use of ‘honour’ and wish the media would refer to these cases as they would with any non-Muslim people ie Father Murders Daughter.
    People in media understand the implications of reporting suicides and the copy-cat results; I suspect that reporting these as even vaguely ‘honourable’ leads to the death of more young women at the hands of their disturbed fathers.

  4. Christine

    Media is trained to excel at maneuvering cultural distinctiveness for fanning the flame of nationalist hatred or boasting the self-congratulatory image of “western civilization”. The argument begins with a constructed pre-existing ‘non-western culture’ where women are victimized by a static past of some unchanging customs and traditions, immune to its own history or modernizing influence. In the end the matter turns into a picture of Western, pro-liberation, pro-women’s right, pro-human right discourse versus anything that is not. The core readers of Marie Claire, presumably Anglophone Westerners (mostly Americans) love the cultural contrast and the son of the family can further magnify the effect by pushing the “you’re not muslim, you don’t understand” button.
    Everyone wins because their egos are fulfilled, except the primary victim in the case.

    Yes, the Last Psychiatrist is right that we should change the form of the argument if we are thinking in the best interest of the victim. But I think in a bizarre way most Americans (allow my overgeneralization for a minute) are more ready to accept the “third-world-culture-kills-their-people” argument than the “perception of self-worthiness” thesis because it reeks of domestic relevance. It’s easier for people to accept that certain people do something because of an exotic, incomprehensible tradition than a familiar understandable human need. It appears that the solution is not to “speak their language” but to speak a common language of humanity.

    • Christine, I got lost at the end of your comment. Can you elaborate a bit more on what you mean by Americans more readily accepting “the ‘third-world-culture-kills-their-people’ argu­ment than the ‘per­cep­tion of self-worthiness’ the­sis because it reeks of domes­tic rel­e­vance”? What do you mean by “domestic relevance”? Likewise, the connection to “understandable human need” and “common language of humanity”?

      I can see TLP saying we prefer narratives of other people doing certain things because of exotic, incomprehensible tradition (cultural differences) rather than some human flaw like the need to protect one’s identity and ego before others (narcissism). Is that what you’re saying but with different shorthand terms? I’d say part of the reason TLP is so hung up on arguing that is precisely because he thinks narcissism is something people don’t understand or don’t consider familiar because they’re unconscious and oblivious of it in themselves.

      I think where TLP’s argument to “speak their language” is because of the difficulty of defining what the “common language of humanity” is. In his post, he covers some of it, like appealing against murder. That should be common, right? So the question is, what drives someone beyond adhering to that? TLP’s answer is narcissism. And so, the answer to “speak their language” is to use that narcissism to specifically prevent one thing (murder of daughter) by showing how that one thing won’t really change anything (that he cares about, not what you care about) in the long run (the fact that his relatives and friends back home will still look down upon him).

      As I understood it, this aspect of TLP’s post just boils down to putting yourself in another person’s shoes and using your subsequent understanding of their perspective and values to influence them into doing what you want. This INSTEAD OF expecting others to do what you want according to some assumption that they should have the same perspective and values as you.

  5. Dan

    There is a major flaw in the guy’s entire argument and that is his assumption that there was only ONE cause for the murder. The culture sets the stage by condoning honor killings and then the nutball goes off and does it. It’s like the Fort Hood killings and even 9/11. A culture makes it okay or not so bad and then the nuttier and the more evil among that culture carry it out. This guy is being simplistic. I did not even bother reading the Marie Claire article, but I’m guessing it was rather simplistic as well. There was no one reason for the killing; it was a toxic mix.

    I find it ironic, however, that this guy engages in the same sort of analysis of which he accuses Marie Claire; deciding on a cause and then fitting the facts to the cause.

    One article by one severely biased writer with an obvious agenda to plug does not analysis make.

    You wasted my time with this article.

    • Simon_Ningbo

      Agree Dan, but “Muslim Honour killings”, where honour is defined as absence of shame, as the author correctly mentions, is so labelled because the perpetrator himself, as well as circumstances leading to the murder, can be clearly identified as such. In Turkey they are mostly premeditated and agreed upon by village elders. And in this case, assuming the background information is correct, it can be clearly and correctly identified as “honour killing” with the passive collaboration or consent of the family as is often the case, with family members condoning the act and protecting the perpetrator. The author himself however fails to make a strong argument, and doesn’t seem very well versed or informed about the culture he argues. He tries to make the point that if American media and observers would point to the shame and dishonour of the killers brought upon themselves by such acts it would somehow dissappear. Silly to the n-th degree.

      @Christine: I think you’re really far off with this comment:
      “But I think in a bizarre way most Amer­i­cans (allow my over­gen­er­al­iza­tion for a minute) are more ready to accept the “third-world-culture-kills-their-people” argu­ment than the “per­cep­tion of self-worthiness” the­sis because it reeks of domes­tic rel­e­vance.”

      Pretty absurd considering these killings of daughters (or sons in case of homosexuality) by their fathers isn’t just done in the United States, but also in South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia by.. you guessed it, Muslims. No whitewashing of alleged White supremacy theorists can change that fact.

      I think it’s about time we accept that culture and religion has a deep and lasting impact on the behaviour of people, and that relativising that does not only lead to inprecise reporting but can be a hindrance to proper analysis. It is also in this light that various ethnicities have to be seen and their success or failure. It isn’t their skin colour or the shape of their eyes that determines it, but the culture that they were raised in.

    • To the extent that TLP highlight his “its narcissism” argument, sure, he may be offering “ONE cause for the murder”. However, I don’t really think that was his main point. His main point was to make us question what we actually understand about honor killings and how it relates to these instances highlighted and narrated by American media. The point is that we often willfully make simplistic assumptions, conclusions, and associations about the things we don’t agree with or understand. It’s like the whole “face” and “Chinese” association.

      TLP is biased in many ways, mostly towards his own grand thesis of modern society’s narcissism, but what do you think he is severely biased towards in this case? What’s his “obvious agenda to plug”?

  6. Christine

    No, the subject matter here is neither “cultural relativism” nor “culture matters”. The issue at hand is the problematic representation of a particular “third-world practice” in a Western circulated text affecting women in contexts and explanatory accounts that are both misleading and arbitrary. The point I believe the Last Psychiatrist wants to highlight in his critique is that certain framings of a problem prevent critical understanding of the cause of event. You fall into the trap of debating with me whether it is “death by culture” or “a vindication of muslim practice” before discussing the validity of a pre-determined argument in the story.

    The Marie Claire article puts the conclusion in the title so let’s begin with the central question: What is muslim honor killing? There is only one paragraph in the entire article that explains what “honor killing” constitutes: “the murder of a woman for behaving in a way that “shames” her family. It’s a practice with deep, tenacious roots in the tribal traditions of the Middle East and Asia.” Then this ahistorical, non-specific definition is followed by figures of recent violence towards muslim women in America in various vivid forms. Not only is the keyword “honor killing” to a large extent unexplained after this “explanation” (what is shame? what constitutes honor? What kind of “absence” is required for what kind of “honor” to substantiate “honor killing”? Under what conditions is killing condoned because of honor?), it is easy for the reader to connect this fairly mysterious, ambiguous practice that seemed to happen to non-Western women with supposedly homogenous regions that share such “culture”.
    Look at the definition, any girl or woman born in, raised in or currently living in anywhere in Middle East (which in the article includes at least Iraq, Egypt, Pakistan) and Asia (India, China, Vietnam, Japan, Korea, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand..and depends how to twist the globe, Australia and Russia) who happened to be killed in reasons vaguely associated with “honor” in some squeamish ways can be identified as victims of honor killing. I don’t see how this formulation clarifies anything at all with regard to honor killing except constructing a poorly descriptive ground for invoking a misconceived and misrepresented concept to explain fatal forms of violence against non-Western women in third-world contexts.

