Monday, October 6, 2014

No Nation Can Afford to Look the Other Way : Honor Construed!

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Background

There is a subculture in existence that is beholden to honor. Honor is what sustains esteem for the sake of family and community prestige. Honor is what makes the father feels as though he's been blessed with good seed, owing to an obedient and subservient daughter. It is what the mother customarily feels obliged to, for she may have been forced into marriage with a man she did not love, well before her teen years. For the sanctity of that marriage, it is quite possible that she had been subjected to a painful tradition which mutilates the genitalia and has been proven not only to be medically harmful, but is often life-threatening. She has become a victim by circumstance, yet a perpetrator and purveyor of  a culture that oppresses her children.

Children and parents don’t always see eye to eye. This is a typical condition in many families. In any case, with a strong bind to honor, there is always a high price to pay. Honor is what makes a family or community harm their children when things don’t go as planned to prevent further shame.

Incidents of honor killings are happening in many places across the globe. In some western societies, people are often unaware of some of the deadly pressures a friend could be facing. This is what happened in 2007, when two Canadian teenagers realized that their best friend Aqsa Parvez had been murdered by her own father. Her behavior was starting to worry her family.  Aqsa wanted to fall in love with someone of her choosing and be a doctor some day. She started to remove her hijab, act and dress like other teen girls at her school. Her family felt that she had been corrupted by western ideas. Though it was seven years ago, her story is like many other honor killings that are still happening today.


Honor Isn't t Honorable At All

When a culture places an emphasis on its ego and not the welfare of human beings, it can not claim to have a moral intention, but one based on obtaining social mobility. An honor killing corrupts the soul and disguises itself as an ethical and spiritual sacrifice. Nonetheless, it truly robs communities of its growth and prosperity. It is like a poisonous vile disease that continues to spread and gut all the parts that are good.

Honor paralyzes free will. Women and girls are beholden to honor to uphold their family’s tradition. They can never aspire to do anything more than what’s required by their customs and faith. These women and girls become lost and absent from development and creativity. Their contributions to humanity as geniuses, mathematicians, scientists and artists shall never be archived and listed. Hence, the world loses a segment of its innovators.

Honor forces little girls into marriage with men that are thrice their senior. Honor violates and mutilates the bodies of women and girls and denies women the privilege of becoming one with their husbands. Honor sends women to their deaths just for breaking tradition. Honor ravages the spirit of women and never offers men true partnership in life. There is no integrity in honor. It disintegrates one’s viability and humanity.

In educated societies, an honor killing seems barbaric and cruel. Yet it was not that long ago when the western world had a similar affliction of quarantining women, and using religion as its basis for justification. Throughout the 15th through 18th centuries, women were thought to be evil, wicked and temptatious by nature. Consequently, any act of volition was perceived as peculiar. Though men were accused of witchcraft and persecuted, women were predominantly subjected to these allegations. Studies state that women were 75-80% of the accused and convicted.  An entire faith had been exploited to single out the undesirables within that society. Tens of thousands of victims were tried, tortured and executed all throughout Central Europe. These horrors could have possibly been prevented, if the people had a better understanding of their faith’s teachings.

However, this isn’t about pointing fingers. It is about reflecting and using those mirrors to look into the past. One must know their past to appropriately act in the present and future. Ignorance is sowed and harvested in communities and societies that lack access to education and discourages critical thinking. Having said that, predators prey on the innocent, exploit their trust and loyalties, cloud their faith and religion with perversions and place claim on their God.

Ignorance bounds the naive to an oppressive master, leaving them dependent and spiritually bankrupt. This is carefully patterned throughout history and in present day. It creates a cycle of tyranny in the guise of calling women witches or exploiting their devotion to family, in exchange for power and honor. Education lights the path towards consciousness. When literacy reverberates throughout a culture, its citizens are emancipated. With knowledge, comes tools and resources that would enable one to rationalize, think critically and materialize a conscious way of doing what's right or wrong.

A documentary released this year called the Honor Diaries has even attempted to shed light on honor through women educators and activists. Though many of them have a great regard for their faith and traditions, they frown on this widespread attack on women and girls as well as an attempt to restrain their autonomy. In a nutshell, they have disclosed  that honor has nothing to do with religious teachings, but it is a practice being carried out in some communities, which have attempted to hijack the Islamic faith. These brave women are attempting to bring about awareness in the face of opposition.

Nevertheless, predators may target religion as a source for havoc because it is the one thing that feeds the soul while manifesting the key of life--how to live, exist and die. It ensures a pathway to humanity. Words of an authoritarian source (God or prophet) are often bent for personal gain.

All faiths have been subjected to misinterpretation. In truth, this argument isn’t meant to isolate Islam nor it it meant to point the finger at Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism or Judaism. It is about hatred. There are those that exploit faith-believers to tout their grievances. Hatred resides in every society.

With that being said, religion has many teachers. They are all imperfect. These teachings are being passed down as a pathway to enlightenment whilst its listeners seldom immerse  in historical study or examine what is being reiterated and reverberated. There is a certain level of danger to this. The believer is thrust into following without understanding the premise and purpose of a law, tradition or practice that is ultimately dictating how one should live, love and die.

It is not the jobs of Westerners to paint Islam in a bad light no more than it is the job of Easterners to cast judgement on Christianity. Communities and their societies have a certain level of responsibility to promote education so that ignorance does not prevail. Until all  nations engage in this effort, ignorance will continue to plant itself into faith and religion and prey on the trust and loyalties of the people.

Honor killings are tenacious and is spreading throughout the world. For what? Because someone feels that women and girls shall be chaste and obedient? Unfortunately the same women and girls are subjected to harm by their own families. To maintain honor, their family will often do the unthinkable. No nation can afford to look other way if a community or even a family is insistent on gutting a part of itself. A united call to action must be ordered.

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Monday, September 29, 2014

Slideshow: Commemorating The Memory Of The Mirabal Sisters: Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

By JULENE ALLEN 


Photo via
The Mirabal sisters, a group of women freedom fighters sacrificed their lives to set the Dominican Republic free from a  brutal regime. The death of the Mirabal sisters had a great impact on the Dominican society, though it had not been officially acknowledged until the 1990s, when the country recognized Patria Mercede, Minerva Argentina and Antonia Maria Teresa as national martyrs, and incorporated them in history lessons. [read]

Monday, September 22, 2014

Interview with Sol A. Flores: Founding Executive Director for La Casa Norte

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My grandparents agreed to be one of the very first Latino families that were recruited in the state of Illinois to be foster care parents. There was a lack of Latino foster care parents throughout the 60s, 70s and 80s in Illinois. There were times when Latino kids were being removed and they were placed in homes where they lost language or they lost cultural competency. This led to the Burgos Act in the state of Illinois. [read]

Monday, September 15, 2014

Interview with Sylvia Puente: Executive Director of the Latino Policy Forum

Photo courtesy of Latino Policy Forum
I have been fortunate to receive an invitation to take part in overseas travels to study and understand immigrant integration in other countries. That's been another fascinating experience where I've got a global view on immigration, integration and the challenges and initiatives that immigrants face in Israel, Spain, Belgium and Germany. I did research in Mexico too, to see the direct experience of where people come to Mexico from the United States in terms of what their origins are, what their opportunities are like, and what was drawing Mexican immigrants to the United States. [read]