Phyllis Chesler on May 18th, 2011
Two Muslim mothers, both widows, both living in Uttar Pradesh in India, helped each other murder their grown daughters, Zahida, 19, and Husna, 26, for having committed the crime of marrying Hindu men.
They held their daughters down and slowly strangled them to death. The poor dead darlings actually believed they were entitled to marry non-Muslim men and for “love,” and that ultimately their mothers and Muslim community would accept them back. This is typical of many honor killing victims. While these two young women knew enough to contact the police for help—and the police actually got their mothers to sign an agreement that they would not “harm” their children—it was only a deceptive piece of paper. But the daughters’ longing for reconciliation and naive hopefulness was their undoing. Their mothers agreed not to hurt them and sweet-talked them into returning; once the girls were home, they became prey for the kill.
But life without a family network is unthinkable for someone whose identity is not individual but rather located in a collectivity. Progress and “modernity” may be coming to India, but slowly, very slowly.
Neither mother, Khatun or Subrato, has expressed the slightest remorse. Both feel justified because their daughters brought shame to their families. According to the police, Khatun said: “We killed them because they brought shame to our community. How could they elope with Hindus? They deserved to die. We have no remorse.”
This is cold-hearted, barbaric, almost unbelievable. But such Muslim-on-Muslim crimes and woman-on-woman crimes are typical in many parts of the world.
Clearly, this is an extreme case of woman’s inhumanity to woman; I published a book with that title. We expect women, mothers especially, to be able to defy social custom for the sake of saving their children. The reality is just the opposite. The slightest transgression, especially by women, will upset huge networks and topple all social stability. No one will marry someone from a “shamed” family; that family will be forever ostracized, impoverished, and may also die out genetically. Mothers, fathers, relatives are loyal to their tribal social customs rather than to any one individual, even if that individual is their own child. The system itself demands and allows for such barbarism—but the sacrifice of the individual is seen as in the service of the greater tribal and caste based social structure or “civilization.”
In addition, woman’s inhumanity to woman is a common phenomenon in India where mothers-in-law routinely assist their sons in burning their daughters-in-law to death. This is known as a “dowry killing” because it is done so that a new bride can bring another dowry into the impoverished and/or greedy family. There is actually a special wing in a prison in New Delhi for such mothers-in-law. In addition, female infanticide was a long-time practice in both India and China. Both women and men steal children in India and sell them to be adopted abroad or, more frequently, to be groomed into sexual slavery either at home or abroad. A dear friend is visiting me from India right now and her stories on this subject are unbelievable — and yet all too believable.
Surveys have shown us that women in India believe that women deserve to be beaten. Perhaps they are also saying that women should simply expect this to happen. Many Hindu and Muslim mothers refuse to accept severely battered child-daughter brides back into their home. In Afghanistan, this often leads to suicide, often self-immolation as well.
To its credit, the Indian Supreme Court has recently declared that “It is time to stamp out these barbaric, feudal practices which are a slur on our nation.”
Once again, the major mainstream media in the United States have, thus far, failed to do any original stories about this awful case. The Washington Post relied again on an AP story. The New York Times has neither published nor posted anything.
In the past, the Washington Post has only covered Hindu honor killings in India. This time, they were forced to use the word “Muslim” to identify the perpetrators. The victims were not identified as “Muslims.”
That only happens when Israelis or Americans have killed them.