Dawn News

‘Honour’-killing in the UK

DESPITE the blanket coverage the London Olympics has been receiving, the British media devoted considerable time and space to the tragic story of Shafilea Ahmed. When the 17-year old girl’s parents were sentenced to life imprisonment for her murder nine years ago, there was a degree of satisfaction that the killers had finally been brought to justice.

Over the years, there has been much soul-searching over the entirely alien concept of ‘honour-killing’ brought here by certain groups of migrants. Although political correctness still blocks a full and open debate, a few high profile cases have forced this barbaric practice out into the open.

The police in the UK are now more receptive to calls for help, and more cases of ‘honour’-related violence are being prosecuted. Last year, 234 cases were taken to court, and half of them resulted in a ‘guilty’ verdict. In this period, all 39 police forces in the country reported nearly 3,000 cases. Clearly, these numbers do not represent the full extent of these vicious crimes as many children remain silent in the face of abuse from parents and other older relatives.

Sara Khan, the director of Inspire, a women’s human rights organisation, writes in the Guardian:

“Over the past two decades I have heard countless stories from women who were ostracised by their communities and let down by the agencies who should have helped them. One young woman, Laila, had been emotionally blackmailed into a marriage at the age of 18. Forced to live with her in-laws in a house with seven others, she spent her life cooking and cleaning. They didn’t even allow her access to the toilet and she was forced to use a jug in her bedroom, even during labour. ‘I was treated like a slave to the rest of the family’, she told me…”

While sentencing Shafilea’s parents, Iftikhar and Farzana Ahmed, the judge said: “Although you lived in Warrington, your social and cultural attitudes were those of rural Pakistan and it was those you imposed on your children.”

Unfortunately, these attitudes are not just rural. Time after time, supposedly educated Pakistani parents living in cities have reacted in exactly the same way the Ahmeds did. Just because a daughter refuses to marry whoever they have picked for her, she is bullied, brutalised and often killed. Just the other day, a man shot his own sister dead in a Hyderabad court because she dared make her own choice about who she married.

Mercifully, forced marriage is now a crime in the UK. But domestic abuse and violence continue as migrant communities insist on trying to impose backward social customs on children born and brought up in Britain. They forget that unlike the countries they migrated from, children have rights here.

Even liberal Britons have a hard time understanding the psychology behind ‘honour’ killing: parents would simply not dream of interfering with their children’s choice of life partners. Thus, they cannot comprehend how a couple like the Ahmeds could bring themselves to murder their 17-year old daughter simply because she refused to agree to marry a man they had chosen for her. She was also too Westernised for her parents.

One friend hesitantly opened a discussion about the case by saying although she was naturally appalled by the killing, she could understand that the parents were motivated by their religious beliefs. I immediately told her there was no compulsion about marriage in Islam. Sadly, many Muslim societies, being violent and paternalistic, condone the whole wretched concept of “honour” killing. In fact, how can there be any honour in killing young girls for wanting to share their lives with men they care for?

According to Anup Manota, a spokesman for Karma Nirvana, a charity set up to help victims of so-called honour-related domestic violence and abuse, around half the calls they receive are from Muslims. Out of the 550 calls they get on average every month, around 70 per cent are from people of South Asian origin, while the rest are from migrants from the Middle East and Africa.

The charity was established by Jasvinder Sanghera, and has a helpline where victims of abuse can call. Karma Nirvana then contacts social service staff, or if somebody is in danger, the police. Ms Sanghera’s own sister was forced into a marriage in which she suffered terrible violence. To escape, she took her own life. For further information about the organisation, the website is: www.karmanirvana.org.uk

The man who brought the Shafilea Ahmed case to a successful conclusion is Nazir Afzal, the chief prosecutor who also pursued the Rochdale sex exploitation ring, and obtained a conviction. Readers will recall that in this unsavoury case, a gang of Muslims of mostly Pakistani origin were convicted of raping and sexually exploiting girls as young as 13.

