Stop Honor Killings

Category: Featured, Life & Society Topics: Killing, Women Values: Honesty, Respect

Due to recent media attention, the problem of "honor killings" has come under increasing global scrutiny. In various countries throughout the world, particularly in the Middle East and parts of South Asia, women who bring dishonor to their families because of sexual indiscretions are forced to pay a terrible price at the hands of male family members. Attempted murder and other forms of corporal punishment have been reported. The most severe manifestations of punishment affect only a small percentage of women, even though the notion of family honor and shame is extremely important in most communities of the Muslim world. Women from other faith groups may also be subject to similar attitudes from within their own communities in those countries. Clearly, the prevailing view that devalues and belittles women is derived from socio-cultural factors that are justified by a distorted and erroneous interpretation of religion, especially of Islam.

Islam recognizes and celebrates the inherent dignity bestowed by God upon all human beings regardless of race, ethnicity, gender or religion. The Quran is explicit in its emphasis on the equality of women and men before God:

And their Lord has accepted of them and answered them, "Never will I suffer to be lost the work of any of you, whether male or female, you are members, one of another ..." (Quran 3:195; see also 33:35) 

Individual accountability before God is stressed throughout the Quran, beginning with the story of Adam and Eve: as a result of their transgression (committed together and simultaneously) they were banished from Paradise and made to toil on Earth. God chose to forgive them both and so their sin is not inherited by subsequent generations. Similarly, as exemplified in the following verse:

Whoever chooses to follow the right path, follows it but for his own good; and whoever goes astray, goes but astray to his own hurt; and no bearer of burdens shall be made to bear another's burden (Quran 17:15) 

It is clear that one individual, no matter how guilty, cannot transfer that guilt to another. So for a woman who does engage in illicit sexual activity (zina), she and she alone bears the consequences as determined by God.

The problem of "honor killings" is not a problem of morality or of ensuring that women maintain their own personal virtue; rather, it is a problem of domination, power and hatred of women who, in these instances, are viewed as nothing more than servants to the family, both physically and symbolically.

Islam is clear on its prohibition of sexual relationships outside of marriage. This prohibition does not distinguish between men and women, even though, in some countries, women are uniformly singled out for punishment of sexual crimes while the men, even rapists, may be treated with impunity. In order for a case to even be brought before a Muslim court, several strict criteria must be met. The most important is that any accusation of illicit sexual behavior must have been seen by four witnesses; and they must have been witness to the act of sexual intercourse itself. Other forms of intimacy do not constitute zina and therefore are not subject to any legal consequences even though they are not appropriate and are considered sinful.

On the other hand, a woman falsely accused of zina has in her support the Quran, which spells out harsh consequences for those accusers who are unable to support their allegations with four witnesses. The Prophet Muhammad was known for his clemency, even if the accusations met the criteria, for he recognized the seriousness of the matter. In addition, there is no evidence whatsoever that he condoned any form of retribution that singled out women and he was swift to ensure that those accused of any crime received due process to guarantee justice.

Unfortunately, the legal safeguards to protect women and men from indiscriminate and unlawful enforcement of presumed Islamic injunctions have been forgotten. Indeed, the legal system and law enforcement agencies including police officers and prison guards, have been implicated in the perpetuation of the problem by their willful lenience towards men who have carried out an assault in the name of "honor" and by their abuse and denigration of women who stand accused.

Muslims today must unequivocally reject this distortion of Islam that is used to violate the most basic Islamic rights of human decency, integrity and justice. Unwillingness on the part of the Muslim community to address these issues in a forthright and unapologetic manner is borne out of an inherent distrust of perceived "Western" attempts to taint the image of Islam in the interest of global politics. This is no excuse for us to turn a blind eye to injustices committed against Muslims and others, especially when the perpetrators are members of the same faith. 

Confronting the problem of "honor killings" and other crimes that disproportionately affect women requires a change in attitude that pervades all levels of society where such attacks occur. Muslim leaders can provide an important example to their followers by taking an unequivocal stand against behavior that is in direct violation of Islam. In addition, legal reform must occur with the intention to protect the victims and punish the perpetrators, all totally possible within a legitimate Islamic legal framework. Concomitant attention must be paid to meeting basic human needs and solving problems stemming from poverty and illiteracy that are often at the root of disturbing social trends that seek out the most disenfranchised to serve as scapegoats.

O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: For God can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest you swerve, and if you distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily God is well-acquainted with all that you do. (4:135)

 

Source: Muslim Women's League


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  7 Comments   Comment

  1. Sharon D'Amico from United States

    Honor killings have nothing to do with honor and everthing to do with domination and control. How could anyone kill their own sister or daughter? What punishment do men face for their indiscretions?

  2. Penny Duff from USA

    I am not a Muslim. I can tell you, if Muslims are going to follow the Qur'an, which it is taught was given you by a wonderful and loving God, you must then treat those caught in sin--sexual or whatever--which dishonors the family or community, with love and forgiveness. Your behavior is a witness to the truth of the Qur'an and your faith. When you kill women (or men) for these sins, you say to the world that Islam is a hateful and vengeful religion, and instead of washing dishonor from the family, you rain down dishonor on all of Islam. You say to the entire world that Islam is a religion that is bloodthirsty, narrow, hateful, unforgiving, and something to be stayed far away from. How can you spread your faith if you are doing that? While not Muslim, I believe that the God we both worship is a supremely loving, great, wonderful, forgiving God. If I see a religion that is killing its members for their transgressions, then I know that religion is not from God. You make the choice.

