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“Honor” Killing of Qandeel Baloch

July 18, 2016

“Honor” Killing: what is it?

Media is trumpeting the story of Qandeel Baloch’s “honor” murder by her brother. What is an “honor” killing? Supposedly it is a result from a person or group of persons feeling or “being” dishonored by another. Usually, this involves intimate partners, like husbands, but also the crime involves fiancées, rejected lovers, family members, or even tribes. We are being told that this only happens in the Middle East and that it, somehow, is from Islamic culture  and it is inspired by Islam.

Well, I am here to argue that it is not. If you are open minded and want to read my argument, please continue reading.

How do you call it again?

Certainly, Middle East is not protected from the dishonor killings. That is what I call it: dishonor killing, because I do not believe that any murder is justified. Any murder, no matter what one calls it, in my opinion, is dishonorable toward those who think they somehow get relief by it. Is it prevalent in the Middle East and Africa? Perhaps. We hear women being stoned for adultery, women being circumcised, strangled, beaten, etc. Usually by husbands, but sometimes by mother-in-laws, fathers, brothers. What kind of people do this? I know, I have wondered many times too. Why? I personally have no answers. My father has never abused me nor even thought about it. However, the media sources inform us that the dishonor murders happen if wife is suspected of cheating, if she wants to leave her husband, or if a daughter/sister is having sex before marriage/is promiscuous.

Does this type of murder have another name, though? Yes. We call it domestic violence. Neither name makes it any less evil or serious social issue. But, yes, we in the West have “honor” killings: domestic violence.

Lets talk numbers

According to National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (see references below) in the U.S.:

“On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men.1 Intimate partner violence accounts for 15% of all violent crime.272% of all murder-suicides involve an intimate partner; 94% of the victims of these murder suicides are female.8

This is U.S. alone. Does it happen in Europe? Sure. According to one 2014 study the domestic violence is highest in the Scandinavian countries: “In Sweden, 81 percent of women said they had been harassed at some point after the age of 15 – compared to the EU average of 55 percent. After Sweden, which had the highest rate, Denmark, France, the Netherland and Finland all saw rates above 70 percent. The EU member state with the lowest rate – 24 percent – was Bulgaria. ”

Worldwide, according to the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women:

“In Guatemala, two women are murdered, on average, each day.

  • In India, 8,093 cases of dowry-related death were reported in 2007; an unknown number of murders of women and young girls were falsely labeled ‘suicides’ or ‘accidents’.
  • In Australia, Canada, Israel, South Africa and the United States, between 40 and 70 percent of female murder victims were killed by their intimate partners.
  • In the State of Chihuahua, Mexico, 66 percent of murders of women were committed by husbands, boyfriends or other family members.”So, what does all this information tell us? It’s the same crime disguised with different names and difference between perpetrators. While in the Middle East the relatives are most prevalent perpetrators of “honor” killing/domestic violence in the West and other non-Muslim countries it is usually husbands or intimate partners. The reason why women might be more likely killed by families in the conservative Muslim countries is that those are the individuals that the women have most contact with. As we know, in some countries like Saudi Arabia women must have chaperones to leave homes and it is socially unacceptable to be alone with people who are not considered your family.

Typically jealousy, pride, obsession are cited reasons why these crimes occur. And the numbers do not seem to lessen regardless of how hard non profit organizations, schools, activists, governments work to discourage these evil acts.

Views of Domestic Violence/”Honor” Killings

So, do Muslims believe that “honor” killings are justified? Are they more prone to approve of it, then? I say no. I think the statistics that I mentioned above speak volume in terms of how diverse groups of people tolerate such crime. We can say that all world countries have a big problem and level of tolerance that is simply unacceptable in 21st century. In the West we have various educational resources and non profit organization working to prevent domestic violence and make it less acceptable. Other world countries are a little slow about it. For example, the first Chinese bill to make domestic violence a crime in that country was in 2014.  Most recently we saw Brazilians protest rape of women across their country after the public outcry over the publicized rape of a young girl by a group of men. But do Muslims have the same? Lets see:

*In 2014, in response to murder of Farzana Iqbal, Pakistan’s highest religious council proclaimed a fatwa (religious bull) to denounce honor killings and declare it unislamic. The same was done by Pakistan’s Human Rights Council and Islamic Supreme Council of Canada.

*There is an American located organization called Muslim Men Against Domestic Violence

*Muslim women have organized against violence by establishing a women’s world council of Muslim women, even challenging the most misinterpreted Qur’anic verses that abusers claim instruct men to physically hit women:

*In Saudi Arabia government declared a law against domestic violence, promising punishment of abusers with imprisonment and little over $13,000 fine. Yet, they still saw increase in domestic violence:

Those are just few examples of people fighting domestic violence. Feel free to do more objective research and find out whether Muslim approve of violence against women any less or more than anyone else.

Islamic? Christian? Other?

According to the Old Testament Leviticus 21:9 women are to be stoned to death for fornication. Such act is even cited in the Bible as an act of dishonoring her family: “And the daughter of any priest, if she profane herself by playing the whore, she profaneth her father: she shall be burnt with fire.”

Importance of honoring parents is even more highlighted in Exodus 21:17: “For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death: he hath cursed his father or his mother; his blood shall be upon him.”

“Well, that is Old Testament,” many of Christians will say.

However, In Mathew 15: 3-7 Jesus is quoted to have said: “3 Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?
 4 For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’
5 But you say that if a man says to his father or mother, ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is a gift devoted to God,’
6 he is not to ‘honor his father’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition.
7 You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you…”

According to Jesus, then, it is a commandment of God to put to death any person who dishonors parents and anyone who does not follow the commandment is a hypocrite. Other Christian writings also encourage violence against women. In his writing “Rules of Marriage” page 13,  from 15th century, Friar Cherubino gives instruction to men to first reprimand their wives “And if this still doesn’t work . . . take up a stick and beat her soundly . . . for it is better to punish the body and correct the soul than to damage the soul and spare the body.”

