In Rush to Slam 'War on Women,' MSNBC Ignores Story of Immigrant Woman Threatened with Honor Killing by Muslim Parents

All last week the knights in shining armor at MSNBC did their level best to rescue the fair damsels of the realm from the vile "War on Women" waged by the vicious ogres of the Right, you know, like Rush Limbaugh and Rick Santorum. But in the midst of hyping Women's History Month and International Women's Day (March 8), the liberal network failed to highlight a real story of women's oppression: a Pakistani-Austrian woman's tale of death threats and beatings at the hands of her reactionary Muslim mother.

What's more, this story, entitled "Why My Mother Wants Me Dead," was published at none other than The Daily Beast,  a site whose writers and editors frequently appear on MSNBC programming.


"When I was 18, my parents threatened to kill me. And they meant it. If they had their way, I would probably be dead today," Sabatina James began her March 5 article at Daily Beast:

The trouble started when I was 15. At the time, my family was living in the Austrian city of Linz, a world away from our native Pakistan, where I had grown up in a rural village in the shadow of the Kashmir mountains. I loved the freedoms of my new life in Europe—the T-shirts and jeans, the lipstick and eyeliner. My conservative parents didn’t. We fought about swimming lessons and acting classes, which my father said were for prostitutes. Tampons were an issue, too—my mother thought they would ruin my virginity.

When my mother found my diary one day and learned that I had kissed a boy in the park after school, she cracked me across the cheek, slammed me against the wall, and kicked my legs, calling me a whore. When she herself was my age, she was settling into an arranged marriage. She thought it was time for me to do the same.

I disagreed. Thus began a violent three-year battle with my mother.

In families like mine, rooted in tribal tradition, marriage is a daughter’s fate. And fathers are not always the primary enforcers—sometimes it’s the mothers. This is much worse, in my opinion. When you’re becoming a mature young woman and your mother is beating you, it’s very damaging. You have no anchor.

My mother began watching my every move. One day, when she found a T-shirt that she felt was too skimpy, she smacked me hard in the face with a shoe, splitting my lip. Still, I refused to submit. I didn’t want to disappear into a forced marriage. I wanted my freedom.

To my parents, my rebellion was a source of deep shame. They felt embarrassed among their Pakistani peers in Austria. They became more determined than ever to marry me off and restore the family “honor.”

When I was 16, my family visited Pakistan. I remember walking outside in an outfit I felt was perfectly modest—loose pants and a blouse. Others saw it differently. A crowd of men formed, hooting and catcalling. That day my mother beat me again, in front of a roomful of relatives.

And then she beat herself. I knew there were Pakistanis who flagellated themselves when they suffered, but I never expected to see my own mother doing it. I watched as she struck herself repeatedly in the chest with a rod, saying, “I have given birth to a whore!”

You can read the full story here, but suffice it to say, James eventually escaped her abusive family, but she still lives in fear to this day of an honor killing:

Today I’m trying to break the marry-or-die tradition. I run a foundation called Sabatina, in Germany, where I live. My group acts as an underground railroad, helping women escape their families by finding them shelter and jobs.

I rarely go out alone. I often wonder if someone is lurking around the corner. I have always loved my freedom—but I have paid a high price.

A review of our DVR system found no hits when we searched for mentions of Sabatina James, even as there were numerous references to Daily Beast staffers and content on MSNBC programs last week, including Daily Beast's "Women in the World" summit, which addressed such topics as women's rights violations in the Third World.

Sabatina James's story of abuse in an immigrant family in a first-world country was part of Daily Beast's "Women in the World" news coverage, but for some reason, it appears to have been of no interest to MSNBC.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters