Tolerating Intolerance
December 4, 2005 8:35 AM   Subscribe

On the night of Feb. 7, 2005, Hatun Surucu, 23, was killed on her way to a bus stop in Berlin-Tempelhof by several shots to the head and upper body, fired at point-blank range. The investigation revealed that months before, she reported one of her brothers to the police for threatening her. Now three of her five brothers are on trial for murder. According to the prosecutor, the oldest of them (25) acquired the weapon, the middle brother (24) lured his sister to the scene of the crime and the youngest (18) shot her.

Evidently, in the eyes of her brothers, Hatun Surucu's capital crime was that, living in Germany, she had begun living like a German. In a statement to the Turkish newspaper Zaman, one brother noted that she had stopped wearing her head scarf, that she refused to go back to her family and that she had declared her intent to "seek out her own circle of friends."
posted by The Jesse Helms (35 comments total)
I have known lots of Turks and none of them have been at all fundamentalist. They were all urban and educated, which is probably relevant, but I never thought of Turks as being fundamentalist. I wonder if living in away from Turkey inspires a stronger need to hang on to your "traditions."

And by traditions I mean what you have heard are your traditions, since fundamentalism is modern phenomenon.
posted by small_ruminant at 9:07 AM on December 4, 2005

Geez. I just read the sexual assault part. That gets her murder out of the garden variety freaky fundamentalist category and puts it into the nutso incestuous hillbilly category, with fundamentalism just the condiment.
posted by small_ruminant at 9:14 AM on December 4, 2005

Those Muslims, I tell ya. There's just no hope for them. We need a final solution.
posted by squirrel at 9:24 AM on December 4, 2005

small_ruminant: Turkey is a very heterogenous country. Every Turk I've known has also been urban and secular, however from what they've told me there are definitely religious conservative Turks as well. Mostly in the rural areas in the central and eastern parts of the country. And I can't imagine living in Germany would liberalize them much.
posted by xthlc at 9:32 AM on December 4, 2005

In another thread someone explained the apparent disconnect of many of these extremists coming from Turkey, the most secular of Muslim nations. It was said that Turkish authorities had been cracking down on the radicals, which is why so many of them are showing up in western Europe. Does anyone have more information on that?

This is such a sad story.
posted by LarryC at 9:35 AM on December 4, 2005

Those Muslims, I tell ya. There's just no hope for them. We need a final solution.

Uhh, you might want to rethink the words "final solution." I heard of those words in the context of Germany before...
posted by theorique at 9:39 AM on December 4, 2005

I believe that was the point, theorique.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:49 AM on December 4, 2005

Orf wif deir heads!
posted by delmoi at 9:51 AM on December 4, 2005

Those Muslims, I tell ya. There's just no hope for them. We need a final solution
The Plan For A New American Century's Office of Special Plans
is currently working on this,
posted by hortense at 9:52 AM on December 4, 2005

Seriously though, fucked up shit happens all the time in the world, but this involved a clash between Islam and feminism, so it ends up on metafilter.
posted by delmoi at 9:53 AM on December 4, 2005

I'm not sure I get the title of this post: "Tolerating Intolerance". I imagine you're refering to the brothers' intolerance of their sister's lifestyle, but it's unclear who is tolerating this intolerance. Certainly not the German government, which is prosecuting the brothers for murder.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:01 AM on December 4, 2005

Seriously though, fucked up shit happens all the time in the world

Unfortunately, this is not just an isolated incident. The same phenomenon is seen all over Europe but it usually doesn't end in murder. Many young girls find themselves in situations where they risk being sent to a country they have never known for marriage. Many also finds themselves terrorized by their maniacally overprotective brothers and communities who are worried about their "honor."
posted by pwedza at 10:07 AM on December 4, 2005

Those Muslims, I tell ya. There's just no hope for them. We need a final solution.

