Monday, July 4, 2016

Honor Killing: Serving the Idols of the Tribe

Pakistan: Pregnant woman stoned to death -- Philadelphia Inquirer, Wednesday, May 28, 2014, A1

Don't Just Blame Religion. So what's new? The United Nations Population Fund estimates that the annual worldwide total of honor-killing victims may be as high as five thousand women.[1]

But don't jump to any conclusions about religion, especially the likely one, for most Americans, that Islam is more prone to this than others. This jump relies on common ignorance about the histories of Christianity, Judaism, Confucianism, etc.

In a similar case in Nice, France in 1994, Koranic authorities testified that Koranic justice did not sanction the family's actions in killing their "westernized" daughter.[2] It's as much a matter of location, as of religion.

Wherever religious institutions, and particularly their leaders, rely on secular power for their protection or their survival, the universalist virtues they might espouse, e.g. mercy, forgiveness, etc, will be stifled to disarm emotions that might upset traditions of obedience to secular leaders. (See A Leader's Primary Pursuit: Incumbency)

Just consider, for example, how Constantine's demand of early Christian bishops for unified doctrinal criteria of membership brought about the Nicene Creed (381 BCE). But even today in these United States of America, modern sectarian Constantines have been scarcely able to refrain from attempts to season the public scholastic pot with state-enforced "intelligent design" curricula. See "Intelligent Design," "Unintelligent Curriculum")

So Why Follow the Leader? A dumb question(!) ejaculated rarely except by those enjoying the frissons of self-righteousness. Answer: because our personal status, our individual pride is bolstered by those we profess to follow. (In how many congregations does seating reflect personal status?) With all too rare exception, the dominant tribal idol of every member is inevitably Ego. (See God, Church and Schooling for Democracy: American Faith in "Faith.")

Making Convenient Sacrifices: Our Kids. In Genesis 22, Abraham is commanded to, then restrained, from offering Isaac as a burned sacrifice. (Is God surprised, or gratified, by Abraham's obedience? Either interpretation belies His omniscience.) Some biblical scholars take this story to indicate the renunciation by Israel of the ancient practice of child sacrifice, commonly done in times of extremity by a variety of peoples.

Many of us point, with barely hidden Schadenfreude, to the "honor-killings" by others -- whom we secretly look down on -- of their own children. "Thank God we are not like them!

The reality is that we, in "modern-day America" have reverted to that ancient practice of child sacrifice, not physically, perhaps, but psychologically and spiritually. And the gods we sacrifice to are unworthy ones: ambition, self-aggrandizement, and reputation.

How much more preferable for many parents to put their kids through the gauntlet of status-conscious early schooling, the grind of academics-manqué of high school, and the circus of college admissions than to have to select a college of "lower standing" or have the student enter later than in the freshmen year.

Comfortable sacrifices of minor import? Alfred North Whitehead weighs in with this comment:
When one considers in its length and breadth the importance of a nation's young, the broken lives, the defeated hopes, the national failures, which result from the frivolous inertia with which (education) is treated, it is difficult to restrain within oneself a savage rage.[3]

It's a matter of family honor! Mom's honor and Dad's honor. Grandpa's and Grandma's, too.

To examine these issues further, see "Tracking" in Public Education: preparation for the world of work?

Cordially --- EGR


[1] See "Ending Violence Against Women and Girls" United Nations Population Fund

[2] See Terrill Jones, "Family Sentenced for killing westernized girl," Philadelphia Inquirer, Sunday, December 4, 1994. For more dismal information see LEADERSHIP AS USURPATION, at

[3] Alfred North Whitehead. The Aims of Education and Other Essays (New York: Macmillan, 1929) p.22.