    You befuddled me in your assertion that “the perpetrator himself, as well as circumstances leading to the murder, can be clearly identified as such.” Clearly identified as what? How is killing of women because of disapproval of foreign partners distinctively identifiable as disagreement over clothing or drug consumption? What aspects of culture in which tribal tradition stipulate that the killing of women in a variety of reasons be counted altogether as “honor killing”? It seems to me so much critical information on honor killing is omitted while so much irrelevant circumstantial information on how Americanized lifestyle is prohibited by her “cultural root” because the purpose is not to inform the average Marie Claire reader of what honor killing actually is but to convince the reader that “Muslim culture” is beset with “cultural habit” of irrationally killing women.

    Please at least acquaint yourself with the basic issue at hand, i.e, read the Last Psychiatrist and the Marie Claire articles, before raising your rebuttals. Didn’t you read part IV of the Last Psychiatrist piece:

    The problem with the “Muslim honor killing because she turned her back on traditional values and wanted to be more American” logic is that she was already an American, Americanized, eyeballs deep in Americana well before he killed her.  Nothing in the article suggests that her life was ruled by a strict Muslim code.  The father recently became an American citizen; the kids went to regular schools, texted, MySpaced, listened to Oasis (why?), worked at Chipotle. 
    She is Americanized, so as the entire family. And yet you are relentless arguing that she is murdered under Muslim code and that “no whitewashing of alleged white supremacy theorists can change that fact.” A fact of what? The fact that she is killed by a non-praxis culture or religion? Or the fact that the media is manipulating the ways in which issues emerge in nation-, time-, region-specific contexts that shape our ability to understand the circuit of connections across these contexts? The point here is not whether muslim culture kills their women, or whether people are immune to their cultural shaping, rather the specific ways in which culture exerts its influence on specific cases and individuals are highly context-dependent.

    • slim

      The Last Psychiatrist perhaps adds some texture and detail to our understanding of the case, but unless the MC article got major facts wrong or missed or omitted important contributing factors behind the murder, he fails to make the case that this was anything but one of the many possible variations of an honor killing. I’d say the children in that family were quite Americanized, but not the father, based on the evidence available. MC could have been more detailed in its description of honor killings — at least adding the word “Muslim” to make clear what parts of Asia we’re talking about here.

      • That’s the thing, slim, TLP is questioning what MC is presenting as “major facts” and how people are consuming them as such. Part of his argument is that the MC article focuses on what the daughter did as central whereas TLP is focusing on what the father may have been experiencing from his social relations and ties as being central. He argues that the latter is the real proximate cause for him eventually murdering his daughter and criticizes MC for not looking at that or perhaps not even caring to because it isn’t the narrative MC wants to present.

        As Christine argues above, another part of TLP’s post was to make us question what we understand about honor killings instead of just automatically accepting it as “the reason” behind what happened as we’ve been conditioned by the American/Western media. How well do we really understand what constitutes an “honor killing”?

        TLP highlighting how Americanized the children were was to highlight the seeming dissonance resulting from the son’s anger with the Western media’s portrayal of what happened. We’d expect a very “Iraqi” or very “Muslim” son to defend his father, but we don’t expect a very Americanized son to do so. So why is the son angry at how Americans are looking at and rationalizing his father’s actions? The kid already condemns the killing, so he’s not justifying the or defending it, then what is it? It’s about the media portrayal overall.

        I don’t think adding “Muslim” would make clear what part of Asia this incident involves since the post makes clear that this happened in America with a family of Iraqi descent. I don’t think adding “Muslim” is important at all, and is one of the things TLP is calling to question. Why the insistence on associating this with Muslims? Why are we more concerned with properly labeling rather than trying to understand why it happens and how we can discourage it if we disagree with it?

        I think it is because of our narcissistic need to protect our self-identities through disassociation. If I can point at something and label it as something that I am not labeled with, then I can enjoy the “us vs them” rationale and all the consequent benefits.

        • Simon_Ningbo

          I think that’s your ethnocentrism speaking here Kai and Christine. What you understand as “Americanized”, with all its superficiality, has absolutely no relevance at all to the case. Dubai citizens like to call themselves Westernized too, because they go to Starbucks, drive a SUV and listen Eminem, but I’m afraid culture goes slightly deeper than that…
          So prematurely calling the son and the family Americanized merely because they look American to you in a superficial way isn’t helpful to an analysis, especially considering how apparently different to an average American they react to such a murder.

          • My ethnocentrism? What the…? Can you please explain what your basis is for that accusation? How am I (or Christine) being ethnocentric? What aspect of my ethnicity here am I operating off of? Would you even be able to accuse Christine of being ethnocentric if she didn’t have a Gravatar?

            I think you’ve missed the point of TLP’s post. It appears to me that you’re trying to argue the applicability of labeling this a Muslim honor killing when TLP, Christine, and I are talking about how the media does so and the consequent effects. TLP takes the MC article to task on this. I recommend re-reading the entire post but especially starting from Part IV and onwards to the end.

            Here’s a good part:

            I am aware of the obvious links between honor killings and Islam and I am aware of the various arguments concerning the extent to which this is cultural, tribal, religious or educational. I don’t care. Practically, when you link honor killings with Islam, you make it impossible to stop them because either a) people are thrilled at the chance to attack Islam, which allows the rebuttal, “oh, you just hate Islam!” or b) people are too nervous to attack Islam, so it goes unchecked.

            The first step in preventing these murders isn’t targeting the potential murderer, but everyone else around him. You don’t debate the cultural aspects or the nuances of Muslim theology because those are red herrings, and treading carefully on cultural sensitivities makes it that much easier for the son of a potential honor killer to say, “I don’t condone it, but I understand, and you don’t, you’re not Muslim.”

            Change the form of the argument. You have to make the narcissistic honor killing a thing of even greater shame; you have to speak their language. Don’t say it’s wrong– they don’t care if it’s wrong– don’t say it’s against Allah, don’t say it’s tribal, don’t say it’s a backwards practice, none of those things matter. Say it is a sign of weakness and impotence. Keep repeating that they aren’t signals that you were strong and steadfast in your faith, but signals that you so petty and unfocused such that you had to resort to this. Remind them how stupid it is to think that people are now going to forget that you’re the father of a harlot and you’re a cowardly murderer. No Iraqi will send his sons over to the U.S. to marry your other daughter, and for sure no American will. Keep saying that, not so the potential murderer hears it but so the kids hear it.

            What’s the form of the argument that TLP is criticizing?

            Of course it has to do with their being Muslim, but not in the easy way the article wants it to be.

            First Law of Media: offer the reader the opportunity to debate the conclusions, but force him to accept the form of the argument.

