CNN FAIL on Honor Killing Coverage

This past week a woman was murdered in an apparent honor killing in the Gaza Strip. She was beaten by her father who thought she was having an affair. May Allah have mercy on the soul and forgive the sins of the woman, named Fadia, and may there also be justice for her death.

Unfortunately, CNN’s coverage of Fadia’s murder was a big FAIL. The first reason was the picture accompanying the piece. The article didn’t even need a picture, but if the editors felt that they needed a picture to accompany the article, why not have a picture of the victim or one of the women interviewed for the piece? Instead, the editors and/or the author felt it was better to put up an AFP/Getty Images file photo of two Palestinian women walking in a mall with the caption “Palestinian Muslim women walk past a shop displaying Western clothes in Gaza City.” What does this have to do with the article? There is absolutely no relevance to the subject matter at all. Is the picture supposed to relay some subconscious message that shopping for Western clothes will help Palestinian women? Maybe shopping in malls prevents honor killings? The photo is bizarre and out of place for an article dealing with honor killings. It actually makes light of a very grave and tragic issue.

The second reason why the article doesn’t convey the seriousness of the matter is because they refer to honor killings as “killings”:

“They said the killing ‘was carried out on grounds related to ‘preserving’ the honor of the family.’”

“The Palestinian Center for Human Rights said nine people have been killed in honor crimes in 2009, five of them women.

This represents a two-fold increase from 2008 in such killings.”

“The killing highlights fears among human rights organizations about an increasing marginalization of women’s rights in Gaza under the Hamas-controlled government.” (emphasis added)

Each time a murder committed in the name of “honor” is referred to as a killing, it glosses over the brutality of the murder. These are not women who were killed in the line of duty or killed by a bus on the way to work. These are women who died as a result of someone intentionally murdering them. Referring to these murders as killings also insinuates that the murdering of women is somehow more normal, more part of Palestinian culture.

Lastly, I was disappointed with the association of Hamas to this issue. The article jumps from a discussion of honor killings to a discussion of the erosion of women’s rights under the Hamas regime. Women’s rights under Hamas is definitely an issue that needs to be talked about, but I don’t see how that issue is connected to honor killings. Honor killings are also carried out in areas under secular rule, such as the West Bank and Jordan. Honor killings are not connected to “radical Islamic movements” any more than they are connected to secular movements. Misogyny is the root cause of honor killings, not Islamic movements.

CNN’s article serves as more of a lesson in how not to cover this sensitive issue than an informative piece of a tragic murder that is the result of misogynistic views of women, their sexuality, and its place in society.

  • sarah

    As much as i agree with on a lot of the points made in your article, i do think hamas are ruling gaza with their own brand of islamic doctrine. i cant help but notice this in a lot of other articles made about them regarding increasing restrictions made on women, sure im sure they are having a influence on the way women are expected to behave/dress within gaza itself. Its possibly an oversimplification on my part, but being an islamic movement does not mean they do not influence on the lives of the being under their jurisdiction.

  • Zippa

    Sarah, I think that Faith’s point is not that Hamas isn’t doing those things, but rather that it’s a separate issue. Honor killings are not a product of Hamas rule. Nor are they a product of Islam, or of anything so narrowly defined.
    As she said, “Misogyny is the root cause of honor killings, not Islamic movements.”

  • Candice

    I’d never thought much about the term “killings” but it really isn’t the right way to say it. It is a murder, plain and simple.

  • Faith

    Exactly! I hope the media will finally catch on to this.

  • Rochelle

    I don’t think honor killing is related to a perpetrator’s personal religiosity, but it has all to do with their surrounding community and the values of those surrounding the perpetrator and victim. Unfortunately, this is often related to the rise in fundamentalisms, which by definition controls women’s sexuality using morality justifications.

    I don’t think we can just brush off the relationship between Islamic fundamentalism and honor killing just because a) honor killing is not condoned in Islamic texts, b) they happen among secular folk, c) they happen among members of other religions. Unfortunately its more complicated that this.

  • Hicham Maged

    I believe that “honour killings” are more concernerd with the mentality that returns back to the era before Islam. Do you remeber when they dads in such period used to burry their baby-born live if she was a ‘female’? So it is more a problem of ‘traditions’ which has nothing to do with the core of ‘Islam’.

    [This comment has been edited to fit within comment moderation guidelines.]