Yeah, what were you thinking posting this? We only discuss American intolerance here here.
posted by Krrrlson at 10:29 AM on December 4, 2005

The same phenomenon is seen all over Europe

you're dead right. european christains have been pretty much do the same thing for eons. in ulster, a protestant girl would literally have hell to pay for the temerity of marrying a cathloic.

it's seems strange then, if you leave out the brown/savage angle and there's really much of a story left.

i don't think it'd be too difficult to post a true story fpp about a born-again christian pervert who within the last few years ended raping a killing a young relative. i somehow think it'll likely get quite as many hits as this one. it's strange how the brown angle gives a story like this a whole new dimension.
posted by rodney stewart at 10:48 AM on December 4, 2005

sorry for the incoherant rant. i meant to say there's really not much of a story left.
posted by rodney stewart at 10:57 AM on December 4, 2005

i don't think it'd be too difficult to post a true story fpp about a born-again christian pervert who within the last few years ended raping a killing a young relative.

Perhaps making a post of that would be more apropos than taking time to shit all over this thread.
posted by clevershark at 11:16 AM on December 4, 2005

I think the problem is that over the centuries Christianity has been successfully neutered, or domesticated if you prefer a more PC term. While there are a few remnants of the old "wild" Christianity around, the vast majority of Christians practice a watered down Christistianity. The old fanaticism has been reduced to a few loudmouths on the radio ranting about "The War On Christmas" TM. Buddhism, Shinto, Jewdiasm, etc have also been neutered. Its been centuries since Christians last burned anyone for witchcraft. The Catholic/Protestant split in Ireland seems odd today precisely because in the majority of Christendom no one really cares much any more.

Islam is the only religion left where *real* fundamentalism is the norm instead of the exception. It, like all the other religions before it, is facing forces seeking to domesticate it, and it is fighting back. Ultimately we must domesticate (or water down, neuter, pick your favorite term) Islam for the simple reason that undomesticated religions are bloody dangerous. Today we have much better tools for religious domestication than we did even thirty years ago, and I am fairly sure that we will see eventual victory in the effort to tame Islam.

Unfortunately, until Islam is (mostly) tamed, there will be backlash, mostly focused on those who embrace the tamed version of Islam, from the proponents of genuine Islam. Since women have the most to gain from the taming of Islam it is unsurprising that they will be among the first adoptees of tame Islam, and thus the ones facing the backlash first and (given the truly vile attitudes held by mainstream Islam towards women) worst.

I really do think that in the end Hollywood will triumph over pure Islam and the majority of Muslims will practice an Islam every bit as watered down and domesticated as the Christianity practiced by the majority of Christians. But it isn't going to be comfortable during the transition period.
posted by sotonohito at 12:15 PM on December 4, 2005

Funny thing is that a lot people on the right side of the spectrum seize this as evidence for the clash of cultures and they hate us for our freedoms argument yet they are perfectly willing to send pregnant girls back to their fundie folks to get a permission slip for an abortion.

I'm not sure where I am going with this but I don't think they are either. I just feel sorry for the girls.
posted by srboisvert at 12:36 PM on December 4, 2005

Thank you for that sotonohito. Although it might be difficult to accept for many, I think you really hit something. どうも.
posted by RobertFrost at 12:40 PM on December 4, 2005

sotonohito, I too think that's a clever way to frame radical Islam. Good show.
posted by killdevil at 12:44 PM on December 4, 2005

Interesting analysis, Sotonohito. A lot of us in the West tend to be very confident that the current, worldwide and cross-cultural fundamentalist surge is just the death rattle of religion as we forge our glorious post-faith future. At least that is what I used to believe.

But I am less cocky these days. It all comes down to how globalization plays out. If the third world can modernize successfully, if the global economy can offer jobs and freedom and advancement to the impoverished people of Lahore, Istanbul, Mexico City, Paris, Los Angeles, etc., the future may arrive on time. But in many places, it does not seem to be happening.
posted by LarryC at 12:47 PM on December 4, 2005

(i'm in berlin)
don't think of paris, rather think of india when you read about turkish people in berlin
turkish immigrants here kept their standards/values/morals on the level of the time when they left turkey, but it's not fundamentalism.. just patriarchy
taking out the religious part it's just a murder like non-turkish german people would commit too.. still a sad story
posted by suni at 2:05 PM on December 4, 2005

Unbelievable. Drawing attention to a young woman murdered for her independence and the cultural questions her murder raises is at best dwelling upon random isolated "fucked-up shit" and at worst indicative of supporting death camps for "brown people".