            You get to argue about whether Islam allows honor killings: “religion of peace!” “No, religion of hatred!” or whether this is generalizable to all Muslims, as long as you accept their premise that she did something that deeply offended her father and Islam. Put it in the article with an apologetic cop-out:

            Although honor crimes aren’t officially sanctioned by Islam, they’re associated with predominantly Muslim countries

            They’re not associated with Muslim countries, that’s what they’re called when they are associated with Muslim countries. When they’re associated with rich black guys, they’re called OJ Simpson.

            Parts of what I’ve commented here allude to the great point TLP makes about how we label “honor crimes” (which he goes on to suggests are really about narcissism) differently depending on who they are associated with. “Honor crimes” for Muslims. OJ Simpson for “rich black guys”. The reason he makes that point is to emphasize how we fall into the trap of arguing about the religion, the culture, when it is something behind that though obviously relevant to the religion and culture. TLP himself is explicit about this above.

          • Simon Ningbo

            I have read the article of course, and still think that all it shows is a classic example of ethnocentrism, to think that others must work/behave/think like you.
            They don’t. The author obviously is not familiar with Muslim culture and the mechanisms. He is dellusional with his suggestion:
            “Keep repeat­ing that they aren’t sig­nals that you were strong and stead­fast in your faith, but sig­nals that you so petty and unfo­cused such that you had to resort to this. Remind them how stu­pid it is to think that peo­ple are now going to for­get that you’re the father of a har­lot and you’re a cow­ardly mur­derer.”

            That’s where I was heading at, he has no clue what he is talking about. No matter how he/American media/society talk about it, handle it, label it… it will not change the fact that it happens.
            Americans tend to, forgive me if I’m wrong, overestimate the power of (Western) media and how it shapes society and cultural norms.
            Only if, and we’re still a long way from there, it stops to be an “excusable” crime within Muslim society (not American media!) these killings will go down. Talk to anyone in Turkey, even if they don’t agree with honour killing, they condone it by understanding the perpetrator and his motives, it resonates with their understanding of family and honour.
            Correctly labelling a murder isn’t counterproductive, nor is the observation that its linked with religion.

      • “I’d say the chil­dren in that fam­ily were quite Amer­i­can­ized, but not the father…”

        Precisely. Christine, take note.

        • Christine

          I ain’t a stenographer.

        • Stuart,

          You’re falling into precisely the trap that TLP is cautioning against.

          • I’d have been disappointed if you didn’t think so, Kai ;)

            Whatever the failures and assumptions of the reporting that TLP is railing against, it is probable that different levels of cultural immersion played a part in Noor’s murder.

            Had Noor lived to be a mother herself I doubt she’d have resorted to killing a daughter for behaving in the same way she had. For other reasons, perhaps …

            TLP is reading too much into what he clearly views as a shoddy article that panders to a ‘binary’ narrative. And some people here are jumping aboard the bandwagon of opportunity to push stereotypes about the attitudes of “Anglophone westerners”.

            Stenographers take note.

    • You fall into the trap of debat­ing with me whether it is “death by cul­ture” or “a vin­di­ca­tion of mus­lim prac­tice” before dis­cussing the valid­ity of a pre-determined argu­ment in the story.

      The point here is not whether mus­lim cul­ture kills their women, or whether peo­ple are immune to their cul­tural shap­ing, rather the spe­cific ways in which cul­ture exerts its influ­ence on spe­cific cases and indi­vid­u­als are highly context-dependent.

    • Simon_Ningbo

      I’m afraid despite your lenghty rebuttal you still miss the point. Honour killings, as defined not by American media (!) but in all parts of the world where this practice is alive and kicking, has a certain definition. Now do you seriously expect a MC article to give a lenghty historical analysis of the roots and definitions of this phenomenon ? Slim got it right, unless MC distorted or omitted major facts it can be clearly defined as “honour killing”.

      • Simon_Ningbo

        And again, it pays to have a slightly broader perspective on this, American media, nor even Western media have invented or deliberately coined the term “honour killing”, it was a Turkish woman who wanted to have a clear distinction between honour killings and family blood feuds which are not related. This ethnocentric navel gazing of you Kai and Christine is just misleading, I suggest reading up on the topic before commenting on it first. Wiki as always is a good start. The practice in this case has absolutely nothing, zero, nada to do with Western culture and our interpretation and/or acceptance of it. We may comment on it of course, but that won’t change a thing.
        But hey, don’t shoot the messenger, as they say.

        • Dude, I don’t think you actually understand what Christine and I are talking about and discussing, and by extension, what the TLP was on about with regards to the label of “honor killings”.

          Part X:

          Two constants in stories about honor killings. First, some ridiculous multicultural idiocy that honor is extremely important in such societies. The word is incorrectly used, because it means different things to West and EastWest and East. Honor in a western sense something earned (even by dynasty), like a hero might have. It is internal, and while honor can be tarnished it had to be acquired first. No one would say that the Chrysler mechanic downtown is honorable, you’d just say he’s a good guy, etc. But the word “honor” as it applies in “honor killings” denotes an absence of shame. Honor in that sense is a baseline, under constant threat of exposure and entirely at the discretion of everyone else.

          Partly this is a function of education, partly of culture, partly of religion, but inevitably the result of shaky identity that draws its strength in the way other people see them.

          The second constant is the shocked surprise that the mother or brothers helped the man get away with it (or commit it.) Why would that be surprising? If his family didn’t understand, if his family would be shocked and horrified and appalled at what kind of a man would murder his own daughter, then he wouldn’t be doing it. Again, he’s not doing it out of internal sense of justice, he’s doing it to alter how he is viewed by others around him.

          Remember, the point of TLP’s post here is to show how this act is fundamentally about narcissism but American media narratives stop at “honor killing”. Stopping at “honor killing” becomes a way to gawk and disassociate, because it becomes something that “other people” of this “other culture” do, as opposed to something they can inherently understand and fight (“That’s why it’s going to happen again.”) by “speaking their language.”

          • Simon Ningbo

            The highlighted text shows perfectly his flawed perception of other cultures.
            The paramount importance of honour and acceptance within society is not, as the author states
            “the result of shaky iden­tity that draws its strength in the way other peo­ple see them.”
            It’s simply that they have other cultural values and that they actually care how they’re perceived by their community. His theories just fall short on an accurate understanding of this. Hence my (slightly inflated) use of of the term ethnocentrism.

  7. Christine

    Yes I should have elaborated my comment while keeping my words terse so that people won’t skip my writing whenever they saw it’s from me.

    By seeking refuge under “domestic relevance”, I mean not exactly in the way you interpreted TLP’s main gist. Americans seem quite resistant to the “cultural models” of the “death by culture” sorts when it comes to domestic events. There is a marked tendency to invoke “cultural explanation” for problems within communities of otherness (other cultures, races, languages etc) within Western contexts more readily than to invoke the “cultural explanation” for similar problems (domestic violence against women) within mainstream Western communities. Let me explain this point with the concrete example of domestic violence death.

