In the past, we at GetReligion have raised concerns about news stories failing to consider religion's role in "honor" killings.
As our own tmatt has pointed out, there is no need to dwell on the Islamic element of such crimes, and it would be wrong to suggest that all Muslims in Pakistan and elsewhere practice, accept or ignore "honor" killings. (Yes, the scare quotes are appropriate on this subject.)
But for the sake of full and accurate reporting, it's crucial that journalists note when religion provides the impetus for such killings.
The Associated Press' Kathy Gannon does an excellent job of that in an absolutely riveting story on a man who killed his sister in Pakistan:
The AP lede:
LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) — For two months, over the thunder of machines at the steel mill, the men taunted Mubeen Rajhu about his sister. Even now, they laugh at how easy it was to make him lose his temper.
Some people had seen Tasleem in their Lahore slum with a Christian man. She was 18, a good Muslim girl, out in public with a man. Even though the man had converted to Islam out of love for her, this couldn't be allowed.
"Some guys got to know that his sister was having a relationship," says Ali Raza, a co-worker at the mill. "They would say: 'Can't you do anything? What is the matter with you? You are not a man.'"
Raza can barely contain a smile as he talks about the hours spent needling Rajhu.
Later, Gannon — whose name you may recognize — offers this important background:
For generations now in Pakistan, they've called it "honor" killing, carried out in the name of a family's reputation.
The killers routinely invoke Islam, but rarely can they cite anything other than their belief that Islam doesn't allow the mixing of sexes. Even Pakistan's hard-line Islamic Ideology Council, which is hardly known for speaking out to protect women, says the practice defies Islamic tenets.
It doesn't matter: in slums and far-off villages, away from the cosmopolitan city centers, people live in a world where religion is inextricably tied to culture and tradition, where tribal councils can order women publicly punished, and a family can decide to kill one of its own, even to avenge a wrongdoing committed by someone else.
In the vast majority of cases, the "honor" killer is a man and the victim is a woman.
While the story does a nice job of reflecting religion's role in this case, a fellow GetReligionista took issue with AP downplaying Islam in the above section. "How the writer could say honor killings have little or nothing to do with Islam blows my mind," my colleague said. "Like other religions are doing it too?" That's a fair criticism, and I wish the AP had quoted actual scholars/experts on that question rather than stating it as a fact. But overall, the piece impressed me.
Gannon interviews the brother in jail and lets him tell his story — horrible as it is — from his own perspective:
Rajhu says he loved his sister, a quiet young woman who had never before rebelled against her family. He gave her a chance, he says; he demanded that she swear on Islam's holy book, the Quran, that she would never marry the man. Frightened, she swore she wouldn't.
"I told her I would have no face to show at the mill, to show to my neighbors, so don't do it. Don't do it. But she wouldn't listen," he says.
The reporter also interviews the dead woman's father and provides more religious insight:
At the entrance gate to his brick shack, the siblings' father, Mohammed Naseer Rajhu, peeks out, reluctant to admit visitors into his cramped home. The rooms are so small there is barely space for a rickety wooden bench and the traditional rope bed where he sits. In the kitchen, Tasleem's blood still stains the rough wall.
He is adamant that his image not be taken either on video or in a photograph in keeping with his interpretation of Islam, which some say forbids human images. He says that is the reason the family has no photos of Tasleem, whom neighbors call a beauty. The only image of Tasleem, her thick black hair falling carelessly over her face, was taken by police after her death.
"Never can you show my face. My son killed my daughter to save his face, to not have anyone see his sister's face, and now you are asking me to do the same thing," he says.
It's such a sad story yet such an incredible piece of reporting by a courageous foreign correspondent.