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NWSA Journal 18.3 (2006) 216-218

Reviewed by
Kaveh Hemmat
Violence in the Name of Honour: Theoretical and Political Challenges edited by Nahla Abdoand Shahrzad Mojab. Istanbul: Bilgi University Press, 2004, 261 pp., $15.00 paper.

Violence in the Name of Honour: Theoretical and Political Challenges is the result of a symposium of scholars and other professionals that met in Istanbul in 2003 to discuss the phenomenon of honor-related violence in Muslim communities, mainly focusing on western and northern Europe and Turkey. The introduction sets up the framework of theoretical positions and questions informing the symposium. The articles range from those offering theoretical and analytical approaches to more descriptive [End Page 216] case studies of honor crimes, as well as assessments of government policies, the effects of war and occupation (specifically on Palestinian women), and intervention programs for women threatened with such violence. Taken together, the contributions to this volume provide a broad overview of honor-related violence, incorporating many different perspectives but do not explore any one local or theoretical perspective in great detail. They provide a variety of voices and perspectives that agree on the broad outlines of the phenomenon of honor-related violence and its significance but also seem to diverge at certain points. Many of the questions that are raised are left without answers—even tentative ones—that one would expect to find in a monograph with similar aims. Readers are left to draw their own conclusions from the rich details and insights provided by the contributors.

The introduction identifies honor-related violence as part of a larger phenomenon, namely, gendered or patriarchal violence, which is a global phenomenon, and its occurrence in Middle-Eastern and South-Asian communities is not exceptional. One of the major concerns of the authors is that honor-related violence is often given legal sanction (such as lighter sentences or even complete leniency) not only in states where it is a native phenomenon but also in European countries whose constitutions, and public opinion, generally repudiate sexism.

However, while it is clear that similar notions of gender inform and encourage such violence wherever it occurs, and while parallels exist even in the legal sphere between the treatment of honor crimes (the subject of this volume) and crimes of passion (such as the murder of a spouse caught in the act of adultery), there are also great differences. The most notable of these is that honor crimes are not only highly premeditated (which, the notion of crimes of passion notwithstanding, is also often the case in the murder of a spouse) but also highly cooperative—they are perpetrated by one or more family members (rather than by a current or former partner acting alone), often after considerable consultation and planning by many members of the family. In spite of the evidence of premeditation, their perpetrators have taken advantage of lighter sentences given in some legal systems to those who commit crimes of passion. The very interesting question of the extent to which communal honor-related violence and individual domestic violence such as occurs in Europe and the United States are indeed similar phenomena is not thoroughly or systematically answered; however, there are a number of valuable insights and details, which together provide a useful point of departure.

Other chapters discuss the role of culture in perpetuating and encouraging honor-related violence. The introduction takes the stand that such violence must not be considered an especially Islamic cultural or religious phenomenon, even though Islamic cultural norms are invoked in its defense. However, it emphasizes that the role of religion and culture [End Page 217] cannot be discounted in any consideration of honor-related violence. In this regard, one of the later chapters discusses the notion of patriarchy as a global phenomenon and identifies it as being at work in all gendered violence. It is also suggested that the differences in or greater importance of family relationships in societies where these coordinated honor killings occur account for the more communal, coordinated nature of this violence, as...


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pp. 216-218
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