Both cases have sent a wave of revulsion and anger across Britain. All decent Pakistanis living in the UK have been deeply embarrassed. Violence against women is so widespread in Pakistan that some migrants from our part of the world assume they can go unpunished for similar crimes here. Thankfully, officialdom is finally discarding its attitude of allowing migrants to do whatever they liked within their own families on the grounds of political correctness.

A recent Guardian editorial on the Shaifilea Ahmed tragedy had it just right:

“The police wisely refused to call Shafilea’s murder an ‘honour’ killing. There can be no exonerating circumstance, no licence granted to those who claim cultural protection for brutality. Domestic violence and child sex abuse (a reference to the Rochdale case) happen across cultures and ethnicities. But that only makes it all the more important that those charged with spotting it, supporting its victims and tackling its perpetrators, have the ability to understand what they are seeing and how to respond to it, wherever it is found.”

At least they have identified the problem in the UK, and are moving to minimise its impact on families. In Pakistan, the authorities refuse to acknowledge that a problem even exists.

Comments (32) Closed

Aug 13, 2012 12:50pm
@skindia, their u r ' absolute spot on. If he had won a nobel prize maxism they would go on to say is a british muslim won a nobel prize. Im greatly irritated by this fact that when smthing goes wrong immediatley they become pakistani else for any reason they remain british
Aug 13, 2012 10:23am
You are absolutely right. If that daughter-killer had won a nobel prize or some such accolade he would be a British citizen else he belongs for ever to the country of origin.
Aug 13, 2012 01:32pm
Honor Killing is a misnormer,and if these people who do the killing have any honour or intellligemce left,they out to practice this ort on themselves. tHEMULLAHS BEHIND THIS SHOUD COME TO THE 21ST CENTURY
Umar Farooq
Aug 13, 2012 12:28pm
Although the parents of Shafliea Ahmad got the justice they rightly deserved but i think they only got convicted because they could were poor and could not 'buy' their way through the British legal system. Consider the case of of 7 looters, who killed three youth of Pakistani origins during the London riots. These three men were protecting their shops from looters. The looters revenged by crushing them under the wheels of their cars. All 7 of them have been allowed to walk free even though CCTV footage clearly shows them in a cold blooded murder. All these men were blacks, a community which the British Govt cannot afford to offend. Is this racial profiling ?? Umar Farooq, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Aug 13, 2012 01:32pm
This is a Muslim problem. Pakistani Muslims comprise the largest Muslim population in UK. If the majority Muslim population was from Saudi Arabia or Kuwait or Iraq or Syria, you would see the same result. Muslim nations and people, in the last 500 years, have lost in every area of humanity; from education to sceintific knowledge to social and cultural development. The only thing they have clinged on to is their regressive mideval traditions as their last hope of keeping their dignity. Religion is their defualt fall back position. It only brings them further ridicule and shame.
ashwani dogra
Aug 13, 2012 10:11am
Very true, but I think the reference is to 'of Pakisatani origin', not just Pakistanis. We should be proud of our heritage. The father was apparently naturalised british, so the description was fair. Similarly, it is not right that we should be referred to only as of 'asian origin', mixing us up with Indians, from whom our forefathers fought so hard to escape
Haji Ashfaq
Aug 13, 2012 08:41am
I very much want to comment but I can't because I know they will be deleted within seconds !
Aug 13, 2012 10:45am
Dear Mr Irfan, Thanks for bringing this up. You can please rewrite this article with the title 'Lets honour the bold and beautiful Shafilea victim of heinous crime'. Please ! The crime was perpetrated by their own parents who suffocated her mercilessly infront of other siblings. The parents seems to be very pious Islam practicing people of Pakistan Origin living in Birtain. The parents believed that by killing their own daughter they have now confirmed ticket to heaven like Salmaan Taseer's killer. The Pakistan origin community in Birtain and elsewhere and the mosque have yet to come forward and condenm this ruthless killing, and discuss this issue what to do next as the heaven is getting full of such pious people....
