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.

Fotopedia photo of Muslim woman by babasteve

Fotopedia photo of Muslim woman by babasteve

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?

Page from Quran

Page from Quran

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.

 

10 Comments

  1. Hanane,

    Thank you for explaining that issue. Such discussions are going to happen when the issue of Islam is front page news in these modern times. Non-Muslim Americans do not have many contexts to discuss events and media reports that touch upon cultural and religious practices that are unfamiliar.

    I brought the question up because I had two sepperate conversations this week with Muslims, a man and a woman that brought up this issue from different angles, one as a parent and the other as someone who was hiding thier relationship with a non-Muslim.

    I had heard of these types of murders recently in the news:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2061842/Mohammad-Shafia-murdered-daughter-honour-killing-said-hed-again.html

    After more conversations about this issue with both, I was wrestling with how to process, understand and respond to this issue.

    All people and faiths have to deal with texts and times…but what takes place in other places in the world, in various cultures, faiths and countries is arriving on our shores too.

    I had to discuss how in American law and community we protect children even from thier parents. I had to explain that an adult cannot strike a child, abuse them or kill them…without going to jail or prison.

    These are not issues that I would say are unique to Islam…but in my conversations, it was communicated like this was a normal view in thier culture.

    I was disturbed and concerned. My questions led to reading and asking more people about these matters. That has led to more understanding and equipped me with how to respond.

    Sin is a human problem…no matter which faith is being practiced.

  2. Tracy Simmons

    Eric,

    In your ministry you deal a lot with refugees and because of the conversations you have everyday you’re able to bring up questions many of us wouldn’t think of asking. So thank you for showing an interest in this issue.

    And thank you Hanane, for taking the time to explain this. Your links and research is very helpful!
    - Tracy

  3. Ernesto Tinajero

    Dear Hanane,

    I think we sometimes put to much on the faith as a motivator for behavior.

    Honor Killings have occurred throughout many cultures including Roman, Ancient India, and Ancient China. It predates most of the world’s current major religion. They tend to happen it cultures that view women (and children) as property. It certainly predates Islam in Arab culture. In many ways, Islam tempers the older cultural norm if honor killing, but as in many cases the converts do not give up their older norms, but justify them in the new belief structure. Science also follows this pattern as seen by Eugenics movement, which look to validate older norms of poor deserving their lot. Sometimes we over estimate the power of one’s religion as a motivator of action. We Christians should realize this as Jesus preached love and forgiveness, and the history of Christendom reveals much that stands against what Jesus taught.

    Honor killing, Dr. Shahrzad Mojab of Toronto, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honor_killing) is independent of religion, though many try to use their religion as a justification for honor killing. In many cases religion (all religions) adjust to the culture and not the other way around. Islam teaches a respect for life:

    For that cause We decreed for the Children of Israel that whosoever killeth a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whoso saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind. Our messengers came unto them of old with clear proofs (of Allah’s Sovereignty), but afterwards lo! many of them became prodigals in the earth. (5:32)

    Sadly, the practice crosses though all religions with example found in areas that claims to be Buddhist, Christian, Islamic, or Hindu. For me there is a reality to everyone is a sinner.

  4. samuelfletcher

    If a man murders a family member, and he happens to be muslim, we say “honor killing”. If a man murders a family member and he happens to be American, of indeterminate faith, we say “homicide”. I think it’s a very transparent bias in our media and discourse.

  5. I agree, though the Muslim I talked too this week, connected the issue to Shame upon his family. Honor and shame are central to eastern people’s thinking, in ways us Amercans do not understand.

  6. samuelfletcher

    I think we get it plenty well, but it’s more prevalent south than the rest of the country. This has been well established in research. Think of the response to 9/11. Far, far more people die in car accidents every year than did in 9/11, and yet we haven’t spent $1.4 trillion on solving road safety (an amount equivalent to what was spent in Iraq and Afghanistan by the U.S. on warfare.) I don’t want to get all *p o l i t i c a l* here, just pointing it out.

  7. Thank you, Hanane, for clarifying this issue and some of the misconceptions involved. I grew up with a father who mis-used and misinterpreted religious concepts to justify his own beliefs and desires, so I have some small understanding of how this can happen.

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