    Domestic violence is usually articulated in the US contexts as physical and psychological injuries ranging from sexual assaults, verbal abuses and threatened stalking against attempts to leave a violent relationship etc. Women may get killed in extreme brutal cases as in the trial of OJ Simpson but domestic violence death is not portrayed as symptomatic of a social or cultural phenomenon in ways different from domestic violence. Domestic violence murder is usually considered alongside with homicide, with variations in the extent of seriousness. In other words, domestic violence against women resulting in death in the mainstream US communities is not perceived and handled in the same way domestic violence against women resulting in death in the minority communities. People are more willing to attribute “death by culture” and “honor killing” to the similar problem (domestic violence murder) among communities of otherness but less so among mainstream US communities. If a female US-citizen (especially WASP) is killed as a result of domestic abuse, it is understood as “domestic violence murder”; if a US immigrant or any non-WASP is killed as a result of domestic abuse (as in Noor case), it is portrayed as “death by culture”. I am not denying that there are women buried alive or burned to death in third-world contexts, nor am I trying to foist a “cultural” signifier to US domestic violence, but the difference between “death by culture” and “domestic violence murder” is so indistinct and difficult to distinguish that adding decontextualized “cultural formula” to the confounded picture will only further complicate the subject matter.

    By “common language of humanity” what I had in mind is that in order to go beyond the trap of providing decontextualized “cultural models” to explain culturally alien phenomenon, people need to be more reflexive of their own assumptions in similar human crimes occurring in different national, cultural, racial contexts. I want to underscore the fact that contexts affect the way we approach common human faults yet we are oblivious to the filtering prism of contexts. And I don’t see this aspect highlighted in TLP’s analysis. I built it upon TLP’s point on “speaking their language”, well, because frankly speaking I don’t quite understand what he meant by that so thanks for your clarification. My intent is less to dismiss TLP’s claims than to offer my own perspectives.

    • Hey Christine,

      Totally understand and agree with your observation on the predisposition of mainstream US communities to see certain “domestic violence deaths” when they happen in non-mainstream communities as stemming from “culture” whereas they don’t jump to that assumed association for instance sin their own communities.

      Personally, I think of that as a cop-out, a way to judge a situation that also allows them to disassociate and free themselves from the burden of having to think of anything further than condemnation (like how we can influence prevention).

      But regardless of what I think there, I wholly agree that with you (and TLP) that culture is being inserted in these media treatments/narratives without adequate context and thereby complicating the subject matter. However, the irony is that them doing this actually simplifies the subject matter for most, packaging the subject matter in a way that is more easily understood (woman of Muslim background murdered = honor killing = Muslim bad).

      And this is what I think TLP, you, and I are taking issue with, that the media like MC have already convinced you of the “form of argument”, laying out unproven premises as “given”, so people are left to argue the suggested conclusions without questioning the premises they’re founded upon. I thought that was powerful.

      On the “common language of humanity” bit, I think we’re in agreement as I understand elaboration.

      • Jones

        “Personally, I think of that as a cop-out, a way to judge a situation that also allows them to disassociate and free themselves from the burden of having to think of any thing further than condemnation (like how we can influence prevention).”

        I’m not Protestant or anything, but I am an Anglo-Saxon American, so I guess I’m a WAS instead of a WASP. Always underachieving, I know.

        However, any domestic abuse is condemned by the mainstream population. It doesn’t matter if it’s committed by a white preacher at some Protestant church on Easter Sunday in the name of Jesus or if it’s a black Muslim beating his Liberal Atheist lesbian transvestite daughter-son because he/she likes hamburgers. On the other hand, I also do not feel associated with it if it’s perpetrated by a white American or otherwise.

        Also, I’m not entirely sure where you get the idea that there isn’t a lot of prevention methods out here. Generally, if someone witnesses it, the cops get called. There’s plenty of shelters available for women to go to if they are suffering from an abusive relationship. Most of all, the topic is definitely not taboo. Everyone knows it’s bad and no one respects a person that abuses their spouse or kids. I know this for a fact as I have a small scar in the corner of my left eye from when I took a belt buckle to the face thanks to my drunken step father when I was seven years old. It took less than an hour for him to be in a cell in the local police station thanks to the neighbor. We learn from the youngest of ages to tell someone of authority if something like that happens. Prevention methods are out there. The best method? Educating people on what to do, and that is available to everyone from all cultures, as is all the methods of preventing and stopping abuse. I mean, seriously, you think the typical American of the type that would assume anything an Iraqi does is some backwards, barbaric act of violence wouldn’t jump at the chance of stopping them in their tracks? Hell, if anything, they’d feel absolutely ashamed that it happened here without anyone stopping it.

        Now, with domestic abuse stemming from cultural traits, be it “honor killing” or from a place where domestic abuse is a bit most “tolerated” (for lack of a better word) or merely an assumed cultural reason, it falls into the exact same category. There’s no cultural understanding and sensitivity when it comes to domestic abuse, and especially murder. Just because the media got it wrong (on purpose or not) about it being an honor-killing does not mean that suggesting it be a cultural difference will make Americans feel all “mei banfa” about it. It’s not a cop-out. Not that simple.

        • Simon_Ningbo
        • Jones,

          No one said domestic abuse/violence/death isn’t condemned by the mainstream population. This is about how people invoke “culture” relative to domestic abuse/violence/death when it occurs in “other” populations.

          What makes you think I have the idea that there aren’t many prevention methods?

          Where did you get the idea that I think “the typ­i­cal Amer­i­can of the type that would assume any­thing an Iraqi does is some back­wards, bar­baric act of vio­lence wouldn’t jump at the chance of stop­ping them in their tracks?”

          Where did you read me suggesting that this is a culture difference and that my purpose in suggesting it is to get Americans to feel “mei banfa” about it?

          Jones, I don’t think you understood what I was saying. Could you please quote (with consideration of context) the basis for each of the above accusations?

          I said the “pre­dis­po­si­tion of main­stream US com­mu­ni­ties to see cer­tain “domes­tic vio­lence deaths” when they hap­pen in non-mainstream com­mu­ni­ties as stem­ming from “cul­ture” whereas they don’t jump to that assumed asso­ci­a­tion for instance sin their own communities” is a “cop out”. Remember that this is in the context of the media narratives that often surround such events and how those narratives affect the readers. I believe the American media often presents domestic violence in non-mainstream populations differently than they do in mainstream populations and this consequently affects how the mainstream population views either. That was also a key point of TLP’s post.

          • Jones

            What makes me think you thought there wasn’t plenty of prevention methods available? The fact that you wrote the assumed cultural association meant that “they” (American mainstream?) wanted just condemn it and then write it off so that “they” wouldn’t have to think of anything…such as ways to prevent it. I pointed out that there is a constant effort to prevent it.

            “Where did you get the idea that I think “the typical American of the type that would assume anything an Iraqi does is some backwards, barbaric act of vio­lence wouldn’t jump at the chance of stopping them in their tracks?””
            Easy, tiger. I didn’t say that you suggested that. I said that myself. Everyone knows that there are rednecks with this sort of mentality. This is the type that would most likely hang on to the idea that it was an honor-killing regardless of evidence presented that point to a different explanation.

            “Where did you read me suggest ing that this is a cul­ture difference and that my purpose in suggesting it is to get Americans to feel “mei banfa” about it?”
            Don’t be so edgy. I didn’t say that you are trying to get Americans to feel that way. You said it was a cop-out and “a way to judge a situation that also allows them to disassociate and free them selves from the burden of having to think of anything further than condemnation”. If a person merely condemns it and does nothing or cares nothing about it past that, then they’re pretty much just giving up on it, right?