Joe Mason
Aug 13, 2012 11:46am
They may have been British citizens but they were Pakistani nationals. I hope you understand the difference between between "citizenship" and "nationality" since Pakistan was created exactly on such distinctions.
Dr Shaaz Mahboob
Aug 13, 2012 11:47am
@RespectNationality, It probably should not come as a surprise that the majority of honour crimes involve individuals of "Pakistani origin". If the criteria you've described were to be applied to all British citizens of Pakistani origin, then the calls for protection of their "culture" and "values" in the face of a western liberal society fall flat on their face. They (British citizens of Pakistani origin) should comply and adapt the western culture without any moans and groans. Fact of the matter is, Britiain in a "multicultural" society where people of different "origins" and "background" blend together and in the case of this poor girl, sometimes clash with dire consequences for some. It is true that the father of the girl is a British and the girl was British too, but both have their origins in Pakistan.
Aug 13, 2012 11:32am
A case of unrealistic expectations. People are not blind to demographics (country of origin, religion, language spoken at home). Also the concept of honour killing was imported from Pakistan.
Aug 13, 2012 11:06am
The father was an immigrant from Pakistan, having learned all the "honor" from pakistan: he was not born and raised in UK. open up a little: the rest of the world is not as barbaric.
Dr Shaaz Mahboob
Aug 14, 2012 11:10am
@Skindia, Amir Khan the boxer is a fine example where he is hailed as a British Muslim of Pakstani origin! there are plenty who are hailed as heroes and their origins are proudly stated by the media and others as a way of motivating and encouraging others from similar backgrounds to do do their country proud. British, Muslim, Pakistani/Indian/etc origin are descriptions that go hand in hand, be that a Nobel Prize or a Prison sentence.
Dr Shaaz Mahboob
Aug 14, 2012 11:06am
@Akil There was a court case and the verdict came out as "not guilty"... I don't suppose you or Umar from Riyadh were there at the trial to give your views? As part of the judicial system there is always the opportunity to appeal which, if the prosecution did feel there was a need for, they would certainly do. FYI, the Black community in Britain gets stopped and searched and cries about profiling on a racial basis all the time, if the governments intend to refrain from offending them, countless Police operations like the Black Gun crime Trident and many other tactics wouldn't be in force today.
Aug 13, 2012 07:58am
Muslims have a very bad habit of defending their crimes hiding under the banner of Islam. They will find some support when they lie to get free benefit from the government saying as long as the money is from the kaffirs,it is allowed. They put the same argument when they rape and abduct non-muslim girls. Morality, under muslim interpretation,gets a new meaning.
Aug 13, 2012 09:42am
I don't get why people confuse Pakistani and British citizens, a man or women born in the UK, raised in the UK, who went to school in the UK and who attended university there IS NOT A PAKISTANI. I know that Pakistan has a problem of honour killing, but I think the United Kingdom needs to accept the fact that it has a problem of honour killing as well and it needs to stop throwing its problems on Pakistan. The FATHER OF THE GIRL WAS BRITISH. It was a British man who killed the girl not a Pakistani man.
Agha Ata
Aug 13, 2012 02:50am
This is real honour killing. It does kill their honour.
Aug 13, 2012 03:48am
Why cant we make "dishonorable killing" a federal crime in Pakistan?
Cyrus Howell
Aug 13, 2012 05:03am
I have seen Greek parents and Chinese parents who refused to let American boys take their daughters out on dates, but never heard of Greeks and Chinese killing their daughters.
Cyrus Howell
Aug 13, 2012 05:10am
Liberals don't want to be politically incorrect.
Aug 13, 2012 05:24am
The real irony of it all is ... if you ask these parents why they moved to UK - they will tell you it was so their children could have a better life, yet they cannot cope when their children embrace their new country.
Aug 13, 2012 01:16pm
