I am certain all of you heard the news of the horrible crime that unfolded earlier this week, where Jihad Issa stabbed and bludgeoned to death his 18-year-old sister, pregnant with his 7-month-old child.
This crime is horrendous on every level we all agree is evil. Incest, rape, murder of one’s own pregnant sibling and labeling it an “honor crime.” The only evil this man did not commit (as far as we know), was torture, but I think his actions will torture and haunt the rest of his family till the end of their days.
The man’s actions were the kind of evil that make any upstanding person cringe in pain and gasp in awe at the brutality of the crime. More so knowing that the man is not a psychopath, considering he did feel remorse for what he did and admitted to the heinous crime.
I am confident and hopeful this man will pay for his crime and spend most, if not the rest of his life behind bars. What I am afraid for, is how it will be spun off.
Honor Crimes in Lebanon
In what is an extremely rare, yet not nearly anywhere sufficient, move, the Lebanese Parliament actually did good! In 2011, they annulled the previously amended article in the Lebanese Penal Code that allowed the mitigation of sentences for men that injured or killed their female relatives because they “dishonored” the family.
This is great news, and a small step out of Lebanon’s social affairs cesspool governed mostly by archaic religious laws. Here, I should also mention that we shouldn’t be too hard on Lebanese folks, since compared to other Arab and Middle Eastern countries, the number of honor crimes is relatively low (66 between 1999-2007 according to KAFA) (I’d like to also add that I think the number is much higher, since in Lebanon, we generally “cover-up” on taboo issues such as this, maybe make them look like “accidents”).
Still, even one slap to the face with the guise of honor and religion, is one too many, and if you are a human being with any decency and “honor”, murder and oppressing women is neither honorable nor decent, and if killing is ok within your system of beliefs, then please, by all means, start with yourself.
Monitoring the reactions on some extremist Facebook groups, I did notice a lot of people shared my (and hopefully your) reaction and horror to the crime. However, I also realized the move to throw the blame off Issa and the condoning of some religions of “honor killing”. Issa, confessed that he had raped and impregnated his 18-year-old sister when he was under the influence of alcohol. This, is a beautiful hook for any religious extremist, because it could make Issa look like a helpless victim of “vices” (alcohol) who was only trying to correct his “abomination” (his sister and the fruit of his incestuous rape).
Here, is where religious authorities and religious people who are against these barbaric practices need to step up, and make sure they condemn this crime and not ask for leniency based on religious pretexts. I am often criticized for being too harsh on religions as a whole, and that the criticism often reaches a religion or sect in its entirety, versus the small minority of it that is causing problems. To those allegations, I agree, I do criticize moderate and reasonable believers as well, for the sole purpose of staying silent. Staying silent, turning a blind-eye or just having a knee-jerk “in-group-out-group” reaction (like in Aarsal for example) is just as condemning as the crime itself in some respects, in that it makes it ok and makes the perpetrators slip through Lebanon’s legal cracks caused by religion.
In Lebanon, no one is held accountable to anything. That’s except if you’re someone with no high-ranking friends or family, or bank accounts with lots of zeros in them. We get that politicians didn’t pay for their crimes (ranging from mass murder to corruption, fraud and theft) and we have unfortunately sort of accepted that. Recently, we get that the aggressors against our soldiers in Aarsal don’t expect to be punished under the premise of “national unity” and that even though many of us stand with the army, some do not for religious concerns. Fine, this is the reality we live in and cannot see it evolving anytime soon…
However, no one should “get it” when it comes to this innocent girl’s tormented life and death. This man should be held accountable, and religion should keep its paws off. Isn’t it enough that militiamen, terrorists and other undesirable members of the Lebanese community persist thanks to fears it’ll ignite a mythical inter-sect world war? Innocent teenage girls do not deserve to have their miserable lives and deaths dismissed as “honorable crimes”. So, religious old men in black robes, do the right thing this time and take a break from throwing tantrums over civil marriage, and stand up for this poor girl.