Editor’s Note: This week SpokaneFAVS contributor Lace Williams-Tinajero wrote “The beauty of Islam, countering the Misconceptions,” where she interviewed Hanane Neff-Loutf, the site’s Muslim writer about the many misunderstandings people have about Islam. The article left one of our Facebook readers with a question, though. The reader asked Neff-Loutf to address the issue of honor killings. Below is her response.
Too often the term “Islamic honor killing” pops up when a person is killed in a community where Muslims are present.
Let us look at some facts, though, and let the numbers speak for themselves. The United Nations Population Fund reported, “Throughout the world, perhaps as many as 5,000 women and girls a year are murdered by members of their own families, many of them for the ‘dishonor’ of having been raped, often as not by a member of their own extended family.”
If we assume those 5,000 honor killings are committed by Muslims (1.6 billion), we’ll end up with only 0.003 percent of them practicing this evil act and 99.99 percent are innocent of it. This shows it is not in Islamic teachings.
In 2010 The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime estimated 468,000 homicides occurred globally. Though simple math we can say honor killing cases make up less than 1 percent of all homicides.
I am not underestimating the horror of honor killings. But it’s important to note many people only hear about Muslims committing honor killing and probably have never heard of the Christian Palestinian girl bludgeoned to death with an iron bar when she wanted to marry a Muslim man, or the young Sikh Canadian girl who was murdered at the order of her family.
Honor killing happens beyond the Muslim world. It is seen in India, Brazil, Italy and even in the U.S. In 2005, 1,200 women were murdered by an intimate partner; maybe you call it domestic violence. Or maybe you call similar murders visions from God or homophobia. More than 8,000 dowry deaths were reported in 2007 in India. In 2010, more than 465 women were murdered in Juárez, Mexico, most of them after being raped and severely tortured. In Mexico female homicides almost doubled to 1,926 in 2009 from 1,085 in 2007, according to a national statistics agency and the numbers are just as high in neighboring Guatemala and Honduras.
There's a war taking place in the heart of Africa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and more people have died there than in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Darfur combined, according to CBS.
The majority in the Congo are Christians, yet we Muslims don’t blame Christianity for these evil acts. Why are these cases being ignored by people dedicating their time and energy to tie honor killing with Islam?
Culture and legal aspects
Honor killing predates Islam. In ancient Rome female adulterers were killed, and the Egyptian and Chinese cultures applied severe punishments on women convicted of adultery.
In pre-Islamic Arabia baby girls were buried simply because they were girls and not boys.
Today, experts say honor killings occur across cultures and across religions. It is not unique to Muslim countries and especially not condoned in Islam.
Unfortunately in Muslim countries culture overrules the religion of Islam. These countries have a lot of cultural clutter; in some cases such clutter even predates Islam.
What does Islam say about honor killing?
Islam strongly condemns the killing of any human without lawful reasons. Individuals are not allowed to take punishments into their own hands. Punishments are applied through court after being given a fair trial.
We can hear and read stories of people justifying their evil acts through Islam, but their statements are weightless because we don’t find anything condoning theses acts in Islam.
The Quran takes a universal approach on killing any person, “if any one slew a person … it would be as if he slew the whole humanity: and if any one saved a person, it would be as if he saved the whole humanity” (Quran 5:32). There is no excuse or leniency in Islamic teachings for murders, including the so-called honor killing. In fact, this very name doesn’t exist in any authentic Islamic resource. Those who commit honor killings must be punished as murderers to bring justice and to be a deterrent to anyone who would consider doing the same. “If a man kills a believer intentionally, his recompense is hell, to abide therein (forever): and the wrath and the curse of Allah are upon him, and a dreadful penalty is prepared for Him,” (Quran 4:93).
Not only can we not find justification in the Islamic teachings for such crimes, but also there is no case of honor killings during the life of the prophet and the early period of Islam.
I am frustrated that Islam is blamed for honor killings. I don’t know if people are really ignorant about Islam or if they are deliberately deceiving others in an effort to harm Islam. I hope religious leaders, especially, will become more aware of Islamic scriptures and conduct scholarly research to help diffuse these misconceptions. I don’t think it is wise Christians to attack Islam, especially when we read passages from their scriptures unmatched in the Quran, Exodus 21:17 “Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.” And in Deuteronomy, “If, however, the charge is true and no proof of the young woman’s virginity can be found she shall be brought to the door of her father’s house and there the men of her town shall stone her to death. She has done an outrageous thing in Israel by being promiscuous while still in her father’s house. You must purge the evil from among you.” And again in Leviticus 21:9 “If a priest’s daughter defiles herself by becoming a prostitute, she disgraces her father; she must be burned in the fire”.
So I have to say that trying to link honor killing to Islam is like shooting oneself in the foot.
I would appreciate hearing reactions from religious leaders and the faith community who have a genuine interest in understanding Islam and its teachings.