There is no honour in killing, so these chilling words are self contradictory. They are the more so when parents kill their own child, and it is difficult to comprehend any culture, even the Stone Age, when such brutality could be condoned.
The conviction of the Ahmeds, originally from the foothills of Pakistan, is little consolation to their daughter Shafilea, who perished at their hands for failing to obey their medieval demands. At the root of this despicable crime was Shafilea’s wish to live a Western life like her friends, and her refusal to be carted off to Pakistan to marry a complete stranger chosen for her by her ‘loving’ parents.
Arranged marriages are not the sole preserve of Middle Eastern illiterates. Indeed, in the recent past we have had an example of an arranged marriage between the Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer. It was certainly not a love match, as the Prince’s affections lay elsewhere, and had done so well before he married Diana. Historically, the Royals chose their matches within their own narrow circle right up to our present Queen. Her sister, Princess Margaret, entered her life destroying downward spiral when he was forbidden to marry Captain Townsend. They loved each other, but he was unsuitable, and that was the end of it. The sad irony is that she ended up marrying a photographer, quite a good photographer by all accounts, but a photographer nonetheless, and that union ended in divorce.
Shafilea’s death has an all too familiar ring to it. Those who could have helped, didn’t, and I refer to her school, the police and the social services. All were found wanting when she needed them most.
The problem, in part, lies in our own belief of the sanctity of marriage and family life, where we believe somewhat naively that the first concept is inalienable from the second. Couples who marry, live together and have children are rarely challenged within the family circle, and there are instances, too many by far, of parents badly abusing their children, and in some cases, killing them. In these cases, as with Shafilea, the police and the ‘caring’ agencies are slow to act, and often too late when they do. But these cases are usually the result of bad parenting, or the arrival of an abusive and manipulative boyfriend where the mother feels helpless to intervene.
We must be careful not to rush to judgment and hold up our own values as the only ones worth following, but equally, to treat ‘honour killing’ as somehow different and therefore excusable because it has its roots in another culture is wholly unacceptable, especially when the crime is committed in the United Kingdom where the Ahmeds had settled and made their home.
Some crimes are so heinous they offend all the precepts of a civilised society, and should never be tolerated.