  3. Fauzer Uvais from Australia

    salam.

    honour killing is murder, pure and simple. those who commit murder (regardless of thier presumed honour restoration), should be punished according to penalties of sharia where islamic legal system is present, or in a non islamic system, should be punished according to the prevalent laws of murder.

    condoning, supporting, or even protecting such murderers are utterly un-islamic, and not different from obstructing law enforcement of any other very serious crimes and consequently i don't believe will please Allah.

    as for the sexual sin/crime, there are 2 aspects to it. 1.sin (for Allah to judge and punish or forgive), 2.crime (for Law enforcemnt to deal with). (both of which apply to men and women by the way)

    unlawful sexual affairs are big sins, which Allah may or may not forgive - and accordingly may or may not punish in the life after.

    As for the crime side of it, it is for law enforcement to deal with in an islamic system, with its own legal process, witness requirements, and prescribed punishment, if proven guilty. It is not for any family member or a vigilante to take into his/her own hands.

    i believe murder is a BIGGER sin and a bigger crime than unlawful sexual act (please correct me if i am wrong). these people do unimmaginable damage to the image of islam in non muslim countires.

    and therefore may prevent many people from becomming muslims because they percieve honour killing is an islamic practice.

    salam.

  4. Valerie from United States

    Assalamu Alaykum

    It is too bad that men get less discipline/punishment from their acts against women. Seems that this is another excuse my family has to berate me for choosing to be a Muslim, as they believe ALL muslim women are oppressed and have no rights whatsoever.

    It is so true that this is NOT isolated for Muslims; as also in parts of Asia, similar atrocities happen to women, and places like China and other Asian Countries, where little girls dare not speak out if they have been abused. Places like Israel also very bad for children and unfortunately girls and women too yet not much is said about this.

    Seems to me that the way Westerners see Muslim women, as I once did in my ignorant state of being, was that they are singled out for oppressive acts. This article brings this awareness to the forefront that I as a Western, California Muslim can help to change these misconceptions. Hopefully one day everyone will see that corruption is the oppressor, as is illiteracy and other forms of no education. Hopefully things will improve now that people are writing and discussing these serious matters. Thank you for this article.

  5. Faliku from USA

    As the writer said, "honor killing" is practiced by some Middle Eastern, Far Eastern, as well as some Asian cultures. But what I did not understand was whether he was trying to rub some of the blames off on Islam. I hope not, because there is simply no place for "honor killing" in Islam. Islam is very clear on punishment for shameful deeds that culminate into a crime. And as he rightly said, Sharia makes it so difficult to carry out some of these punishments. Take the case of fornication or adultery. See how difficult it is for four persons who take an oath on Almighty Allah to testify that they witnessed (not assumed) that an illegal sexual act took place in their presence. This is almost impossible in the Muslim world where there is no room for four-some or "whatever-some" sexual acts; where there is no room for orgy. So, in most cases, it is based on indisputable evidences(pregnant while unmarried) and the criminal's own confession that a penalty is carried out. Can't we see how Islam is very reluctant to take life? The Holy Qur'an is very clear on the fact that a believer should never put his hand forth to anything that will bring harm to him. And "honor killing" and suicide are the severest of harms that a person can bring upon himself; so pray tell me what part Islam plays in these activities. It is worth mentioning that all "honor killings" are suicides, but not all suicides are "honor killings." When an authority figure gives you the option to kill yourself in order to save a face, that's "honor killing." But when you decide, on your own, to kill yourself--no matter the reason--that's suicide. The Japanese have different words for the two situations: "Hara-kiri" or "seppuku" is "honor killing," and "kamikaze" is another form of suicide. People who know the history of World War II are quite familiar with the word "kamikaze." Please leave Islam out of these practices. Also, a martyr is one who IS killed for a just cause. That was just an afterthought. Salam

  6. Mira Stahl from UK

    I agree with everything the author writes but the issue is lost on those who commit such killings, as in almost all cases these culprits are usually illiterate individuals who can nether read nor write. Hence no point in educating the educated. Might be a better idea to go to the poor of such countries and illuminate them verbally.

  7. Ibrahim Rodolfo M. Hilliard from USA

    I strongly agree with this artilce. I have on different occasions addressed this issue. Those who tend to lash out such punishements do not Islam on their minds. The Prophet (SAW) was very passive in many matters, and even encouraged the followers to be the same way. The sisters deserve to be treated equally.

    As regard to the women being treated in such a way, we muslim men have gotten away from the teaching of Islam. I point at us as one unit. In the early days of Islam, the women were free from such things, until when time passed by, "corrupted" men starting implementing their brand of Islam on the people. They did so at the expense of the women.

    All one has to do is look at the Qur-anic injunctions on how woman are to be treated, surah nisa ayah 19, for instance. The Qur-an tells us that all are to be treated equally. True the Qur-an does mention that "one" is stronger than the other, this is because, the man was/is traditionally the bread earner bread winner of the house; however, a footing of equality is the order. In surah nisaa ayah 135, we are to stand out for justice even as witness to ourselves.

    Many of the ways that women are being treated has nothing to do with Islam; however, the so-called muslim, like me, it is my(our) duty to see that we treat our sisters in Islam with the dignity they deserve. For the most part, they guard their bodies until the day they get married. At least we (OH muslim men) must protect them and not harm them. They are the future. They are the mothers of the future. The Messenger of Allah (SAW) would not stand for the ways that we treat our women. This would be opposed. This is a shame.

    Salam ay lay kum