If there were some story about a fundamentalist Christian who killed a relative as part of his religion, let's say because she was too integrated into mainstream American secular culture, we can be pretty sure there would be an FPP on it, and some posters might even point to the parts of fundamentalist Christian culture that might have led to a climate where this would be acceptable. And I don't think that anyone would suggest that having this debate is anti-Christian.
posted by transona5 at 5:45 PM on December 4, 2005

Why do families that leave their homelands expect to keep all that old social baggage in new lands? If you don't want your daughters acting German then why not stay in Turkey? Why is it incumbent upon your new land to accept your ways, when it is you who come to that land?It's like moving to a higher position (with more compensation) in a company, but expecting to be able to still do your old job.

...and how in the fuck is this called "honor" killing?
posted by notsnot at 5:50 PM on December 4, 2005

I believe that was the point, theorique.

Yeah I was just being obtuse...

It's like moving to a higher position (with more compensation) in a company, but expecting to be able to still do your old job.

Good metaphor. I think expecting to move to a new land but to resist being changed is essentially impossible. It's disturbing that some people are willing to murder their daughters and sisters in order to resist the changes.
posted by theorique at 6:41 PM on December 4, 2005

I know a native German woman who was in a relationship with a Turk who lived in Germany. She said at first everything was great but gradually she began to notice the attitude toward women and it got to the point where she was frightened of the man and his family. They were not religious at all. It was cultural.
posted by sultan at 10:29 PM on December 4, 2005

I know a number of Turks who'd dispute you on that point, sultan, so I suppose my anecdote's bigger than your anecdote.

More importantly, to expand on what xthlc said, Turkey as a nation isn't merely heterogenous, it's fundamentally divided. The founding father of secular Turkey, Ataturk, had to tear the country apart in the 20's, but even his towering presence couldn't overwhelm the influence of the Islamic radicals of his own time. Couple that with gradual migration, let simmer a few decades, and you end up with a recipe for sudden violence.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 1:02 AM on December 5, 2005

Note that the woman was Kurdish not Turkish. Indeed the substantial majority of such honor killings in Europe have to do with Kurds, who come from a much more rural and traditional background than most Turks. Islamic fundamentalism doesn't necessarily have anything to do with this. This is old fashioned patriarchy at work, as suni said.

Remember that this sort of extreme behaviour, though rare today in christian parts of the wider Mediterranean, was certainly present until the 1960s (possibly later), in some form or another. In parts of Greece that I can speak of, it certainly was the case that a woman that with her behaviour "dishonoured her family" could expect at least shunning and disownement, though abduction (back to the village) and even murder was not at all unheard of. Even today in parts of the Cretan mountains, a woman that lives independently and is seen to dishonour the family can certainly expect serious trouble. That includes (and I have recent examples) the murder of her lover, beating, and all sorts of nasty stuff, which conceivably could still lead to murder. This used to be the case in Sicily, Corsica etc. though I'm not sure if it persists. Actually I'd guess that 50 years ago, it probably was a feature of most traditional rural societies regardless of religion.
posted by talos at 1:54 AM on December 5, 2005

The crime might be easier to digest if it had been an archaic anomaly, but five other Christian women have been murdered in Berlin during the past four months by their husbands or partners for besmirching the family's Christian honor. Two of them were stabbed to death in front of their young children, one was shot, one strangled and a fifth drowned. It seems hard to fathom, but in the middle of democratic Western Europe -- in Germany, a nation where pacifism is almost a universal mantra -- murderous macho patriotism not only exists but also appears to be thriving. It may even be Germany's liberalism -- and its post World War II fear of criticizing minority cultures -- that has encouraged ultra-religious families to settle here.
Of course, I changed Muslim to Christian. It's hard to ignore the fact that these killings were by Muslims, but I like to remind myself that these killings were not by all Muslims in Germany, they were by a very few of all the people who happen to be Muslim in Germany. When I read something describing such killers as Muslims, I try to remember to think of them as something like "looniest of lunatic fringe" Muslims, like anti-abortion Christian fundmentalist snipers and bombers are "looniest of lunatic fringe" Christians. I can't believe that a significant percentage of Muslim men would join together to kill their wives and sisters for being nontraditional. Most Muslims must be against such killings. Or am I wrong? Are there reliable statistics on attitudes like that?
posted by pracowity at 2:55 AM on December 5, 2005

Yes, talos, it's true it has more to do with a rural and traditional background than with religion, however, I don't think we can say Islamic fundamentalism has nothing much to do with it, it does, insofar as it reinforces that traditional notion of women as subjugated to their fathers/brothers/husbands and of honour/dishonour in that context.