  • Dude


    I don’t think we can just brush off the relationship between Islamic fundamentalism and honor killing …

    This really shouldn’t be that hard to measure. Simply plot the rate of honor killings in, say, Gaza over the years. If it went up quite a bit in the last year and a half, then a correlation may exist.

    (Ideally, of course, the same analysis needs to be done in other parts of the world that have become more/less fundamentalist Islamically to rule out local behavior).

  • Helen

    This is not only an Islamic issue. Violent men are not the product of any one faith or culture, but of a cultural bias common to many religious and social groups which treats women and children as property. Islam, a faith for which I have great respect, is not the cause of human violence, any more than Judaism or Christianity. As the saying goes, guns don’t kill people – people kill people. Instead of blaming religion or culture, we should all work to change society so that violence of any kind, against any person, is truly unacceptable.

  • feelingelephants

    I like the killing vs murder message–even in the normally sensitive human rights movement we can get sucked into seeing women as lesser, and their deaths as lesser because that is how we are treated sometimes in some places. Thank you for your great coverage.

    Slightly OT, I would love to know if you had any opinions on my most recent post. I will be living in Qatar in a few months and am already finding and fighting a huge number of ugly messages about muslimahs.

    Thank you again,


  • Rochelle

    Well, you would have to isolate the variable of rise in Islamic fundamentalism, which usually correlates with other variables such as rise in poverty. So its probably more difficult than we think…

  • Leila

    Thank you for your criticism of this brutal murder, but with your careless words, you have managed to associate this woman’s murder with her sins.

    “She was beaten by her father WHO THOUGHT SHE WAS HAVING AN AFFAIR. May Allah have mercy on the soul and FORGIVE THE SINS OF THE WOMAN, named Fadia, and may there also be justice for her death.”

    May Allah forgive the sins of the woman? This is probably what her father was thinking when he beat her to death.

  • Nissa

    They are not careless words….when you pray for someone who has departed you always pray their sins are forgiven, regardless of who they were or how they died.

    Also…Honour killings as disgusting as they are, are not the norm. They happen too often, once is too often but they are still exceptional cases. It is interesting that this case gets international press but that of the young Indian Hindu girl killed by her father doesn’t.

    These women are not pawns in which to play out the supremacy of cultures, they were real women who deserved better and instead of villifying communities, we need to work with communities to end this. Educating men, women and helping develop a legal system rather than a tribal system (which was brought back because of the failure of Palestine to develop real governance and institutions).
    The rise of Hamas is not the issue, there were honour killings before their rise…its about a society in which honour is a suffocating patriarchal notion. Also, the occupation has a lot to do with increased violence against women…it permeates all aspects of life and one mention of it (without any reference to the blockade and occupation) is tantamount to lying to people about the full situation…

  • Nada

    I find it sad that, while CNN cares about “womens’ rights” in Gaza, they hardly ever mention the fact that Gaza has been under a blockade for TWO YEARS. But, who cares, right, as long as there’s a chance to attack Hamas or Islam. I think Hamas has more important things to worry about than if a girl is having an affair (which I highly doubt).
    Another thing CNN failed to cover adequately was the 22-day massacre. I’m willing to bet they put more effort into this story than the slaughter the Palestinians had to endure.
    While I feel bad for this girl if she was wrongfully killed, and pray that Allah forgives her if she actually had an affair, I care more about the situation in Gaza, their lack of food or medical aid, and the fact that Israel continues to keep the borders shut tight. That’s what CNN should be focusing on.

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  • abc

    Whole site points at Canada’s “own” problems – point is these are Canada’s longstanding problems to deal with. Honor killings are not. It is an irrelevant comparison and amounts to very eloquent use of the emotional escape mechanism known as projection. Blame others rather than accept one’s own faults. Canada accepts its own historical shortcomings, but should NOT be held responsible for the shortcomings of certain factions of guest cultures.

  • Fatemeh

    “guest cultures”?! Implying that these people don’t really belong, huh? These “guest” cultures belong to Canada about as much as the dominant white culture, so don’t throw around racial superiority discourses up in here.

  • Faith

    Sarah, IA. Hamas does have a considerable influence on gender norms and relations in Gaza (and not all for the better).

    That said, I don’t think Hamas control of Gaza really correlates to the number of honor killings. Unfortunately, I have encountered quite a few Palestinian men who didn’t see anything wrong with honor killings (which was very mortifying) and for the majority of them, the extent of their religiosity was to go to Friday prayers once a month and maybe fast during Ramadan.