Well, many of the Christians and Jews have denounced the Mosaic Law long ago, people would argue. Jesus “spoke in parables,” Christians would say, and he “came to abolish the Mosaic Law” or replace it, or whatever people claim these days. Plus, the men of old are clueless about human rights, they would say. Ok. Fine. Let it be so. So, what about Muslims and Islam? Does Islam teach domestic violence/honor killings?

There is no such explicit verses supporting domestic violence/”honor” killings in the Qur’an (Islamic Holy Book).  In domestic violence/”honor” killing cases reasons for them are: adultery, divorce, jealousy, rejection of marriage. While Qur’an has a punishment for adulterous women and men (public lashes rather than death, provided there are four witnesses), it never states that adulterers must be killed. According to Qur’an and Islam, adultery is defined NOT as divorce, but rather sexual affair while unmarried or during marriage. Divorce is allowed and women and men have a right to reject marriage proposal in Islam. So, marriage rejection is not considered adultery in Islam. Further, Noble Qur’an instructs that marriage should be a harmonious union of a man and woman, that of mutual respect ( Qur’an, chapter 30 verse 21 and chapter 9 verse 71). Also, there is no verse in Qur’an or hadiths where Prophet Muhammad pbuh, or his companions, EVER hit women. In fact, there is a story where Prophet’s wife Aisha was accused of adultery. Prophet Muhammad pbuh sent her to her father’s house, but neither the Prophet nor her parents sought to physically abuse her, or God forbid, “honor” kill her. They could have. They all lived in a time where women’s rights were few. Yet, they did not. There were potentially many witnesses in that Aisha r.a. and the suspected man were going somewhere with a lot of people. Aisha r.a. happened to stay behind, and the man found her. Gossip started that the two might be lovers. With so many people that saw them somehow “stay behind,” liars could have easily make up a story and accused both of adultery. Maybe they did. What did Prophet pbuh do? He sent her to her parents and waited for God to resolve the matter for him. God did not declare: “stone her!” No. Instead, God revealed to Prophet pbuh that Aisha and the suspected man were innocent.

So, where do Muslims get this horrible practice of “honor” killings from?

For one, as I argued earlier, domestic violence is not dependent on Islam as religion. It, unfortunately, is rather prevalent everywhere and is not exclusive to one community. For Muslim majority nations, domestic violence happened in their communities before and after Islam, and may stem from engrained views of women attached to honor and male chauvinism. In the West, we got a little pride but mostly chauvinism and obsession that lovers may express to one another. It is rare, but it does happen that sometimes family honor is a factor in “honor” killings/domestic violence in West too. There was a story of a Macedonian “Christian” man who killed his mother for being promiscuous and he felt that she dishonored him. I will look up this article online and once I find it I will post it.

Back to Muslim majority nations: I think that encouragement for domestic violence continued among Muslims because of men and women who wished it never stopped. Stoning to death as a punishment for adultery is found in hadiths, written traditions attributed by Prophet Muhammad pbuh and his companions.

Hadiths, in many countries where mosque is not separated from the state, play an important source for enforcement of laws and practices. It does not matter that many hadiths have shady history and contradict the #1 source of Islam: the Noble Qur’an. Hadiths were written down by some imams at least 100 years after the death of Prophet Muhammad pbuh. The way they were collected was: one or more persons knew someone from the past who knew either Prophet pbuh, his family members or companions directly. Supposedly, during the collection of hadiths, the collectors investigated whether the transmitters of the hadith (traditions) were honorable people or not.  Hence, over 100,000 hadiths were collected, of which some 3000 were used today. Even the ones used today are classified as sound/authentic, good, fair, weak, false. There is a whole council of people who study these hadiths. On very rare occasions do some brave imams/hadith specialists publicly question the validity of many of those sayings, urging governments to reconsider the authenticity of certain teachings by judging it through the Qur’an. Once the Muslim-majority societies understand that the hadith traditions have done more evil to them and others, I think that their countries will flourish. Until then, we will continue to read and hear about horror stories like that of Qandeel Baloch.


One Comment leave one →
  1. dreamadventurer permalink*
    July 18, 2016 8:35 pm

    The story of Aisha r.a. and being accused of adultery: “The story of accusation of adultery levied against Aisha can be traced to sura (chapter) An-Nur of the Qur’an. As the story goes, Aisha left her howdah in order to search for a missing necklace. Her slaves mounted the howdah and prepared it for travel without noticing any difference in weight without Aisha’s presence. Hence the caravan accidentally departed without her. She remained at the camp until the next morning, when Safwan bin al-Mu‘attal, a nomad and member of Muhammad’s army, found her and brought her back to Muhammad at the army’s next camp. Rumours that Aisha and Safwan had committed adultery were spread, particularly by Abd-Allah ibn Ubayy, Hassan ibn Thabit, Mistah ibn Uthatha and Hammanah bint Jahsh (sister of Zaynab bint Jahsh, another of Muhammad’s wives). Usama ibn Zayd, son of Zayd ibn Harithah, defended Aisha’s reputation. Muhammad came to speak directly with Aisha about the rumours. He was still sitting in her house when he announced that he had received a revelation from God confirming Aisha’s innocence. Surah 24 details the Islamic laws and punishment regarding adultery and slander. Aisha’s accusers were subjected to punishments of 80 lashes” source

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