            Kai, it’s you that’s not understanding it. You’re on edge too much. The only thing that I am saying that you are suggesting is exactly what is quoted in my first response. Everything else I said is a response to that.

            I said that even if the mainstream media did make this wrong connection between the murder and culture, or even if it actually was an honor-killing (not saying it might be) it doesn’t mean that Americans are just using that to write it off. The reason I brought up the part about some people considering Iraqis to be backwards and barbaric (or any Muslims, for that matter) is to not only remind us that these types of people would be the most likely to automatically assume it’s because of a foreign, ultra-conservative, violent culture trait, but also to mention that these same types would be the most adamant supporters of a solution to keep this sort of behavior out of our borders. The point being that, regardless of the reasoning behind the murder (or any abuse) there are thoughts, suggestions, studies, and active measures out there to prevent such things. There is almost no one just using the cultural thing as a cop-out. Suggesting it to be an ultra-conservative Islamic honor-killing would probably bring even more attention to stopping it from ever happening again than even a regular incident of domestic abuse.

            As far as disassociating ourselves from it, you’re right. I disassociate myself from any murder or domestic violence because regardless of the “culture” it happens in, I am not and will not partake in it. It does not, however, mean that I, or anyone else, simply ignore the need for intervention.

            As far as the media’s representation is concerned, it seems to have the same general message that it does with non-foreign-culture-associated domestic abuse. It’s a plague and those that are abused are helpless victims that need to be helped. All methods that are studied, researched, and implemented are there for everyone who is abused or fearful of abuse.

            In defense of the “honor-killing” association. I would also like to point out the quote that Slim posted below. Not to mention where he equated her to a “small fire” that needed to be extinguished to keep the “family home from burning down”. Then, there was his claim that he wasn’t a criminal, disassociating the murder from criminal activity: “I’m not a criminal. I didn’t kill someone randomly. I didn’t break into someone’s house. I didn’t steal”. Even if it isn’t an honor-killing, it appears that a lot of the anger and resentment he had against her did have a lot to do with culture. I mean, even if I were the most thoughtful person when it came to looking at all the angles, the honor-killing motive would still be very strong in my mind while looking at the statements made by her father. Sure, the son says on his Facebook that it wasn’t an honor-killing, and we know he has “Americanized” apparel, listens to AC-DC (I’d honor-kill him myself for that), but he wasn’t Noor, his daughter. Let’s not forget the assumed role of women when it comes to culture.

          • Jones,

            Arguing that media overemphasis on “culture/religion” as opposed to, say, TLP’s narcissism argument, DOES allow people to disassociate instead of thinking further about how they can prevent/contribute to the prevention of such murders in more understandable terms to those committing them. This has nothing to do with prevention methods and I said nothing about the availability of prevention methods. This has to do with:

            Practically, when you link honor killings with Islam, you make it impossible to stop them because either a) people are thrilled at the chance to attack Islam, which allows the rebuttal, “oh, you just hate Islam!” or b) people are too nervous to attack Islam, so it goes unchecked.

            I still don’t understand why you think I think there aren’t prevention methods available. I said “like how we can influence prevention” NOT “such as ways to prevent it”.

            On the “typical American” bit, I thought you were saying I thought that because you wrote “you think” but in review, I see how it was meant as a rhetorical question.

            “If a per­son merely con­demns it and does noth­ing or cares noth­ing about it past that, then they’re pretty much just giv­ing up on it, right?”

            No, not necessarily, because to “give up” one has to first have cared. What I feel is a poignant point that TLP is making (or one that I’m deriving) is that the emphasis on the murder as a cultural honor killing allows readers who can’t identify with that culture to simply write it off as something that is horrifying to them, something they disagree with, but only go so far as arguing about how it must be inherent to the culture/religion without understanding the psychological mechanisms behind it. Right, we can understand the idea that the father interprets her actions as bringing some sort of shame upon him, but what is the source of that shame? His daughter? His religion? His social circle? His own narcissism (an identity based on how others see him?)?

            The MC article goes to daughter and religion, but TLP astutely points out how that’s more the narrative that MC wants to tell, the narrative it sells to the reader. That’s why TLP gets on the MC’s case on them not going into other details such as the trip to Iraq, the possible marriage, etc. TLP goes into length about this.

            Every­thing else I said is a response to that.

            Since you want to make this about me being on edge, let me make this about you failing to read things in context. Why do you think I wrote “with consideration of context”? Jones, the only way I can make sense of your response to what you quoted from me is by concluding that you didn’t understand the paragraph preceding what you quoted.

            While I’m at it, can we stick to discussing TLP instead of trying to make this about me and whatever “edge” (or simon’s “enthnocentrism”) you’re trying to derail the discussion with?

            I said that even if the main­stream media did make this wrong con­nec­tion between the mur­der and cul­ture, or even if it actu­ally was an honor-killing (not say­ing it might be) it doesn’t mean that Amer­i­cans are just using that to write it off.

            First, it isn’t about wrong connections, but about the form of argument. Again, refer to TLP on that. Second, on “writing things off”, I’m referring to this:

            Practically, when you link honor killings with Islam, you make it impossible to stop them because either a) people are thrilled at the chance to attack Islam, which allows the rebuttal, “oh, you just hate Islam!” or b) people are too nervous to attack Islam, so it goes unchecked.

            That’s the form of argument issue that TLP is on. I agree with him, the media narratives we often see are like this. I’m repeating myself.

            There is almost no one just using the cul­tural thing as a cop-out. Sug­gest­ing it to be an ultra-conservative Islamic honor-killing would prob­a­bly bring even more atten­tion to stop­ping it from ever hap­pen­ing again than even a reg­u­lar inci­dent of domes­tic abuse.

            I don’t think you understand what I mean by “cop-out” and I think your second sentence above does not reflect reality. I think we’re going to have to disagree with this. The best I can do at this point is point you back to TLP.

            As far as dis­as­so­ci­at­ing our­selves from it, you’re right. I dis­as­so­ci­ate myself from any mur­der or domes­tic vio­lence because regard­less of the “cul­ture” it hap­pens in, I am not and will not par­take in it. It does not, how­ever, mean that I, or any­one else, sim­ply ignore the need for intervention.

            No, there’s a misunderstanding with what I said about disassociation. At this point, I can only point you back to what I’ve already said.

            By and large, I still feel you’re not seeing the same points I’m seeing from TLP’s post. In fact, I think much of what he’s saying is referring exactly to many of the things you, simon, and slim are bringing up. I see his post as using your exact reactions as evidence for how the media narratives are getting in the way of finding better avenues for combating and preventing these types of murders. His narcissism point is that these murders, whether from Noor’s dad, OJ, or those other examples in the MC article, have less to do with Muslim culture than it does with the killers’ construction of self-identity. However, when the media presents these stories as Americanized vs. Muslim, it sends us down the wrong path where we argue about red herrings instead of the actual mechanisms that lead to the killings.

