Thursday, October 23, 2014

"The Price of Honor": The World Can Help Restore Honor and Faith by Shedding Light On Violent Traditions

Sarah and Amina Said: The Price of Honor Film Poster

Around the world thousands of women and girls are subjected to avenged acts of honor violence. It is a huge price to pay when they aren't meeting the expectations of their family.  Honor is a systematic approach to  keep women and girls in check, oftentimes to control their chastity and  sexuality. Avenged acts of honor violence are anything from raping, acid burning, cutting, basically scarring someone mentally and/or physically to killing. These examples are consequences to a violation against that system.  This is not to be confused with the non-vengeful acts, though they  are now constituted as crimes of honor, yet are apart of tribal traditions, such as female genital mutilation (fgm) and forced marriages.
Such traditions has no correlation with the teachings of Islam. These are practices that have been adopted and enforced by extremists and religious fanatics. There is a higher emphasis on social standing than the welfare and good of another human-being.  Cultural practitioners have no qualms with discarding family if they become a disappointment. Though women and girls are majority victims, they also become accomplices to such tragedies. Mothers will subject their children to agony to restore honor to the family.
Although the ratio is small, men and boys are targeted  for being homosexual, refusing an arranged marriage or marrying someone outside their culture. One must abide by honor and is beholden to their family’s beliefs and traditions. Even when confronted by western customs, they must abide by their familial ideals first.  This can be quite difficult especially for a child who attends school with other American children, which are typically free to express themselves and search for their own sense of identity. In honor societies, a woman's autonomy is forbidden. At first, girls are the property of their fathers and brothers. The father decides who she shall marry. Then she becomes the property of her husband. This is a critical expectation to honor. Girls who break from this code may be disowned and avenged by their families.
Experts suggest that the reports on honor violence are not being treated as such. For example, In the United States, they are often  mislabeled which hinders the  investigations. According to The Price of Honor Documentary, within the western world, honor violence is mistaken for domestic violence because the perpetrator is usually family. Yet there is a distinct difference between the two. Perpetrators of  honor violence feel that their behavior is justified. It is often upheld and warranted, strategically carried out by the victim's family and community. Whereas in a domestic violence situation, the assailant understands that he is committing a crime, may feel guilt, fears getting caught and would be ashamed and brought to justice by the victim's family and local community. Honor violence is a perpetuated type of violence due to the very fact that the tradition is sanctioned by those that are the closest to the victims. Family members believe that they are doing something good. They are supported by their communities. In many cases, women and girls will oblige and succumb to the pressures of cultural traditions just to keep the peace.
In honor violence and honor killings scenarios, the assailant sometimes get away. This has been the case of the Texas murders of Amina and Sarah Said, two teenage girls who were murdered by their father, Yaser Said. In 2008, Yaser shot his daughters to death in the back of his taxi cab because they wanted to love who they wanted to love and be normal American teenagers. The documentary, The Price of Honor notes that Yaser's  whereabouts may be known by those that are closest to him--his brothers and the victims' uncles. These are the same people who might have helped him with his escape.
Perpetrators of such violence are often male-fathers who will disown and harm their daughters for the belief that she has been corrupted. They feel shame if their daughters are perceived as unchaste, disobedient and independent. Fifty-eight percent of the victims that are killed are accused of being too western and or resisting or disobeying cultural or religious expectations. These sort of cases are surging at a vast rate especially throughout the western world, leaving experts, educators and activists with the urgency of educating the public about this sort of violence, and the search for resources for those who pose as victims.
The Price of Honor encourages the public to assist them with their campaign to create awareness about the issue and to even aid in restoring honor to Amina and Sarah Said by helping them catch their killer. It is a sad thing when we lose someone so vital and symbolized so much hope.  Amina and Sarah Said were smart, athletic, beautiful and determined to be free of their father and live happy lives. Observing from afar, you could not have known such evil existed at home. Their future resembled so much possibility. Maybe after all the hurt and pain, The Price Of Honor is that beacon of hope for women and girls around the world, as it aids in restoring honor and faith by shedding light on these violent traditions.

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#catchyasernow: The Price Of Honor Film Campaign

Monday, October 6, 2014

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

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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.

Join the conversation on Twitter in honor of the approaching key date, October 11th- International Day of Girl / and #DayoftheGirl

All girls deserve a chance to have a future! 


Monday, September 29, 2014

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


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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]