Monday, November 05, 2007

A response from Professor Sari Nasser

I received this kind reply from Dr. Nasser, and as I promised I am posting it here.

I was surprised to learn that your impression of the Riz Khan interview was that I condone honor killing. All through my teaching years I have always stressed to my students that killing women in the name of honor is inhumane and despicable.
My former students could testify to this including Rana Husseini who has become a champion in the fight against this horrid activity.

In the Riz Khan interview I tried to show that this phenomenon could not be targeted by the enactment of laws alone. The problem lies in customs and traditions that seem to be stronger than the law. The way to eliminate this horrid practice is through teaching, raising people's awareness and through stronger penalties.

I really didn’t think that Dr. Nasser condoned honor killings, nor did I try to imply that. I simply thought that he could have mentioned “tougher penalties” in the interview as he has in this reply.

Best wishes to Professor Nasser and to all thoughtful and enlightened candidates.



At 9:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Khalaf, reading your side bar, I have spent much time in Jordan asking people their attitudes and opinions, so I do care what you think. :-)

The problem I have with all this "awareness" raising (and I am a professional marketer with decades of experience, so this is a very, very informed opinion) is that it has been going on for far too long. Usually, when you are trying to change attitudes and opinions, it simply just doesn't take this long. So it is looking like a delay tactic to me; meanwhile people are dying and there is so much else to do.

People in Jordan are very, very aware of "honor" killings. Even the world is. . .just Google "honor" killing and "honour" killing, lest you doubt. It is time to move on and actually do something that will help these at-risk girls and women in more tangible, measurable, life-saving ways. The awareness phase of this effort is over. It is no longer helping anything.

I recently conducted a nationwide survey of attitudes and opinions in Jordan about "honor" killings. The good news is that 89% of the people in my representative sample already support stiffer penalties for these crimes. Another 3.5% are indifferent. So it is just a very small percentage of people--7.5%--who prefer things remain as they are. When there is such overwhelming support for reform, one can only wonder what is keeping it from happening. Even the Senate President and the Speaker of the Lower House told me there is already draft reform legislation sitting on their desks, awaiting someone/some group to ask them to put it on their respective legislative agendas.

In my survey, not one person needed to be told what an "honor" killing is. Everyone knew, 33% personally knew someone who has been threatened with one, and another 25% personally knew of cases that have never made the news. . .and then related details to me. In some cases, these had happened within their very families.

No, awareness is not the problem. Legal reform. Building a network of safehouses and shelters for the at-risk people. Mosque education (about 20% of the people in my representative sample believe Islam tells them they must avenge affronts to family honor through killing. . .it doesn't, but this deadly misunderstanding needs to be corrected). These just for starters.

Ellen R. Sheeley, Author
"Reclaiming Honor in Jordan"

At 9:20 PM, Blogger Khalaf said...

Ellen: I believe you. The "awareness" issue is a cop out. You probably realize that in Jordan, the 7.5% lead the other 92.5%, who are too apologetic and intimidated by religious rhetoric to say what is right and to advocate what is decent.

At 9:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I totally agree with Ellen. Awareness can be conducted for a while to prepare the background for a change, but the change will never happen without proper legislation. I have been working in environmental awareness for a decade and I have not seen a positive change in behavioue until laws got enacted. Look at the issue of energy effeciency and reduction of use. Everyone knows about the need of effecient energy use but without legislation to support the use of renewable energies and energy effeciency systems it will never work. The stick and carrot should work together, and when we have bad behaviours like honor killing the stick should be used more often.

At 10:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. . .thanks for your support!

Khalaf, you really nailed it. That is my impression as well. There is just no urgency placed on this issue. It's all hand wringing and talk. But what is tragic is that this problem has some very obvious, not-that-difficult-to-implement solutions. Sure, there will always be the hard heads who will never change their positions on this issue, but that doesn't mean so many people have to die each year from this cause while everyone else waits in vain for them to catch up in their thinking.

Batir, good example. Awareness can be important at the beginning of a campaign, but this has been used in Jordan for over a decade where "honor" killings are concerned, without much in the way of other measures being added to the mix. I think it has long ago ceased to be useful, except maybe to a few people who get a lot of attention from drawing "awareness" to the problem. But it isn't helping the at-risk girls and women at all, in my opinion.

Ellen R. Sheeley, Author
"Reclaiming Honor in Jordan"


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