            Anyway, gotta go. Have a nice weekend. Stop trolling chinaSMACK, btw. I think you’re starting to make as many enemies as I did. ;)

          • Jones

            “Arguing that media overemphasis on “culture/religion” as opposed to, say, TLP’s narcis­sism argument, DOES allow people to disassociate…”
            Oh, I agree. The problem is that this doesn’t force anyone from disassociating from it. Everyone knows that domestic abuse and murder happens here. The education/preventative measures are everywhere, and we learn as a small child on what “abuse” is and who to tell if we, ourselves, are ever a victim. It works, too. I can attest to that.

            “Since you want to make this about me being on edge, let me make this about you failing to read things in con text.”
            Negative. You being “on edge” was in reference to the two or three times where you mistook something I said for me saying you were suggesting something.

            “While I’m at it, can we stick to discussing TLP instead of trying to make this about me and what­ever “edge” (or simon’s “enthnocentrism”) you’re trying to derail the discussion with?”
            Now, I could roll with this same method and simply say that you’re trying to derail the conversation by suggesting that I am trying to derail the conversation. Or, I could say you originally tried to make it about me by suggesting I was trying to put words in your mouth. I’m not trying to derail any conversations. I very obviously was trying to explain that what I said was my own words and not yours. It’s obvious enough by now.

            “a) people are thrilled at the chance to attack Islam, which allows the rebuttal, “oh, you just hate Islam!” or b) peo­ple are too nervous to attack Islam, so it goes unchecked.”
            This is the US we’re talking about, not the UK. “Attacking” Islam is no problem. Honor-killings in the US have happened before, but compared to “normal” domestic abuse/murder it’s very rare and therefore there is no specialized anti-“honor-killing” program (that I know of) but there is a world of ways to escape such a problem regardless of the reasoning behind it, be it culture that a normal American does not understand or not. I’m repeating myself, too.

            “I think your second sentence above does not reflect reality.”
            As much as the US and “rednecks” is mentioned on this website, I would think that you’d probably see the reality in the rabid opposition and response to any bad part of Islam (or otherwise) happening in the US.

            “I see his post as using your exact reac­tions as evidence for how the media narratives are getting in the way of finding better avenues for combating and preventing these types of murders. ”
            What types of murders are you referring to? Honor-killings or regular murder? Vehicular manslaughter? If a person feels they are in danger, there is a world of ways to contact authorities who do actually help the best that they can, regardless of it being an honor-killing threat, “regular” domestic abuse, plain ol’ murder, etc. I mean, what evidence is there that this news story about Noor is impeding the prevention of domestic abuse/honor-killing/etc? What evidence is there, besides one son’s Facebook note, of it NOT being and honor-killing?

            Yeah, I get random trolls on ChinaSMACK even though I usually don’t really say anything inflammatory. Seems to be that they all have a problem with my avatar. It’s fun. Lately, my stalker has randomly chosen to disengage and talk like we’re acquaintances now. ChinaSMACK is an odd place.

        • Christine

          I am not sure I agree with your notion that media representation of murder doesn’t matter as far as the efficacy of intervention is concerned.

          Representation shapes our perception of unfamiliar events and perception precedes avenues of actions. The context of our perception is correlated with the context of interventions. Attempts to prioritize and universalize methods and efficacy of intervention without paying attention to the cognitive, social and institutional terrains of a poorly-presented and publicly mystified problem are simply not viable at best and presumptuous at worst.

          You are implying that if someone got killed, it doesn’t matter if we get the truth behind the scene figured out and presented to the public so long as we can punish the murderer and help the victims. Moral norms, institutional networks and legal structures exist independently, yes, but the prescription of specific action(s) does not exist before the formation of an event, and since we cannot possible know all the first hand details of an event, we are highly dependent on external sources to feed us with necessary inputs in order to approach a specific event. I think Kai is right that one has to first have cared before determining to step up or give up. The power of “culture” is that, like other mystified social stratifiers (race, gender, age, language, nationality etc), it creates a sentiment of alienation and otherness on the population that are obviously disconnected with the label while offering the population within the descriptive category a powerful defense mechanism to fend off interventions. Sure the mainstream US audience is publicly against and condemn domestic violence, but when the culprit is “exotic culture”, either they feel it is not right for them to judge other “culture” or might suggest that getting rid of the “evil culture” from their homeland is the best form of intervention when the issue at stake is really just aggressiveness and desires for self-worthiness.

          As a side note, I think the complexity of truth is not reducible to prophylactic methods. Since we as a species are collectively too apathetic and unmotivated to learn about truth but rather settle for what media fed us with, apparently “that’s why it’s going to happen again”, as TLP concludes.

          • Jones

            “You are implying that if some one got killed, it doesn’t matter if we get the truth behind the scene figured out and presented to the public so long as we can punish the murderer and help the victims.”

            Negative. I am implying simply what I have said twice already: There are prevention methods in place, being studied, suggested, etc. It is an ongoing effort to stop and prevent domestic abuse regardless of the reasoning behind it. Besides the “Battered Women’s Shelter”, I can not think of a single one that discriminates on the culture, sex, or motivation behind the abuse. My implication was that the suggestion that this is a cop-out and is so in order to only condemn and not offer thought on ways to prevent it from happening again. Not sure how to make this more clear.

          • Christine

            I repeat: The context of our perception is correlated with the context of interventions.

          • Jones

            Reporting it to the police does not have a cultural requirement, nor does it require me to perceive it a certain way. That is the absolute best way to prevent it. I know from experience.

          • Christine

            How ironic that it is the local police who invoked “culture” to explain the homicide, according to MC article. I didn’t say “culture” is a requirement for 911 hotline if that’s what you are getting at. “Culture” comes into the play as the police investigation and media coverage take place and consequent actions undertaken which affect effective prevention. Dialing the phone and getting the police to the doorstep doesn’t prevent similar events from happening again because it doesn’t get to the core cause of the event. We are discussing how the real cause of an event is hidden under a misrepresentation of such an event by putting the cart before the horse.

          • Jones

            The problem exists more personally between the abuser and the abused. The most effective measures to stop or prevent abuse from happening is for the abused person to pick up the phone and call the cops.

            Have you read the original article? Did you read what the father said? As Slim posted below, quoted from the original article which quoted her father:
            “For an Iraqi, honor is the most valuable thing.” Later, he lamented, “No one messed up our life except Noor.… No one hates his daughter, but honor is precious…and we are a tribal society. I didn’t kill some one off the street. I tried to give her a chance.”

            He also claimed he wasn’t a criminal, because he didn’t “kill someone randomly”. When the mother was told that her daughter was near death, she said “thank you” and said that that is what her daughter needs. The father also equated the daughter to a “flame” that needed to be “extinguished” in order to keep the family home from “burning down”. He MEANT to kill them because he ran them over twice. It was premeditated and followed up by those lovely quotes above

            After reading all these articles, I’m starting to think that actually it’s you guys that are misrepresenting what happened. Also, it’s worth noting that TLP either didn’t read those quotes or refused to add them to his article. Who knows why, though.

    • Simon_Ningbo

      Even at the danger of oversimplifying your message Christine, I think you have a distorted definition of culture and its perception. The futility of mentioning your own culture (despite the impossibility of perceiving it yourself) in a media article seems to escape you. When Japanese talk about youth suicides and its implication, they of course talk about their society, not their culture. The same with domestic violence in America. Culture can only be perceived by distinction, by outsiders. Criticising the media for this is silly as long as they aren’t condoning domestic violence.

