Studies in Honor-Shame: Reda Mansour and a Druze “Dis-”Honor Killing

In response to a previous post here on Honor-Shame culture, EG, one of our regular discussants, left the following comment about a Druze “honor-killing” and the response of the Reda Mansour, the Druze Israeli consul to Atlanta who argues a liberal position against honor killings. The article and the talkbacks (in Hebrew, translated in parts by EG) offer tremendous insight into the clash between a pre-modern mentality and a modern one, between PCP and HSJP.

EG: An interesting insight into processes that are now taking place within a “traditional Middle-Eastern” civilization in an Occidental-oriented context (Israel).

On May 23 this year, an Israeli Druze from the village of Beit Jan, working at the prison administration (hence possessing a gun), presented himself at a police station, confessing to have shot his daughter, whose body was in his car. The reason he invoked for murdering her was “family honour”. Apparently, he didn’t approve/like her boyfriend.

RL: We see here the dilemma of a “man of (family) honor” in a civil society: he knows he breaks the law; he must do so anyway. I want more detail on why he killed his daughter. “Apparently, he didn’t approve of her boyfriend” is inadequate. This brief article claims she violated “the tenets of Islam,” which is strange if the man is a Druze: he would likely not discuss religion, however he identified it.

EG: On June 1st, Reda Mansour, Israel’s consul in Atlanta, a Druze, published an opinion article titled The distance between murder and honour on Ynet (in Hebrew), arguing that “honour killings” should end.

Translated excerpts:

“The girl from Beit-Jan is her father’s victim, but her father is a victim of a traditional society which educated him that murder can get one honour. Yet there are no 2 words as distant from one another as murder and honour.[…]

You can’t get a nicer distinction between honor-shame and integrity guilt culture (or the political systems they engender) than this sentence.

These days, in all minority villages in the country, extra marital relations between men and women are common. This is why such murder cases have become exceptional, but that’s no consolation. Because the traditional society keeps accepting the link between honour and having sex, and the idea that only women should pay the price of dishonour.”

To unpack that. In honor-shame cultures alpha males get points by being sexually virile (i.e., quantity not quality), while females lose honor by not protecting their virtue. As a result, women pay the price of a promiscuous culture of sex on the part of men. (If they were easy, there’d be no honor in nailing them.) I’m interested in his report that “these days” extramarital affairs are common… is that true, or has it always been so? Are they more visible, more easily acknowledged?

It’s a fool’s consolation to keep classifying women murderings under mysterious names: Arabs murder for family honour, Ethiopians murder due to emigration difficulties, Russians murder because of family violence. It sells newspapers but it’s not true.

Murder is murder is murder, and we need to say good-bye to all the headlines that contain some cultural interpretation of murder and thus, a certain acceptance of such acts.”

Classic liberal values: everyone is equal before the law, no “cultural” exceptions.

“Nothing in my religion or my education permits me to even imagine how a father or a brother murders his dearest for that hypocritical fake honour. Today, it’s more important for me to go back to one of the most conspicuous values of my society and [this value] is courage. It’s not a value that should be reserved only for battles and wars [led under] uniform. It’s time we behave courageously and end this horrendous phenomenon of murdering women. Because our silence is infused in blood.”

I don’t know what’s going on here. Certainly honor-killings are not unheard of in Druze society, and as recently as 2005, there was a Druze honor-killing that quite egregiously demonstrated the cultural imperative involved:

    The men of the Hasson clan were “ashamed to be seen on the streets,” said Kneifes. Now, however, in the aftermath of the murder, the Hasson men seem dramatically changed. “From the way they carry themselves, my impression is that [the murder] has been very good for their morale,” he said. “The family has gotten its pride back.”

When he says his religion, presumably he means the Druze variant on Islam (hence, in the 2005 case one leader pointed out that Shari’a opposes honor-killings), and by education, he must mean his Israeli-oriented education at University of Haifa. But I find it hard to believe that he wasn’t at some level exposed to this, if only by implication.

EG: The article triggered quite a few interesting comments.

