It's truly horrible that nearly 600 years after Joan of Arc was burned at the stake, in supposedly civilised New Zealand a 28-year-old educated woman is burned alive and tossed on the roadside like rubbish.

Poor, wretched Ranjeeta Sharma, an immigrant from Fiji. Nobody deserves this, least of all amid speculation she may have been the victim of a so-called "honour killing".

In India, these "dowry deaths" are so rampant that a bride's fatality within the first seven years of marriage now warrants investigation.

In 2005, at least 6800 dowry deaths - one every 77 minutes - were reported nationwide.

However, they're often made to look like suicide as the women are doused in paraffin and set alight while cooking.

In New Zealand, such barbarism would meet zero tolerance, wouldn't it? So why do we even allow use of this terrible phrase "honour killing"?

There's nothing "honourable" about any of this.

In truth, it should be called cultural barbarism, ethnic atrocity or intolerable foreign sexist slaughter.

Yet a spokesman for the Auckland Indian Society, Harshad Patel, seems strangely in denial: "In civilised societies you don't see this sort of thing, especially in New Zealand."

Really?

In 2004, Ahmad Riyaz Khan was sent to jail for 19 years for pouring lighter fuel over his girlfriend, 23-year-old Gulshad Banu Hussein, and setting her on fire. This happened on the forecourt of the Otahuhu Shell Service Station.

Gulshad had brought "dishonour" on Khan by rejecting him and had to die.

Two years later, another Indian immigrant brought his cultural excuses before the justice system.

In 2006, Laxman Rajamani bashed his wife, Chitralekha Ramakrishnan, 32, with a brick, then slit her throat. He told the High Court she gave her body to a man from Pakistan. "A man from an enemy country. She was a national traitor."

No one in this country tolerates this kind of legal defence, so why aren't representatives from the Indian communities more vocal in their condemnation of the so-called "honour killings", starting with overturning the use of that ghastly phrase?

There's always plenty of Maori-bashing these days whenever a tangata whenua child is abused and killed but this week there's been a polite silence over the death of poor Sharma.

Only Shakti, a support group for immigrant women from Asia, Africa and the Middle East, confirmed that in this country women fear for their lives, that these cultural barbarisms certainly occur behind closed doors and are made to look like suicides.

My point is not against immigration, which is only good for this country. In my view, anyone who chooses to live here and contribute and not bludge off the state or commit crimes is welcome.

And their privately held beliefs and customs are fine, provided they remain just that.

However, the moment any pre-Enlightenment barbarism surfaces to be forced on others - in the name of honour or some departed fatherland - we must stamp on it immediately.

We should not surrender freedom of speech to the weasel words of wretched cultural sensitivity.

Like when everyone politely looked away when Christchurch Muslim leader Abdullah Drury condemned Labour MP Chris Carter's visit to a mosque, calling him a "raging homosexual".

The country would go nuts if a right-wing Christian fundamentalist sent such a blatantly homophobic email, so why don't we react against a Muslim when he sends it? Because the culturally correct commissars dictate we must be tolerant. That way be dragons.

Coincidentally, this week I'm reading Passionate Minds, about the love affair between Voltaire and Emilie du Chatelet. Author David Bodanis states: "Enlightenment ideas are at the heart of what is hated by groups such as al-Qaeda: the belief that diverse religions should be equally respected; that women can be treated fairly; that church and state can be separated; that old beliefs are not the sole path to truth."

Or, as Mike Moore said when attacking political correctness: "If you control the vocabulary, you control the debate. Control the debate and you control the outcome."