There has been talk of the need to reform Islam since before the attacks of September 11. The scenario is usually the same: some atrocity is committed in the name of the religion, there is public outrage from non-Muslims, some Muslim groups offer a few hollow rationalizations, western liberal groups implore us to understand and not be quick to judge, politicians promise some unfocused action or accountability, the news story floats through the Internet and then dies until the next violent act catches our attention.
In the end, nothing is ever accomplished, Islam continues to suffer from a radicalized minority, non-Muslims become more skeptical that the religion can ever be a force for good and the specter of a war of culture and religion becomes slightly more plausible.
The story of Hatin Sürücü is by now a familiar one. A young, beautiful, ambitious Muslim woman is murdered by her own family in what is grotesquely referred to as an "honor killing." Ms Sürücü had been married off at 16, had returned home with her son, moved into a home for single mothers and was training for a career. She was waiting for a bus when three of her brothers gunned her down for leading a modern, "un-Islamic" lifestyle.
The familiar feature here is that this is not a story from the dusty, backward streets of Riyadh or Kabul but from the supposedly free pathways of a European Capital. The latest "brazen act" has "sent shock waves" through Berlin as Germans scratch their heads, leaders call for ethical reform and radical Muslims explain matter-of-factly that the murdered woman had it coming:
Days after Hatin Sürücü was killed, some male students of Turkish origin at a high school near the scene of the crime reportedly downplayed the act. During a class discussion on the murder, one said, "She (Hatin Sürücü) only had herself to blame," while another remarked "She deserved what she got --the whore lived like a German."
Now before I get accused of cherry-picking quotes or the dreaded taking words out of context, let me say this: the only context here is that a young woman has been murdered by her own brothers for not being Muslim enough. Everything else is just filler. Any rationalization, any excuse is stupid and foolish and dangerous.
But we will hear the usual, won't we?
At Berlin's Turkish-dominated neighborhood near Kottbusser Tor in the Kreuzberg district, 17-year-old Erkan, a high school student of Turkish origin, was divided about the issue. "I'm not saying you should murder, but Hatin's lifestyle just didn't fit the way traditional Muslims live," he said.
This kind of statement gets floated every time something like this happens.
"I'm not condoning murder, but don't you think that maybe Theo van Gogh should have known that he was offending Muslims?"
"I'm not saying it was a good thing to attack the World Trade Center, but with what the US has done around the globe, we were asking for it."
"She was wearing clothes that Muslim men find provocative. What did she expect?"
This is the common reaction of the modern mind when we witness depravity. Instead of looking at the horror straight on, when offer a glancing blow to the perpetrator and turn our eyes away from the victim. She had it coming. We asked for it. They should've known better.
At the same time, we are admonished to refrain from stereotyping, as if the crime of generalization is tantamount to the act committed:
Experts insist that the problem is in no way a purely "Islamic phenomenon" and that the remarks of a few shouldn't be allowed to taint an entire community. But, statistics in Berlin show that murders ostensibly meant to uphold the honor of the family are high among Muslims.
Honor killing is a particular Muslim practice. But maybe the experts have a point. How many times have we heard this?
"I'm not defending child molestation, but what were the parents thinking? Why would a parent allow their child to spend a night in Jackson's bed?"
We have heard this time and again, as if innocents who have fallen at the hands of madmen were complicit in their own victimhood. This is a twisted and misguided logic we indulge in when faced with medieval behavior in the modern world. We can hardly expect lagging societies to foster egalitarian principles when we ourselves engage in this type of victim-blaming.
We have fallen into the psychotic practice of treating perpetrators not as criminals, but as on par with their victims. Something outside of themselves drove them to commit the heinous act. It's not their fault. They deserve our understanding.
I am not a sociologist and I tend to view this type of thing as being easily understood. I admit to having little patience with talk of "root causes" and "cultural differences." For me it is a mere academic exercise to study motive. It is important to ask "why," but only so that we can fight future crimes through prevention. But prevention doesn't, and shouldn't, mean that we alter our own lives to accommodate our assailants. It is the criminal who must adjust and pay reparations to society and not the other way around.
UPDATE: Welcome, Instapundit readers. There's a little more here with a link to the Captain.