#48 by Hassan from Beit-Jan
On honour… and murder…

First let me thank you for the interest… haha.

As a Druze that was brought up in a civilized society, [one] whose values and customs are somewhat limited, but [is] as good as any other one, let me tell you brother that you’re right on some things. It’s forbidden for us to kill for what determines a human being’s fate is God. But don’t blame a father or a brother for killing his daughter or sister for family honour reasons, because in our case it’s not a matter of revenge but of continuity. Not only for him, but, for his children, and grandchildren.
We’re not Jews who don’t care about rumours.

We were brought up brother on respectable values and on honour!

And we don’t have women equality, and despite all progress we won’t have it.

But in a case of a girl who betrays, she doesn’t do it out of pleasure but out of contempt and revenge for the family and our respectable community. Just to cross the borders, she goes wild!!!

We’re all little creatures in a cruel world full of hindrances and temptations. World got into us a seed from Satan and let us astray from the respectable track we had. Kill!!! It’s forbidden for us but not keep silence. A girl [who] betrays should not remain normal. At least on a wheel chair or in a vegetative state for the rest of her life, without hurting her face because the face is God’s look.

And I request each and every one of you to analyse my case as a Druuuuze and not as what our big lousy society has produced.

That’s my opinion.

And if you wish to fight this phenomenon of murder?! Not like this, folks!! Workshops and discussions… all this B-S only increases the value of the phenomenon. Any phenomenon we wish to fight we’d better devote less attention to it [and prevent] it [from] increasing [its] value. We should increase the value of its opposite. And this is what we inherited from our parents values!! Let’s increase the value of the values and behaviours. And then… the phenomenon of family honour killings will be reduced.

In other words, it’s forbidden, but it’s so important to discipline daughters who step out of line that, maybe not killing but let’s say maiming (don’t touch the face!). Here the author of the comment has given us the extreme case — not from pleasure, but from malice (contempt and revenge). Maybe he knows something we don’t know. But malice — a motive — is notoriously difficult to determine, and projecting malevolence is a guaranteed way to justify indignation: “She did it on purpose…”

Interesting comment on Jews and rumors, which I take to mean that Jews will not act on rumors, whereas many honor-killings respond only to rumors. First you kill the daughter, then you have her checked for virginity. The rumor itself is what destroys the family honor, not the deed. That’s a core element distinguishing honor-shame cultures where the opinion of others is paramount, from integrity guilt cultures, where deeds and proof matter above public opinion.

#36 by Mag from Julis, North

To Mr. Rida

Your article is too general and too beautifying and too far from our reality in the country. What would you do Mr. Rida if, say, you see your sister in a unknown vehicle in Haifa??? What would you do if, say, you see a foreign man entering your house at an unreasonable hour??? I absolutely don’t justify the murder and further in my opinion preventive education for values and sexual openness and sex instruction can prevent such cases. I agree with you that the dignitary are judged less severely on these matters and am sorry about it. The term family honour is misleading and is a product of the media and the establishment because it’s their way of restricting the issue and it’s a haughty attitude because any murder has its motives and its figures.

A message to all the Jews here: it happens for you too and I know men who murdered their wives when they caught them betraying them so there’s no difference between us. I want to remind you have not people been murdered in your place (society) because of an argument on a girl? It sure happened only there it’s called murder due to a row on a girl’s heart and for us the given denomination is murder for family honour .

Here’s a good example of trying to “save face.” In the first paragraph, the author challenges Reda with the question “What would you do if…” In both cases he offers, the widespread response of people from integrity-guilt cultures would be, “that’s her business.” And if we switch to a Jewish or Christian culture where family honor and discipline are still prized, the answer might be “her family would talk to her about this, even punish/sanction her, but kill or maim her? No.” The second paragraph tries to establish moral equivalence by bringing Jewish culture down a notch: murder of wives, murder for the heart of a girl. But these are specifically not the same as honor-killings. No father or brother is killing a girl for defying the family’s demands about who she can and can’t associate with. These are crimes of passion — killing an adulterous wife, fighting over a girl — not the cold and often deliberately sadistic crime of killing a family member for shaming the family.