      • Christine

        I hope our exchange isn’t characterized by one of TLP’s observations of modern man: “If you won’t cater to my ego, I’ll invalidate yours.”

        I didn’t claim to understand “honor killing” any better than you or anyone from the outset. That’s not my purpose. And I don’t think that’s the purpose of this post either. Perhaps you know more about “honor killing” than I do and if this is so, kindly inform me which published sources I should check out to cure my ignorance. The subject of my analysis is not “honor killing” per se, but the representation of “honor killing” in one media text. Now if you think MC (and TLP’s commentary) is just a popular culture magazine and therefore doesn’t warrant your attention, that’s your take. I am not here to write a thesis on “honor killing”, I mainly question the media discourse pertaining to “honor killing” in Western mainstream media. In so doing, I am also questioning my own perception and underlying presumption to this culturally alien phenomenon the way TLP wants us to ruminate.

        The focus of my analysis is not the authenticity or authority of culture but rather the way “culture” is inserted into the intricate reality in a decontextualized and problematic manner. Is there no “culture” at all? Are we all the same? Are muslim and Christians and Anglo-Saxon and Norman all the same? Who has the right to speak for whom? Who is the final judge of whose culture? These are interesting questions but marginal to the discussion table here. I am questioning the logic of a pre-surmised argument not the conclusions resulting from such an unwarranted argument.

        And I simply don’t understand the charge of “ethnocentrism”. I guess I should have spelled out that I am not muslim (!?)

        • King Tubby


          Anyway. MC a glossy non-biogradable mag which one flicks thru while waiting at the hairdresser.

          • King Tubby

            Sure, I have been following the thread and catch the points being made. Of interest, but of not sufficient personal interest for me to wade in with a post, since I quite like the few cultural reductionisms I maintain. Just that being from a history type background, your Norman reference jumped out of the text. I always do my homework on historical stuff and don’t use wicki, just a visit to the library round the corner to sharpen details.
            Anyway, gave you a + yesterday and wont retract it this eve.

        • King Tubby

          Did you read the entry? No mention of daughter and/or wife honour killings.

          FYI Normans were also known as Varangians, an elite and expensive mercenary group who outsourced themselves all over medieval Europe. Fearsome creatures who would have provided you with lots of honour and mucho respect.

          • Christine

            Did you read why I selected domestic violence against women in the US as a point of comparison to elaborate my earlier comments at Kai’s request? Of course you are not obliged to go thru, fine, but don’t question if I have done my homework if you haven’t adequately done yours.

            Referencing Normans was a random choice at first, then I realize it was an unconscious action after skimming “Noor Almaleki” in the texts. Relating “North Man” to “Noor Almaleki” is far off from anywhere (or maybe not), yet it was in my mind map.

          • Christine

            Electronic sources are generally frowned upon and sometimes banned from bibliography in graduate research papers, let alone wiki. Again, my purpose is not to write a dissertation on “honor killing” or “cultural relativism” or “cultural determinism” or “domestic imperialism” (no, I didn’t make it up) because I would have been way more careful (and professional) in my choice of words, deployment of references and the extent of accounts. There are times when I take blogs too seriously, resulting in dispassionate and even malicious feedbacks and now I learn that this is not BBC history channel, nor graduate seminars in which mastery of texts is examined.

            Thanks for letting me know that I’ve probably said too much by now and that it’s time for me leave it for good.

        • Simon Ningbo

          @ Christine:
          Ethnocentrism is a tendency to view everything in the light of your own culture, and I believe that’s what you’re doing. You argue about media perception and reporting of honour killing, and what effect that allegedly distorting of the phenomenon has, without knowing how it’s reported or talked about elsewhere. English is not, quite obviously unfortunately, my first or even my second language, so I follow a lot of media reporting in other languages and let me tell you, honour killing is a clearly defined phenomenon, well reported and not coined or defined by Westerners, but mostly by Muslim scholars. Virtually all professors who published research on the topic come from a non-Western background. That’s another reason why I think you and Kai are so far off with your White superiority thesis, it just has no relevance in this case whatsoever.
          I find the article particularely counterproductive because it completely fails to understand the motives and mechanisms behind the murders. He quite obviously has no clue whatsoever about Muslim family culture and how as well as by who they are influenced. I don’t quite understand why you, forgive me if I’m wrong, try to relativise the matter without even having looked up or studied the origins and definition of the term of honor killing while trying to argue that it’s missapplied.

  8. lolz

    I think the best piece of info here actually came from the brother’s facebook posting.

    Sure there are “honor killings” elsewhere around the world, just as there are fundamental Christian cults who allow their kids to die because they don’t believe in modern medicine. But the main point the brother tried to make was that the father was mentally crazy at the time, whereas the whole media was trying to use this story to argue that Muslim immigrants can’t integrate well into US society.

    That feeling I can relate to. Because more and more I see people using specific stories reported in the media to generalize a whole culture. Sometimes the article itself, such as this Marie Claire one, does it for the reader. Other times readers are taken by confirmation bias and ignores anything and everything that conflicts with their existing prejudice. Of course, this by no means only applies to Americans, but for various reasons (bad economy, more diversed population, etc) Americans do get more easily swayed by misinformation.

  9. slim

    After first only reading the excerpts of the MC article selected by TLP, I went back and read the actual article.

    I’d have to say this is practically a TEXTBOOK example of an honor killing.

    How clear does Noor’s father have to say it?

    “For an Iraqi, honor is the most valuable thing.” Later, he lamented, “No one messed up our life except Noor…. No one hates his daughter, but honor is precious…and we are a tribal society. I didn’t kill someone off the street. I tried to give her a chance.”

    • Simon Ningbo

      Exactly, I repeat: as long as MC isn’t deliberately distorting facts or missquoting the father it’s clearly and without a doubt a Honour killing.

  10. Hi, I’m the guy who wrote the article on The Last Psychiatrist.

    Thank you for this discussion, because of the nature of my blog I don’t get the chance to hear it discussed from an entirely different cultural context; I had done quite a bit of research on the Arabic and northern african perspective, but none at all on the Chinese. So this was helpful to me as well.

    Re: honor killings. Yes, this was most certainly an honor killing, but what I was hoping to show was that honor killings, at least in the U.S., occur not because something immoral or unethical happened; not because there was some objective wrong that happened, but rather that something happened that brought shame to him. So the murder wasn’t justice, but self-preservation. The religion and the culture offer a pretense for this, and we can even wonder if had he been born a Frenchman this would never have happened? But that’s irrelevant from my perspective, because the crucial question is “how do you prevent this from happening?” And the answer isn’t blow up Islam, or fore everyone to become Americanized, but to make the murder more shameful than the sexual transgressions. Etc.

    But more importantly than that was the manner in which the media portray these killings.Since it’s an honor killing and Islam is nearby, it squeezes out binary reactions in people– “see, Islam sucks!” and “not all Muslims kill.” That’s because there majority of the articles approach it from the Islam perspective.

    Now the future honor killer has another excuse for his murder. He can say, “look, Americans don’t understand Islam and they hate our ways, I’m going to do what has to be done and they can go to hell.”

    The most important point, in my mind, is that the “father” is not going to be able to be stopped/fixed/cured. That power to make murders too disgraceful to even occur has to come from the sons (not the daughters). The father will still hate it, but he will be rendered powerless to murder because of the shame such a murder would bring to him by his own sons.

