The Statue of Liberty in New York features a well-known poem from the Jewish-American poet Emma Lazarus. The poem expresses an open acceptance of immigrants who come to this country for a better life. It is the foundation upon with the country was built – to accept outsiders and give them a chance to prosper.
However, when immigrants come, there can be a culture clash when western values challenge those of a person’s religion or native culture. Some immigrant groups within the U.S. have managed to keep their identities strong, while others have struggled to persist within western culture.
In rare instances, this culture clash can result in honor killings, which some believe to be acceptable within the parameters of their religious or cultural identity. Under the laws of Texas and the other states, however, honor killings are simply murder.
It is said that in various Muslim cultures there are those who feel a religious duty to maintain the family honor. If a member of the family deviates from an acceptable path, it is incumbent upon the family, particularly the male members of the family, to uphold the family honor. Upholding the family honor may require family members to kill the deviant family member, depending on the circumstances.
Deviating from the path and damaging the family’s honor can be done in various ways. It is said that a woman who has been raped may be subject to an honor killing even though she is not at fault. Some societies feel that adapting to western culture and wearing makeup and fashionable clothes brings shame to a family. Having a romantic relationship outside of marriage may be considered bringing shame to a family.
In 2013, police in Montreal, Quebec found a car with four members of the Shafia family. It held a 50-year-old woman and three teenage girls. The middle-aged woman was a co-wife in a polygamous marriage and the teenage girls were the daughters of the co-wife. The teenage daughters, though born in Dubai to a Muslim family that originated in Afghanistan, lived in Montreal and had embraced Western culture. When they chose to not wear a hijab to school or have a bofriend, their father and brother killed them for bringing shame to the family.
At trial, which was in English, French, Dari, and Spanish, the court found the defendants guilty of murder and sentenced them to long prison terms. The father, mother, and brother are all currently in jail.
When a teenager from a Muslim family is found dead or badly injured, authorities may suspect that it is connected to him or her bringing shame to the family. While it is debatable whether this suspicion is legitimate, a defendant has rights in the face of such police bias. The Constitution recognizes a person’s right to worship. If you are accused of an honor killing or similar crime, do not speak with the police. Speak with your legal advocate.
Accused of a crime? Contact the criminal defense firm of Christopher Abel.
(image courtesy of Yaroslav Orshikov)