#35 by A Druze

To the point article – btw the author is Druze not Moslem

Perhaps I don’t agree with all the article but I very much agree with the author on the issue of double morality in the society about the wealthy and high status holders, that if their daughters have sexual relationships outside marriage they can go on and the society will disregard and won’t raise a brow. It’s time to reveal the real face of those dignitaries.

About the specific case indeed it’s a sorry case of a hard living man, from a small family in Beit Jan.

The issue of what social and economic circles have honor-killings is important. It’s true for many cultures that the higher up one goes on the social scale, the more lee-way. It’s also true that the more rural — and hence the more powerful “public opinion” — the more often one finds this kind of phenomenon.

#21 by Druze

To all the Druze

Honour killing is the same as a terror attack or a nationalistic ideological murder. It’s all in the observer’s eye, same result only the circumstances change. From personal knowledge, there are among us many young non-virgin (girls), one or another murder won’t change anything. If we really want to conserve the values and tradition, we should work on education, openness and preaching on sticking to the roots, and as long as any man myself included has the right to have a fling outside and inside the community, we have no moral right to claim anything from women. Today women much better than the males in the community and nothing will prevent them from progressing and flourishing, even if this is accompanied with deviations here and there. We need to cope and not by the bullet or the knife.

If we don’t internalize this and try with the majority to repair our way, we’ll very quickly lose the way and we’ll all get lost.

Interesting point about terror attacks and ideological murder. As I’ve often noted, if Arabs will kill their daughters for shaming their families, what would they like to do to the Jews for shaming their culture and religion?

The rest of the argument is again, classic liberal (i.e., the stuff I approve of deeply). Resolve the problems through discourse of fairness, not through violence.

4 Responses to Studies in Honor-Shame: Reda Mansour and a Druze “Dis-”Honor Killing

  1. abu yussif says:

    i’m sure the barbarian and neanderthal, each in his own cultural context and according to each of his value systems, did things we today that those in the west consider unconscionable and disgusting. but, then again, they were barbarians and neanderthals. and they were not interested in civility.

    are we waiting for islam to evolve? i hope not because it seems islamic society is evolving, only backwards in a direction towards the stone age.

  2. Lorenz Gude says:

    Really helpful post because of the direct quotes from people holding an H/S point of view. I want to add the following. I grew up in a town of 400 in the US and it is immediately clear why public reputation is so important in small places – everyone knows. I would bring it home in this way – my parents were outsiders – city folk – and they were the only friends of a gay couple who otherwise were pretty well isolated in 50s rural America. They were absolutely not ‘out’ and in return they were able to be employed and were treated superficially as if they were regular people. But everyone knew. Toward the end of their lives they visited an openly gay and wealthy neighborhood in a large American city and were absolutely astonished that they had lived out their lives hiding from nearly everyone – even themselves.

  3. oao says:

    but, then again, they were barbarians and neanderthals. and they were not interested in civility.

    because at that stage they did not know any better: they were not evolved enough to know any better.

    are we waiting for islam to evolve? i hope not because it seems islamic society is evolving, only backwards in a direction towards the stone age.

    the problem is that we also evolve backwards. had it not been the case, what islam did would not have made a difference. it’s what we’re doing that dooms us.

  4. 11B40 says:

    Greetings:

    1) The “honor killings” probably pre-dated the formulation of Islam but have be given religious approval by Islam.

    2) The public knowledge of the victim’s behavior may be the determinative factor in the cases that end in actual murder.

    3) I haven’t seen anything published about this, but I often think that there is a sexual abuse or incest aspect to the murders. There are some interesting aspects to the Islamic scriptures about what sexual behavior is permitted. There’s an Egyptian Coptic priest, Zakaraia Botros who has done radio programs exposing these behaviors.

    4) “Culture and Conflict in the Middle East” by Philip Carl Salzman addresses the “honor killing” subject, among others but seems to think that it is originated in the tribal Arab culture.

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