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Honor Killing


There is a saying that used to be in vogue in the Indian subcontinent. Loosely translated it goes something like this – “wealth can be sacrificed for life; life can be sacrificed for honor.” It is not an exaggeration to say that for many societies and cultures, individual and familial honor is held in greater esteem than life itself. The United Nations Population Fund estimates that approximately 5000 women are killed each year for the sake of someone’s “honor.” The sad reality is that this barbaric practice is found among many races, cultures and faith groups.

Experts tell us people often commit such murders thinking that, by shedding the blood of the “dishonorable” person , they are somehow atoning for the sin and salvaging their reputation. It is almost as if they feel compelled to offer a human sacrifice to appease a shadowy pagan deity who is the custodian of honor and stature.

There is no room in Islam for anyone to be judge, jury and executioner. Whether the alleged offender is a relative or not, no one has the right to commit murder. Islam stands in absolute opposition to all notions of conceit, pride and arrogance.

“Do not turn your nose up at people, nor walk about the earth arrogantly, for God does not love arrogant or boastful people” (Quran 31:18)

The Quran describes God as the “King of Kings” and the Lord of the Universe. For any human being to ascribe honor to themselves before God is simply delusional.

“all honor is with God.” (4:139)

“If anyone desires glory and power, to God belong all glory and power” (35:10)

Similarly God is the only Being capable of bestowing honor upon others.

“You honor whoever You will and humble whoever You will” (3:26)

“anyone disgraced by God will have no one to honor him.” (22:18)

The Quran clearly teaches that every sane, adult is responsible for his or her own actions.

“no soul will bear another’s burden” (17:15)

 “even if a heavily laden soul should cry for help, none of its load would be carried, not even by a close relative” (35:18)

Another disturbing issue is associated with this form of murder. By ending an alleged sinner’s life, an odious assumption is made by the killer that the victim could never repent nor would s/he be forgiven by God. This is a clear violation of the Islamic concept of God’s Limitless Mercy and Forgiveness.

“Say: O my Servants who have transgressed against their souls! Despair not of   the Mercy of God: for God forgives all sins; He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (39:53)

There is no “honor” in murder. Unfortunately, some Muslims steeped in ignorance and beholden to distorted notions of honor and piety are flouting the laws and norms of Islam. To kill a person unjustly is one of the gravest sins in Islam and must never be taken lightly.

Further Reading

The news profession is full of quaint aphorisms like “if it bleeds, it leads.” A pithy way of saying that if there’s blood on the ground, the story will have prominence. Muslims may wish to coin an adage of their own when it comes to reporting the news: “Islam = extremism.” To be fair, some stories about Islam and Muslims are not extreme at all but far too many stories present the faith and its followers through a bloodied lens.

There are currently around 1000 honour killings per year in India alone … Crimes against women motivated to maintain or restore ‘honour’ can be found in a variety of cultures and historical periods; a law that allowed for ‘honour’ killing was part of the Italian penal code right up until 1980. (Source: http://honour-killings.com/faq/#fourteen)

The issue of honor killing is not limited to Muslims and is totally rejected by Islam . In fact, Muslims have publicly condemned this heinous practice in various countries around the world. Public campaigns have been mounted in Jordan (2001), Turkey (2005) and Canada (2012).  Islamic scholars, Muslim leaders and organizations in Canada issued a call to eradicate domestic violence asking members of all communities to raise awareness around this issue and calling upon the Muslim community to ensure that it is “equipped with the necessary resources and training so that they can offer mediation, conflict resolution, and domestic violence counselling in a manner that reflects professional standards, contemporary research, and religious scholarship.”

Still, news coverage of Muslims involved in so-called honor killings seems intent on presenting the issue as “Islamic.” Would any of us take a news organization seriously if a story about a man killing his girlfriend for flirting with someone was presented as a “western” problem? Does the west somehow have a monopoly on homicidal boyfriends? To make matters worse, what if media trotted out anti-western “experts” who tell us that the remedy for this situation is to force all the westerners to live by eastern standards or else send them home?

Even more disturbing is the lack of focus on the motive behind the murders. Was there family dysfunction at play? Was mental illness or substance abuse involved? Can mainstream social services work with newer communities to raise awareness and resources to prevent these crimes from happening again? It seems that this information is of no real value to most news organizations. Dramatic music and shrill commentary on the evil deeds of “the other” seem to be enough.

The Democratic Republic of Congo has witnessed some of the most horrific and deplorable atrocities against women in recent times. A study in the American Journal of Public Health stated that over 400,000 women and girls were raped in a single year (2006 – 2007). About 85% of the population is Christian. Could you imagine the headlines if they were Muslim?