    Meanwhile, because the American media is afraid to approach it any other way except as a Muslim issue, the Muslim-American sons also get put on the defensive, the unenviable position of having to figure out how to condemn a murder so tied with Islam, while not condemning their entire background. If we (Americans) could approach it without Islam, then those kids wouldn’t have to be as defensive, which would make it that much harder for their father to commit such a crime. (Thank you Kai Pan for summarizing my point more clearly… I wish I was a better writer.)

    Take a look back at the brother’s facebook post. He’s ambivalent, and now it appears in the news he may have helped his father escape. That ambivalence occurs because he hears Americans saying, “it was Islam.”

    Sorry for the rant.

    P.S. re: narcissism, a small technical point. Narcissism isn’t binary, i.e. “he’s a narcissist or not.” It’s a regressive posture, it’s a mode of behavior. For example, I have no idea if Mel Gibson is a narcissist predominantly or not, but I do know that when he yells the way he did, he has regressed to a “primitive” level (e.g toddler) where he sees everything as it impacts him, e.g. as the main character in his own movie and all others supporting cast. If you can identify behaviors as narcissistic, you can make some predictions about them (e.g. he won’t be violent) and, more importantly, figure out how to deal with them.

    Sorry for the double rant.

    • Simon Ningbo


      Thanks for the clarification, I think we did get your main points. Where I disagree with you is whether or not media perception and public discussion of such killings can have an impact. And since you claim to have made some research on the Arab and Northern African perspective you will know that Western media is certainly not a social source of influence in any significant way concerning these matters, or, in other words, no matter how we approach it, how we label it, how officials handle it, it happens and will continue to happen until there’s a meaningful and significant debate within Muslim mainstream society, which is currently not the case, not even in relatively “moderate” countries such as Algeria or Turkey.
      And as long as we fail to understand that family honour (with its good and bad aspects) is a cultural value of which honour killings are but the extremest outcome we will not be able to grasp the concept let alone prevent it. To Muslims family is the central point of orientation, to witness what they perceive as the disintegration of this fundamental value is difficult for many.
      Realizing the lack of impact of our reporting and discussion I say we should try to analyze it in earnest and with correct labels, rather than whitewashing or blurring the matter with generic terms such as domestic violence etc or other, well-intentioned but generally missleading, politically correct labels.
      For most religious Muslims family integrity and honour is paramount, no attempt to “shame” the perpetrator for his acts will change that.

  11. King Tubby

    Christine. That was no respect to you. Look at it this way. Cultures/cultural formations are a product of their accumulated history and this history therefore consists of a mix of language (an independent determinant -aka structural linguistics), customs, social structures, (sometimes competing) conceptions of governance (secular/sacred), etc. Pick the country and organise the societal heirarchy.

    Now if you are female, homosexual or gay, poor as a church mouse or even the wrong skin colour, I would be opting for the West, and would not be subscribing to the way Kai has so cleverly set up this discussion (which is his perfect right). There is a great chain of cultural formations: put simply, Western cultures provide greater protections for greater numbers in contrast to their Others.

    And I am not going to scourge myself for any ethnocentrism on my part, since I an not American (an aberration among Western countries) and don’t own a tv.

    Finally, MC is not exactly an internationally refereed journal of comparative cultural studies. It sells personal lifestyle products and throws in a short provocative piece to give the punters a quick *intellectual* lift before they get their locks cut.

    Peace and always enjoy reading your posts.

  12. Ken, you asked, “Noor Almaleki, Iraqi-American, murdered by her father. Why?”

    Long story short – imbreeding

    Seen this sort of horseshit in Detroit in various immigrant communities, and “mainstream American” groups, for years. You got a guy, whose family tree, along with his spiritual and intellectual tree, are as linear as the Banjo playing kid in the movie Delieverance – and pretty much acted like a “hillbilly”. Only reason people are shaving hairs on this incident is the uncomfortable issue of talking about imbreeding not just being confined to the Southern Hills of the U.S. – but in the ghettos, suburbans, and gated mansions as well.

    • Jones

      Agree and all that. However, I did read that Alaska has the highest amount of incestuous relationships going on. That’s North, you Yankee.

      • Please, my mom’s side of family had a detour through Arkansas – so keep that “Yank” remarks to a minimum. As for Alaska… what do expect for a state that is in the dark for months on end? What is the old saying? “Where the women are men, and so are the sheep.”

  13. @Everyone, I haven’t been reading your responses, if you’ve responded to me, because this thread exploded two fold since Friday and I’m not really interested in the meta-discussion.

    I do want to share a piece of an email exchange I’m having with Dan of China Law Blog because I think I’m actually saying something about TLP’s point that may be relevant to this post:

    Islam — or the Koran — as a religious text is little different than Christianity — or the Bible — to me in terms of killing people (Old Testament especially) and the treatment of women [responding here to things Dan mentioned]. However, I think Islam as a religion AS it is integrated with society is very different from Christianity with the wider, broader, and deeper secularization and mainstreamed secularization of the latter. But fundamentally as a body of ideas, I see very little difference (though I do think there are meaningful differences in specific religious contexts). The key I think is the control each body of ideas and each religious power structure (which is a human construct operated by humans) has over society.

    And I think TLP makes a good point about that, about how shame/honor works in the Muslim society/Islamic country social context, and how if we want to change it (because we can’t accept how they currently live), we have to change it through their children, changing their concepts of shame/honor and how it is protected/regained rather than just attacking their Muslim identity as a whole. I think TLP’s point was that our current media narratives feed into attacking/judging/debating the “Muslim” religion/identity as a whole versus trying to figure out how we can influence psychological changes that would change patterns of behavior (like honor killings). I agree with this very strongly, and the reason I posted this on china/divide is because I see similar media narratives happening with “Chinese” phenomenon and patterns of behavior.

    Alone/TLP can correct me if I’ve misunderstood anything about any points he’s making. As I’ve said before, I think he’s made a lot of points so don’t take the above as being his main point or anything, just some points I want to elaborate for my own sake.

    • Trouble is – with the parents killing their kids – kinda makes that “changing the next generation” idea a bit difficult.

      {shrug} Then again – if a segment of society is imbreeding/killing itself into extinction, then it’s just another example of Darwin’s Theories in practice.

  14. King Tubby

    The key I think is the con­trol each body of ideas and each reli­gious power struc­ture (which is a human con­struct oper­ated by humans) has over society.

    Eg Really Catholic countries:

    Argentina: approved gay marriage this week.

    Mexico another really Catholic joint:

    Approved abortion on demand @ the morning after pill, and soon to court ratify same sex marriage and same sex couple adoption

  15. Tim


    This post too had me thinking about China as well. In particular, I am interested in your thoughts about cultural exceptionalism in China and how shame avoidance plays a part in the concept of face. One of the overlapping trends that I see here is that within Arab and in Chinese societies alike shame appears to be overwhelmingly used to set boundaries on behavior in lieu of guilt.

  16. King Tubby

    and I’m not really inter­ested in the meta-discussion

    Shit, I always knew I was mentally deficient.

    People, give drugs a big miss.

    Or maybe, us deficients are occupying a different universe.