couldnt agree with you more! Coming from singapore and visiting London for the olympics, can see the 'cultural' values and priorities here are so different from asia and i dont see anything wrong either, asians are like 'fish out of water' here with their prudish thinking. As one takes up Britain as 'home' they have got to adapt to it. Cant have the best of both worlds! the writeups on this tragic killing have got quite a bit of space in the papers, so it was bizarre to read that not so long ago the father led a wild ''western' life for many years and even separated from his danish wife to 'conform' to his parents wishes......
Aug 13, 2012 07:35am
I like what the author is saying, but we need to explain why this happens to a certain faith and culture. According to experts 95% of all honor killings in Europe are by Muslims. The other small percentage of honour killings carried out by people of other religions are of a different category (usually caste based) and do not occur outside of their country of cultural origin. Ok so 95% is a hugely compelling percentage but correlation isn't causation so lets look deeper. Of the Muslim perpetrators, 37 percent came from Pakistan; 17 percent were of Iraqi origin. Turks and Afghans made up 12 and 11 percent. So the argument that this is a cultural crime from a specific part of the world and not Islamic is moot. WE can't say this a rural Pakistani cultural problem - which it is not. 70% of honour killings (of the 96% above) in Europe are in the perpetrators own words because of the victim being "too western". Westernisation being defined ( by the perpetrator) as the victim being: too independent, not subservient enough, refusing to wear varieties of Islamic clothing (including forms of the veil), wanting an advanced education and a career, having non-Muslim friends or boyfriends, refusing to marry one's first cousin, wanting to choose one's own husband, choosing a socially "inferior" or non-Muslim husband; or leaving an abusive husband. I hear that 2nd generation immigrants are far less likely to commit killing; that is a hopeful sign. Looks like young women are being killed for not conforming to the religion of their parent to me.
Aug 13, 2012 09:00am
Greeks and Chinese are muslim too. Muslim has become the collective term covering any nationality of that religion that commits a crime. Just because you don't hear about it doesn't mean it's not happening. This "honour killing" is absolute BS regardless of what the daughter has done. Those parents are murderers and anyone, no matter how religious they are, who refuse to see that fact are utterly retarded.
Aug 13, 2012 04:04pm
The public must thank Mr Irfan Hussain for bringing to the notice of the citizens of his country the plight of young Muslim girls in the UK. "While sentencing Shafilea’s parents, Iftikhar and Farzana Ahmed, the judge said: 'Although you lived in Warrington, your social and cultural attitudes were those of rural Pakistan and it was those you imposed on your children,'" sums up the situation. How long will the majority, who are revolted by reports of such crimes, be mere spectators? It is high time educated people, young university/college students and sociologists in Pakistan got together and launched a campaign to reform society, so that criminal practices, cultural, religious or whatever name they are called by, do not continue any longer.
Aug 13, 2012 04:49pm
Very true. Amir Khan, the boxing champion from Lancashire is never described as Pakistani or even Pakistani origin, he is always British. If, God forbid, he murders his daughter he will immediately become Pakistani.
Aug 13, 2012 09:23pm
Because there are no women rights in place which are inforced strictly.
Aug 13, 2012 11:39pm
Mr Ahmed is a naturalised British citizen born and raised in Pakistan, married to a wife born and raised in Pakistan and wished to marry his daughters to Pakistani cousins. He may hold British citizenship, but psychologically and socially he is Pakistani.
Aug 14, 2012 01:47am
your forefathers 'fought very hard' and escaped from Indians?! it is news to me; were they persecuted in India/ a new revelation' thank you
Aug 14, 2012 03:40am
They will come out on streets, if any muslim girl is killed, on regular basis, by non Muslims. Because Quran has been (wrongly) interpreted ) to ask Muslims to protect Muslims from non Muslims , not, Muslims from Muslims.
Akil Akhtar
Aug 14, 2012 04:38am
Do not expect any Pakistani writer or for that matter teh human rights champo=ions from Europe or India to rasie their voice against this injustice.
Akil Akhtar
Aug 14, 2012 04:43am
According to British home office statistics between 2006 and 2011 "Every ten days in England and Wales one child is killed at the hands of their parent" But all we hear about is one girl killed by Pakistani origin parents guess why......?