Here's what's on wikipedia on the history of honour killings, there's not much but it's interesting for those who have no idea of the origins.

That thing about France until 1975 allowing "honour" as a mitigating circumstance in the case of a husband killing a wife who'd committed adultery - that was the same in Italy (a classic movie of 1960's Italian comedy was based on that premise). Brothers and fathers taking revenge was also not unheard of especially in the rural South. Though it used to be more that they killed the man the woman had been sleeping with, rather than her. It's practically gone now, though some of the mentalities may linger on in some areas. But it wasn't too long ago. In some areas of the Balkans too.

So no it didn't start with Islam, it was never peculiar of Islam, but even today some aspects of Islam do reinforce those notions. This cannot be denied only because there are people who are only interested in these stories to use them to reinforce their prejudices and equate all of Islamic culture with barbarism and violence, or to conclude it must be something very common and widespread among Turks in Germany -- that's their problem, it shouldn't be an obstacle in discussing this specific issue.

By the way, there was a similar case in Sweden last year and it was also Kurds.

Speaking of movies - here's a German/Turkish film from last year that tells the story --- warning: SPOILERS ahead --- of a Turkish woman in Germany facing an oppressive reactionary family and getting married hurredly to a man she just met in hospital in order to avoid being forced into a marriage arranged by her family. It's not a film "about" that, as it doesn't focus on the social aspects or immigration and such, it's more of a melodramatic love story, but that background is part of the plot. There's a bit where her family finds out through a tragic incident that she'd been sleeping around after her marriage and she has to run and hide from her own brother. And several other non-nice things happen to her. It's rather gritty but good.
posted by funambulist at 3:29 AM on December 5, 2005

LarryC: The global economic situation is critical to lots of things, including the eventual taming of Islam. Your comment is right on the mark, areas with bad economies tend to be the areas with the most opposition to de-radicalizing Islam. However, while economic improvement is undeniably a good thing when it comes to taming Islam, it is not enough in and of itself. Note that the average Saudi Arabian subject has a standard of living similar to that of the average American citizen, yet Saudi Arabia still embraces real Islam.

I will agree wholeheartedly that a better economy makes it easier to undermine real Islam. People with satellite dishes can get movies, television shows, even porn. The internet, despite the efforts of oppressive governments to censor still poisons the minds of practitioners of pure Islam. A Kurdish goatherd with an income of $100/year doesn't have access to any of that.

Also, the economic disparity between the US/Europe/Japan and everyone else is going to cause resentment, and if the preachers of real Islam can exploit that (and they can) then naturally real Islam gains. I'd argue that improving economic conditions are better as a protection against real Islam (and, honestly, the real form of any religion) than as an active attack against the pure forms of religion.
posted by sotonohito at 3:44 AM on December 5, 2005

The problem clearly is “those” people. Not “us”. “We” are taught to love others and be accepting while “they” aren’t. Which means “they” can’t be loved or accepted by “us.” Am I right fellow Smedleyians? I hope you agree with me. I’d hate to think you were one of “those” people. Terrible things seem to happen to “them.” And “they” seem to cause all the problems for “us”.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:45 AM on December 5, 2005

Terrible things do seem to happen to "those people." They're always getting raped or killed by family members. It's a good thing that these things don't happen to "us."

Oh, wait. "Othering" is okay if "we" are men and "they" are women, just not if "we" are Westerners and "they" are non-Western cultures.
posted by transona5 at 11:34 AM on December 5, 2005

"Othering" is something we all tend to do without noticing ourselves doing it. I've been trying not to do it for decades, and I still catch myself fairly frequently. I'm sure there are some I don't catch, too.

Still, at least I don't publicly enourage people to think that way. For example, I wouldn't use the abuse of women perpetrated by a tiny minority of individuals to justify mass murder of a completely different group of individuals, unlike a whole lot of TV shows, newspapers, religious nuts, US army generals and US presidents I could mention.
posted by cleardawn at 2:41 PM on December 5, 2005

I just wish we could discuss this kind of thing without thinking it's unseemly to mention because someone, somewhere, might use it as an excuse to persecute another culture. Global gender inequality is not some right-wing stealth wedge issue.
posted by transona5 at 3:22 PM on December 5, 2005

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