Monday, January 16, 2006


On MLK Jr. day, we review civil rights (and wrongs) :

BERLIN -- Life was just starting to look up for 23-year-old Hatun Surucu when the bullets cut her down.

After four years of grueling courses in vocational school, coupled with the demands of single motherhood, she was only weeks away from receiving certification as an electrician, a trade that would give her the independence she desperately craved.

It had been a rough road: Eight years earlier, her parents, Turkish immigrants, had yanked Surucu from eighth grade, bundled her off to Istanbul, and forced her to marry an older cousin. Miserable in Turkey, she had fled her husband and returned to Berlin with her infant son, determined to make her own way as a modern woman in a secular society, according to friends.

For a Muslim barely out of girlhood, it was an act of extraordinary defiance against her family. And it cost Surucu her life.

As Europe's Muslims become increasingly conservative, growing numbers of women are being killed or mutilated in the name of ''family honor," according to law enforcement agencies, women's activist groups, and moderate Islamic organizations. These cases usually involve an attack on a Muslim woman by a close relative -- typically a brother or father -- angered by her refusal to accept a forced marriage or her insistence on leading a Western-style life.

There were at least eight such slayings in Berlin alone in 2005, and 47 honor killings of Muslim women across Germany in the past six years....

And probably will be followed by more, judging by this, later in the article:

The rise of fundamentalism among Muslims in Europe can be blamed, at least partially, on the failure of countries to integrate the millions of Muslims who started arriving in large numbers in the 1960s. Two generations later, most lead lives largely segregated from the mainstream.

''It's been taboo to discuss integration. It offends those who say every expression of cultural difference is somehow wonderful," said Heinz Buschkowsky, mayor of the Berlin borough of Neukoelln, where more than a third of the residents are Arabs and Turks.

''But now, with culture being expressed by covering women's faces or killing a girl who refuses to marry some old man in the home village, perhaps it is time to break the taboo."

In Neukoelln's largely immigrant Thomas Morus school, not far from the place where Hatun Surucu was murdered, students greeted news of her slaying with loud approval. Her brothers were hailed as local heroes.

The principal, Volker Steffans, was so disgusted by the display that he sent a letter to parents, to be read and signed, explaining what he had always regarded as obvious -- that girls should not be harassed for refusing to wear head scarves; that girls should not be attacked for wanting to pursue careers; that women should not be murdered for expecting tolerance and equality in a Western society.

''A murder happened nearby; a young woman was killed. She died because she wanted to live freely," Steffans said. ''But we are shocked by the fact that students approve of this murder and say [Surucu] deserved to die because she 'lived like a German.' "

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