Very sadly ironic, indeed

DPF has just blogged on the murder of Aasiya Hassan. He comments on the irony of an apparently reformist Muslim beheading his wife in a way resembling an honour-killing. The irony he doesn’t seem to see is that he is guilty of doing the very thing he claims is a problem, when he says

The problem is when people apply a stereotype to all individuas in a group, rather than treat people as individuals.

The fact is that murders, like suicides and like rapes, are committed by people from all strata of society, from all cultural and ethnic backgrounds, and by and large for the same sorts of reasons. This includes honour-killings, which occur frequently enough (and are tacitly accepted as being `provoked’, attracting less opprobrium and lesser sentences) in western cultures as well – just using different methods, and not formally defined as such. We call them by the more appealing handle `crimes of passion’. Such acts are committed using methods and technologies which are readily available to the murderer, both in a physical sense of I-can-get-my-hands-on-it and in the cultural sense of that’s-just-how-it’s-done. Middle-class [Anglo-American] people tend to use poisons and firearms; working-class [Anglo-American] people knives or blunt objects or nooses, and so on. That a Muslim man, wronged in his marriage, might resort to beheading is as obvious as saying that he might have shot her if he was a white middle-class American. But DPF implicitly privileges some murder methods over others, and implies that Hassan might have avoided the stereotype by choosing another method, as if the method – not the fact of the killing – was the important thing.

David is appealing to the symbolic nature of a beheading to demonstrate that the stereotypes about Muslims are well-founded, rather than treating this murder as an individual case, as he preaches.

This is a bone thrown to the wolves of the KBR, but unusually, this one does not make David look sensible by comparison.


Edit: Added [Anglo-American] above to distinguish the generalisation somewhat.

6 thoughts on “Very sadly ironic, indeed

  1. Good insight Lew. To be fair to DPF, the bulk of his post was a direct quote from the Herald story about the ‘irony.” His fault was not so much to have written the sentence you quoted, but the one before that where he says that “(S)adly stereotypes exist because there is usually an element of truth in them.” Although he has a point in that honour killings tend to be notable for the symbolism of the act (burning, stoning, beheading), the real irony is that the husband was a tyrant at home while playing the role of reasonable executive in the public eye (and he was upper middle class so, according to your logic, he would/should have more likely used a gun or poison). In that regard–his dual persona–he is no different from murderous spouses of many faiths. You are absolutely correct in noting that some forms of murder are constructed more “positively” than others (in all societies, in different ways, with honour killings being considered “more” acceptable in some places rather than others); and that the frothing at DPFs site (many who I would not be surprised to find out shared this husband’s domestic proclivities) has reached a crescendo.

  2. he was upper middle class so, according to your logic, he would/should have more likely used a gun or poison.

    Yeah, rereading it, I should have specified the `people’ in my examples as `Anglo-American people’, since that’s what I meant. I’ll add that in brackets now.


  3. Deborah,

    If you want to read something much more nuanced and thoughtful than DPF’s dogwhistling, then try anjum’s piece at The Hand Mirror: in memory of aasiya hassan.

    Thank you for the link – it makes clear that this sort of thing is no more condoned by reasonable Muslims than it is by anyone else, and circumvents the argument that this was a necessarily religious act quite well.


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